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50+ Terms You Need To Know

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50+ Terms You Need To Know


On the surface, content marketing seems straightforward: Create great content, publish it on channels popular with your audience, and reap business benefits from their attention and interest.

Of course, we all know there’s a lot more to it. But it can be hard to dive into the nuances, complexities, and conditional decision-making when struggling to understand the basic principles, techniques, and tactics. Even seasoned veterans can interpret key terms differently, leading to challenges in communicating and implementing strategies.

You can’t dive into the complexities of #ContentMarketing until you know many of the terms. That’s why @joderama developed this glossary via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

To help clear the confusion, I put together this glossary of common content marketing terms. While consensus on all definitions isn’t possible, it is possible to have your team agree, and that’s the strong foundation needed.

Note: I organized these definitions into best-fit categories though many can span multiple areas.

Strategy-centric terms

Audience

In a marketing context, audiences are targeted, clearly defined groups of individuals and/or organizations that willingly read, listen, view, or otherwise engage with your brand’s content in exchange for benefits they expect to receive.

Definitive resource: Your Audience Is Not the Same as Your Marketing Database

Buy-in/business case

A business case captures the reasoning for an organization to invest in content as a component of its marketing strategy. Typically delivered to executive management in the form of a document or presentation, it’s a helpful tool for building stakeholder understanding and support necessary to execute the program effectively.

Though talking points can vary, at a minimum, your business case should address:

  • Why your company needs content marketing
  • How it can help your organizations meet its marketing goals
  • Necessary budget and resources
  • Expected outcomes and estimation of when they will be achieved

Definitive resource: How To Make a Better Case for Content Marketing in 2021

Content marketing

CMI defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

But as A. Lee Judge recently asserted, content marketing is more than a marketing strategy that uses content to attract an audience – it’s a skill set. “It’s no longer enough to market with content. You must understand how to market the content itself,” he says. Thus, he offers a complementary expansion to the definition as a verb: “Applying marketing skills and techniques to written, visual, audio, or social content to provide the greatest possible reach, longevity, and effectiveness of that content.”

#ContentMarketing is both a discipline and a skill set, says @joderama and @aleejudge via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Definitive resource: Are Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing Still Different in 2021?

Content marketing strategy

Copyblogger defines content marketing strategy as a plan for building an audience by publishing, maintaining, and spreading frequent and consistent content that educates, entertains, or inspires an audience. However, CMI uses a simpler definition: Your content marketing strategy is your why – why you are creating content (your business goal), whom it will serve (your audience), and how it will be unique (your mission).

Definitive resource: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Content strategy

Content strategy operates above a content marketing strategy. It is a plan for creating, managing, and distributing all content produced and shared across the enterprise – not just the content used as part of a content marketing program or initiative. For example, how content is designed and developed to deliver an optimal user experience is a consideration that would fall under a content strategy, not a content marketing strategy.

Content mission statement

A content mission statement is the centering principle of your brand’s unique vision of content. Ideally, this statement reflects your business values, distinguishes your storytelling from competing content, and governs your content team’s creative and strategic decision-making, including:

  • What stories your brand will tell (e.g., topics)
  • How those stories take shape (e.g., core content formats and platforms)
  • How your content assets work collectively to create a desirable experience for your audience

Definitive resource: Make a Mission Statement for Better Content Marketing

Goals

Goals can be defined as the business outcomes to be achieved through your content marketing strategy. While the ultimate goal is to drive profitable action, program goals should be more specific, such as to grow sales, to save the company money, or to drive greater customer loyalty and brand satisfaction. Goals also must be measurable and have a designated achievement date.

Definitive resource: How To Set Content Marketing Goals That Matter to Business Leaders

Personas

A persona is a composite sketch of a target audience’s relevant characteristics based on validated commonalities. Used to inform your strategic plans for reaching, engaging, and driving your audience to take meaningful action as a result of your content. Without well-researched personas, you likely guess what your audience wants and often revert to creating content around what you know best (your products and company) instead of around what your audience actively seeks.

Definitive resource: Marketing Personas: A Quick and Dirty Guide

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Planning/Process-centric terms

Channel/media planning

Media planning is the process of making decisions about where, when, and how often to deliver a message to an audience. The ideal is to reach the biggest number of the right audience members with the right message only as often as needed to achieve the desired effect (e.g., brand awareness, leads, sales).

Similarly, a channel plan – including social media planning – is an advanced directive for how your brand manages its content on the ever-evolving list of media platforms. It spells out the rationale and the expectations for using each channel. Compiling this guidance ensures you aren’t wasting time – and budget – on distribution efforts that can’t help you achieve your content marketing and business goals.

Definitive resource: Social Media Content Plan: Take Control of Your Strategy

Content brief

Often provided to freelancers, consultants, and other outsourced writers assigned to create content, a content brief documents the guidelines and instructions to ensure a properly focused asset that meets the brand’s editorial standards and marketing expectations. A well-constructed brief should include an elevator-pitch description of the assignment, relevant branding details (e.g., tone, voice, and stylistic considerations), key messages, and target audience insights.

A well-constructed #content brief includes an elevator-pitch description of the assignment, target audience, and key messages, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Definitive resource: How To Create a Good Brief for Better Content Marketing

Content inventories and audits

According to Paula Land, author of Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook, a content inventory is a collection of data about your content. It’s a comprehensive, quantitative list – typically created in a spreadsheet – of all content assets, ideally across all content types, channels, and distribution formats. It enables marketers to make data-based content decisions.

In contrast, a content audit, as defined by Paula, is a qualitative evaluation of the inventoried content. Assess your content against customer needs and business objectives to identify which assets are performing well (and which aren’t.)

Definitive resource: A Simple-To-Do Content Audit With 6 Questions

Content/editorial plan

A content or editorial plan is a tactical outline to execute your strategy that denotes responsible team members. It should detail such things as key topics, content to create, publication dates, distribution plans, and calls to action.

Definitive resource: How To Create a Flexible Content Plan That Gets Results

Content operations

Content operations are the full complement of processes, tasks, people, and procedures to manage efficiently and effectively everything content-related within your organization, from strategy and planning to governance, execution, measurement, and optimization.

Definitive resource: How to Build a Content Operations Framework (and Why You Need One)

Editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is a process tool to track all the moving parts in executing your content plan. It typically includes the topic, title, author information, and images for each asset and the schedule for publication and promotion organized according to workflows established for creation and production.

Definitive resource: How To Create a Strategic Editorial Calendar

Content workflow

Workflows are sets of tasks that a team needs to complete a content asset. In her book, Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson says a content workflow determines “how content is requested, sourced, created, reviewed, approved, and delivered.”

At a minimum, they should outline critical tasks at each stage of the editorial process. Here’s a simple example:

  • Outline
  • Write
  • Review
  • Edit
  • Approve
  • Publish

Definitive resource: Marketing Workflow: How To Keep Content Production on Track

Creation-centric terms

Copy editing, proofreading, and fact-checking

These editorial techniques are used to ensure the highest level of quality, clarity, and accuracy in content. Each serves a different purpose and uses distinct approaches:

  • Copy editing: This involves reviewing and editing content for any mechanical errors or stylistic inconsistencies that might impact the quality or readability of the piece. Tasks include checking written material for grammar, spelling, linguistic, or punctuation issues. A copy editor may also do a rewrite, if necessary, to fix problems with transitions, wordiness, jargon, and style.
  • Proofreading: Proofreading is a separate stage of the editing process. Here, a proofreader scrutinizes the content in its almost-published state to catch any typographical or minor errors that were missed in editing or created during production.
  • Fact-checking: Fact-checking is then conducted to verify the factual accuracy of the content and its use of sourcing. It ensures the content doesn’t spread disinformation, miscredit or misquote sources, get dinged for plagiarism or copyright infringement, or otherwise risk losing the trust of your audience (and possibly face legal penalties.)

Definitive resource: The Best Proofreading and Editing Tips (Spoiler: Don’t Do Them at the Same Time)

Curation

Curation is the assembly, selection, categorization, commentary, and presentation of relevant content. The technique typically involves third-party content in which your brand puts your spin on others’ content. It also can be applied to curating content published by your brand.

Definitive resource: Content Curation on Social Demands More Than a Shared Link

Distribution/promotion-centric terms

Accessibility

Accessibility is the ease anyone should have navigating, understanding, and using your content. Often used in the context of conditions, such as visual or auditory impairments, such as someone who prefers to mute videos and read the captions.

See also  A marketer's glossary to essential agile marketing terms

Calls to action (CTAs)

Calls to action are statements or design elements highlighting actions you want the audience to take after engaging with the content, such as subscribing to your newsletter, attending an event, or exploring other relevant assets and offerings. The best CTAs are simple, clear, inviting, and easy to notice.

Channels

Channels are individual content distribution outlets, such as a blog or podcast channel, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, or Vimeo.

Formats

A content format refers to where the content can be accessed or its presentation for distribution and engagement, such as text via in a printed book, a digital magazine, or an SMS campaign; audio for a podcast; or visuals for like a video or infographic.

Keywords/key phrases

Keywords or key phrases describe the contents of a content asset based on terms people use to search for content on that topic. They are the building blocks of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

Owned media

Owned media distribution platforms are fully under your brand’s control, allowing you to decide where and how it appears, how it is accessed, and how it fits in with other aspects of the content experience.

Shared/social media

Shared media, including social media, provide opportunities for marketers to post content, create and listen to conversations, and interact with people. These platforms are ultimately controlled by a third party, which can change its policies and procedures – or cease operations altogether – at a moment’s notice.

Native advertising

Native advertising is a paid/third-party promotion format that supports either brand or direct-response goals and is where the content matches the form, feel, function, and quality of the content of the media on which it appears.

Definitive resource: How to Do Native Advertising Right: A Brief Guide With Great Examples

Branded content

Wikipedia defines branded content as content funded or outright produced by an advertiser. Like native advertising, it works by partnering with relevant publishers that have the trust of your target audience. This technique takes a more immersive, sensory-driven approach to storytelling, making the experience more entertaining, valuable, and memorable.

Paid search

These opportunities typically take the form of pay-per-click ads or other sponsored listings that appear near the top of search engine results pages (SERP) when consumers search for information relevant to your content.

Influencer marketing

One of the fastest-growing marketing techniques (as well as a burgeoning industry of its own), influencer marketing programs enlist the assistance of people who have the ear of your target audience to bring your content to their attention.

Definitive resource: How to Turn Influencers into a Powerful Content Force

Content personalization

Personalization is the process of targeting content to individuals based on one or more of the following: who they are; where they are; when, why, and how they access content; and what device they use to access it. Given the high competition for getting attention online, marketers use this technique to make their content more findable, engaging, and personally resonant to their target consumers and existing customers.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is a set of strategic techniques and tactics designed to get content to rank as highly as possible on search engine results pages (SERP) on Google and other search sites. The higher your content ranks, the more likely it is to receive a click, which increases traffic to your content.

Definitive resource: Providing the Best Answer May No Longer Be the Best Strategy for SEO [Video Series]

Content segmentation

Segmentation refers to the categorization of content based on the target audience niche (similar to a buyer persona). Content is presented in a clear and concise manner specific to that audience. Often affecting design, messaging, and presentation, content segmentation can improve engagement, better differentiate your brand from competitors, and improve content marketing effectiveness.

Definitive resource: 8 Expert Tips To Help You Personalize Your Content and Segment Your Audiences

Sales-centric terms

Account

Account is defined as a sales target, opportunity, or customer group established within the total addressable market.

Account-based marketing (ABM)

ABM is a B2B marketing approach where high-value (typically enterprise-level) organizations are identified, and content is created to target them as a grouped unit rather than marketing to individual members of that organization.

Definitive resource: Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Crash Course for Content Marketers

Buyers

Buyers are prospects – people who are in need of, or have an active interest in, purchasing a service or product.

Consumers

While the term is often used interchangeably with “buyers,” from a marketer’s perspective, consumers are the people who are likely or intended customers for their business.

Customers

While buyers and consumers are terms used to indicate interest or intent, customers are the individuals or organizations who have actively made a purchase from your business or brand.

Conversion

A conversion takes place once a consumer has taken an action your organization designates as meaningful – such as purchasing a product, registering for an event or a gated asset, subscribing to a blog, newsletter, or joining a social media community – after engaging with your brand’s content.

See also  7 Steps to a More Strategic Editorial Calendar

Definitive resource: How To Create High-Converting Content

Demand generation

Demand generation is the focus of targeted, sales-centric marketing programs designed to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products and/or services. The greater the demand, the easier it becomes for sales to nurture that interest to convert.

Definitive resource: Demand Gen for Content Marketing in the Next Decade [New Research]

Ideal customer profile (ICP)

An ICP is a description of a targeted buyer (person or company) that’s a perfect fit for your brand’s solution.

Journey map

This term refers to a method of identifying information and assistance consumers likely need at each possible interaction and is used to determine the most effective content to nurture them toward conversion.

Definitive resource: Wondering What Content To Create? Try a Customer-Journey Map

Lead

In marketing terms, a lead is a person or business in your company’s sales or marketing database, typically (though not exclusively) by engaging with a branded asset or communication platform.

Definitive resource: Make Content Integral to Your Lead Generation

Lead scoring

Scoring is a marketing method of objectively and comparatively evaluating the quality and conversion potential of a prospect based on predetermined sales criteria.

Marketing-qualified lead (MQL)

MQLs are leads reviewed by the marketing team that satisfies the criteria to be passed along to the sales team as someone who may become a customer at some indeterminate point.

Sales funnel/funnel stage

The sales funnel is a method of defining the decision-making process of a customer from the time they enter the marketplace through the purchase (or conclusion not to buy). It’s commonly used to determine the most effective outreach approach to nurture conversions. (While marketers may also define customer decision-making in terms of funnel stages, content marketers are more likely to characterize these stages as progression along a journey.)

Sales-qualified lead (SQL)

Once a lead is qualified by the sales team as being active in the market, they are referred to as an SQL; these leads are more likely to become a customer than an MQL.

Total addressable market (TAM)

This is a calculation that references the total number of prospective buyers and/or potential revenue opportunity available for a product or service.

Definitive resource: Build a Stronger Pipeline With Content: Unlock the Power of Sales and Marketing Collaboration

Measurement-centric terms

A/B testing

This is a performance testing method that pits two pieces of content against each other to gauge comparative performance. Also known as split testing, it’s a randomized experiment where two possible version options — two web pages, two subject lines, two design strategies, two content angles, etc. — are presented in equal scale to different viewers.

Analytics

Marketo defines analytics as the practice of managing and studying metrics data to determine the ROI of marketing efforts like calls to action, blog posts, channel performance, and thought leadership pieces, and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are standard, agreed-on measurements for assessing progress against your content marketing goals. Potential KPIs might be average conversion rates, number of leads, quality of leads, revenue per new customer, etc.

Metrics

In contrast to KPIs, metrics are the business-as-usual measurements that quantify things that add value to your organization but aren’t focused on the most critical goals, such as website page views or “likes” on a social media post. Think of these as the “what-needs-to-be-true” numbers that can help you achieve or optimize your KPIs.

Definitive resource: These 4 Analytics Oversights Mess With Your Content Performance Plan

Return on investment (ROI)

ROI is a broad term that describes how a company’s marketing initiatives drive profitable actions and business growth. Knowing ROI for content campaigns enables marketers to determine appropriate budget allocations, maximize the efficiency of each marketing expenditure, and demonstrate the impact of their efforts to their executive stakeholders. However, though it’s (arguably) the most critical measurement of a content program’s effectiveness, it can be difficult to calculate and quantify, let alone prove definitively.

Definitive resource: How To Demystify the Process of Measuring Content Marketing ROI [Video Show]

Subscribers

In content marketing, subscribers are defined as audience members who have taken an action around your content (and provided some personal data to do so) in exchange for an expectation of receiving ongoing value; core metric for measuring content marketing value.

Understanding the language is the first step to success

While this glossary is by no means a comprehensive list, it should clarify commonly confused or misunderstood industry terms and concepts. If there are additional content marketing constructs that you would like to see us add to this list, let us know in the comments.

Go beyond the lingo with CMI’s free workday or weekly newsletter to advance your content marketing program. Subscribe today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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MARKETING

What is marketing automation?

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What is marketing automation?


Marketing automation software can improve marketing productivity and increase lead quality. Here’s what you need to know before adopting a marketing automation platform.

Marketing automation is the use of software and web-based services to execute, manage and automate repetitive marketing tasks and processes to more effectively market through multiple channels (i.e., email, mobile, social media, and websites). Marketing automation focuses on the definition, scheduling, segmentation and tracking of marketing campaigns, allowing the marketing and sales organizations to nurture leads with highly personalized content aimed at attracting and retaining customers.

Today, marketing automation is one of the core activities of a marketing department — whether for a small local business or a large consumer or B2B enterprise. But the platforms that power these activities continue to evolve.

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes



What is marketing automation?

Investments in marketing technology continue to be a priority for businesses across the board, as they strive to meet increased demands for personalization and a need to collect, authenticate and analyze rapidly increasing amounts of consumer data to improve the customer experience (CX). For B2B players, this often means using a marketing automation platform.

Most marketing automation solutions provide tools for email campaign development and execution (including landing pages), as well as lead capture, scoring and nurturing. The platforms also typically provide centralized marketing databases and a basic level of reporting on web traffic, visitor behavior and campaign results.

Combined, the core features offered by most marketing automation platforms profiled in this report include:

  • Email marketing and landing page development;
  • Lead management (i.e., capture, scoring and nurturing);
  • Native CRM integration; and
  • APIs or app marketplaces for faster martech system access.

The more basic functions of marketing automation have become somewhat commoditized, so platform vendors mostly look to differentiate their offerings based on the ability to scale (especially to new marketing channels), usability, ease of implementation and customer experience features. One area growing especially quickly involves the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to suggest audiences or messaging.

Platform vendors are also looking to differentiate themselves by offering more support for increasingly sophisticated customers who have adopted the software and who are looking to justify the investment by proving ROI.

All of this means market is quickly evolving, as marketers demand integrated marketing functionality that rapidly translates into bottom-line return. Vendors continue to add more advanced features to provide marketing end-users with the ability to build, track and manage campaigns across channels and/or devices, and monitor the flow of leads as they move from marketing to sales.

These features include, but are not limited to:

  • Dynamic content generation (email, landing pages and/or website);
  • Email deliverability tools;
  • Account-based marketing (ABM);
  • Mobile marketing;
  • AI-based predictive analytics; and
  • Social/lead profile integration.

Dynamic content generation

Virtually all marketing automation platforms provide the ability to create, send and measure personalized email campaigns. Where they differ is in how email, landing page and website content created and personalized. Some vendors offer wizard-based campaign design or content templates, while others provide a more customized approach.

There are also differences in static vs. dynamically generated content, which adjusts on the fly as prospects interact with a website or form. Progressive profiling is often offered to pre-populate forms with known data and uses a drip approach to capture additional prospect information each time they interact with campaigns.

Message deliverability is also an important factor to consider. Some B2B marketing automation vendors offer dedicated IP addresses to improve deliverability, and/or monitor deliverability by including their own email deliverability services or those from partners. Email previewing is an advanced function but may be critical to marketers that want to reach their audience through mobile devices and see what their message will look like on smaller screens.

The market is quickly evolving, as modern marketers demand integrated marketing functionality that rapidly translates into bottom-line return.


New features are making marketing automation platforms more powerful than ever. Learn about trends and capabilities of marketing automation software in the latest edition of this MarTech Intelligence Report.

Click here to download!


Lead management

Lead management comprises three functions: lead capture, lead scoring and lead nurturing. Leads are captured from a variety of sources that feed the marketing automation database, including (but not limited to) website visitors, social media, paid digital campaigns, email marketing respondents, trade show attendees and purchased third-party lists. Tools will vary based on the ease with which additional lead sources can be captured, such as through an open API, or whether the software offers landing page optimization.

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Lead scoring assigns a value to each lead based on a predetermined set of rules or criteria. Traditional lead scoring models are generally based on two sets of data values: behavior (i.e., site purchases, browsing, social posts) and demographics/firmographics. Many digital marketing automation tools now offer predictive scoring driven by machine learning, which can incorporate hundreds of data points by sourcing websites, social networks and internal systems such as the CRM and marketing database itself to calculate scores.

Lead nurturing is the process of keeping prospects engaged with the brand through periodic, personalized communications or campaigns until they are ready to buy. Marketing automation software may offer a number of pre-built nurturing steps or actions, as well as allow users to customize their content and process. These efforts are meant to build a relationship between the brand and its prospects, and drive interaction with sales if and when the prospect is ready.

Predictive analytics

Virtually all of the marketing automation platforms profiled in this report provide a standard set of analytics that track quantifiable data such as website visitor activity, pages viewed, time spent on site, emails opened, content downloaded and campaign responses. More vendors are offering predictive analytics and models based on machine learning, which uses algorithms to process data and surface trends or insights that enable marketers to customize visitor experiences and marketing campaigns.

Several platforms have invested in artificial intelligence (AI) to go a step beyond machine learning and use technology to “mimic” human intelligence and recommend marketing actions or outcomes. These may include highly personalized website content or product recommendations based on analysis of consumption trends, on-site behavior, firmographics and CRM data. Other vendors rely on plug-and-play integration with predictive analytics tools to offer greater analytics and personalization capabilities.

Mobile marketing automation

Creating an engaging experience for mobile prospects and customers is a must-have capability. As a result, many B2B marketing automation software include responsive templates for email, landing pages and web forms. Several vendors integrate with email testing tools such as Litmus, to allow users to preview email marketing messages across email clients and devices.

More advanced mobile marketing features include SMS/texting, in-app marketing and remote platform management from mobile devices. In-app marketing features can include “push” notifications or ads based on geography (i.e., geo-fencing or beaconing) or during events. Marketing automation vendors have also expanded platform access to mobile users, moving beyond automated alerts and remote data collection to full platform management.

Most marketing automation software profiled in this report provide a standard set of analytics that track quantifiable data such as website visitor activity, pages viewed, time spent on site, emails opened, content downloaded and campaign responses.

Lead nurturing is the process of keeping prospects engaged with the brand through periodic, personalized communications or campaigns until they are ready to buy.

Account-based marketing (ABM)

Aligning marketing initiatives with sales teams has become a leading account-based marketing (ABM) priority for marketers. The goal is to target marketing programs to prospect or customer buying teams, rather than individuals (who may have moved into new positions or firms.) Most of the time, a B2B buyer is not a single person but a buying group. The larger the purchase, the more people and departments are involved. Marketing automation vendors continue to add new ABM features to their platforms to enable marketers to address the buying group as well as individual members, including enhanced account nurturing and predictive scoring capabilities.

Social/lead profile integration

Most of the B2B digital marketing automation vendors profiled in this report provide some level of social media publishing, sharing and tracking within the platform for networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Some platforms provide more advanced social media tools to monitor social posts and add social behavior to lead profiles, often using social engagement as a scoring factor. Other platforms enable the use of social media sign-on to capture social profile data and build lead profiles.

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Native CRM integration

With more businesses seeking to align marketing with sales, native or out-of-the-box integration with CRM systems has become a critical feature for marketing automation systems. Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle NetSuite and SugarCRM are some of the most commonly available connectors.

Data is synchronized between the two systems and shared in both directions at frequent intervals. For example, data that is added by a sales rep to an account record in the CRM will be automatically added to the record in the marketing automation tool for marketing end-users to view and act upon, as well.

Third-party software connectivity

B2B marketing automation vendors continue to open their platform architectures through APIs and app marketplaces to offer customers access to an expansive array of third-party software systems. The app marketplaces provide faster “plug-and-play” access between the systems, although there may be additional fees to purchase the marketplace apps.

If a preferred app is not available on a digital marketing automation vendor’s marketplace it doesn’t mean that the two systems won’t connect – it means that some customization will be required. API use does incur additional charges, generally on a per-call basis for each data download

Proactive recommendations based on AI

Martech vendors in many categories, including B2B marketing automation, are working to incorporate functionality that smooths the workflow for marketers using their software. One significant focus is providing users with proactive recommendations or suggestions for best next steps based on aggregated data and historical usage patterns.

Why do you need a marketing automation platform?

Marketers at companies of all sizes can gain these benefits from a marketing automation platform:

  • Increased marketing efficiency. Automating time-consuming, manual tasks around content creation, management and personalization; campaign scheduling and execution; data hygiene (i.e. duplicate or inconsistent data residing in various silos); communication with sales; and lead nurturing saves time and improves productivity.
  • Enhanced ability to generate more and better qualified leads. Marketing automation can combine multiple criteria, including demographic, firmographic and behavioral data (pages visited, downloads, filled out forms) with a lead scoring system to generate and identify sales-qualified leads.
  • A multichannel view of prospect behavior. Today’s digital marketing automation platforms are integrating multiple channels and devices – including social media and mobile — to create more comprehensive prospect profiles and holistic views of prospect behavior.
  • Better alignment of sales and marketing goals. Marketing automation software can help align sales and marketing efforts to ensure that sales reps are working with sales-ready leads. By working cooperatively to set scoring parameters and define qualified leads, sales and marketing become one team. Marketing works on building relationships with early stage leads to enable sales to focus their efforts on the most highly qualified prospects.
  • Improved lead conversion and ROI. Numerous studies have found that using a marketing automation system can increase conversions. Forrester found that B2B marketers implementing marketing automation experience a 10% increase in their sales-pipeline contribution. Marketing automation can result in a 15% increase in sales productivity as well as a 12% decrease in marketing overhead, according to tech research firm Nucleus Research.

Explore marketing automation solutions from vendors like Marketo, HubSpot, Salesforce and more in the full MarTech Intelligence Report on marketing automation platforms.

Click here to download!


The role of marketing automation platforms

In May of 2019, Forrester’s Laura Cross, VP and principal analyst for demand- and account-based marketing, speculated that MAPs have “not evolved to keep up with the needs of the modern demand marketer.” Indeed, marketing automation platforms are so well-established as to be rarely discussed. For example, it’s difficult to find independent projections on marketing automation spend, with the latest numbers from Forrester projecting global spend to reach $25.1 billion by 2023, up from $11.4 billion in 2017. However, that was published in April of 2018 as its Marketing Automation Technology Forecast, 2017-2023.

As of yet, though, there’s no sign of marketing automation platforms going extinct. However, companies in the MAP category expanding into areas like “multimedia marketing hubs” or “CRM lead management” or “account-based marketing.” Notably, marketing automation platforms had no spot at all on Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing, 2021. Could this be because it has already transitioned to what Gartner calls the “plateau of productivity”?

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Where marketing automation providers seem to be giving up a little bit of territory is from customer data plaforms, which are sometimes taking over the data management and audience segmentation tasks previously handled by MAPs.

At the same time, these CDPs also still feature integrations with marketing automation platforms because they still perform functions that other systems lack.

Will CDP’s replace marketing automation platforms?

The must-have, much-hyped customer data platform (CDP) appears to have its eyes on B2B marketers, promising to handle vast amounts of data to deliver highly-personalized customer experiences. 

Adobe’s Real-time CDP announced new features aimed at B2B brands in November 2020, which include a pre-built connector to its B2B Marketing Automation Platform, Marketo Engage. Dun & Bradstreet, with its D&B Lattice CDP, also understandably has a primarily B2B focus.

Though CDP platforms are still relatively new, adoption has been rapid and these tools could eventually pose a threat to marketing automation platforms as they provide some of the same tools and functionalities.

Who’s who in B2B Marketing Automation: The vendor landscape

The enterprise B2B marketing automation market is concentrated among a few cloud vendors, including Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe. Acquisitions by these players aimed at consolidating their positions at the top of the market have now been largely integrated.

Oracle made its acquisition of Eloqua in December 2012, becoming the first to add this capability to its offerings. Salesforce followed by adding Pardot in 2013 when it acquired ExactTarget, which had purchased Pardot the year before. The foundation of Adobe’s capabilities in the space is its 2018 purchase of rival marketing automation platform Marketo for $4.72 billion. It had previously bought Magento Commerce for $1.68 billion.

2019 saw a great deal of action in the space. The year saw Acoustic formed as a standalone company after IBM spun off its Watson Marketing operation. IBM’s Unica marketing automation platform went to HCL Technologies that year.

Among independent martech providers that year, we saw the acquisition of Mautic by open-source cloud platform Acquia for an undisclosed sum in May of 2019, only to have the parent purchased by Vista Partners in September for $1B. Also in May, SugarCRM picked up Salesfusion and re-branded it Sugar Market, in a deal in which terms were not publicly disclosed.

The pandemic year of 2020 saw acquisitions of smaller players, for the most part. CRM company Pipedrive purchased Mailigen for an undisclosed sum in March of 2020. Facebook picked up Kustomer, largely described as a CRM firm but also boasting messaging automation functionality, in November 2020 for a reported $1 billion.

December 2020 saw marketing automation/attribution player Springbot acquire Matcha, giving it content management capabilities. Meanwhile, Thryv Holdings acquired Melbourne, Australia-based Sensis in March 2020, rebranding it as Thryv in September 2021.

Date Transactions
2021 – Maropost acquires e-commerce platform Neto in March 2021 for $60M plus additional consideration,
subsequently rebranding the platform Maropost Commerce Cloud.

– Constant Contact purchases SharpSpring for $240M, adding to its stable of offerings for SMBs.

– ActiveCampaign raises $240M in Series C funding that values it at more than $3B, following a 2020 round of $100M. The company says it plans to invest in product development, expansion and building its partner ecosystem.

2020 – Springbot buys Matcha. Deal terms weren’t disclosed.

– Facebook acquires Kustomer for a reported $1B.

– Pipedrive buys Mailigen for an undisclosed sum. Thryv Holdings buys Sensis for $200M,
later rebranding it as Thryv.

2019 – Acquia acquires Mautic (terms not disclosed). Vista Equity Partners later (Sept 2019) buys Acquia for $1B

– SugarCRM buys Salesfusion (undisclosed amount); rebrands it to Sugar Market. The acquisition followed the company’s buy of Collabspot and preceded its purchase of Corvana. These units are now called Sugar Connect and Sugar Discover, respectively.

– Mailchimp acquires Sawa (undisclosed sum)

– Infusionsoft rebrands as Keap; launches CRM

– j2Global acquires iContact for $49M

2018 – Salesforce acquires Rebel (undisclosed sum)

– Infusionsoft (now known as Keap) secures $20M in Series E funding led by ORIX USA Corp.

– Adobe acquires Marketo for $4.75B

Salesforce acquires Datorama for $800M

– Adobe acquires Magneto Commerce for $1.68B

– Salesforce acquires Mulesoft $6.5B and CloudCraze (undisclosed sum)

Source: Third Door Media, Crunchbase

There will likely be more acquisitions and positioning shifts to come, as marketing automation capabilities are combined with categories like CRM, lead management and campaign automation.

The consolidation kept coming in 2021, with Maropost acquiring e-commerce platform Neto in March 2021 for $60M plus additional consideration, subsequently rebranding the platform Maropost Commerce Cloud. In September, Constant Contact purchased SharpSpring, adding to its stable of offerings for SMBs.

Get the in-depth scoop on B2B Marketing Automation in our buyer’s guide. Download it now!

 


About The Author

Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media’s Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.



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What is a customer data platform (CDP) and why do marketers need one?

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What is a customer data platform (CDP) and why do marketers need one?


A customer data platform, usually called a CDP, is a marketer-managed system designed to collect customer data from all sources, normalize it and build unique, unified profiles of each individual customer. The result is a persistent, unified customer database that shares data with other marketing technology systems.

The idea of a single view of the customer has been on marketers’ wish lists for years. But disruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic has raised interest in precisely the types of solutions that CDPs deliver, which includes that single-view of the customer. With pandemic concerns spurring the movement of customer interactions – both B2B and B2C – to digital channels, marketers are increasingly interested in technologies that collect data from those interactions, unify them, deliver insights and enable campaign orchestration.

CDPs enable marketers to create a single view of the customer by gathering data from software deployed
throughout the organization. High expectations, along with the proliferation of possible customer touchpoints, make cross-device IDs and identity resolution — the ability to consolidate and normalize disparate sets of data collected across multiple touchpoints into an individual profile that represents the customer or prospect — critical for helping marketers, sales and service professionals deliver the ideal total customer experience. CDPs offer this consolidation and normalization and also make the data profiles freely available to other systems that deliver campaigns, webpages and other interactions.



What is a customer data platform (CDPs)?

As the marketer appetite for CDPs has grown, existing companies with various backgrounds — from tag management to analytics to data management — have seen the opportunity and refashioned themselves in the CDP mold. Meanwhile, others have started up with the CDP category in mind from the start, and some well-established players have responded to market pressure and developed a CDP capability.

A CDP is not a CRM, DMP or marketing automation platform. A CDP provides a unified, persistent customer database that provides data transparency and granularity at the known, individual level. A CDP can identify customers from many different data sources by stitching together information under a unique, individual identifier. The CDP then stores its own copy of the data.

CDPs also give marketers control over customer data collection, segmentation and orchestration through native (out-of-the-box) integration that minimizes the need for IT or developer involvement. And lastly, CDPs offers data integration of both known and anonymous customer data with any external source or platform, including CRM, point of sale (POS), mobile, transactional, website, email and marketing automation.

We support the CDP Institute’s definition of a “RealCDP,” which requires it be able to do the following five things:

  • Ingest data from any source.
  • Capture full detail of ingested data.
  • Store ingested data indefinitely (subject to privacy constraints).
  • Create unified profiles of identified individuals.
  • Share data with any system that needs it.

Virtually all of the CDP vendors that meet that criteria provide the following core capabilities:

  • Data management (collect, normalize and unify customer data in a persistent database),
    often after IDs have been matched by other systems.
  • Features designed for use by the marketing organization and other departments, without the
    aid of IT or data science resources. (Though some functions, like building connections to other
    platforms and performing sophisticated data modeling, still require additional resources.)
  • Connections to and from all external systems on a vendor-neutral basis.
  • Structured and unstructured data management.
  • Online and offline data management.
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CDP vendors differentiate by offering more advanced capabilities that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Native identity resolution to stitch customer data snippets from disparate sources.
  • The number and breadth of robust pre-built connectors to other martech systems. The near-universal availability of APIs means connections are always possible (with more or less developer involvement), but offering pre-built, tested integrations adds value.
  • User interface (UI). The vendors differ in the user-friendliness of their interfaces and the methods people use to do things like create segments, view profiles, etc.
  • Analytics, including those powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, that surface insights, enable journey mapping, audience segmentation and predictive modeling.
  • Orchestration for personalized messaging, dynamic interactions and product/content recommendations.
  • Compliance with vertical industry and international data regulations.

Now, let’s look at the key considerations involved in choosing a CDP.

Customer data management

Data collection and maintenance is a core CDP customer data management platform function. All CDPs provide a central database that collects and integrates personally identifiable customer data across the enterprise.cFrom there, however, CDPs vary in their abilities to manage the following:

  • Data ingestion capabilities: CDPs use various mechanisms to ingest the data that goes into the unified customer profile — mobile SDKs, APIs, Webhooks or built-in connectors to other platforms. Identity resolution: The platform “stitches” together customer data points, such as email addresses, phone numbers, first-party cookies and purchase data, from various channels matching them to create a single customer profile.
  • Identity resolution: The platform “stitches” together customer data points, such as email addresses, phone numbers, first-party cookies and purchase data, from various channels matching them to create a single customer profile. Some players partner with other providers for this capability, while others have their own systems.
  • Online/offline data: The platform leverages identity resolution or an identity graph to stitch together behaviors in order to create a unified profile.
  • Data hygiene: The platform enables users to clean and standardize customer records.
  • Structured/unstructured data: CDPs differ in their capabilities to manage unstructured data (i.e., social media feeds, product photos, barcodes), which may comprise up to 80% of all data by 2025, according to IDG.

The importance of each of these data management capabilities will depend on a particular organization’s business goals, and whether it has a significant mobile presence, direct mail budget or brick-and-mortar stores and/or agents.

Analytics

CDP vendors offer data analytics capabilities that can do some or all of the following: allow marketing end-users to define and create customer segments, track customers across channels and glean insights into customer interest and intent from customer behavior and trends.

The functionality provided can include predictive models, revenue attribution and journey mapping. To one extent or another, many of these capabilities may utilize machine learning or artificial intelligence to surface insights about audiences and proactively offer suggestions about the best next step to move a prospect through their purchase journey.

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Orchestration

A select group of CDPs provide campaign management and customer journey orchestration features that enable personalized messaging, dynamic web and email content recommendations, as well as campaigns that trigger targeted ads across multiple channels.

The customer data platform often automates the distribution of marketer-created customer segments on a user-defined schedule to external martech systems such as marketing automation platforms, email service providers (ESPs), or web content management systems for campaign execution.

For example, the CDP could deliver targeted content to a web visitor during a live interaction. To do this, the CDP must accept input about visitor behavior from the customer-facing system, find the customer profile within its database, select the appropriate content and send the results back to the customer-facing system. A customer data platform may also facilitate digital advertising through an audience API that sends customer lists from the CDP to systems (i.e., DMP, DSP, ad exchange) that will use them as advertising audiences.

Data regulation compliance

CDP vendors vary in the support they provide for compliance with the wide range of vertical market and international regulations that safeguard customer data privacy. Some build compliance features into their platforms, while others rely on outside systems. The European Union’s GDPR was implemented in May 2018 and impacts all U.S. marketers and data firms handling European data or serving customers in the EU. Brands marketing to Canadian consumers through email must also comply with the country’s CASL (Canada Anti-Spam
Legislation). Meanwhile, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect in January of 2020.

Marketers in the highly regulated healthcare market must follow HIPAA and HITECH regulations. In addition, all organizations that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information must maintain a secure environment that meets Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), as well.

Third-party systems integration

CDPs streamline integration of customer data by providing out-of-the-box (or native) connectors for many martech systems, including CRMs, DMPs, marketing automation platforms, DSPs, and campaign analytics and testing tools. Most marketing organizations have assembled a marketing stack that contains many of these types of platforms. But integrating the data that resides in the martech ecosystem is a huge challenge — one that costs U.S. brands millions of dollars annually. The majority of CDPs profiled in this report also provide at least a basic API to enable custom integrations.


Explore platform capabilities from vendors like Blueconic, Tealium, Treasure Data and more in the full MarTech Intelligence Report on customer data platforms.

Click here to download!


What are the benefits of using a CDP?

Marketing executives today are in charge of dozens of martech applications to manage, analyze and act on a growing volume of first-party customer data. But despite increasing efficiency, the emerging martech ecosystem has created problems with data redundancy, accuracy and integration.

Automating customer data accuracy and integration through a CDP can provide numerous benefits to marketers and to other functions across the enterprise.

These include the following:

Expanded enterprise collaboration. A CDP fosters cooperation among siloed groups because it gathers data from throughout the enterprise and supports customer interactions across many touchpoints. The unification of data allows enterprises to see how strategies for audience, customer experience and execution all fit together – and enables audience portability to ensure a more consistent, informed customer experience.

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Improved data accessibility. A CDP is a centralized hub that collects and houses customer data from every corner of the enterprise. Pieces of data are normalized and stitched together to build unique, unified profiles of each individual customer. The result is a persistent customer database whose main purpose is to gather and share data more easily and efficiently across the organization

Streamlined systems integration. A CDP unifies data systems across the enterprise, from marketing and customer service, to call centers and payment systems. By creating a single “system of record” for first-party customer data, data redundancies and errors can be minimized, and data can flow more quickly into — and out of — marketing automation platforms, email service providers (ESPs), CRMs and other martech systems.

Increased marketing efficiency. A CDP unifies individual data with unique IDs that create more robust customer records. Many manual tasks are also automated by the CDP, allowing marketers to focus on the creative and analytical tasks they are trained for. The result is more accurate modeling, targeting and personalization in marketing campaigns, and more relevant customer experiences with the brand across channels.

Faster marketing velocity. In many cases, CDPs are “owned” by marketing, minimizing the need for IT or developer intervention to collect, analyze and act upon data. With control in marketers’ hands, the time to segment and build audiences, execute campaigns and analyze results significantly decreases. That said, engineers may still be needed to perform deep data analysis and facilitate integrations. This is especially true as CDPs extend beyond marketing and into sales and service functions.

Stronger regulatory compliance. A CDP creates greater internal control over customer data, streamlining data governance to comply with the many regulations now impacting brands worldwide. Marketers in the healthcare industry must comply with both HIPAA and HITECH regulations. Businesses that handle European data or serve customers in the EU must also comply with GDPR and those dealing with Californians must deal with CCPA
(California Consumer Privacy Act). The majority of CDP vendors are both ISO and SOC certified for best practices in handling personally identifiable information (PII).


About The Author

Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media’s Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.



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Real Story on MarTech: Beware of vendor bullying

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Real Story on MarTech: Beware of vendor bullying


Let’s say you work in martech for a large, well-known enterprise. It’s a global firm, a recognized brand. Ideally, you’d want to follow a structured, test-based approach for how you bring new technology into the enterprise, and you’d expect participating vendors to follow your lead in the vetting process — out of respect, if nothing else.

Well, reality can prove itself quite different. In Real Story Group’s role as a buyer’s advocate for martech stack leaders, we’ve noticed a recurring trend where larger software companies often disrupt well-reasoned martech selection strategies through aggressive and frequently questionable tactics.

Of course, none of this is new, and perhaps vendor bullying today is more subtle than in years past — but it remains just as persistent.

A typical scenario

Imagine this scenario: You and your team go through a proper technology selection process. You do everything right. Your team comes to an educated consensus decision. Based on empirical testing, you are on the verge of selecting a platform not sold by one of the big vendors.  However, these big vendors are aggressive, publicly-traded companies, not used to getting turned down.

So they approach a board member or senior exec at your firm, trying for an end-around your process. Unfortunately, there’s a long history in software sales of “selling up the chain.”  Back in the day, this meant deals on the golf course; more recently, it’s cajoling over lunch, at executive councils, and boardroom get-togethers.

Now it might seem anachronistic to talk about a supplier bullying a customer. As the buyer, don’t you have power in this situation? But that’s just the point. Large martech vendors employ specific methods to disempower enterprise selection teams.

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How it works

Here’s what I often see:

  1. High-ranking executives from the major software vendor demand a meeting with your boss’s boss or a C-level executive. Given that this vendor may work with other parts of your enterprise and everyone wants to maintain this relationship, they typically get the meeting. Or they have already networked with your leadership at industry events.
  2. The vendor touts traditional, one-size-fits-all analyst rankings to prove they are “a leader.” If you select anyone other than a leader, it means a risk to the customer’s business (and, by implication, valuations and careers).
  3. They belittle the enterprise selection team: “They’re not strategically thinking like you need to do…”
  4. They belittle the selection process: “They got lost in the weeds and focused too much on functionality.” (This is a particularly ugly allegation because the most bully-prone vendors tend to carry the most technical debt, so they often want to avoid test-based selection processes.)

If all else fails, the vendor may dramatically slash their pricing at the last minute as a defensive move or even give something away cheaply or for free. This isn’t exactly bullying, but it warps the process for sure. Just remember, technology is never truly free.

A tale of two enterprises

Recently, I’ve witnessed two dramatically different outcomes to these tactics taken by one of the most notorious of these vendors. (If you’re an RSG subscriber, contact me to hear the gory details.)

The vendor bullied Enterprise #1 into selecting an ill-fitting solution against the wishes of an interdepartmental selection team, persuading a senior executive sponsor that only that vendor’s array of platform offerings would prove robust enough. The implementation was so difficult and expensive that it did not launch after two years. They’re now engaged in a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

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Enterprise #2 said no to the same bully. The alternative system they selected has recently launched, and while no technology is perfect, the reception has been positive so far. The losing vendor’s calls and threats haven’t stopped completely. But when questions come from upper management, because the process was grounded in user-centered design thinking, the activation team can prove that their choice will lead to the best adoption and drive better business value.

Ultimately the fate of your enterprise is often going to depend on the strength of your leadership and, by extension, your ability to connect your decision to strategic business objectives. If you can cast your decision in terms of key metrics you’re trying to move, it becomes less susceptible to outside manipulation.

What you should do

First, recognize that often the biggest martech vendors carry the biggest risks.  That doesn’t mean you should avoid the über-players in these markets, but it does mean you have to prepare for them to try to bulldoze over you should you not tip things their way.

Since the bullying is real – and so are the long-term consequences of making bad technology decisions – you need to give your team and leadership the ammunition to push back. Let me know if I can help. In the meantime, feel free to share your experience with this phenomenon via the hashtag #VendorBullied on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Real Story on MarTech is presented through a partnership between MarTech and Real Story Group, a vendor-agnostic research and advisory organization that helps enterprises make better marketing technology stack and platform selection decisions.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jarrod Gingras is Managing Director and Analyst at Real Story Group, a customer-focused technology analyst firm. Jarrod specializes in DAM and Content Technologies, as well as helping large enterprises make good decisions around martech of all kinds. Twitter: @jarrodgingras LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jarrodgingras/

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