Marketing automation is a term you’ll be familiar with. But it can be used to cover a wide range of automated techniques and systems.
And smaller firms often assume that it’s not for them. They might think it’s out of reach for cost or operational reasons.
Here we look at what can be meant by ‘marketing automation’. And we explore how small businesses can exploit the latest innovations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their financial promotions.
What is marketing automation?
It’s a term with a wide variety of meanings. People use it to mean:
- Automated email systems, like Eloqua, which send out emails at scale to your mailing list
- Software like Hubspot, that enables you to plan and manage activity, creating customer journeys
- Social media schedulers, like Hootsuite or Buffer
- Client relationship tools, like Salesforce, which not only act as a CRM system for storing contact details, but allow you to record interactions and engagement with your marketing activity
- Automated workflow tools that automate steps in your process – for example, planning, agency briefing, compliance approvals – for seamless project management and regulatory compliance
Choosing the right platform
Because the term can be used so widely, the first step for any business – large or small – is to work out exactly what they want from an automation tool. This will help to determine the platform you need.
You may need to invest in one or more tools for different things – a CRM system, for example, will deliver something totally different to an automated workflow tool.
Is a lot of your web traffic mobile? Increasingly it will be. And increasingly, Google will rank your site according to its mobile compatibility. For this reason alone, it’s vital that you make your site as mobile-friendly as possible.
In which case, you may need a workflow system that enables you to check the mobile-compatibility of new webpages as you create them. Create mobile-friendly webpages first time and you will save time and money later.
If you post a lot of content online, a scheduling tool will be a priority. If you have an e-commerce site, a system that enables you to track the customer journey and intervene if carts are abandoned will be essential.
Your needs will be very specific to your business and its priorities.
Why smaller firms think automation isn’t for them
A lot of automation tools are ‘big names’ – Salesforce.com; Hubspot. This may lead smaller businesses to think that these large corporates aren’t interested in the size of their operations.
But many automated platforms are scalable. Check out the pricing and delivery options – it’s highly likely that they can be tailored to suit your size and needs.
And some platforms are designed specifically for the niche requirements of smaller businesses. As this article points out, ‘For example, ConstantContact provides a unique platform for nonprofits or companies that hold lots of events, while GetResponse is good for online marketing.’
What to ask when looking at a solution
Ask the right questions when considering a platform:
- Can it be scaled to different numbers of users or offices – how can I make the pricing work for my firm?
- Do you have specific experience in my sector? For example, some technology solutions will have high levels of take-up among law firms, or financial services. This can give them an edge when it comes to understanding the needs of firms in that sector. You can benefit from developments made for your larger peers.
- Does it deliver what you need? If your concern is meeting FCA standards, does it give you assurance that your financial promotions meet compliance requirements? If you are most interested in social media scheduling, does it offer a pain-free solution to regular online presence?
Read our 10 questions you need to ask when comparing automation solutions for more on the things you need to find out before making a decision.
If you are an SME, a not-for-profit organisation or a charity, there are ways to benefit from marketing automation.
In fact, because you’re small, with fewer resources, you can probably achieve comparatively more benefits from automating your processes than many of your larger peers. Our annual review shows the breadth of businesses benefiting from automation, ranging from online slide and document libraries to fully-automated workflow solutions.
Automation delivers tangible efficiency increases
If you want to read more about the efficiency improvements automation can deliver, you can download our whitepaper on The benefits of automated workflow solutions. It’s free and you can read a copy here.