The hype of marketing automation needs a few silver surfers. Notes from #Funnel12 @econsultancy #b2b #marketing #MA

Despite the buzz around the delegates at eConsultancy's Funnel 2012, I came away needing even more reassurance around the promise of funnel marketing and marketing automation (MA).

Don't get me wrong, it was a great event. As Doug Kessler (disclaimer: i like Doug) put it, its like the Bah Mitzvah of B2B marketing - full of friends and family.  What concerned me though was the lack of practical experience & advice. Too much hype, not enough action. And too many vendors telling you the same thing in 20 minutes (on which, guys it's not the 90s. If we want to find out about your product, we don't need to come to a trade event any more). From what I heard, Eloqua faired worse on this front with marketo marginally better. At least Silverpop shared how they did nurturing rather than resort to a product demo. The best however was Hubspot (which I'll come to later).


We're in an interesting phase in MA, coming out of a hype cycle into the cold reality of implementation. But to avoid the trough of disillusionment (which believe me is coming fast) its time to can the youthful energy and bring out the grey hairs please!  The grey hairs of experience, The grey hairs of failures. The grey hairs of reassurance. Reassurance for the vast majority of companies that this stuff actually works and can deliver value. Its time to move on.  

The battle scars and successes were sadly lacking in the pitches by inside salesmen and mid-level marketers. I've been privileged enough to have been on the inside of several business technology waves - from relational databases to ERP to eProcurement to spend management. And I can tell you what ultimately made them a success was having the party, surviving the hangover and delivering results. All of these were over hyped, but all survived on the back of experienced consultants and subject matter experts. So in funnel marketing where are the senior business process consultants to integrate sales & marketing ? Where are the seasoned technology implementers to get stuff done? All were sadly missing from Funnel12.

There were notable exceptions. Kings of inbound marketing Hubspot and their rockstar CMO, Mike Volpe, did an outstanding job with a presentation full of stats, facts and learnings (it also doesn't do any harm that Mike is a super slick presenter). But the presentation was based on SIX YEARS of Mike's experience, making him a veritable silver surfer in inbound marketing.

Stan Woods (disclaimer: I like Stan too) did an admirable job sharing the results of lead nurturing at Canonical (even if I did come away with a burning need to procure an open source OS). Bob Apollo was another highlight. A battle-scarred sales & marketing veteran replete with armed combat analogies, he's been working with sales & marketing teams for 20+ years. And it shows (in a nice way Bob). His appreciation of the problems were evident, his recommendations were clear and his presentation delivery was spot on. Not only is Bob a grey hair (and indeed beard) but as an aside he addresses the biggest challenge of demand generation. Not the technology and the cool features but - raising it up the chain of command to the C-suite. And to do that, you need A LOT of grey hairs!

So, all in all a great day. You can see all my tweets here. But please next time, more "silver surfers". And maybe then, I'll be more reassured.