Marketing Automation for Small- to Medium-Sized Businesses

Valerie Turgeon April 17, 2017

Contrary to its name, marketing automation is not actually automatic. It takes strategy, testing, reporting, content and a little bit of patience, but luckily, marketing automation can result in big successes.

Marketing automation platforms help segment audiences and send automated, personalized messages to support lead generation and nurturing. According to VB Insight, 80% of users saw their number of leads increase, and 77% saw the number of conversions increase.

SharpSpring, one of the major marketing automation platforms, spends a lot of time onboarding and training customers so they can get the most out of their platform. They’ve identified the most common struggles that small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face when implementing marketing automation, and how to fix them.

As you begin the process, or if you’re looking to take full advantage of its benefits, keep these pointers in mind.

Collaborate with your team

Andrew Dod, SharpSpring’s Chief Marketing Officer, says that one of the main struggles that they continually see SMBs experience when first implementing marketing automation is a lack of stakeholder training.

Clearly defining the people and teams that will be using the platform—marketing, sales, admin, account management, etc.—will get everyone on the same page, and each person can then receive the proper amount of training.

This will vary depending on the size of your company. In some cases (like here at Brandpoint), you’ll be able to designate or hire someone as your marketing automation specialist.

For teams that don’t have the time or resources necessary to dive deeper into learning how to use marketing automation, you can split the roles so that each person is able to focus on just one of the platform’s features. You can also hire an agency to help execute a solid strategy.

[Read more: When to ask for marketing automation help]

When starting out, the platform may feel overwhelming. Dod mentions that teams get caught up in learning about the tool and often forget about the content that drives it.

There are multiple ways to source a content writer—whether hiring internally, recruiting a freelancer or outsourcing through an agency, a content writer is a valuable resource for any marketing automation strategy.

Deciding how to use the tool and how to create content is a constant team effort, especially between the marketing and sales departments. Most marketing automation tools offer features that refine this collaboration and make easier work for both teams.

Explore marketing automation’s full potential

If you don’t have the proper team in place, your marketing automation platform may not be used to its full potential.

Ascend2 recently reported that 84% of marketing influencers perceive the implementation of a marketing automation system to be a complicated task. SharpSpring has seen many SMBs treat marketing automation simply as a traditional email marketing platform, neglecting its many other features and tools.

Here’s a snapshot of what you can do with most marketing automation platforms to increase marketing ROI, align marketing and sales, optimize productivity and more:

  • Customer acquisition: Use dynamic lists to automatically segment your leads based on rules that you’ve established. Any current or future lead that meets that criteria will be automatically added. You can then target different audience segments with the right message.
  • Dynamic content: Use your visitors’ demographic info to display content based on their interests and preferences to enhance their web experience. Personalized emails is the most popular form of dynamic content, but you can do a lot more such as customizing content shown on landing pages based on a person’s industry.
  • CRM integration: Most marketing automation platforms connect and interact with an external CRM. Some platforms (like SharpSpring) have their own built in. This allows for more seamless collaboration between marketing and sales, especially for tracking ROI and evaluating the success of actions and campaigns.
  • Lead scoring and grading: Organizations using lead scoring experience a 77% increase in lead generation ROI. Marketing automation takes the guess work out of qualifying leads with grading systems based on personalized criteria. This system prevents marketing from taking unqualified leads and passing them on to sales.

Crank out content

Marketing automation is not possible without content to drive it—and it takes a lot of it.

As companies begin to implement marketing automation, Dod notes many SMBs “don’t have the capacity to support a solid marketing automation strategy. They often don’t have the time, or even the skills,” he says.

It takes a variety of content—newsletters, case studies, blog posts, ebooks, SEO and more—to fuel marketing automation. However, one of the biggest challenges that Dod sees from businesses is “content fatigue.” He says, “it’s becoming harder and harder for businesses to produce content that will actually grab attention and engage audiences.”

[Read more: Think of content as your best salesperson.]

Keep in mind that, just as you need a marketing automation strategy to see success, you’ll also need to develop a content strategy to ensure you’re creating content that fulfills a purpose. This strategy will identify your target audience, what content resonates with them and what channels they use to consume it.

Content enhances lead nurturing, especially during long sales cycles. With quality content, you’ll be able to provide leads with the content they need. From sharing information about your brand to thought leadership and industry best practices, you have the potential to position your brand as an authority, no matter your field.

A marketing automation tool and content work in concert. Whatever your organization’s tool of choice is, let Brandpoint help with creating engaging content.

 

Valerie Turgeon April 17, 2017

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