You may have heard of “marketing automation” before, but what does the term really mean? Should you turn your outreach efforts over to a robot? Not exactly.
Marketing automation software can be used to set up a series of triggers for specific messages based on your prospects’ behavior. For instance, if someone downloads one of your white papers, your automated system can send follow-up emails and remind you to contact the prospect by phone.
The marketing automation business is growing rapidly. According to a study by Raab Associates, the industry brought in approximately $325 million in 2011, an increase of more than 50 percent over the previous year.
To figure out whether marketing automation could work for your company, ask yourself these three questions:
- Am I getting too many leads to handle them all personally? As most small-business owners already know, customers appreciate a personal touch, and receiving correspondence that doesn’t cater to their specific needs may be a turnoff. However, if you don’t have the time to interact with people, you may want to consider using marketing automation software; take a look at TopSEO’s comparison chart to find the right product for your company. Alternately, hiring a customer-service representative could help your business keep that individual feel in its interactions.
- Have I established a series of well-targeted marketing campaigns based on my prospects’ interests? To use marketing automation software effectively, you need to segment your audience carefully and come up with different messages for each group at each step in the sales process. Otherwise, you risk sending irrelevant, unwanted messages that will simply end up in spam folders.
- Is my company already using a customer relationship management system? Marketing automation software is typically designed to integrate with existing CRM tools, such as Salesforce.com. “You need another service because the goal of marketing automation is to get the ‘right’ leads into the hands of sales[people] at the ‘right’ time,” Joe Chernov, vice president of content marketing at Eloqua, told VentureBeat. “In many ways it’s an efficiency story: Marketing automation is based on the concept of ‘nurturing’ leads with relevant content until the individual appears ready to buy, and then routing that prospect to a sales rep at the optimal point in the buying process.” If you haven’t yet begun using a CRM tool, however, you’re probably not at the right stage to consider using marketing automation tools.
In general, marketing automation isn’t a good fit for extremely small business. Monthly fees can cost more than $1,500, according to Chernov. But, if you have the resources and want to focus on turning more leads into sales, marketing-automation tools paired with great content and management can substantially increase your success rate.