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There’s an African proverb that goes something like this: “When elephants fight, the grass suffers.” This scenario is beginning to play out in marketing. The big players — native reporting in marketing automation and cloud-based sales- and business intelligence (BI) vendors — have caused the ground beneath specialty marketing analytics vendors to shake. Last week, BrightFunnel became the first to drop.

Marketing automation and cloud BI, however, are coming at marketers’ need for deeper analytics from wildly different places. Marketing automation vendors are the incumbent, and, frankly, they’re acting like it. Their reporting is largely tactical — it ties back to several years to SiriusDecision’s pioneering “demand waterfall,” supplying marketing teams with upper funnel metrics around lead acquisition. The sophistication of their customers, however, has outpaced innovation in their reporting suites, causing widespread frustration among marketing leaders.

A recent InsightSquared-Heinz Marketing survey of more than 400 marketing automation users found that “actionable analytics” was single most important factor when selecting a marketing automation vendor — in other words, marketers expect reporting to live within their system of record — but it was also the only feature in which user satisfaction trailed perceived importance.

Further, the lack of deep, comprehensive reporting is undermining executive confidence in the marketing automation investment.  

There’s clearly an opportunity for one vendor to benefit from this unmet need. But none has — and that’s because they’re all in the same exact position as one another. Respondents rated “actionable analytics/reporting” as the most deficient feature across all marketing automation systems.

To the extent that this opportunity is being seized, it’s the cloud BI vendors that are taking advantage of it — and that’s because they’re generally able to provide a level of reporting that today’s marketing executive demands: Revenue-level reporting.

Sales and marketing are no longer discrete functions. There was a time in which the heads of the two departments could, like toddlers, “parallel play” — each could run his or her own program independent of the other. But CEOs and boards demand a more mature go-to-market function today, which is causing the roles to not only align, but in many cases, converge. Nancy Maluso is a Research Director of Sales Enablement Strategies at SiriusDecisions, noted in a blog post, “The drive for increased growth requires tight sales and marketing alignment. We see increasing evidence that in these organizations, multiple teams are merging into one team with one set of goals.”

In fact, our survey found the deeper in the funnel a marketing department is measured, the less likely they are to be satisfied with the reporting capabilities of their marketing automation system. Unlike marketing automation systems, BI providers can combine disparate data sources to produce a complete picture of marketing’s impact on sales and retention.

Until marketing automation vendors modernize their reporting by recognizing that the CMO is as interested in sales as the CRO is in marketing, they will continue to lose ground to cloud BI vendors. Regardless, however, the first casualty in the battle to deliver sophisticated, revenue-impacting analytics to CMOs is neither the incumbent marketing automation solution nor the rising cloud BI vendors, but instead the niche marketing analytics providers — because they aren’t where marketers expect to find their day-to-day reporting, nor are they positioned to deliver the full go-to-market picture that CMOs now require.

To better understand what marketing automation users feel their platforms are missing, in partnership with Heinz Marketing, we conducted a survey over 11 days in October 2017. The responses came from 410 marketing and sales professionals who use Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, Pardot, HubSpot, or Act-On. Survey respondents represented multiple industries and ranged in size from SMB organizations to large enterprises. Read the full report here. 

Joe Chernov
Joe is the CMO at InsightSquared.
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