How small businesses can reap the rewards of marketing automation

Marketing automation is one of the fastest growing trends in digital marketing. Companies have long dreamed of automating their marketing, sales, CRM and analytics processes – both to increase revenues and reduce costs. For years now we’ve seen big brands investing in costly Marketing Suites to deliver end-to-end automation, yet for SMEs these solutions have simply seemed too expensive.

Next week I’ll be hosting a webinar in partnership with Constant Contact on the topic of ‘Marketing automation on a shoestring’ and to get the ball rolling I’ve asked our panellist Gemma Went for her take on the topic. I asked:

What is the big opportunity for SMEs from marketing automation?

There are so many opportunities with marketing automation, when done right of course. The main opportunity for SMEs, in particular, is to create robust workflow systems that in the past would have taken valuable resource they just don’t have. Once people get their heads around the technology, and stop being afraid of it, they can create some wonderful automated sequences that can yield some amazing results. This really levels the playing field for SMEs.

For me the opportunity to automate across platforms gives SMEs a great opportunity to create a positive customer journey that gently moves them along a sequence of content, giving them the right content for them on the right platform, at the right time. This really is gold dust when done right.

However, I should point out you can’t automate everything and nothing should take the place of good-old human interaction. All automated systems should back-up every day engagement and relationship building that is still as, if not more, necessary.

Where, in your experience, do smaller organisations struggle with marketing automation?

The technology. People are afraid of it and I’m not surprised. Getting your head around this stuff isn’t easy and the technology can be hard to understand. Most people just don’t have the time to get comfortable with it and dismiss it before giving it a chance. I’ve seen some of the most technologically minded struggle to put a simple funnel together, so it’s no shock that many just don’t bother. Although I say the word ‘funnel’ through gritted teeth as I find it a very impersonal way to describe the journey you’re asking a customer to make.

They also need to have a wider understanding of customer psychology, creating customer journeys, the sales and marketing process, content marketing, analytics and so many other factors alongside learning the technology itself.

Can you provide an example of how an SME that has benefited from automation?

The best examples I’ve seen have been beautifully crafted to suit the customer across a range of platforms (and I’m specifically looking at the sales and marketing process here).

A targeted ad on Facebook with strong copy and design that leads you to a piece of valuable content or webinar on a landing page that you’re happy to give your email address in exchange for, which adds you into an email journey that serves you more content that you genuinely want and eventually upsells a product or service that, by this point, you’re happy to buy as both trust and loyalty has been built.

This is just one example, there are many other ways you can create these customer journeys across different platforms, but for me making something that’s genuinely beneficial to the customer and gently nurtures them along that journey building trust and loyalty, works really well.

What’s your top tip for successful marketing automation?

Think of the customer. Always. If your automation is going to annoy them. Don’t do it. If what you’ve created is annoying them. Stop it. Whatever you create must be valuable or beneficial to them for it to really work, otherwise you’ll end up losing them. And nobody wants that.


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