Act-On Software recently presented a webinar titled SMBs: Crossing the Chasm with Marketing Automation, in which Ian Michiels of Gleanster discussed what happens when small to medium businesses outgrow email marketing.
Challenges of Marketing in the Digital Age
In his webinar, Michiels presented a number of challenges faced by small business marketers including:
- Lack of resources to develop content
- Lack of skilled staff
- Fragmented sales and marketing processes
- Contrasting data
- Poor marketing processes
These challenges are further magnified by changes in today’s marketplace. Buyers increasingly do their own research, and typically don’t engage with a vendor until much later in the sales cycle. These prospects get inundated with information from a variety of channels as they progress along the buyer’s journey. Unfortunately, particularly when it comes to SMBs, the messages delivered over those multiple channels are often inconsistent, uncoordinated, or fragmented.
That’s where marketing automation comes in. Michiels defines marketing automation as “tools that automate customer engagement across two or more channels.” Email creation and deployment, landing page creation and hosting, web analytics, list segmentation, CRM integration, lead scoring, campaign execution and social media integration are all features of marketing automation that allow marketers to more easily communicate coherent, coordinated messaging to prospective customers.
Email Marketing Vs. Marketing Automation
Michiels went on to explain that email marketing and marketing automation offer many of the same benefits. Marketing automation, however, delivers a number of benefits not provided by email marketing alone.
As one example, multi-channel nurture campaigns created using marketing automation allow marketers to stay in front of prospects that aren’t ready to buy yet. Marketing automation also allows SMBs to pre-qualify sales opportunities, thus saving money by focusing sales resources on the prospects most likely to buy soonest.
With marketing automation, companies can also centralize all prospect activity. This allows for improved marketing messaging, and better forecasting. And when a CRM system such as Salesforce is integrated with the marketing automation platform, sales and marketing can align around the insights gained through visibility into marketing activities and prospect behavior.
In the end, email marketing is just one piece of the marketing puzzle, and a good place to begin. But sooner or later, a growing SMB will need to cross the chasm to reap the greater benefits of marketing automation.