Marketing automation software is among the top efficiency-enhancing solutions that can help small business owners make better use of limited time. Selecting the right platform and setting up campaigns takes a bit of legwork, but the impact can be impressive.
Small business owners often face resource shortages, which makes managing everything that goes into marketing a challenge. A marketing automation platform can help “automate the processes that are necessary to communicate with your prospects and customers,” explains Jonathan Herrick, CEO and co-founder of sales and marketing software provider BenchmarkONE. Marketing automation is one tool that small business owners can use to convert website visitors into customers—and those first-time customers into repeat customers.
What is marketing automation software?
Marketing automation software is a tool that helps businesses automate repetitive tasks across a wide range of marketing functions. These include email marketing, social media marketing, display advertising, and more. Instead of manually scheduling every Instagram post and adding every individual contact to an email, marketing automation software can help do these tasks automatically using data from each channel.
Paige Musto, former vice president of corporate marketing at Act-On, a marketing automation solutions provider, describes MA as “the engine of your marketing efforts.” It essentially gives businesses one place to manage the many activities that make up the marketing discipline. Musto calls it “a single platform to create, execute and manage multi-channel marketing programs and report on the performance and the ROI generated.”
Why is marketing automation software important?
With marketing automation software, your small business will gain a new way to gather and examine information about how buyers are interacting with your company. This includes data around which web pages your customers visit and which emails they open. Your marketing team can then “segment and personalize communications and trigger them in real-time for more targeted follow-up, leading to shorter sales cycles and higher revenues in the long term,” Musto says.
Marketing automation software can also enhance your business’s top-level marketing strategy. You can review all of your marketing efforts from a birds eye view, then get deeper insights around which marketing campaigns are the most effective. In turn, this will help you stretch your marketing dollars and prioritize the channels that bring in the most revenue.
Marketing automation software features
The many MA solutions include a vast range of features, which can be overwhelming when shopping for the right platform. Herrick stresses that it’s important for small business owners to identify their company’s needs before looking for a solution, as some features may be more closely paired with the requirements of larger, enterprise-level organizations.
Musto says that business owners should look not only at the features and functions of potential marketing automation platforms, but also at “the breadth and quality of the marketing automation vendor’s partnerships and integrations.” Because there are often few people available within a small business to oversee the marketing automation function, deploying a system that takes advantage of existing datasets and tools increases the team’s efficiency.
“First-time buyers should base their decisions on competencies with the greatest immediate impact to their business,” Musto says. Many small-business needs, she says, typically focus on tracking website visitors, CRM integration, and email automation.
“For the traditional small business, having an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) platform combined with marketing tools is really important,” Herrick says. This structure will help a small group tackle both sides of the sales and marketing functions. “They really need a tool that, first of all, helps them stay organized and that helps them track all of their contacts and leads,” he says of small business owners.
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Another critical piece is the capability to capture leads from forms or perhaps from the company’s website. With the investment many small businesses make in their online presence, it’s important to maximize the capabilities of their website builder.
“The goal is to capture more of those visitors and turn them into prospects and eventual customers,” Herrick says. He encourages business owners to look for a marketing automation solution capable of harvesting site visitor data through lead capture forms and similar tools. You can then further segment those potential leads for additional follow up.
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Leads are the bread and butter of any marketing strategy, so marketing automation software should help make lead management more impactful. Once your software has captured a new lead, it should then help sales teams nurture them toward the bottom of the sales funnel. By scoring and assigning leads, marketing automation software can also help sales reps prioritize the prospective customers who are most likely to close a sale while also ensuring no lead slips through the cracks.
Dynamic content population
Personalization is a critical tool for driving conversions when it comes to digital marketing. As such, marketing automation should leverage artificial intelligence to dynamically populate content that is most appropriate for different segments of your customer base. For example, if a customer leaves a product page without checking out, the marketing content they receive after—whether it’s a social media ad or email—should focus on the specific product they were considering.
Analytics and reporting
Of course, no business software is worth adopting if it doesn’t provide strong analytics and reporting capabilities to prove its effectiveness. The right marketing automation tool tracks a wide range of activity across your marketing channels and analyzes that activity to highlight successes and opportunities. It should illuminate the factors that influence your data trends from all angles and provide contextual information to help with future business decisions.
Marketing automation software requires team buy-in
A successful marketing automation deployment should begin with buy-in from the broader team, such as sales leaders and others. “Despite the name ‘marketing automation,’ sales teams also rely heavily on the technology,” Musto explains. “Make sure that your sales team understands the value that marketing automation can deliver, and work together to continuously optimize workflows and scoring.”
With everyone’s expectations aligned, you can use your marketing automation tool to accomplish a number of different goals. It can help close more sales, of course, but it can also help you optimize your marketing budget and uncover new data about your customers.
This article was originally published on August 24, 2015. It was updated by Kaiti Norton.