I had just stepped off the stage at Dreamforce when I was asked by an audience member, “Who are other thought leaders I should follow in the marketing automation industry?” I had a very hard time giving her names because marketing automation is made up of so many differing tactics, all of which have their own thought leaders. Without knowing which areas she wanted to know more about, I couldn’t pinpoint the one person she should follow to help her obtain the knowledge she wanted. This question quickly helped me realize that people currently consider marketing automation to be a singular tactic, when in reality it is a combination of many tactics. And to be proficient at marketing automation, you must be proficient at these underlying tactics.
To help better answer this question in the future, and make it easier for people to find the thought leaders they are seeking, I have broken down marketing automation into its underlying elements: Content Creation, User Experience, Search Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Marketing, and Sales/Marketing Alignment. Let’s take a look at some of the thought leaders that you should be following within each category.
Video Content: This includes webinars and videos. The three Twitter handles that you need to follow are:
- @ReadyTalk: If you do webinars, you should follow this company. They will keep you up on the latest trends for webinars.
- @Wistia: This Boston-based video-hosting platform will teach you how to create amazing videos specifically for demand generation.
- @Vidyard: This Toronto-based video hosting platform serves up great ideas on how to integrate video into marketing automation.
Written Content: This includes white papers, e-books, and anything else you might be writing. There are many people in this category, but only a few I follow on a regular basis.
- @jaybaer: The head of marketing agency Convince and Convert, and author of the best-seller Youtility.
- @JoePulizzi: Joe is the head of the Content Marketing Institute and one of my favorite minds in content marketing.
- @ardath421: Ardath Albee is a blogger, author, and someone you should listen to. Some of the world’s biggest brands do!
B2B Content Thought Leaders: This includes content like slide decks, infographics, and video animations. The brightest minds are the ones who are pushing the envelope with new mediums, great execution on ideas, and creating content that converts.
- @Velocitytweets: This London-based B2B agency is one of my favorites for innovative digital content design.
- @BrainRider: This Toronto-based B2B agency is my go-to for new best practices on digital content strategy.
- @kyleplacy: Author of Branding Yourself, and Twitter Marketingfor Dummies. Now head of content for Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
- @jchernov: Head of content for HubSpot, Content Marketer of the Year of 2012, and former head of content for Eloqua.
User Experience (UX) Thought Leaders: User experience is one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing automation, yet it is a must if you want your content to be easy to engage with. The better you understand how to design for engagement, the more engagement you will get out of your content.
- @cliffseal: Cliff is a UX designer at Pardot, founder of Logos Creative, and speaker on user experience. Listening to him will easily increase your engagement.
- @aarron: The director of UX for MailChimp, and author of Emotion.
SEO Thought Leaders: For organic marketing, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of how the world’s largest search engines rank websites, and ways you can improve your ranking.
- @mattcutts: The head of the webspam team at Google. He is the one you want to listen to when trying to understand how to properly optimize your website.
- @randfish: Founder of MOZ, speaker, author, and general awesome guy to follow.
Social Media Thought Leaders: Social is a constantly changing and growing area of focus for many companies. These people are truly the best in the business, and will keep you informed when it comes to maximizing your social marketing efforts.
- @garyvee: Author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, keynote speaker, owner of @Winelibrary, and VaynerMedia. Super scrappy and smart marketer who’s used social tactics to grow his following to more than 1 million people.
- @jkrohrs: Author of the highly successful research series Subscribers, Fans, & Followers, author of Audience, and head of thought leadership for Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
- @DJWaldow: Digital Marketing Evangelist for Marketo, speaker, and co-host of the #WorkTalkShow podcast.
- @briancarter: Author of The Like Economy, LinkedIn for Business, and Facebook Marketing.
Marketing Strategy Thought Leaders: Marketing automation needs to be grounded in modern marketing strategy. If you are not keeping up with modern marketing best practices, you will end up automating a lot of bad marketing processes. Following these people will help you stay at the forefront of marketing strategy so you can get the most out of your marketing automation tool.
- @cahildago: As chief executive (CEO) of ANNUITAS, Carlos specializes in marketing strategy for some of the world’s largest B2B brands.
- @MarketingProfs: Ann Handley is the head of content for MarketingProfs, author, and speaker.
- @ToddWheatland: Vice president of marketing and thought leadership at Kelly Services, author, and nominated for Content Marketer of the Year in 2013.
Email Marketing Thought Leaders: Email marketing is the workhorse of a marketing automation solution. Many of the people mentioned on this list talk about lead nurturing – and email marketing in general – but these two thought leaders are only focused on email marketing.
- @chadswhite: Principle of marketing research and education for ExactTarget, and author ofEmail Marketing Rules.
- @cspenn: Email marketing author, speaker, ninja, and co-founder of PodCamp.
Sales/Marketing Alignment Thought Leaders: Marketing automation involves CRM integration, and aligning your sales and marketing teams. The following people will help you understand the best marketing automation techniques to use to help improve the alignment between your sales and marketing teams.
- @brianjcarroll: Author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sales, executive director of MECLABS, and great speaker on sales and marketing topics.
- @kyleporter: Kyle is the CEO of Salesloft, and a TechStar alumni. Kyle focuses on modern sales techniques and sales intelligence.
I hope you can learn as much from these people as I have, and please feel free to add your favorite thought B2B marketing thought leader in the comments below.
Mathew Sweezey is Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce.com. This post is edited from an original version on ClickZ.