One of the essential strategies that SMB’s use to improve their company’s bottom line is marketing automation. Marketing automation tools allow you to effectively implement and automate marketing tasks to generate new leads and develop a stronger relationship with your current customers.
Marketing automation is a worthwhile investment for businesses at every stage, but particularly if you’re a new business still in its infancy, it can be a key resource in helping to generate brand awareness. This article outlines what marketing automation is and dives deeper into its many benefits. We also provide tips for selecting the right automation software for your company’s marketing needs.
What is Marketing Automation?
The primary purpose of marketing automation is for small businesses is to convert leads into paying customers and to develop lasting customer relationships. It achieves those goals by helping business owners automate some of the more monotonous, but effective, marketing strategies like sending personalized marketing emails, posting and engaging with customers on social media, and disseminating advertisements. By streamlining these facets, it gives business owners and their staff more time to focus on the creative aspects of their marketing approach.
With so many brands and companies vying for consumers’ attention, marketing continues to grow more and more challenging. Marketers constantly have to find new tactics and strategies to keep up with the competition. Marketing automation generates ongoing customer outreach and engagement on behalf of your company so that you can stay top of mind as you conceive and execute larger campaign concepts to effectively cut through the clutter.
Benefits of Marketing Automation for SMB’s
Before we dive deeper into marketing automation tools, let’s take a look at the various benefits this process can offer small to medium-sized enterprises. We’ve compiled the ten that we believe are the most noteworthy, here:
1. Saves Time for Managers and Staff
Time-saving is probably the most significant benefit that businesses get out of marketing automation. Generating leads previously took weeks, on top of the months it would then take to nurture those leads. With marketing automation, companies can identify prospective customers within minutes. Considering the significant amounts of time saved, marketers are now able to use that time to plan and create larger strategies to contribute to their success.
2. Improves Accountability Within the Marketing and Sales Team
Marketing automation allows companies to better organize their marketing processes and distribute the workload to different teams or team members, so each can focus on a specific marketing task.
For instance, one team member may be responsible for implementing strategies that nurture leads. That’s his or her primary focus and what he or she allocates their efforts towards. If the company’s marketing automation tool generates thousands of leads in a day but indicates that none or only a small portion of those leads actually converts into prospective customers, it’s that team member’s job to restructure their plan to improve the ratio of convertible leads. By narrowing each team member’s focus, business owners are able to hold them more accountable for their role in the larger team’s performance.
3. Increases Customer Retention
According to a study by Engagebay.com, 69% of B2B businesses use marketing automation to find potential new customers, while 50% use it to retain the customers they already have. Marketing automation tools allow business owners to track their consumers’ behavior. This gives them insights into what their customers’ current demands are so they can tailor their marketing efforts to address those demands. Essentially, it guides businesses to develop marketing strategies that are much more targeted to what customers want which helps to improve customer satisfaction and retention.
4. Increases Revenue
When you implement marketing automation properly, it should improve your customer satisfaction which should increase your probability of converting leads into customers. More customers mean more people buying your products or services, which generally leads to an increase in revenue. Furthermore, the better your customer service is, the more likely it is that the new customers you obtain will recommend your business to their friends and family, which could potentially lead to even more revenue.
5. Improves Overall Company Productivity
Once you replace tedious manual work with automated processes, you give your staff added time to focus their efforts on more important tasks that may require urgent and undivided attention. Relieving staff of time-consuming, redundant tasks allows them to tackle more work in a day and increase their productivity.
6. Encourages Creativity and Happiness in Staff
With redundant and repetitive tasks off the to-do list, your staff will have more time to focus on the creative aspects of their work, which is often much more rewarding. As more challenging tasks are assigned to them, they will hopefully feel a greater sense of purpose in the company, which could significantly improve employee morale.
7. Repurposes Old Content to Nurture Leads
If you have a company website with a blog component, you’ll want to maximize the reach of that content. But how? Once you publish a specific blog post and share it on social media, it typically generates views for a week or two and then traffic gradually decreases. It seems like a lot of work for a little return. With marketing automation, you can repurpose old content and use it to educate and nurture leads.
You can set-up automation parameters that will give your old content much longer shelf life. For example, if a consumer searches for something and lands on your website, you can set up your automation tool so that it suggests a past blog post that’s relevant to the visitor’s original search. Even if the post is months or years old, potential customers will still see it. This essentially keeps your old content continuously relevant as it’s filtered by topic, as opposed to date.
8. Gives You a Better Idea of What Works and What Doesn’t
When you have a marketing automation tool in place, you’ll also get reports on your marketing progress. You can see which marketing campaigns are working and which are not. You can even get a report on what type of customers the marketing effort is attracting. With that information, you can glean insights into your target audience’s behavior. This will give you a clearer idea of which types of campaigns you and your marketing team should focus your efforts on.
9. Immediately Responds to a Lead
According to a Harvard Study in 2011, a business is 60 times more likely to convert a lead into a loyal customer if it follows up on that lead within an hour of finding it. Marketing automation does just that on your behalf – no matter what time or day of the week. This method of proactive follow up means fewer leads go cold, allowing your business to nurture leads more efficiently with very little effort or manpower.
10. Prioritizes Leads
Marketing automation also allows you to prioritize your leads according to their likelihood of being converted into customers. Analytic tools can examine the lead and gauge how much a company can possibly expect to get from it. This allows business owners and their staff to focus their efforts on the most promising leads, as opposed to wasting time on those that have little chance of converting.
What Makes a Good Marketing Automation Tool?
With so many marketing automation tools available out there, how can you know which one best suits your company? There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to marketing tools, so it’s imperative that you do your research to find the right ones for you.
Here’s what this research should entail:
1. Identify your Company’s Marketing Needs
The first step in evaluating which tool best suits your company’s needs is to identify exactly what those needs are. Where are you falling behind? What are the areas in which you’re spending more time than you should? Which functions do you need to automate most? On top of the most basic features, each marketing automation tool has unique selling points – some of which will cater to your company’s specific needs more than others. Understanding exactly what those needs are will help to narrow down your search. You should also be sure to define your budget as that will guide your search as well.
2. Look at the Product DNA
Once you’re ready to start evaluating software options, you’ll want to look at each tool’s product DNA. Product DNA, in this case, is the feature or process that the marketing software tool prioritizes or focuses on the most. This could be email campaigns, ad campaigns, or creating landing pages. It’s what makes the product different from the others on the market.
Look at the marketing strategies that have worked for your company in the past – the ones you’re most likely to try and replicate. Which tools will support those efforts best? Is it a tool that will help you send personalized emails to your contact list? Or will one that immediately follows up after a lead be more beneficial to you?
3. Product Quality
Assuming you’ve narrowed your search down to a handful of options that possess the features you need and are within your budget, now it’s time to really examine the quality of those software tools. Be discerning in this process. A higher price tag doesn’t automatically equate to a better product. If you know someone who has used any of the tools, ask them what their experience has been like. Getting feedback from other business owners is a great way to verify the quality of a product. You should also look online for product reviews to gauge whether the software really delivers on what it promises.
4. Customer Service
Whichever marketing automation tool you choose, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of the product – especially if you’ve never used an automation tool before. Learning these from an expert on the product would be most beneficial.
Before subscribing to or purchasing a new marketing tool, be sure to assess that tool’s customer service offerings. If you incur a problem with the program, will they send someone to your office to help you fix it? Do they offer live chats or phone support? Customer support is crucial, especially for busy entrepreneurs with little time to diagnose and fix a marketing automation tool problem.
No matter how great the tool’s features are, if it isn’t easy to use and navigate, then it defeats the ultimate purpose of making your job easier. If the product requires months of training and the learning curve is too steep, you’re more likely to abandon the tool and go back to old practices.
Just because a company says their products are the most user-friendly on the market, doesn’t mean that they are. Again, if you know anyone who already uses a given tool, ask them about their experience with it. You can also conduct research online to see if the product has user reviews or testimonials.
What are Some of the Marketing Automation Tools for SMB’s?
Now that we’ve walked you through how to shop for marketing automation tools, let’s dive into the tools themselves. We’ve gone ahead and compiled some of the best options for you here:
Hubspot is a B2B marketing tool, which means it’s customers are other businesses, not individual consumers. The platform builds analytics into everything its users do so you can thoroughly track how impactful any marketing initiative was in driving traffic and/or converting leads to customers. In terms of functionality, the platform considers itself an “inbound marketing software,” meaning its primary focus is on features that aim to attract new customers. Things like social media campaigns, web content, landing pages, and providing marketing analytics.
Hubspot offers a “Starter” version for $49 a month, which entitles users to basic marketing features like landing pages, ad management, email marketing, ad retargeting, and follow-up emails, among others. If you’re looking for more comprehensive marketing tools, you can upgrade to their Professional or Enterprise versions, which costs $800 to $3,200 per month, respectively.
2. Constant Contact
Constant Contact’s primary focus is email marketing. Through this software, you can send automated emails to your new subscribers, find leads, and promote your landing pages through email. The platform also supports social media management, aiding in scheduling posts, and monitoring content movement (shares, retweets, etc.) as well as engagement. Constant Contact allows you to respond to chats or messages across your social media channels right from its dashboard. It’s worth noting that Constant Contact does offer online training, customer support, and webinars for its subscribers.
Constant Contact offers an Email Plan for as low as $20 per month, or users can upgrade to their Email Plus Plan for $45 per month. If you choose to get billed for an entire year up front, you’ll save up to 15%.
Drip was designed specifically for e-commerce businesses, and it allows for the integration of different online platforms like Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce. This platform offers a five-part marketing solution for e-commerce businesses: integration, tracking, marketing automation, analytics, and reporting – all of which allow you to better understand your customers’ shopping behaviors on your site.
Let’s use the example of shopping cart abandonment – when a shopper adds items to their cart but leaves your site without purchasing them. Drip not only tracks this for you but can take it one step further to send personalized emails to those shoppers reminding them of the item/s still sitting in their cart. It will also then track the effectiveness of those follow-up emails in converting visitors into customers.
Drip doesn’t offer a fixed price for a subscription. Instead, the price will depend on the volume of your customer base. Drip provides a $19 basic plan per month through which companies can take advantage of sending unlimited emails to 500 people subscribed to their e-commerce platform. It also offers a 14-day free trial, so businesses can test drive the platform before subscribing.
Marketo is one of the most advanced marketing automation tools that many small businesses use these days. The platform features a wide swath of more advanced functionalities that prioritize converting leads into customers – conducting lead generation, finding lead-to-revenue opportunities, and tailoring marketing campaigns according to customers’ buying behaviors.
If you’re looking for a platform that offers a more comprehensive selection of features that you can choose from, this is likely your best bet. Some of the features offered include:
- Lead management
- Lead nurturing
- Email marketing
- Web activity tracking
- Mobile marketing
- Digital ads
- Anonymous retargeting
- Social marketing
- CRM syncing
- Customer base marketing
- Marketing calendar
- CRM integration
- Program and campaign analysis
Marketo has not publicly announced its subscription fee, but according to CMS Wire, it starts at $1,026 per month. This is definitely on the higher due to the substantial variety of features the platform offers.
VBOUT divides its marketing tools into five categories: automation, lead generation and management, email marketing, landing pages, and social media management.
What’s interesting about this platform is that business owners can pick and choose the tools they want to use and opt-out of any they don’t feel they need, essentially customizing their subscription. The price of your subscription reflects the selection of tools you choose. Once you have subscribed, you’ll be given unlimited use of all the features you’ve chosen to employ. You can create unlimited social media campaigns, landing pages, and save thousands of customer contacts and leads within the software. The only exception is email sending which is limited to 5,000 emails per month.
The cost of VBOUT subscription depends on the type of marketing features you choose. In general, the fee starts at $60/month. For each component that you add, you’ll have to pay an additional $10/month.
Marketing Automation: The Bottom Line
Marketing automation shouldn’t replace your marketing team’s efforts, but can really help to supplement and support those efforts. When it comes to choosing the best automation tool for your business, the first step should always be to identify what your company’s marketing needs and priorities are. These tools may all may have the same goal – to streamline the marketing process – but the features they offer and prioritize to achieve that goal may be different. Find the one that offers those that will be most helpful to you and your company. Don’t disregard the user-friendliness of the tool, either. Remember that the purpose of these software programs is to make marketing professional’s jobs easier, so if a tool is too complicated or hard to use, it defeats that purpose.