SMBs: 5 Tips To Get Started With Marketing Automation

Published: December 19, 2016

SimonGrabowskiGetResponseWith the emergence of marketing automation software specifically designed for small businesses, the technology is finally scaling among SMBs. In fact, according to Gartner, 98% of all SMBs are looking at marketing automation for the first time. But, for these first-timers, the landscape of options and figuring out how to implement them can be overwhelming. So, it’s helpful to ask a simple question — what makes a successful marketing automation strategy?

Here are five tips to put SMBs on the right path before you’ve even selected a vendor.

1. Define What Success Means

Any SMB investment is a critical one. So, your chief concern as you consider automation should be to determine what your specific objectives are. In a recent blog post, Dave Sutton, President and CEO of TopRight, says that marketing automation should be “tied to explicit value for the business.” Agreed. But you need to articulate what value means for your organization to guide the overall strategy.

There are a variety of metrics to focus on, including:

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  • More qualified leads: To no one’s surprise, 60% of SMB marketers cite improving lead quality as a top priority. Seventy-seven percent have seen lead quality improve and the number of conversions rise.
  • A shorter sales cycle: According to Forrester, buyers engage with

Cost-efficiency: 50% of SMBs spend less than $300 per month on internet marketing. Rather than investing in a multi-person team or exhausting resources across channels, automation can drive down costs by being an all-in-one tool.

With goals defined, you can begin to consider the next stages of your strategy.

2. Consolidate & Segment Your Contacts

Once goals are in clear view, SMBs can begin taking practical next steps to eventually launch marketing automation. At a basic level, this means consolidating customer contact information — funneling everything into a unified, understandable database. Later, when you have to import contacts into your automation software, this optimizes the process and makes everything easier.

If you use a CRM system — and over 74% of SMBs report that they do — importing will be simple. Most automation services offer CRM integration. If you don’t, however, this means looking at all the one-off email lists, event and networking spreadsheets, business cards, web forms, and additional customer contact information you own, combining everything (assuming, of course, that privacy agreements are met and contacts integrated have opted into additional marketing activities).

Unfortunately, that’s when the hard work really begins. It’s not enough to combine — you also must categorize. Ultimately, once your automation system is implemented, it will be able to automate customer segmentation, with scoring and tagging capabilities provided with the best tools. In the meantime, however, it’s critical to organize your consolidated contacts manually, grouping them by different “identities” and categories. These can and should range from new customers to your most loyal and everything in between.

3. Map Out Your Customer Journey

No customer journey is a straight line. Whether you’re a large, small or mid-market organization, the digital customer journey is more complicated than ever. There are more touch points for marketers to manage. You also need to identify the most critical moments for driving a purchase decision to the next stage.

Before implementing automation, using historical purchase information, website analytics, and any other CRM data you have access to, it’s important for SMBs to map out what they believe the typical customer journey and sales cycle looks like. You also should differentiate that journey for each contact segment (e.g. new customers, most loyal, etc.). In doing so, SMBs can identify the most important touchpoints and customer behaviors for a sale, and how they need to respond to those behaviors to drive the next desired action in the cycle. The more accurate this mapping is, the better positioned you’ll be to launch your automation strategy.

4. Create & Centralize Content

As you identify the most critical touchpoints throughout the customer journey, it’s important to develop content in tandem or prepare existing content that can be used to respond to specific moments. (While this seems like a no-brainer, fewer marketers have a strategic content approach than last year — 32% versus 35%.) It’s equally important to consolidate and organize all this content into a centralized repository to enable speed-to-market and speed-to-customer.

For instance, if you’re a B2B security software SMB and a potential buyer clicks on an email you shared, it likely makes sense to point them to a whitepaper or a gated form to secure more information about them (some automation solutions help you build this material but not all do). But this can only be done if you have a basic understanding of your buyers’ sales cycle, as well as the content needed across it. If it’s organized and readily available, you can react faster and fill gaps more efficiently.

5. Picking the Right Vendor

Ultimately, with these first four stages completed, picking a marketing automation vendor is a simpler process. At this point, you can better identify which vendors meet your specific needs using criteria such as overarching goals, customer segmentation requirements, anticipated sales cycle length, content desires and more.

Of course, cost is also a major factor. SMB marketing budgets are comparatively small. Most automation tools are pricey, forcing long-term contract commitments. Others also charge for onboarding, while some are so complicated to implement and maintain they require a dedicated team for handling. All of this adds up; so consider wisely.

Automation software can be a powerful tool for SMBs when approached with enough preparation, thought and information. The more you’re guided by these early steps, the more efficient and effective you’ll be in launching an automation program.

Simon Grabowski is the founder and CEO of GetResponse. GetResponse is the easy-to-use yet advanced online marketing platform with more than 350,000 customers in 182 countries.

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