TMW #161 | Marketing automation is all grown up

Feb 11, 2024

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Marketing automation is all grown up 

Welcome to the land of fantastical feature bloat

Is it me, or are marketing automation companies becoming increasingly creative with how they talk about what they do? Cross-channel-omnichannel-personalization-platform-to-scale-customer-delight is a really weird way to say that you’re an email marketing system. But it’s 2024, and here we are.

Batman has something to say:

Picture 1

In preparation for this essay, I have an exam for you. But don’t worry! I created a cheat sheet.

All of the statements below are pulled directly from the top marketing automation platforms. If you can accurately guess which company each statement comes from (no Googling allowed!) I’ll give the first person who gets it right a free TMW PRO Subscription worth US $299!

I’ve taken on the monumental responsibility of translating each of them for you.
Here it is:

I think this creative use of language for what should really be a simple thing is not just product marketers and copywriters microdosing on hype and LSD. Ultimately, with the race to optimize for SEO while growth-hacking their way to a higher valuation, marketers lose the true essence of what they’re trying to say. 

And what they do end up saying becomes new jargon that bounces around in an echo chamber of Gartner reports, industry events, and what appears to be a bottomless well of podcasts. 

It reflects the “growing up” of marketing automation and the category’s changing role in the nexus of first-party data’s rising value for all of marketing, the growing technical maturity and mastery of marketing operations, CRM managers, and digital leaders in companies of all shapes and sizes, along with the increasing opportunities for brands to connect to previously restricted data sources and expanded types of customer data. 

From 2021 to 2023, the marketing automation industry grew into a $5.8 billion industry, which is actually pretty small compared to other Martech sectors, but is still more than double that of the annual revenue of the CDP category. Marketing automation has always sat right at the beating heart of the Martech industry, pulling in the largest players in town such as HubSpot, Salesforce, and Adobe. Heck, even Microsoft has a marketing automation platform. We’re not dealing with chump change here. 

Despite all this growth, email itself hasn’t changed in years – decades even. But so many of these platforms use email as a basis for doing much more than the usual SOLUS or abandoned cart email. 

Is this a good direction for email marketing platforms to go in? Or is adding CDPs, integrations with the data warehouse, advanced personalization capabilities, and cross-channel orchestration reflective of the positive value from the ongoing maturation of this tech category? 

Let’s explore these interconnected domains of change and try to explain why labeling email marketing tools like “customer experience and engagement platforms” as weird and outlandish isn’t such a farfetched idea.

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