When you run a small business, time really is money. We’re all in the same boat as owners – trying to juggle the demands of our customers with the daily necessities of running a company. When you try to shoehorn marketing into the mix, you very often find yourself burning the midnight oil just trying to keep up, and that’s not good for anyone long term.
Fortunately, thanks to companies like HubSpot (@HubSpot), AWeber, MailChimp and Marketo, there are some great marketing automation tools out there, and they can help your business in many ways. It’s likely you are already well versed in what they are and what they do, but in case you wanted a refresher, we recommend this post on Quicksprout (@quicksprout) which defines and explains marketing automation perfectly.
We’re pretty sure though that even if you’ve researched marketing automation benefits, there will be some you might not even have thought of yet. Here are 12 of the best.
- Saving Time
The first and most important drawcard for small business owners when it comes to marketing automation must be the time-saving aspect of marketing automation tools. Sending one marketing email to individual accounts could take days or weeks, depending on the size of your list, but when you are using an automation tool like Mail Chimp (@MailChimp) you can achieve the same results in a matter of minutes.
It stands to reason that if you use several different marketing automation tools, and they all save your team time, you’ll see an increase in productivity elsewhere. That has to be music to any small business owner or manager’s ears!
- Keeping Your Team Lean
Lean teams are an important element of profitable small businesses and startups, and marketing automation tools can help you to keep your team as small and nimble as possible.
Not only can you keep your own team small though, you might be able to keep outsourcing to a minimum too. In fact, Pardot (@Pardot) conducted a study of their own, and found that not only do marketing automation tools help companies keep their teams smaller, but also they can simultaneously reduce their reliance on outsourced marketing services. A smaller team that can handle more in-house is really the ideal situation.
- Qualify Leads
One of the biggest time thieves for small business sales teams are tire kickers and unqualified leads. By implementing marketing automation early on to pre-qualify leads from your website and elsewhere, you can whittle down the list of prospects to only those who are already receptive your message. This, in turn, will help to increase your sales team’s strike rate, and reduce your overall cost of sales.
- Maintain Consistency
One of the most critical factors in turning a website visitor into a lead and then into a customer is maintaining consistency. However, as Vanilla Soft (@VanillaSoft) pointed out in a post based on their own research, between 40 and 80% of leads are lost sometime between marketing and sales teams.
Using marketing automation tools allows you to maintain consistent contact with new prospects even when your office is not open or your sales people are on vacation. That keeps them in the sales funnel, and increases your chance of closing the deal.
- Enables Prior Planning
When you run a small business, one of the most important things you can do is plan ahead. Marketing automation allows you to not only think ahead, but to take actions that will happen in future too.
Being able to set up email campaigns and social media posts a week or even a month ahead means that you will not need to remember to do those things when the inevitable crisis hits from time to time. It means that even if your head of marketing is taking a week long vacation, your message will still make it out on time, and that’s a big deal.
- Customizable Levels of Personalization
Marketing automation is not all or nothing. It allows small businesses to save time and money on marketing, but still maintain that personal touch that sets them apart from big corporations, as noted in an article by Kissmetrics, which found that some companies found a mix of automated and personal marketing to be the best all round solution.
This serves another purpose too, by pre-qualifying the leads that you spend time on marketing to personally. Set a threshold, and if your leads are still getting and opening your mails and visiting your site, send them a personal email.
- Share Information with Customers Quickly and Easily
Most marketing automation tools allow for segmentation and sorting of leads and customers to some extent. By including existing customers in your marketing automation system, you can automate important updates like price increases, events or special offers quickly and easily. Not only does this make communicating important information quick and easy, but it can also help to jumpstart flagging relationships.
If you do use marketing automation for customer service, you will be ahead of the curve too. Sirius Decisions (@siriusdecisions) reported in 2014 that only 8% of companies were using their marketing automation software as a customer service tool.
- Stay Connected with Employees
It’s becoming more and more common for even small and medium-sized businesses to have teams that span the globe. Marketing automation tools can be used to stay in touch with far-flung teams, or just to send regular updates, mass mails and other important information to your team.
- Cutting Marketing Spending
Remarketing is a relatively new term, and it is a great way to draw customers back to your website. It can also be combined with marketing automation to increase potential customer engagement and sales. In fact, as Edward Unthank (@EdwardUnthank) noted in a 2014 blog post, combining the concept of remarketing and marketing automation, using the latter to filter out unqualified leads earlier on, can decrease marketing spending significantly.
- Increasing Lead Volumes
If you find that you are not getting enough qualified leads, marketing automation can be a great way to increase the number of leads you are getting.
When you set up your next campaign, whether it is email, social media or anything else, why not incorporate an element of affiliate marketing in it, by offering prospects the opportunity to earn discounts in exchange for referring their friends and family? Set the campaign up to run independent of your main marketing campaigns, and add new leads to the list as they express interest. You could increase your existing marketing list exponentially over time, and if you use marketing automation to run that sort of campaign, you would not have to lift a finger to do it.
- Allow You to Mix Things Up
Marketing and sales tread a fine line between consistency and annoyance. Too little and your prospects forget you. Too much and they block you out.
Marketing automation allows small businesses to test the water with a variety of marketing tactics, run A/B tests, and find out which mix of communications, and the frequency thereof, works best for them.
Because it is quick and easy, you can run these sorts of tests regularly, with various sets of customers and lists, until you find the one that works best for your business and your customer (or several for many different types of customer.) Then it is as easy as replicating the same thing time and time again.
- Email Marketing Automation Improves Results
Aweber is one of the oldest marketing automation tools out there. Long before there was Facebook and Hootsuite, they were helping the earliest online marketers to stay connected to their customers. The reason for their longevity is simple.
Email marketing automation, when done to meet best practice guidelines, leads to 7% of all user acquisitions, as per Magento (@Magento) which makes this type of automated marketing second only to search.
What Can You Automate?
Surprisingly few smaller companies have adopted marketing automation so far, with the majority being in the tech industry. In fact, Capterra reported in 2014 that adoption rates outside of the tech industry were just 3%. That has changed since then, but it still means that if you get onboard now, you will be ahead of the curve when everyone else wakes up to the possibilities – and there are many!
Do not let low adoption rates fool you though. As noted by Salesforce, 68% of top performing small businesses use marketing automation technologies, and of those, 79% plan to continue using them. So while marketing automation is not universally popular among small businesses, the ones who are performing the best are fans.
Marketing automation allows you to schedule blog posts and contests. It gives you a variety of tools to create and automate emails, either on demand or as part of an auto responder sequence. It offers tools to schedule tweets, and some that integrate with popular CRM’s. The right mix of automation tools and integrations can reduce the time you spend on early stage marketing to a fraction of what it was without them, and that means cost and time savings across the board.
Most of the marketing automation tools out there have free trial versions too, so you can test the waters before you commit, and there are a few free and cheap options available as well.
Have you used marketing automation software for your small business? We would love to hear about your experience. Share your story in the comments below.