Earlier this year, SiriusDecisions reported that while more B2B organizations are adopting marketing automation, few of them are satisfied with the value they're getting. In fact, 85% of these organizations told SiriusDecisions that they don't believe they're using marketing automation to its fullest potential.
As a result, more of these enterprises are turning to partners that can help them make the strategic changes required to take full advantage of their marketing automation investments. Forward-looking demand generation consultants, in turn, are stepping up to the plate.
That's the context for last week's news that The Annuitas Group, a well-known B2B lead management firm, has joined enterprise demand generation strategist Adam Needles to create a new consultancy, re-named ANNUITAS. Demand Gen Report spoke with Carlos Hidalgo, who will serve as CEO of the combined firm, and with Needles, who will serve as Chief Strategy Officer, about the motives behind their merger and the underlying trends that are reshaping the B2B marketing space.
Enterprise Clients Facing Strategic Challenges
According to Needles, the roots of the merger lay in each consultancy's experiences working with enterprise clients.
"We were both working with enterprise clients dealing with legacy organizational structures and legacy systems," Needles said. "It's an environment where tactical solutions – lead management, for example, or marketing program design – don't fix the underlying problems. These companies need partners that can look at all of the elements, including people, processes and technology."
Hidalgo said that these challenges have been especially disruptive for marketing and sales organizations at large enterprises, which is where ANNUITAS is concentrating its efforts.
"These are firms with complex sales cycles, distributed workforces, multiple technology platforms and complex buying patterns," Hidalgo stated. "There's so much complexity to address here in terms of demand generation strategy, yet very few organizations have even started this journey."
These issues, Hidalgo added, have major implications for enterprises that adopt marketing automation technology.
"Most of our clients already have marketing automation, but they have challenges using it," he explained. "They implement the technology without considering how it will impact their business processes and organizational issues. There's a substantial change management process here, and very few large enterprises are ready to deal with that."
The Quest For Marketing Automation ROI
According to the ANNUITAS executives, a vendor focus on short-term technology implementation issues leaves room for strategic partners that are prepared to address long-term, strategic planning and change management.
"We're trying to fill a growing gap that we see here," added Needles. "There are plenty of technology vendors and systems integrators that focus on marketing automation, but they don't deal with the big-picture change management and organizational issues that arise."
Hidalgo is quick to point out that ANNUITAS doesn't compete against marketing automation vendors or their technology integration partners. In fact, the consultancy's objective is to help enterprises extract the greatest possible value from their automation technology investments.
"We take a vendor-neutral stance; we understand that enterprises can and should work with a wide variety of solution providers," Hidalgo said. "We help vendors sell more than just a license – we enable them to sell a vision, and we help customers to implement that vision. When their customers have trouble getting value from a marketing automation tool, it's not usually the tool that's the problem. It's the underlying strategy that needs work."
Marketing Automation Follows A Familiar Path
As both Hidalgo and Needles pointed out, there's a strong historical precedent for the growing pains that enterprises are experiencing with their marketing automation investments.
"When ERP systems first emerged, enterprises usually dealt with two partners: the technology vendor and a systems integrator," Needles stated. "The same thing was true a decade ago with CRM solutions. In both cases, enterprises realized that they needed a third partner to establish a strategic vision for the technology; they needed help with the organizational issues, the business processes and the change management."
The same evolution, Needles said, is transforming the marketing automation and demand generation space. "Today, we have a stool with two legs – the platform vendor and the integrator," he stated. "But no one has been there to steward the process and the strategy. Now, we're moving towards what we saw happening in ERP; we're adopting that model for marketing automation and driving a strategic shift towards revenue cycle management.
"None of that works if you just have the platform and the technology integrator," Needles said. "You need a change management partner to help you evolve and grow your processes."