Guest blog post by Jay Pinkert, Director of Content, Infusionsoft, an all-in-one sales and marketing automation software for small business that combines Customer Relationship Management (CRM), email marketing and e-commerce.
With the advent of cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS), sales and marketing automation is no longer the exclusive province of large and mid-size enterprises. In fact, small business is the fastest growing sector in the sales and marketing automation software industry.
Sophisticated marketing, CRM, e-commerce and all-in-one solutions are now available on a subscription basis, so businesses don’t need to purchase or maintain computer hardware. And subscription fees are a fraction of the cost of purchasing powerful software suites outright.
In other words, the practical and technological barriers to sales and marketing automation for small businesses have been eliminated, and it’s time to start thinking big.
Marketing automation is not new, but until recently this type of technology has been available only to large businesses with big budgets and a full-time IT staff that can manage the set-up process. Now, with minimal financial investment, most small businesses can leverage marketing automation in powerful ways. Plus, the technology is becoming progressively easier to use. Small businesses can actually get marketing automation campaigns up and running in a matter of weeks.
With the arrival of drag-and-drop configuration technology and easy-to-use web interfaces, most small businesses and marketers can get in and intuitively set up campaigns. The complexity comes from the planning of the campaigns themselves, not necessarily the technology. As long as the business keeps a clear picture of the path they’re driving customers down, they'll have no problem setting up a marketing automation campaign.
To illustrate, let's use a landscaping business as an example. To capture traffic coming to their website, the landscaping business offers a free report on how to keep a lawn green. Not everyone who downloads the report is a good prospect that’s ready to buy now. When people download the report they are automatically started on a sequence of communications related to the topic. In those communications is an explanation about the company’s services and maybe even a special offer to drive immediate sales. If the prospect clicks on the offer link, that's an indicator of interest. The marketing automation system can be set to stop the current sequence of nurture communications and start a new series of communications that more aggressively drive to the sale. In addition, a notification could be sent to someone in the office to call this prospect and gauge interest. This is all done automatically and once set up, campaigns will convert leads until the business hits stop in the marketing automation system.
In the example above, the small business is using marketing automation for simple lead qualification. Instead of calling every lead one-by-one, they will only call those who express interest. This saves money and time and reduces the burden on the small business and its employees.
Other ways small businesses are using marketing automation to save time and get and keep more customers includes:
Marketing automation systems range in cost from under $100 per month to over $1000. The more costly systems generally offer more functionality. Free versions with limited features and capabilities are also available. Another cost to consider is system set up. This cost can range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the complexity of the system and the data being imported.
Integrating marketing automation with a CRM and an e-commerce solution is one of the tactics used by many small businesses to relieve stress even further. “Multiple system chaos” is a problem that develops as businesses try and cobble together different systems to run the business. Since these systems don't typically work together, the business is often left with the task of manually exporting and importing information to try and keep prospect and customer records accurate and up to date. This burden gets old fast and eventually is neglected much of the time, which results in the business not being able to communicate effectively because the customer and prospect lists can't be segmented based on interests and behaviors.
As a small business, you invest time and money to generate traffic and interest. If no follow-up system is in place, leads will slip through the cracks and customers will trade you in for the competition. Marketing automation is gaining popularity because it’s an efficient way to scale follow-up activities. But remember, it’s just a technology. You still need sound strategy and tactics to animate it.
How do you follow up with your customers and prospects?
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