Is the term Marketing Automation Mainstream? And Does It Really Matter?

I attended a networking event here in Austin on Thursday night sponsored by my friend and colleague Randy Meriwether. The attendees were a mix of entrepreneurs, CEOs, sales and marketing professionals, investors and professional service providers. As usual, the conversation was stimulating and the crowd lively, as this is a very smart, high energy group with their finger on the pulse of what is happening in technology. As is the case at these events, each new introduction is followed by, “So, what do you do?” My general response is that I run a marketing automation company. I noticed that this was usually met with a quizzical look and the follow-up question – “What is marketing automation?”  Now, perhaps it was just this crowd, but I had expected more recognition of the term from this gathering.  When I said “Manticore”, most were aware that we provided a marketing software, and some could even describe what our software does and that we deliver it via SaaS. Others were aware of the basic functionality and a few of the vendors in our industry, so there was a general awareness of our market and the value that we deliver. Still, I was puzzled by the notion that the label we use for our market clearly doesn’t mean anything to a mainstream yet technically-aware audience. I am certain that everyone in that room could tell you what CRM is, or ERP, or even possibly EDA (Electronic Design Automation, for the technical software challenged). Yet, only hardcore marketers knew the definition of marketing automation.

So, what does this mean? My biggest takeaway is that we’re still in a very early phase of the market. Among b2b marketers, it is well known what marketing automation is and the business benefits it provides.  However, those business benefits and the associated label that defines them are not well known to the broader business community. It could also mean that we haven’t found a label that resonates in the CXO suite. Some vendors have tried to remedy this with the creation of Revenue Performance Management, but my informal poll says that doesn’t have traction yet either. It could also mean that my sample set is bad – perhaps this was just an unaware group. But based on the discussions I heard about social selling and content marketing, I have to say this is very unlikely.

Does that fact that marketing automation hasn't caught on as a generally known business term really matter?  Today, I’d say no. But if a year from now, an average CEO or CFO doesn’t know the meaning of the label we’ve ascribed to the technology that helps efficiently move leads through the pipeline and turn them into revenue, than I’d say that as an industry, we have a problem.