Small businesses have lower annual incomes, fewer employees (usually less than 50) and limited resources. Not to mention, small businesses are constantly under pressure to compete with larger enterprises with much larger marketing budgets.
In the competitive world of today, if a small business wants to sustain in the market, the only way this can happen is if it can achieve more with less.
Therefore, technology and automation are the two methods businesses can employ to achieve more with less; it can help them cut costs and increase efficiency. Unfortunately, many small businesses still don’t understand the necessity of marketing automation that could help them spread their thin resources optimally.
A business cannot survive without marketing its products and services in today’s time and age. It needs to showcase its products to the right consumer market for success. On a daily basis, marketing personnel engage in repetitive tasks that includes sending emails, crafting engagement strategies for social media, creating subscription lists, writing blogs etc. Each of these tasks takes time and effort – both of which can be minimized with the help of marketing automation software.
However, the magic of marketing automation is not confined to everyday marketing tasks. The main goal of the software is to generate leads, nurture them in a highly personalized manner and convert prospects into customers and first-time customers into delighted, loyal ones. This sounds complicated, time consuming and expensive; but in reality, it is the very opposite.
In short, the top functions that marketing automation offers to organizations are;
Amazon is a great example of this;
Marketing automation is growing leaps and bounds with each passing day. A report published in April 2017 states that 49% B2B companies are using marketing automation. Moreover, 91% users agree that marketing automation is vital to company success and growth.
Image source: emailmonday.com
As mentioned earlier, small businesses are weighed down with many predicaments. At the small business level, it is not a priority to automate marketing practices, budget constraints being the main reason. 25% UK companies have revealed that they face marketing challenges due to budget limitations.
However, marketing automation can benefit small businesses even more than large enterprises by giving them a chance to compete with the big fish in the industry.
According to Nucleus Research, marketing automation resulted in sales productivity increase by 14.5% with a 12.2% decline in marketing overheads. Hence, with the help of marketing automation, small businesses can decrease costs while increasing productivity levels thereby optimally utilizing their marketing budgets.
Below are some reasons why small businesses should adopt marketing automation;
Marketing automation helps close deals and leads to final consumer purchases. Hence, the time gap between a consumer expressing interest in a product and the purchase is significantly reduced with the help of marketing automation.
Organizations claim that the process of converting leads into customers is much faster with marketing automation. Aberdeen Group State of Marketing Automation 2014 research states that 88% companies are successful in converting leads to sales with marketing automation. These statistics will surely help small organizations achieve their sales targets faster and more efficiently.
With the help of marketing automation, a small company can better leverage its employees and can experience a much needed boost in productivity levels. This is because a software can take care of marketing tasks that are repetitive such as sending emails to customers, conducting surveys, developing strategies to enhance customer experience, overseeing online advertising etc. HubSpot offers a wide variety of tools that can automate many of these processes.
Moreover, the software provides innovative solutions for mundane tasks. This gives the marketing team an opportunity to concentrate on other tasks that require human skill and attention.
Hence, small businesses can benefit a great deal by using marketing automation. In other words, business can now get much more out of existing resources.
It is vital to engage customers at every step of their lifecycle in a pertinent and customized manner. However, customer retention is a constant struggle for companies. Marketing automation has a solution for this business dilemma as well. One of the main functions of marketing automation is to turn leads into customers and first time customers into loyal ones.
Marketing automation keeps customers engaged and updated via personalized emails. Using customer data, small businesses can now understand exactly what a target audience segment requires at a given moment and provide exactly that. ‘Being available at the right place and the right time’ increases purchases and thus the bottom line.
Also, advanced marketing software are able to gauge customer intentions and predict understand a customer is looking for and tries to encourage them to buy what they want in a shorter span of time. One such marketing automation software that helps with customer retention is known as Windsor Circle. It uses customer history of purchases to create personalized marketing that connects with the customer on a deeper level, thereby ensuring that the customer keeps coming back.
Generating leads is easier than understanding and converting them. However, marketing automation is able to deduce the web pages that a lead visits, emails they open and products that interest them. This vital information can be put to great use by displaying only that content to a lead in which they showed interest. This way, you can nurture leads and convert them into loyal, returning customers. Infusionsoft is a great software, built especially for small business aimed at boosting sales by gathering leads
Former campaigns, whether on ground or social media, need to be evaluated for their successes or failures. This task, albeit important, ties up useful resources in calculating tedious numbers and analyzing data.
However, marketing automation software such as TEO (TargetEveryone) can do this job efficiently for the company. TEO uses measurable data to track expenses of a campaign as well as the ROI. It also monitors and analyzes the response rate received following a campaign to deem whether it should be continued or not.
These are just a few ways small businesses can take advantage of marketing automation. However, if used to its maximum potential, the sky is the limit.
Your business has an outstanding website that serves as a major connection between you and your customers. On your website, your customers can learn about your company, products and services. They can ask questions, make purchases and review your products. All of this interaction provides you with valuable information about your customers that you can use to better your marketing, customer service and business.
How do you collect and organize all this data? One of the most effective ways is a Customer – or Contact – Relationship Management system (CRM). This system will collect and organize all the data from your customer interactions so it can be easily accessed and utilized. Integrating your CRM with your website will make this data collection faster, more accurate and easier to use. Here’s how.
When using a CRM, your customer information is updated instantly, so you know your data is always current. You don’t need to worry about the delay caused by manually gathering information and updating databases.
Customers will likely have questions or requests regarding actions they took very recently on your website. When faced with this situation, up-to-date data provides an obvious advantage. There’s no question about whether you have the most recent information and can communicate effectually with your customer. This will lead to quick response time and better customer service.
Large amounts of contact data can become overwhelming, especially when multiple people are collecting that data through different systems. Consolidating all of your information using a CRM will keep you organized especially if you are running lead nurturing campaigns.
Using a CRM eliminates the need for your employees to search through multiple systems gathering data about a customer. When searching through unconsolidated systems, employees may be faced with duplicate or even contradictory information due to human error and system differences. All of this slows down your employees and reduces the speed and accuracy of their communications with contacts or customers.
Storing your CRM data in the cloud gives all your employees access to that data from anywhere. Having a single, fast, accurate and accessible source of customer information can do wonders for your client communications.
When using an integrated CRM, your employees don’t need to spend their time manually gathering customer information from your website and moving it into a database. This saves them time that they can use on other productive tasks and saves your business money.
Automating your information collection also removes the possibility of human error in the transferring and copying of data. Using a CRM in conjunction with marketing automation increases the accuracy of your contact information, as well as allows your employees to be more productive.
Using an integrated CRM gives you access to real time, accurate information about your customers and how they use your website. This will allow you to get a clearer picture of who your customers are by allowing you to analyze the entirety of their communications with your business. You can then better predict what they might purchase next and what their needs are as a customer.
This ultra-accurate description of your customers allows you to more effectively target your marketing campaigns to them. You can also track how well these marketing campaigns are performing via the information you obtain through your CRM.
When you receive a customer request for help, a quote or other information, your CRM can automatically determine which employee to send that request to based on the data collected about the customer.
Automating the process of choosing which employee to transfer a customer request to speeds up the procedure, which makes for a happier customer. That customer is more likely to make a purchase.
Not only does the right employee receive the customer’s query quickly, but they also get access to all the customer data collected through your site’s CRM. This knowledge about the customer allows them to better help the customer and provide them with the information they need, as well as determine what services or products they might want to purchase.
Few things make your customers happier than knowing your company is dealing with their requests quickly and effectively. A CRM speeds up and improves the accuracy of your customer interactions. It can also assist you in the actual act of communicating with them by doing things like sending automated messages to let customers know their request is being resolved.
CRMs also allow you to track customers’ reviews. This lets you see what your customers think about their experience with your company and determine your company’s strengths and weaknesses. You can quickly respond to customer complaints as well positive feedback, which keep customers happy and engaged.
Perhaps the most enticing reason to invest in a CRM is the boost in sales it will help you achieve. In fact, studies show that a CRM can lead to up to a 29 percent sales increase.
Because of many of the benefits listed in this post, an integrated CRM will lead to higher conversion rates on your website.
Having an effective, easy-to-use website is becoming increasingly important in today’s business world, and so is using the data from online interactions to improve your business. These interactions can provide you with a wealth of information about customer habits, likes and dislikes and possible future sales opportunities.
Using tools such as a CRM helps you get the most out of this data. Integrating that CRM with your website helps you get the most out of both your site and customer information and, ultimately, will improve your business.
Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She loves researching trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
Whenever we’re going over results from a marketing automation campaign and a client asks, “Well, OK but how does that compare to other companies that do this? Am I doing better or worse?”, I tell them it doesn’t matter. This isn’t the answer they want to hear. But it’s the best answer I can give them.
Look, it’s understandable to want to measure yourself against others to see how you’re performing. But as a business, benchmarks are not the most important measurement, and they’re not going to help you use your marketing automation system more effectively. All benchmarking does is compare the results of your completely unique campaign with someone else’s. What will you really get from that, except a habit of trying to keep up with The Joneses, Inc. rather than bettering your business?
What this tells me is that despite the wide adoption of marketing automation and the data extolling its value (such as 107% better lead conversion rates, 40% greater average deal sizes, 20% higher team attainment of quota, 17% better forecast accuracy—and that’s just from one Aberdeen report), MA is still a novelty to some marketers. A new toy, if you will, that must instantly prove its value on the bottom line.
Marketing automation’s true value is, I think, less about revenue and more about doing things the right way and giving customers what they want. By doing this, you also improve things for your organization—nurtured leads are better qualified, your sales and marketing teams can work more efficiently, results are tracked, adjustments can be easily made, and so on.
So when a client asks me to benchmark how they compare to others, I flip the question back to them: “Where are you compared to where you could be?” The answer is probably that they don’t know. And that’s okay, especially if this is the first time they’ve used an MA system. You may not know what your full potential could be, but it’s not going to be the same as anyone else’s.
Your business has its own goals, needs, processes and strategy. While benchmarking can perhaps inspire your business to make a bigger push, it’s better to look inward to figure out what needs to be tweaked as opposed to looking outward. There are so many factors that go into the implementation of an MA system and the setup of campaigns, whether it’s lead nurturing, lead scoring, inbound marketing or anything else. There are just too many variables to allow you to make a true apples to apples comparison with another company.
I’ll share with you some of the other questions I ask clients, and why they’re better indicators of progress.
Tackle pieces of data from your MA system and ask yourself this question about each one of them. No doubt you started with a strategy and a rough idea of what results you might see or would like to see. So don’t worry about how anyone else fared. How did you fare against your own expectations (and not your hopes)?
This is an especially important question when looking at your content, whether it’s your content marketing efforts or lead nurturing campaigns. It’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t, but you have to dig in deep to find outWHY. Word of advice; this question begets more questions. If the ‘why’ isn’t immediately apparent start asking others—talk to your sales team or customer service to see what kind of feedback they’re getting. Rather than trying to figure out what kind of content other companies are sharing, look at your customer and social networks to see what people are talking about—you might find some more relevant ideas from that.
Implementing a marketing automation system is no easy task. Like a lot of things in marketing, it’s almost never going to be right the first time. You can certainly look outside for advice on best practices or some interesting ideas for building a campaign differently, but it has to be something that works for your specific needs. Talk to representatives of every department that uses the system and find out where the hiccups are, then plug the gaps and streamline clunky handoffs. Sometimes, you have to focus on finding and fixing internal processes to create better results on the flipside for leads and customers.
Remember, you only have control over your own business. Don’t worry so much about how everyone else is doing and where you fall in the spectrum. Besides, what’s true today may not be so tomorrow. Focus on what you know, what you’re doing and what you can do to improve. After all – do you want to compare yourself to others, or do you want to be the one they’re aspiring to be?
Justin Gray (@jgraymatter) is the CEO of LeadMD (@myleadmd). He founded the company with a vision to transform marketing through the use of marketing automation and CRM solutions.
While marketing automation is still a relatively new concept to many businesses, it’s been around long enough that savvy marketers are starting to look ahead to the next evolution in the space. The answer: more of the same—but with a twist.
That’s probably not the answer you were expecting. However, the truth is that few businesses really do automated marketing well. They’re impatient to see ROI and hesitant to sink time and effort into a strategy that’s much more of a long-term plan than a quick payoff. But that’s a mistake. It’s not time to look beyond marketing automation to the next big thing in lead generation; it’s time to look deeper to find exciting new opportunities for MA integration and data analysis.
From simple email to complex targeting and reporting, marketing automation software has made incredible strides over the years, offering businesses the tools and data reporting that were once the domain of large organizations with big budgets. Not anymore. Today, even small businesses can take advantage of the myriad automation options now peppering the market. Combined with the right strategy, the possibilities for building relationships and driving new revenue are endless.
Here are some of the top providers in marketing automation:
In particular, your social media and your inbound content marketing efforts are ripe for cross-platform promotion. Imagine incorporating Tweets into a whitepaper or e-book, where the reader can share a piece of content that links to a form on a special landing page. What about integrating those bite-sized pieces of content into a Slideshare presentation that’s also sharable? When you start making those ties, you create new links back and forth across multiple sources, building an entire network of people discovering your content and passing it along to others.
Now take it to an even greater level. If you have an e-commerce setup, an app, unique event registrations, anything where you’re collecting data, look for innovative ways to connect media and platforms with marketing automation. It could open up a new world of cross-selling opportunities or chances to introduce customers to a different experience from your brand.
Creating new connections sounds great, right? But, it also sounds like a lot of work. I know, but don’t fret too much, as dialing up more integration doesn’t necessarily need a ton of complicated logistics or even new content. You can likely use the same content you have sitting on the shelf, but with a little facelift. As mentioned earlier, try taking an interesting top 10 list from an existing piece of content, making it a simple one-pager and including a Twitter link on the PDF. Not much time investment, but potential cross-channel improvement. This low investment option also allows you to have some trial and error with your content, before committing budget to it.
Once you have some data and analysis under your belt, bring those insights to the strategy and planning process. Plan what your investment in a piece like an e-book is going to look like each time: it’s these pieces for Slideshare, four blog posts, X pieces of content to share on social, or Y content to offer as an exclusive to various audiences (Twitter followers, for example). Stick close to what your previous data tells you, but don’t be afraid to branch out where it makes sense—you might just uncover an exciting untapped resource.
Discussions about data should be front and center during your planning and strategy sessions. And I’m not talking about the who – industry, number of employees, etc. – I’m talking about the what – conversions, responders, etc. The most common mistake marketers make is not thinking about the data until they have a plan—they’re left trying to fit data collection into the content plan, rather than building the plan around data. An even bigger mistake is putting in only basic data collection and then trying to dig up more detailed reporting after the fact. If you didn’t incorporate a plan for trackable links, unique impression measures, traffic sources or other measures, you’ll never know the true effectiveness of a campaign.
Marketing automation systems have certainly made it easier to report, but you still have to create building blocks right from the beginning to understand the full scope of what you want it to report. In truth, you might not know at first what to ask or what data you need to collect. But once you’ve launched a few campaigns, you’ll spot the holes soon enough.
Taking marketing automation to the next level is all about finding ways to be smarter about what you’re doing, integrating it all together, and discovering unexpected, yet insightful things about your leads and customers (or even your brand). It’s using data to get creative with your content and how you use it to make connections and build relationships. So what’s the next big thing in lead gen and marketing automation? Well, we think it’s you.
Andrea Becker is the VP of Marketing Service for LeadMD, specialists in marketing automation and CRM consulting services. Previously Andrea brought her unique combination of creativity and hard-hitting marketing know how to positions as the one-woman marketing and sales engine of an art gallery, the database marketing guru for a professional sports team and senior marketing analyst for one of the largest telecommunications companies in America.