Marketing automation vendors are being cornered by a monster of their own creation. That’s the conclusion of a new InsightSquared and Heinz Marketing report, titled Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) Satisfaction Survey 2018: Are Marketing Automation Vendors Still Meeting the Needs of Today’s Marketer?

No doubt the marketing industry owes a debt of gratitude to the marketing automation industry. Prior to the emergence of companies like Eloqua and Marketo, marketers were largely flying blind when it came to quantifying the value they provided to their organizations. Today, nostalgic marketers tend to look back on the pre-MAP period as “the arts and crafts era of marketing,” because without these new tools, there was no systematic way to track the volume, quality, and disposition of marketing-sourced leads, and tie the value to specific marketing campaigns.

As these companies grew – Eloqua, Marketo, and HubSpot all enjoyed successful IPOs; Pardot was acquired by – so too did their promises. Not only would they help marketers tie leads to campaigns, but they would also reveal something more anticipated than Al Capone’s tomb: Marketing’s impact on revenue generated. This promise took many forms: Attribution, ROI, even the wonky “revenue performance management,” that I begrudgingly admit having a hand in. Together, these reports, and those like them, would be to marketing what forensic accounting is a to financial investigation. They would paint a picture from fragments of information. But like Capone’s tomb, those higher order promises have proven empty, at least according to the 400+ marketing practitioners surveyed by Heinz Marketing last fall.

From the initial question through the final, respondents made clear a single point: In the post-arts-and-crafts era, leaders expected marketing to prove its impact on revenue, yet not a single MAP could produce such a report.

If the desire for advanced reporting was a secondary need, it might be easier to understand why it has gone unmet. But marketers told us that “actionable analytics/reporting” is the most important feature in a MAP. It’s also the feature with which they’re least satisfied. See figure 1.

Figure 1

And it wasn’t just one MAP that was dragging down the numbers for all. As figure 2 indicates, “actionable analytics/reporting” was cited as the most deficient feature for every single major vendor in the industry.

Figure 2

The lack of this capability may have consequences for MAP users who want to earn the confidence of top brass, because (figure 3) executives appear to be far more concerned with “deep analytics and polished reporting” than any of the marketing trends du jour, like account-based marketing or machine learning.

Figure 3

I often remind members of my team that their first job is keeping their job. In other words, focus first and most fiercely on what leadership expects of you. If leadership is expecting marketing to produce deep, polished reports that prove impact on revenue, then why aren’t these massive marketing automation vendors delivering the goods? Why aren’t they helping their customers keep their jobs? The report doesn’t answer that question, but hypotheses abound.

The obvious answer is: Reporting is hard, like really hard. Anyone who has seen Scott Brinker’s sprawling marketing technology landscape “supergraphic” realizes there are thousands of vendors in this industry, and reconciling data from all of them is a daunting task.

Another reasonable perspective is that reporting is insufficiently sexy. It doesn’t gin up PR in the way that, say, a new artificial intelligence product might. And there’s some evidence to support this conclusion. Of the 127 press releases issued by marketing automation vendors last year, only four centered on analytics features, a fraction of the announcements on artificial intelligence, machine learning, or account-based marketing.

But if you were to ask me, I’d offer a slightly different take. I believe MAPs have created their own monster. Their technology has whetted our appetite for data and their promises have aroused our imagination. We now know what’s possible, and so too do our bosses. But because every marketing automation vendor’s reporting solution is comparably deficient, there’s nowhere for us to churn. Until one vendor begins to meet our revenue reporting needs, there’s no sense of urgency for the others to invest in analytics.

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. 

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