The Rise Of Marketing Automation: The Story From Email To Inbound
Marketing automation has been around for a while. It has grown at such speed that now everybody has access to the right tools, and everything is noise. From print to radio, to television, the internet, mobile phones, and so on and so forth, marketers have always found ways to market through the noise. This led to the continual adaptation of advancing technologies, and thus, the evolution of marketing as we know it.
90% of the data that exists in the digital world today has been collected in the last 2 years.
Can you imagine the amount of data around us? We know that there are 4.4 Zettabytes (ZB) of accumulated data in the digital universe today, and it will grow to 44 ZB (or 44,000,000,000,000 GB) by 2020. What do we do with this ever-increasing data? How do we use it to our benefit? These questions led to the rise of marketing automation.
Today, our machines can sift through billions and trillions of bits of data within seconds. Marketing automation tools and algorithms have an almost infinite ability to comprehend the information and do much more. By 2019, the marketing automation industry will soar to reach $5.5 billion. But how did it start?
The rise of CRM, SaaS, and Email Marketing
In 1987, a customer management company ‘ACT!’, developed one of the first CRM platforms as a database marketing software. Soon after, customer support, servicing and sales management became important features; but these software were expensive and therefore were limited to just a few MNCs and their likes.
3 MIT graduates founded Unica in 1992, and they built a web analytics marketing software that simplified understanding data. In another 6 years, Unica was going to introduce ‘Impact’ – a predictive marketing campaign management software (the first of its kind). Towards the late 1990s, Hotmail offered free email services to anyone with an internet connection. And somewhere in between all this, we saw the birth of Search Engines and the rapid evolution of the Internet.
Then, a Mark Benioff got another idea. He thought of renting out CRM software at a Monthly fee rather than selling it. He launched Salesforce.com in 1999 with a monthly fee model, and other players of the industry followed his lead. As a result, marketing and customer management platforms cost reduced substantially. Salesforce reinvented the industry with a more perceptive business model and this resulted in the emergence of SaaS – Software as a Service.
By 2001, we saw new marketing automation tools like Eloqua, Neolane, Infusionsoft, Sliverpop, etc. And as the speed of internet increased, more people entered the ‘Cloud Computing’ market. Later in 2003, Eloqua became a marketing automation service, many companies followed suit, and the success brought in players like Hubspot, Marketo, etc. And along with these players, came the era of social media marketing.
As new marketing channels were beginning to make a mark, the email got a much needed shot in the arm when Barack Obama used an email database to get votes. He was a presidential candidate back then, and he put together a database of 13 million potential voters, and successfully marketed his candidacy through emails.
The birth of SEO
The first fully functional content search engine ‘Archie’ came into being in 1993. The interesting part is, soon after similar search databases like ‘Veronica’ and ‘Jughead’ came in (I’m not kidding about this.)
We saw the launch of Yahoo! Search in 1995, and in the same year, Yahoo decided to organise the search results in alphabetical order. The term ‘Search Engine Optimization’ was popularised during 1997, the same year in which the Google Engine was introduced. Google also went out with ‘PageRank’ as a ranking metric.
Then, search engines started ranking by pageviews, which marked the beginning of a new spamming epidemic. Since SEO was in its primitive stage, people started taking due advantage of keyword stuffing, putting out spammy backlinks and more to generate higher rankings.
With the start of the 21st century, all the websites were forced to reorganise themselves to keep up with the expanding search engine’s index. In 2005, Google Analytics arrived, and things started changing. SEO practices also became more complicated. At the same time, Google started considering our past search history and began with personalised search results.
In the years to come, they continued to work on increasing the value and relevancy of the search engine results. There was a massive change in the 2010s when Google forced strict regulations on the quality of search engines, eliminating over optimisation. This had a great impact on how search results are indexed now.
There was another significant push to the evolution of SEO – the growth of social media marketing. It took social results in search into account, and SEO changed. Now content was shared across multiple channels. Meanwhile, Rank Fishkin started building an SEO empire in the form of Moz, and many other SEO platforms came in the running.
We transitioned from optimising engines for desktops to optimising them for mobile phones as well. The emergence of Social Media Marketing changed a lot of things, and today a vast number of people consume content using their mobile phones (including myself).
The emergence of Social Media Marketing
The first social networking website, Geocities, was created in 1994. Users could create their websites, customise them and group them into cities based on the content on the site. In 1997, the social media website ‘Six Degrees’ was launched, where people could create their profiles and add friends. Then we entered the realm of instant messaging. AQL instant messenger was released in 1997, soon followed by Yahoo Messenger in 1999.
Facebook (earlier called Facemash) was introduced in 2004, and hundreds of social media sites popped up soon after. We got to use (and are still using) social media gems like YouTube (launched in 2005), Twitter (2006), Tumblr (2007), Instagram (2010), Snapchat (2011), and many more. With so many platforms, it got difficult for marketers to connect with consumers.
Multiple platforms like Buffer, HootSuite, etc., arose to uncomplicate using so many channels. Now marketers could schedule multiple campaigns across different platforms using a single dashboard, and automate advertising through Google Adwords, Bing, Yahoo, and Facebook Manager.
And what about Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing integrated all kinds of marketing under one term itself. It includes SEO, social media, applications, CRM platforms, email marketing, blogging, and everything else that I’m possibly missing in this list. To make things easier, platforms started streamlining the entire marketing process by centralising all of these on a single dashboard. All of this is marketing automation, and through this businesses started collating huge data sets, marketing channels and advertising sources into one central pool.
The Now of Marketing Automation
Coming back to Marketing automation and its evolution, everything that you have read in this article yet have somehow played a significant part in the development. All the Marketing Automation Platforms now get insights of all the campaigns, track activities and data points, find patterns, predict the future, and help you plan strategies keeping your customers in mind.
You can run campaigns on autopilot and spend time on more productive things instead of doing dull manual tasks. With the amount of data available and marketing automation tools, we can make predictions in the future.
What should we expect in the future?
Marketing automation has been around for a while but we are still just in the infancy of marketing automation. As opposed to a rules-based automation which is prone to human error, we are slowly reaching the phase of machine learning. It is all about predictive machine intelligence.
Amazon is a great example of predictive intelligence. With a database of 80 million users, it predicts what the customers want and when they would probably want it. Using the purchase history, similar purchases, customer ratings, wish lists, and more, Amazon is trying to predict what you will buy in the future.
The next generation of marketing automation will focus on customer journeys and predict purchase decisions. Data will be used to predict patterns and make proactive decisions. Machine learning will continue to learn and keep getting smart. And with the advancement of technology, a wealth of data, and access to incredible marketing automation tools, the world will be an oyster for us marketers.