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Act-On Software and Econsultancy recently partnered up to produce a State of B2B Marketing Automation report [download page], based on a global survey of 355 B2B in-house marketing professionals from a mix of company sizes and industries. Here are 4 findings from the report.

1. B2B Marketers Look to Automation to Improve Lead Quality

From a list of 4 challenges, respondents identified the acquisition of new leads as their most pressing, ahead of the lead handoff from marketing to sales, customer retention and building brand awareness.

Presumably they want those leads to be of the highest quality possible, and that’s where marketing automation can help.

In fact, generating higher quality leads is the top reason for choosing to implement a marketing automation solution, per the report’s respondents. Almost two-thirds chose that as a top-3 reason for pursuing automation, from a list of 7 reasons.

Quality beats volume in this case: just 41% feel that generating more leads is a top-3 reason for implementing automation.

That aligns with trends in recent years in which B2B marketers have tended to focus more on quality than quantity of leads.

2. Around Half Use Marketing Automation

The survey finds that just over half (53%) of B2B organizations already have a marketing automation system in place, and that another 37% are planning to use one. That leaves just 1 in 10 with no plans to implement marketing automation technology.

By comparison, a recent Salesforce survey of B2C and B2B marketers around the world found two-thirds using marketing automation and another fifth planning to add a system in the next 2 years.

Meanwhile, among the 37% of B2B organizations surveyed by Econsultancy that are planning to implement a marketing automation system, the vast majority (87%) envision doing so within the next year, including almost half (46%) who will implement a solution in the next 6 months.

3. Automation is About More Than Just Email

Email continues to be the most common use case for marketing automation. Almost three-quarters (73%) are already using automation for their email efforts, and nearly all of the remainder have plans to automate their email campaigns.

But email – while popular – isn’t the only use for automation. A majority are also already using automation for their web forms (63%) and landing pages (56%), and CRM integration (47%) isn’t far behind.

For the time being, fewer are using automation for purposes such as dynamic content (29%), progressive profiling (20%) and account-based marketing (20%), though a majority are planning to extend their automation usage to those areas.

4. Automation is Delivering, But Not to Its Full Potential

B2B organizations are generally enthusiastic about the benefits of implementing marketing automation. Consider that:

  • 82% believe they’re more efficient because of marketing automation;
  • 76% agree that marketing automation has increased contribution to pipeline; and
  • 76% likewise say they collaborate more with sales as a result of automation.

Even so, automation could be used more for measurement. While a majority use these systems or their CRM to measure traffic to landing pages/forms (69%), new contacts (67%) and marketing qualified leads (53%), fewer are already measuring marketing contribution to revenue (33%) or pipeline (31% unweighted / 25% weighted).

Indeed, there’s more opportunity to exploit the benefits of automation: only 41% agree that they’re using automation to its fullest capacity.

Overall, though, 79% say automation is delivering a return on investment (ROI), with a majority (58%) reporting that it took 6 months or less for automation software to deliver an ROI. As such, 85% view their system as at least somewhat effective.

The full report – which contains much more data and a set of recommendations – can be downloaded here.

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