Just when marketing automation software is becoming an accepted add-on to CRM systems, technology vendors and professional service providers are upping the ante, providing lead generation capabilities as a service.

For example, an early entrant was MaaS Impact, a company that provides marketing automation technologies and services, such as lead generation and drip marketing campaigns, using technology from Adobe Marketo.

This service category, called Marketing as a Service (MaaS), is incurring significant growth by applying a mix of specialized skills and marketing automation software provided by technology vendors like Adobe Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, and one of the Salesforce Marketing Clouds.

Marketing as a Service service providers help companies plan and manage marketing-intensive activities such landing page creation, campaigns design, nurture marketing, lead scoring, lead distribution and marketing analytics — capabilities that often are given short shrift in traditional Customer Relationship Management systems, and which tend to focus on sales force automation and customer service more than the marketing software.

Marketing as a Service providers operate in the cloud, hosting the application, making sure it integrates well with whatever CRM system you’re using, and providing other systems integration or consulting services as needed.

It’s the system integration and visibility to the complete demand generation cycle that’s key. A recent survey by ResearchCorp of San Jose, Calif. found that of the companies currently using marketing automation tools, only 28% are calculating and tracking their ROI on campaigns. The ResearchCorp study speculates that the reason is because current lead generation solutions have limited integration of sales and marketing processes — processes that are required to perform closed loop analysis — and limited understanding of meaningful and consistent metrics to measure campaign effectiveness.

When MaaS providers step up the analytics to show a clear and compelling marketing ROI, the marketing organization shifts from defending their annual budget to expanding it. 

All of this means that MaaS is a model worth emulating, but it will take some time, according to Chris Selland, a technology analyst who focuses heavily on CRM strategies. He advises the industry is still young and will incur many new entrants based on the significant value proposition.

For example, more companies are used to the idea of hosted solutions in general, making it an easier to grasp and accept. Also, these MarTech systems are often used in concert with an existing CRM application, making the integration component relatively easy and seamless.

Today’s popular lead generation systems from companies such as Eloqua, Marketo and Salesforce all offer packaged integration with popular sales force automation (SFA) systems such as Microsoft Dynamics 365, NetSuite, Oracle, Salesforce and SugarCRM.

So what kind of companies should consider a cloud-based marketing automation solution or service provider? Small and mid-sized companies are often more open to the idea, mostly because they often don’t have the human or technical resources to deal with heavy implementations, ongoing system administration and time consuming marketing programs.

But don’t count out larger companies, which are often overwhelmed with the information systems they already have, don’t want to take on another one and already have a high propensity to adopt software as a service solutions where they make sense. And all types of companies need to make sure that any marketing system they have in place is fully integrated with its SFA system so all touch points to customers are consistent.

All of this gives marketing automation vendors, their business partners and marketing agencies good reasons to step up their offerings. And gives clients some good reasons to consider offloading an important activity to specialized teams with purpose-built systems.