The Pulse of Marketing Automation Platforms in 2016 Jessica Lunk Marketing automation platforms – though still in their infancy compared to traditional tools like email marketing software – will continue to gain steady ground in 2016. What used to be viewed as a toy for either the big boys or tech related companies has proven to be core tool for any business that wants to increase leads and grow profits. So what’s in store for marketing automation in 2016? Here are 22 marketing automation stats and why they matter to you as we head into the new year:Marketing automation adoption is rising quickly across companies of every size.In 2014, marketing automation adoption was at 60% for companies with $500m or more in revenue, at 10% for companies between $20-$500m in revenue, 5% for companies between $5-$20m and 3% for companies less than $5m in revenue. (Raab Associates, 2014)Key Takeaway: Originally accessible to only enterprise or tech-related businesses, there has been a trickle-down effect for marketing automation into the small business market. Although market penetration was only at 3% for businesses less than $5m in revenue in 2014, this number is continuing to rise thanks to software solutions like Hatchbuck that cater to the small business market. Early adopters in the small business market will reap the biggest benefits from implementing marketing automation to optimize their pipeline.Marketing automation runs on marketing strategy.Only 38% of businesses that have implemented marketing automation are using more advanced marketing tactics like progressive profiling. (Webmarketing 123, 2015). 85% of B2B marketers using a marketing automation platform feel that they’re not using it to its full potential. (SiriusDecisions, 2014)Key Takeaway: Tackling this whole “automation thing” is tricky, but a solid sales and marketing strategy will help you take full advantage of marketing automation features.Marketing automation is built on a solid foundation of email marketing.Companies that use email marketing are 75% or more likely purchase marketing automation software. (Venture Beat, 2014)Of marketing automation, CRM, and email marketing systems, email marketing technology has the highest adoption and is used by 82% of companies. (Ascend2, August 2015)27% of those new to marketing automation say that more relevant messaging is a result, but that increases with time to 74% for experienced marketing automation users who started using marketing automation more than two years ago. (B2Bmarketing.net and Circle Research, 2015)Key Takeaway: If you have experience using email marketing to stay in touch with your audience, you’re already on the right track to implement marketing automation for your business. Though it may take some time to segment your leads and build out your lead nurturing strategy, marketing automation will result in relevant, personal emails to your audience, boosting the ROI of your email marketing efforts.Choosing the right fit can make or break marketing automation success.38% of marketing automation users were actively considering switching marketing automation systems in the coming year. (Venture Beat, 2014) 86% of marketers said “ease of use” was the most important factor when choosing a marketing automation platform. (Regalix, 2014)59% of companies aren’t using the marketing technology they have available to its full potential. Companies that don’t have all the marketing technology tools they need are much more likely to fully use what they have (33%), than those that do have all the tools they need (9%). (Ascend2 , 2015)Key Takeaway: Implementing sales and marketing software can be costly and time consuming if the system you’ve chosen isn’t compatible with your process. Avoid getting too caught up in feature or price comparisons, and instead focus on buying the right functionality for your business. As Ascend’s report indications, too many features may mean that the software is too complex, resulting in underutilization. At the same time, the least expensive option may not have enough functionality or the right training and support for your business. With marketing automation, businesses are generating a higher-quality sales lead.The #1 benefit of marketing automation according to B2B marketers is the ability to generate more and better quality leads. (Pepper Global, 2014)Companies that excel in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead. (Forrester Research, 2014)Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. (The Annuitas Group, 2014)Successful lead nurturing breeds educated, gratified customers who channel their satisfaction into their purchase sizes, making 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (Kapost, 2014)Key Takeaway: Nurturing leads through marketing automation creates a more sustainable lead generation process. Instead of hitting every new lead with your sales pitch – only to have them die on the vine – you can nurture a steady stream of leads into quality, educated prospects for your sales team.Marketing automation optimizes pipeline conversions.B2B marketers who implement marketing automation software increase their sales pipeline contribution by an average of 10%. (Forrester Research, 2014).Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (DemandGen Report, 2014)Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. (Nucleus Research, 2014)80% of marketing automation users saw their number of leads increase, and 77% saw the number of conversions increase. (VB Insight, 2015)Key Takeaway: Marketing strategies like SEO, PPC, content marketing and social media fill your pipeline with marketing leads. But once you have traffic to your website and are capturing leads, marketing automation can convert the leads you’ve invested in into actual customers for your business, boosting the ROI of your marketing spend across all channels.To gauge marketing automation performance, you have to measure success.The most useful measure of marketing automation performance is conversion rate, say 70% of very successful Marketing Automation users. (Marketo & Ascend2, 2015)Key Takeaway: If you aren’t measuring key small business metrics, like your lead conversion rates and customer lifetime value, you won’t be able to measure the success of you marketing automation platform. Getting these key metrics down first is a great way to clean up your sales and marketing process before implementing a marketing automation platform.Is marketing automation worth it? With the right strategy, absolutely.10% of marketing automation users find it inexpensive, 47% fairly priced, 22% pricey but worth it and 11% too expensive. 10% was not sure. (VB Insight, 2015)The most challenging obstacles to success are lack of quality content (40%), budget constraints (38%) and the lack of an effective marketing automation strategy (38%). ( Marketo & Ascend2, 2015)Key Takeaway: Most marketing automation users find that their investment in the technology pays off. However, having a strategy to drive traffic to your website, capture those leads and nurture them into customers is key to generating ROI from your efforts.Marketing automation benefits customer engagement, too.Marketers say that the biggest benefits of marketing automation are saving time (74%), increased customer engagement (68%), more timely communications (58%) and increased opportunities including up-selling (58%) (Adestra, 2015)Increasing sales revenue (53%), lead nurturing (43%) and customer engagement (37%) are the most important objectives of a marketing automation strategy. (Marketo & Ascend2, 2015)Key Takeaway: Is “marketing automation” a misnomer? Maybe so. Instead of turning your business into a robot, marketing automation can take administrative tasks off of your plate, opening of your day to focus on high-impact, relationship-building tasks. Not only does marketing automation help you convert more sales-ready leads into customers, but it also helps you build stronger relationships with your customers, boosting your customer lifetime value and word-of-mouth referrals.If you need to generate higher quality leads for your sales team, convert more prospects into customers, and build better relationships with your customer base, 2016 can be the “Year of Marketing Automation” for your business.