If you are a marketer or own a B2B business you will have probably heard of the term marketing automation.
Marketing automation is technology that as the name implies, automates marketing actions. Much of a marketer’s time is often taken up on repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions.
The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier, enabling marketers to spend their time developing more sophisticated, personalised campaigns, which in turn give greater ROI from marketing activity and spend.
Adoption of marketing automation has been high in large B2B businesses. However, as an SME you may be unsure as to whether marketing automation would be a good investment for you.
Firstly, let’s look at some published statistics about the benefits.
- 451% increase in qualified leads
- 53% higher conversion rates
- 47% larger purchases
- 14.5% increase in Sales productivity
- 12.2% decrease in Marketing overhead
However, much of this research has been commissioned and published by the software vendors themselves. So it has to be taken in context – that it relates to the successes corporates have had.
Here, based on our own experience of running marketing automation programmes for a predominately SME client base, we outline some of the real benefits:
It will save you time.
In the long-runProcesses that would otherwise be carried out manually can be automated, saving your Marketing team a huge amount of time.
However, the implementation and set-up is complex and time-consuming. So do not be fooled thinking into thinking that it’s going to be a breeze.
It is automation, not automatic!
You can be more creative
With less time being spent on administrative tasks, you can spend more time being creative with content, design and campaign improvements.
You can be more analytical
By getting a greater understanding of exactly what your Prospects engage with, watch, read or download you can be more scientific about the way you segment and target different groups of Prospects.
You can develop better campaigns
The fundamental reason for implementation is to be able to communicate on a personal level over a period of time to each and every one of your Prospects. It replaces the need to deploy separate stand-alone marketing campaigns and instead your campaigns can span the entire length of the buying cycle.
The outcomes of this are:
- Improved open and click-through rates
- Increased number of inbound enquiries
- Increased sales conversion rates
Our experience is that marketing automation does indeed deliver the 3 benefits listed above. But it isn’t the panacea that the software vendors would have you believe.
Moreover, the benefits are not immediate.
You need to recognise marketing automation for what it is; very clever technology that allows you to run effective lead nurturing campaigns.
Nurturing your Prospects will generate leads. However, it may be 6-12 months before this happens and your hard work and endeavours are rewarded by a steady flow of inbound leads.
How do I know if marketing automation is right for me?
There is no one-size fits all answer to this question. Marketing automation will not add value to every business. However, there are a few common traits across SMEs where marketing automation has added value:
Your service is a considered purchase
Modern Buyer’s often want to self-educate on the options and potential Suppliers available to them. This is particularly true where the service or solution has some degree of complexity – be that a new way of doing business, has a significant impact or cost.
If switching Supplier is easy and there is little difference save the name on the invoice – like your energy Supplier for example – the need to self-educate isn’t so great.
That’s not to say that raising awareness to your Prospects won’t generate more inbound enquiries. But the likelihood is that email marketing, if used cleverly, may be able to deliver the same benefits but at a lower cost and be easier to deploy and manage.
There is a long sales cycle for your service or solution
One key advantage with marketing automation over email marketing is the ability to track and measure your Prospects interactions across email, your website and social – not just count opens and click throughs.
Where there is a lengthy buying cycle, marketing automation allows you to hone in on Prospects that are waking from their slumber!
This will allow you to prioritise other sales and/or marketing activity on the Prospects that are most likely to want to engage with you NOW! This may be by telemarketing, direct mail or your salespeople – usually the more expensive channels, but also usually the most effective ones too.
You close a high ratio of the inbound leads
Too often businesses focus on cost per lead. Whereas actually what is far more important is cost per customer won.
If you are only really geared to manage a low volume of leads then it is likely that marketing automation will help deliver your inbound marketing strategy.
Lead quality is likely to be high, as much of the credibility and pre-selection will have already taken place prior to the Prospect making an enquiry.