This is a comprehensive guide to making marketing automation work for your business even before you buy.
What’s the best part?
You may add THOUSANDS of dollars ($$$) to your marketing campaign budget after reading this.
Let’s get stated… ready?
Most companies understand by now that small business marketing automation (MA) is incredibly powerful. It has the potential to change a business and the way it acquires customers and grows.
But NOT if they trip over the most common hurdles.
According to the State Of B2B Marketing Automation, published by Econsultancy and cited periodically through this report, Virtually all (98%) respondents agree that effective marketing automation is critical to long-term business success, but only two in five (41%) believe their organizations are using marketing automation to its fullest capacity.
But it comes at a cost. And with the right planning and guidance the results are surely attainable for every business.
Marketing automation helps small to mid-sized businesses be much more aggressive about achieving their growth goals. The technology enables a highly personalized customer experience from the first website visit through sales conversations and post-sales activity.
It’s equivalently powerful for B2B and B2C, although it’s been most widely adopted by B2B businesses.
This guide will summarize the many benefits and challenges that small business marketing automation exposes.
Small companies with fewer resources are most at risk even before acquiring a marketing automation platform considering most of the major software players are now quite expensive. But there are lower cost options.
If small businesses do invest in the right technology and services, they can experience an exceptional return on investment (ROI). With the proper knowledge and time, small businesses can unlock all the marketing automation benefits that the most successful enterprises reap.
What Is Small Business Marketing Automation?
Small business marketing automation is a combination of software and methodology that enables businesses to convert more site visitors to prospects and more prospects to customers.
Otherwise known as inbound marketing, sales funnels or marketing funnels, marketing automation streamlines the process of building and nurturing pipeline for B2B companies and driving larger and more frequent sales for B2C businesses.
Below is an automated report from the Marketing Automation Platform SharpSpring that shows the effectiveness of multiple marketing channels like Google Search, Adwords and Facebook all within a single pane. We’ll share SharpSpring visuals throughout this report as an example of small business marketing automation in action.
MA combines a a number of digital marketing disciplines into a single platform driven by one database. Marketing automation platform components often include:
- Landing Page Creator
- Forms Creator
- Email Marketing Automation
- Workflow Designer
- Fully Integrated CRM
- Integrations with Website Platforms
- Integrations with Ecommerce Platforms
- Integrations with Pay Per Click Advertising Platforms like Google and LinkedIn
- Consolidated Reporting
When combined these historically disparate functions provide an explosive result:
A centralized brain (well, a database) that captures every interaction your prospect/customer has with any/all of your digital assets. And the automation tools that allow you to ACT on this knowledge with dynamic content to inspire the right action at the right time.
Econsultancy respondents rated as ‘Leaders’ report that marketing automation has delivered a return on investment (93%) or increased contribution to pipeline (90%), compared to just over two-thirds of Mainstream organizations (69% and 68% respectively). Leaders say that automation has increased marketing’s contribution to pipeline by an average of 31% (versus 26% for the mainstream).
So how does the marketing automation platform related to ROI?
Budgets (or lack thereof) often cloud the decision-making process. The most common error in implementing an impactful marketing automation solution is spending too much on software and not enough on marketing campaign development, which fuels the automated marketing process.
This puts the small to mid-sized business owner in a difficult position but you won’t get this advice from a commission-driven sales rep at HubSpot.
An experienced marketing automation consultant can help guide a marketing automation newbie through the software evaluation process, implementation and campaign optimization.
BUT the reality is…
Behavioral based marketing and personalizing the customer experience is an expectation today, not an option.
Small businesses will struggle if they don’t adopt marketing automation as their competition rapidly adopts such tools. Growth occurs through positive customer experience, and the customer connection gives people a chance to feel like you understand their needs even before sales connects with them or they fill their shopping cart.
So don’t spray and pray like it’s 1999.
Marketing automation services give companies a chance to dramatically increase personalization in the same way that Amazon or Salesforce does.
Otherwise, businesses will have no choice but only to react based on what they THINK their customers want instead of data-driven personalizations.
Life of the lead is a feature in SharpSpring that provides sales the visibility into a contacts entire interaction lifecycle with your business. And each interaction is an opportunity to market more effectively with personalization.
What Benefits Can You Expect from Small Business Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation can help small to mid-sized businesses achieve better results in their marketing goals in two major ways: (1) improving lead flow and quality, (2) making strategy and business goals even more clear through data visibility and reporting (3) and happier customers that know they’ll get the contact they need WHEN they need it or get relevant product recommendations at the right moment.
The first way small business marketing automation can help organizations achieve better results in their marketing goals is through the improved efficiency it brings to marketing as a whole.
The vast majority of respondents agree that they are more efficient because of marketing automation (82%), that marketing automation is delivering a return on investment (79%), and that it has increased contribution to pipeline (76%).
Today small businesses can acquire marketing technology that allows them to look and feel like an enterprise without breaking the bank. Even if you’re on a budget there are tools that can improve leads and conversions.
Unless companies adopt a comprehensive platform, one that includes all functional aspects into a single platform with a single database, they won’t gain the full benefit. Platforms like SharpSpring have introduced an affordable, comprehensive platforms at a fraction of the cost of the incumbent providers like HubSpot and Marketo. Platforms like Hatchbuck allow bootstrapped organizations with startup budgets to begin personalizing the customer journey from day 1.
Bringing in Better Quality Leads Results In More Sales
In B2B marketing automation, the two most essential goals are to bring in better leads and to maximize revenue potential. Better leads are crucial for success, and they can cause business revenue to increase. Developing a perpetual quality lead flow is a common reason why businesses incorporate marketing automation.
A high volume of leads is always a goal for small business marketing team. More importantly, the leads must be of high quality. Businesses should work toward generating high quantity and quality leads. Fortunately, automated marketing technology can help them achieve this by visualizing and quantifying the impact of each step in the customer journey.
Increasing impact is the process of incremental process improvements in addition to finding the magic-bullet campaign.
Clarity of Business Strategy and Goals
The second way marketing automation can help small to mid-sized businesses achieve better results in their marketing goals is through the improved clarity of business strategy and goals. Since there is a great potential that comes from marketing technology, it’s becoming necessary for marketing professionals to understand and convey how important this investment is to their management.
Often we find that marketing execs may be intimidated by the technology causing them to delay adoption. A marketing automation agency can help you more easily integrate marketing automation into your marketing stack.
Professionals must quantify how exactly small business marketing automation can aid their businesses in helping them achieve and surpass their goals, and they must explain how these goals will help the company achieve better organizational performance, such as through lower costs and maximize revenue. Businesses are able to successfully set high yet attainable marketing goals through the implementation of a data-oriented and technology-driven marketing approach.
Not to mention the value of learning about customers not from their feedback but from their actions throughout the entire waterfall of the customer journey. A real-time focus group.
Reciprocal Marketing and Sales Success
A common reason why companies decide to incorporate marketing automation is to set marketing and sales up to work together. Unifying CRM with a marketing funnel and lead scoring makes this possible. The collaboration of marketing and sales functions is critical for B2B success.
Marketing and sales have several overlapping business goals (for example, bringing in more pipeline and improving customer experience). The problem occurs when businesses accidentally put them in opposition with one another. Marketing and sales departments often have different technology platforms that don’t typically share data well with one another.
I believe this must change to have optimal impact.
Studies have shown that companies with congruent marketing and sales efforts can bring in 208% more income from marketing. Yet, misaligned marketing and sales processes and technologies are a 10% expense of a business’s total revenue every year.
Customer retention and sales also increase when marketing and sales teams combine their efforts.
A snapshot of pipeline management in SharpSpring CRM.
Whether utilizing a single platform for marketing and CRM or tightly integrating the two, high communication between marketing and sales is crucial for high performance.
Sales and marketing functionally now share the same sales funnel. Their activity can no longer be silo’d.
Automation of Retention Programs and Customer Onboarding
Let’s face it: it costs a lot to onboard a customer. If these types of manual process can be automated as much as possible, the business can be considerably more productive. Many automated programs increase customer satisfaction and engagement. They also allow the company to cross-sell other products or services.
What Are the Most Common Challenges Businesses Face in Reaching Small Business Marketing Automation ROI?
In essence, marketing automation is a challenging and long journey. However, the return can be tremendous.
Companies are often confronted with the challenges associated with successfully adopting small business marketing automation. The challenges are somewhat related and can even compound as time goes on. These difficulties are likely why many businesses and organizations struggle using marketing automation tools.
The reality is marketing automation can bring a large ROI, but to do so many moving pieces must work together. There isn’t a magic button that can progress that makes a marketing automation platform work, other than working with an agency that is capable of taking on a majority of the efforts.
Marketing automation is complex. In fact, marketing today is increasingly complex and highly data driven. Each year new platforms and changing algorithms fracture the digital landscape further making is even more so. As a result, the marketing automation experts must be equal parts digital marketing generalist and automation expert possessing a basic understanding of most or many of these disciplines:
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Landing Page Creation/Optimization
- A/B Testing
- Behavioral Marketing
- Paid Marketing (Adwords, Facebook or LinkedIn Ads)
- Lead Scoring
When a company doesn’t have the relevant marketing expertise or the time it needs, it can make marketing automation even more difficult and slow (or STOP) the expected ROI. Effective marketing automation is greatly fueled by the talent of the people who are running those campaigns. Acquiring high-skilled marketing automation talent is an investment, not a cost.
Then there’s the cost of the technology itself that can also be a challenge for small businesses that need marketing automation. Since budget constraints often determine whether or not businesses can invest, price (as an obstacle) must be overcome. Kkeeping the cost of your marketing automation platform affordable is incredibly important to maximizing ROI.
In marketing automation, the limited accessibility to skilled professionals is another challenge in being successful. Other major difficulties in this area are organizational- and human-related problems like the lack of technological knowledge and support. Again, the misalignment of sales and marketing could hurt instead of help.
Data Management and Integration
Your prospects and customers interact with you across a spectrum of digital platforms. You manage your business across a number of digital platforms. Your data must talk to those platforms. As your business grows it becomes increasingly important to have access to a strong API and integration strategy.
Since there are many real challenges associated with marketing technology, it’s imperative for B2C and B2B marketers to invest the resources and time ahead of time when they begin a marketing automation endeavor. This might include the co-development of a strong strategic plan or vendor evaluation.
What can small businesses do to overcome the challenges associated with marketing automation? A strategic marketing automation consultant is a worthwhile consideration.
Knowledge and Time Are Key to Unlocking Small Business Marketing Automation Benefits
Since marketing automation technology mostly offers full benefits if a business is actively and efficiently utilizing the platforms, a lack of resources can be a reasonable hindrance.
Effective marketing automation relies on content, a concrete strategy, and the availability and cost of enterprise-grade technology. It’s also critical to have knowledgeable staff to keep it in motion. Alternatively, a business could outsource the work to a marketing automation consultancy.
Since resources can be far and few between, this makes it more difficult to ask high-level management to invest in complex marketing technology. It’s especially difficult when they are not fully aware of the benefits that marketing automation services offer.
Marketing campaigns can be fully automated if a business has the knowledge required to successfully pull off a marketing campaign. However, it can be much more complicated for businesses to build and manage their own automated marketing promotions when it’s not something that they specialize in.
Some businesses don’t have the bandwidth or time that’s required to push a campaign through from beginning to end. This is when it can be helpful to outsource the work to a small business marketing automation consultancy.
The nature of marketing automation is rather complicated and involves quite a bit of time to be dedicated to the task. Yet, organizations that are after results know that executing marketing automation correctly or outsourcing the work to experts leads to success.
What Is a marketing automation consultancy and How Can It Help?
Since small businesses tend to have many concerns when looking to implement marketing automation, outsourcing the work to seasoned pros makes sense in many situations. Small business marketing automation agencies can let you focus on growing your business, let your marketing team focus on running campaigns without having to become domain experts on marketing automation technology.
Small to mid-sized businesses might have some digital and technical skills, but marketing automation platforms require extensive expertise. Marketing can include many phases including overall marketing strategy, content marketing experience, analytics, website integration, email marketing, landing pages and graphic design. Each of these disciplines has an important role to play in the overarching digital marketing mission.
While small business marketing automation can seem intimidating, it becomes less so with an expert partner to lead the way. Working with a team of digital marketing automation consultants and strategists is smart, as it can be less of an investment than hiring a full-time staff member.
Since companies can achieve a remarkable ROI by implementing small business marketing automation, they should do everything they can to procure the investment necessary to begin. Increasing customer satisfaction and business efficiency while bringing in better leads and finding more mutual marketing and sales success is an adventure that many businesses could greatly benefit from embarking upon.
Or, if they’re not excited to get ready, they can look into working with a marketing automation consultancy that will do all of the grunt work.
There are ways to overcome the challenges that can arise when utilizing new technology, and marketing automation services can help businesses thrive while simultaneously having the freedom to focus on their day-to-day tasks. Small to mid-sized companies should be aware that only time and knowledge are required to help a business align the many aspects involved to bring in an assured ROI.
Marketing automation success is achievable, even knowable, with a specialized marketing automation consultant.
TFC is a dedicated marketing automation advisory based in Philadelphia, PA.