B2B marketing automation platforms support the delivery of coordinated engagements to prospects and existing customers.
These engagements have become increasingly sophisticated as platform providers pull adjacent technologies into the space and embrace new market trends.
The shift to first-party data, growth of omnichannel marketing, and rise of community development are excellent examples of the latter.
Meanwhile, adjacent technologies include conversational AI, generative AI, and augmented reality (AR), which enables more unique experiences.
Each example highlights the growing influence of AI within the platforms, surfacing actionable insights, streamlining workflows, and enabling the delivery of personalized campaigns at scale.
Yet, which vendors have seized upon these market developments to provide a visionary, reliable B2B Marketing Automation platform?
Gartner has analyzed the offerings of 11 prominent providers to find out, isolating six market leaders.
The Definition of B2B Marketing Automation Platforms
B2B Marketing Automation Platforms enable and support a business’s demand-generation activities.
Such activities include those that build brand awareness, create and foster leads, and orchestrate cross-channel engagements.
Moreover, the platform aids engagement initiatives with existing customers to increase retention rates and meet account growth goals.
In covering these bases, there are many capabilities of a B2B Marketing Automation Platform that Gartner considers “standard”.
Examples include a customer/account records page, segmentation features, lead qualification tools, lead workflow functionality, engagement orchestration, and reporting dashboards – to name a few.
Then, there are optional capabilities. Next best action recommendations, GenAI-fueled content creation components, and account-level scoring – based on AI/machine learning or business rules – fit into this category.
The analyst evaluated each of these capabilities – and others – to split the 11 B2B Marketing Automation Platform providers into four cohorts: Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries, and Niche Players. Here’s how they performed.
Gartner Magic Quadrant Leaders
Leaders in the Gartner Magic Quadrant offer broad support across all demand generation processes, addressing the needs of global enterprises. They can also demonstrate a vibrant third-party ecosystem, expansive roadmap, and commitment to supporting clients as they apply AI across lead generation processes and the wider customer lifecycle. This year’s leaders are:
Einstein AI often steals the focus of Salesforce’s press coverage. Yet, Gartner highlights the provider’s product strategy – beyond AI – as a core strength. Its fervent investment in account-based marketing (ABM) content generation, alongside its tight integration and shared functionality with the Salesforce customer data platform (CDP) and Slack, are excellent examples of this strategy. Further strengths include its vibrant community and analytics. The latter involves the out-of-the-box reporting – covering critical arenas to marketers – A/B testing capacity, and its new Customer Success Score.
Microsoft is driving the GenAI bandwagon forward, bringing many new capabilities to its Dynamics 365 Marketing platform. Automated content suggestions, image recommendations, and AI-driven image tagging are excellent examples – and Gartner commends the speed and innovation Microsoft has shown in releasing these tools. Moreover, the analyst notes its enterprise vision for integrating LLMs and geographic reach as significant plus points. Microsoft enables that reach by working with 7,000 resellers, accumulating 350 distributors, and making its platform available in 41 languages.
Adobe Marketo Engage fits neatly into a complementary solutions suite, which includes Adobe Real-Time CDP, Workfront, and Experience Manager Assets. These add significant value to the B2B Marketing Automation Platform. For instance, the CDP adds data activation and integration capabilities, feeding the native AI with more data. Gartner gives plaudits to such value-add opportunities – alongside its customer success programs integrations with non-Adobe applications. Those applications cover technologies such as Salesforce Automation Platforms and AMS solutions.
Marketing Creatio sits on a composable architecture, enabling greater customization – which the vendor further facilitates with its no-code platform. Gartner believes this proposition has paved the way for greater ease of use – sharing examples of how platform users can continually enhance the UI and integrate GenAI capabilities into their ecosystems. The analyst also commends Creatio for its lead scoring and qualification functionality and AI-assisted lead workflow design. That assistance includes AI suggestions for the next steps and recommended workflows for individual accounts.
HubSpot excels in its onboarding and training experience. Alongside its active community, the HubSpot Academy plays a central role here, offering over 35 certification courses in six languages across marketing, sales, and services. Gartner acknowledges all this before identifying the vendor’s “robust” customer journey analytics offering and pricing models as additional core strengths. That pricing model starts with a freemium option and works its way up to support more advanced customers with data management, governance, usability, and templating tools.
Oracle Eloqua Marketing Automation differentiates through its campaign development functionality. That centers on its Guided Campaigns tool – a guided wizard that takes users on a step-by-step journey across the platform as they devise campaigns. In doing so, Oracle ensures that clients seep maximum value from all the available tools while the wizard suggests campaign content for targeted accounts. Gartner notes this feature as a significant strength alongside Oracle’s multichannel marketing management and vast set of complementary solutions and integrations.
Gartner Magic Quadrant Challengers
Challengers in the Gartner Magic Quadrant offer extensive portfolios that allow them to meet the objectives of global organizations across various verticals. Yet, they may lack depth in particular areas compared to market leaders. Moreover, they typically trail the top-right vendors in how they adapt their product roadmap to meet emerging market trends. This year’s challengers are:
Gartner did not place any B2B Marketing Automation Platforms providers in the challenger quadrant.
Gartner Magic Quadrant Visionaries
Visionaries in the Gartner Magic Quadrant seize upon disruptive trends like GenAI to drag the market forward and enable more unique customer engagements. Yet, they lag leaders in their customer experience, global operations, and/or marketing execution, with such vendors unable to pour the same resources into these areas as market leaders. This year’s visionaries are:
Across enterprise tech, virtual assistants are all the rage. Zia by Zoho is an excellent example – detecting anomalies in sales trends, analyzing customer sentiment, and predicting customer behaviors. Indeed, the innovation impressed Gartner – in addition to Zoho’s campaign management feature set and user experience. Yet, the analyst has reservations about the vendor’s inability to create custom audiences for ad targeting on LinkedIn and Facebook. Moreover, it highlights limitations in its third-party CRM integrations, citing the absence of a bidirectional data flow.
Gartner Magic Quadrant Niche Players
Niche players in the Gartner Magic Quadrant often enjoy regional success by satisfying the requirements of customers in narrow market segments with a streamlined solution stack. Yet, their partner ecosystem and limited global presence restrict their growth. The lack of a divergent vision and disruptive product capabilities are also significant inhibitors. This year’s niche players are:
SugarCRM is a team player, tabling tight integrations with third-party solutions across marketing, sales, and service. For instance, it integrates with eight fellow CRM providers while serving additional functions via integration partners. Examples include Oktopost for socials and Triblio for ABM. Gartner recognizes this alongside other plus points, such as its native voice of the customer (VoC) insight collection and customer profile management tools. Nevertheless, the analyst cautions of missing features – including multitouch attribution and next best action suggestions.
With its CRMNEXT offering, BUSINESSNEXT puts forward a composable system architecture with interchangeable components. That allows for improved configuration for various use cases, such as lead workflow design and next best action intelligence. The vendor also offers advanced AI, process automation, and machine learning capabilities. Its out-of-the-box models for predicting the next best offer exemplify the latter. While Gartner recognizes this, it cautions about the vendor’s geographical footprint and limited vertical reach – being heavily focused on banking, insurance, and credit unions.
Freshworks has embraced the GenAI juggernaut, quickly adding various LLM-powered features to its B2B Marketing Automation Platform. For example, it injects AI-generated subject lines into emails, crafted to reflect a specific tone of voice. Moreover, in 2024, the vendor plans to launch a natural language interface that brands can use to build personalized campaigns. Despite this core strength – alongside its mighty web analytics tool and high market responsiveness – its offering has notable gaps. The lack of A/B testing and third-party bidirectional CRM integrations are crowning examples.
Act-on maintains an unwavering focus on usability. Its “straightforward” UI, “flexible” dashboards, and accessible AI intelligence features reflect this and drive fast adoption. Gartner recognizes this as a strength – as well as the vendor’s market responsiveness and email and SMS workflows. As an example of the latter, Act-On provides an email fatigue feature to avoid overwhelming prospects and existing customers with engagements. However, the provider’s lead workflow design capabilities are narrow, and its certification program is non-existent.
Catch up on a selection of our other rundowns of Magic Quadrant studies below:
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation (SFA) Platforms 2023
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) 2023
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud ERP for Service-Centric Enterprises 2023