In recent years marketing automation has become synonymous with growth. But what’s the current state of marketing automation in today’s business landscape? Many marketing professionals already incorporate some level of automation into their programs. Whether through a simple email drip series to introduce a new customer to the brand, or a full campaign to leverage customer browsing activity and serve up products they’ll love.

Since automation can no longer be taken out of the conversation about marketing, we were curious to find out more. How exactly are agencies managing their needs and the needs of their clients using automated programs?

To learn more, we teamed up with Ascend2, a leader in research-based marketing, to survey a panel of marketing professionals and marketing research subscribers on their current and projected use of marketing automation.

This survey represents the opinions of the 95 marketing professionals who provide agency services. Of those surveyed, 58% held owner, partner, or C-level titles, 59% of the companies had fewer than 50 employees, and 43% said their primary marketing/sales focus was B2B.

The Agency Marketer’s Perspective

We asked about eight categories to learn more about marketer behavior. We’ll dive into a few of the highlights below but download the full report to get all the statistics to utilize in your own planning.

Why Marketers Use Automation

First off, we had to understand the why. Why are so many marketers leaning into automation?

A majority of the respondents chose streamlining marketing and sales efforts and minimizing manual tasks (43% and 36% respectively) as their main motivations. Not surprisingly, a huge benefit of automation is being able to automate many repetitive, time-consuming tasks.

Improving customer engagement and improving customer experience were also high on the list, while some data optimization features rounded out the bottom three.

Is Strategic Success Being Reached?

Of course, implementing a revenue growth platform is one thing, but we wanted to know if the marketers using them were seeing results.

Only 2% of those surveyed claimed that marketing automation has been unsuccessful. The overwhelming majority told us that their efforts were at least somewhat successful if not stellar. While success metrics vary business to business, automation can help collect the data needed to show ROI more easily.

Amplifying the Success of Automation Tools

Now that we’d established that these tools had been successful, we wanted to know which features marketers were relying on to move the needle. This gave us insights not only into what agencies need to establish automations that deliver ROI, but also which features and services are most useful to users.

To see the breakdown of which efforts or tactics most amplified the success of their marketing, download the full report.

Where is Automation Being Used?

Marketing automation solutions can be used to optimize the entire marketing and sales process. And it was interesting to see that nearly eight in ten agencies use it mainly for one marketing channel (78%). More than half (53%) also use it for social media management.

The more sales-driven efforts such as sales funnel communications (24%) and account-based marketing (21%) are only used by about a quarter of the agencies surveyed. This signals big opportunities for growth and implementing new features in the coming year.

Where Do Marketers Plan to Use Automation?

Thinking to the future, we got into the year ahead by asking where companies plan on expanding automation capabilities moving forward.

From all the features listed, push notifications and SMS marketing has the lowest percentage of marketers looking to implement it in the upcoming year. If you’re looking to enhance your agency’s service stack, these would make great areas of opportunity.

The number one feature by far (48%) shows that companies are ready to expand beyond the basics. Of course, as companies become more comfortable with automation basics like email, they get more confident in exploring the other features.

Using Automation Tools to their Fullest Potential

Revenue growth platforms can seem overwhelming at first. The sales and marketing process is complicated! Trying to house it all under one system for ease of use for everyone means that your tool might come with additions and features that are unfamiliar or don’t apply to your business plan just yet.

Unfortunately, this means that many customers are left with systems that feel underutilized. About 50% of those surveyed agreed that they did not think they were using their systems to their fullest potential.

Of course, it’s important to know if customers feel they are using their revenue growth platforms to the fullest. If not, that gives automation platforms opportunities for education and guides so that customers can feel confident exploring tools and features.

Significant Barriers to Use

Since so many marketers felt they were not using their automation tools to their fullest potential, we wanted to understand what was stopping them.

Over one-third (34%) of agencies feel that they are not provided adequate tools such as training, resources, or a knowledge base, to utilize the solutions to their fullest extent.

This is an important point to keep in mind when shopping for a marketing automation solution. You’ll want to be sure that whatever system you choose has options for training and access to resources long after the onboarding period has ended.

Extent of Technology Integration

Integrating marketing automation into your full technology stack is key to delivering well-strategized campaigns. With integration of all sales and marketing tools, teams are better positioned to centralize data and use reporting to run optimized campaigns.

While over half (52%) of agencies claimed that their automation is either entirely or mostly integrated into their existing technology, you’re not alone if it’s not. Optimizing integration can be another great goal for the year ahead.

Get the Full Report

It’s obvious that marketers are ready to tackle automation head on in the coming years. Those agencies who have been implementing automation for their customers for a while seem eager to expand their offerings and utilize the tools at their fingertips.

This survey was put together for your use, download the full report to use it in your own marketing strategy.

Kim Jamerson
Kim Jamerson
As Vice President of Marketing at SharpSpring, Kim heads up lead generation efforts through a variety of channels and processes. She has an extensive background in marketing and communications, ranging from TV news to enterprise software and healthcare.