When Oracle, the second largest software company in the world, recently announced its acquisition of Eloqua, a recognized leader in marketing automation, a number of market trends were validated.
First, the acquisition reinforces the growing importance of marketing automation to business success. It recognizes that the relationship between buyers and sellers has drastically changed over the last half decade. Today’s buyers, in both B2B and B2C markets, are tech savvy, digitally active, mobile, and socially connected. Customers expect seamless and consistent engagement with the companies they buy from across all customer touchpoints: Social, email, web, phone, postal. In short, buyers are in control of the buying process much more than sellers are in control of the selling process. The opposite used to be true, when companies controlled the message and the medium.
This new relationship between buyers and sellers leaves many companies scrambling to change their customer engagement model—in other words, their marketing. Organizations are now devoting resources to deliver the type of comprehensive, multi-channel customer experience that thoroughly satisfies their customers, instills customer loyalty, provides a competitive advantage, and leverages that customer experience and social “word of mouth” to gain new customers. A tall order, and one that requires marketing automation.
The new customer engagement model reflects another industry trend: a tighter integration among sales, marketing, customer service and support. Now, everyone owns and is responsible for the customer. All customer-facing departments and personnel must have access to complete customer data in order to understand customers and optimize their experience. From support calls to comments on blogs, from email conversions to re-tweets—all of this data is suddenly relevant.
Another market trend represented by the acquisition is the extent to which marketing has become high-tech. Marketing continues to evolve towards more campaign automation and more use of data and algorithms to drive interactions with customers. As marketing becomes more IT-enabled, the Chief Marketing Officer is joining the Chief Information Officer as major decision-makers on technology purchases.
The other factor that raises the responsibility of the CMO in technology purchasing is that virtually all marketing automation suites are cloud-based, delivered as software-as-a-service (SaaS), rather than implemented on-premise. The role of the CIO and IT may be evolving to lend their expertise and help ensure that marketing chooses a solution that can be integrated with other systems the company uses and to ensure the flow of customer data across departments.
We can expect additional shake-up in the marketing automation sector. Other big players will likely follow Oracle’s lead and begin to snatch up marketing automation vendors to strengthen their portfolios. If your organization is considering a marketing automation solution, you should discuss your needs and goals with an expert in the cloud-computing space who can help you understand the market, evaluate your options, and reach the best long-term decision.