Guide to Marketing Automation for Small Business

A Guide To Marketing Automation for Small Business

Do you ever wish you could know, besides a “gut feeling”, that your marketing efforts are working? Are you failing to connect the dots between your marketing campaigns and company revenue? You're not alone. 

Trying to track revenue all the way back to the lead source is very difficult, even for businesses that pay close attention to their analytics. Somewhere along the way you lose the connection from lead source to sale. This may be because the final sale happens offline or the difficulty in tracking anonymous website visitors (like Google Analytics) and connecting them to a specific sale.

Marketing Automation is a software solution that allows you to identify your website visitors and track them throughout their buying journey, from click to sale. It allows you to deliver valuable information to a prospect at the exact time they are looking for it. Here will discuss what Marketing Automation is and how it can benefit your business.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation is one of those terms that most business people recognize but are not sure what it really means or how it works. Kind of like SEO. Marketing automation is software that allows businesses to create lead generating and lead nurturing campaigns using an end to end software system with email marketing being the backbone of the system.

It's the exact opposite of regular email marketing, where you send newsletters and emails out to your entire list. It allows you to create specific and timely communications with your prospects on an individual level.

Marketing Automation is great for products/services where there is an extended sales cycle as well as more complex sales, where people need more information before making a decision. Think of financial services, home renovation projects, legal services, etc as examples where it is not an easy buying decision.

It also works very well with e-commerce and where you need to manage and nurture a large number of leads. In order to understand the customer journey from click to sale, businesses will “bolt together” multiple software systems to try and track this journey.

Typical setups will look like:

  • Website Analytics software
  • Email Marketing software with drip campaign features
  • Conversion Optimization software (A/B testing)
  • Sales Tracking software
  • CRM software

All of this software is stitched together to create lead nurturing programs and to track the journey of a customer from the time they click to your site to the time they become a paying customer. The only problem is that most of this software will not communicate with each other and leaves you, the business owner, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together to make sense of it all. Here is an intro video from our Marketing Automation partner, SharpSpring.

Marketing Automation is a single solution that you can use to generate leads, run lead nurturing programs, and track the journey of a customer from the moment they first land on your website to the moment they become a paying customer. It's very hard to get that kind of closed loop reporting using several different software solutions. Marketing Automation is predicated on communicating with your leads and customers, so in order to get the most out of Marketing Automation, you will need to be able to create content that you can share via your communications with your leads.


Common Features of Marketing Automation Software

Why would you use Marketing Automation?

(there is an example of how Marketing Automation can be used further down in the article)

4 main reasons

  • Generate more leads
  • Convert them to revenue
  • Prove marketing ROI
  • Single software solution

Generate more leads – Lead capture forms setup on landing pages will allow you to turn anonymous web visitors into real live people you can track throughout the sales funnel. Lead generation campaigns can be created that will track visitors all the way from click to sale. Some Marketing Automation solutions will use IP tracking, crossed with business databases, to identify anonymous web visitors and determine what company that web visitor is from.

Convert them to revenue – By identifying and tracking a lead during their buying journey, you will know what product/services each lead is interested in, how active they are on your website, and when to pass hot leads off to your sales team. Marketing Automation allows you to reach out to them when they are most likely to buy and with the right message.

Prove marketing ROI – Marketing Automation allows you to track the entire sales process from end to end, showing you which marketing campaigns are working and which ones are not.

Single software solution – Instead of stitching together several software solutions to try and track your marketing campaigns, Marketing Automation allows you to seamlessly track your lead generation efforts and see the ROI from each of your campaigns in real time.Marketing Automation Sales Funnel Graphic

The Benefits of Using Marketing Automation

Make smarter marketing decisions – You can track the ROI of each marketing campaign you run, which will allow you to make smarter marketing decisions in the future.

Save time and manpower – Marketing Automation allows you to run extended lead nurturing campaigns, perform customer follow-ups, and monitor your contact list's website activity to alert your sales team of clear buying signals. This saves you dozens of hours each month on lead nurturing activities, saving your involvement to critical times when your lead is indicating they are ready to buy.

Work all parts of your sales funnel – Most businesses only focus on the bottom of the sales funnel, people ready to buy right now. The problem is that by focusing only on this part of the funnel, you are ignoring the other 80-90% of people are are interested, but just not ready to buy yet. Marketing Automation will allow you to create lead nurturing campaigns to target people not ready to buy (middle and top of funnel) and keep them engaged with your business until they are ready to move forward.

Supercharge your CRM – Integrating Marketing Automation with your CRM allows you to see how your marketing efforts (Marketing Automation) are translating into sales (CRM). Your marketing and sales software can merge data, allowing you to see full ROI from click to sale and pull comprehensive marketing/sales reports for your business.

Advanced Reporting With Marketing Automation

Advanced Reporting With Marketing Automation

Here's an example of how Marketing Automation works

You decide to run a Facebook Ad campaign to generate new leads for your mortgage broker business. You decide you will offer people a free guide, “10 Things You Need To Do First Before Applying For a Mortgage”. The idea is to get people into a lead nurturing program first as most people will respond better to valuable information they need rather than your sales pitch to apply for a mortgage.

While some people may be ready to buy right away, most will need more information and will need some time to make their decision.You set up the Facebook Ad campaign in your Marketing Automation software and use a special trackable link that will let the software track people that click that link in your Facebook Ad.

You set up a special landing page for your offer and use a special contact form that will allow the Marketing Automation software to pull the lead data into its system. Jane Doe, who is looking for a mortgage, fills out the form to get her free guide as she wants to make sure she is not missing anything before she makes a mortgage decision. She is now entered into your lead nurturing campaign where she will receive your free guide as well as a series of 5 emails over 30 days where you offer information she would deem valuable as she decides on a mortgage provider.

The software was even able to find her LinkedIn and Facebook social media profiles, giving you a wealth of information about this lead. During this time, Jane Doe gets to know more about your company and more importantly, starts to trust you. 3 weeks after Jane Doe filled out the initial lead gen form, the marketing automation detects she comes back to your website (via email #3 of the 5 email sequence she was on) and reads two articles on your blog related to first-time homebuyers.

You have a trigger for this set up in your Marketing Automation system that will place a person on your first-time homebuyers email list if they read 2 or more articles in this category. Once on this list, Jane Doe receives an email with an ebook explaining the mortgage process for first-time homebuyers. She downloads the ebook and takes you up on your call to action at the end of the ebook to contact you to learn more about the programs you offer.

After a few back and forth phone conversations, Jane Doe is ready to move forward as your customer.6 weeks later the mortgage application is approved and is funded. Closed deal!

So how did Marketing Automation help?

  • You were able to track Jane Doe from the time she clicked on your Facebook Ad until the time the deal was closed, giving you proven ROI for your marketing efforts
  • You were able to track Jane's activity on your website as well as what she did with the emails you sent her, allowing you to send timely and personalized messages to her.
  • You knew it was email #3 that peaked her interest and brought her back to the website
  • You were able to take a lead, who was not ready to buy, and create a fully automated lead nurturing campaign lasting 30 days that eventually turned into a customer
  • The Marketing Automation software did the heavy lifting with automated lead nurturing communications, allowing you to get involved only when Jane was ready to buy
  • During the entire lead nurturing process, you were able to track a real person (name and all), instead of an anonymous user. The Marketing Automation was even able to pull in Jane's social media profiles so you could learn more about her
  • You can now track the commission you earned back to the original Facebook Ad that Jane Doe first clicked on. You can high five yourself knowing the $100 you spent on Facebooks Ads resulted in several thousand dollars in commissions.
Email Marketing Using Marketing Automation

Advanced Email Marketing with Marketing Automation

Common myths about Marketing Automation

#1 Marketing Automation is too expensive for a small business

While some Marketing Automation solutions can cost several thousand dollars a month to run, there are now dozens of solutions available, many catering to the small business market. Typical starting costs usually range anywhere from $200-$3,000 a month, depending on the solution you choose. Most Marketing Automation companies charge a base fee each month and then costs scale depending on the number of contacts you have in your database, volume of email you send out each month or the feature set you are looking for.There is usually some sort of onboarding fee as well to cover training and client support for the first several weeks as there is a learning curve involved to use it and initial support and training will be intensive. Fees typically range anywhere from $500-$2500, depending on the solution you choose.

68% of top-performing small businesses are using marketing automation – Gleanster Research

Small business solutions will tend to be on the lower end in terms of cost. If you choose a solution that will cost $500-$1,000 a month, you will need to determine the incremental increase in sales you will need to cover the cost of the solution. If you sell a product/service with a higher price tag, then you may only need a single sale each month to cover the cost of Marketing Automation software.

#2 Implementing Marketing Automation will require more staffing

While the startup period with a new Marketing Automation solution will require quite a bit of time and learning, once you are passed that startup period it should relieve your workload, not increase it.

90% of top-performing small businesses that use marketing automation report they did not increase headcount after investing in marketing automation. – Gleanster Research

Marketing Automation should help streamline your current lead nurturing and sales processes, which will give your current team valuable time savings.

#3 Marketing Automation is too time-consuming

Yes, it is time-consuming, especially in the beginning. But once you have passed the learning curve on how to use it, the time-saving opportunities are endless. Database management, follow up emails, email list segmentation, lead nurturing, these are all things that can take up a lot of your time every month and can automated with Marketing Automation software.Most small businesses that use Marketing Automation start with a few small lead generation/nurturing campaigns that don't require much time but can lead to significant increases in lead generation. The nice thing with Marketing Automation is that you can scale it out over time based on your available resources.

#4 Marketing Automation isn't useful for small business

If you do marketing to generate leads for your business and you have customers, then yes, Marketing Automation can be very useful for your business. Marketing Automation can help you streamline your marketing/sales processes and help you prove ROI, any sized business can benefit from that. The question comes down to commitment to investing in a process like this and the pros and cons of implementing it for your business.

Tips when searching for a Marketing Automation solution

There are many options available when it comes to choosing a Marketing Automation solution. You'll have to do some research, read reviews and even demo a few in order to decide which solution is best for your business. Here are a few common questions to ask when conducting your research.

Costs – How do they price? Don't just look at the base monthly cost, most Marketing Automation solutions scale their pricing according your contact list size and/or the volume of the emails you send out. Some base it on the number of visitors you get to your site each month. See how each solution charges and use your current (and future) list size as well as email volume to determine your costs. Some solutions are inexpensive to start but can get very expensive as your database grows.

Ease of Use – Look at user reviews to see how easy it is to use the software. One of the biggest complaints, and reasons people stop using it, is that it is very confusing to use. This is why doing a demo with several solutions will give you an idea of how easy or difficult it will be to use.

Features – Some Marketing Automation solutions provide every feature under the sun, while others give just the basics. Figure out what your needs and goals will be with the software and choose a solution that offers the features you need for your business.

Support – This is a big one as you will need to contact support from time to time to ask questions and to get support help. Look at user reviews as well as satisfaction surveys to see how well a company supports its customers. If you get stuck or something breaks, you want to make sure you won't have to spend an entire afternoon on hold to get a question answered.

Is Marketing Automation right for you?Marketing Automation has the ability to transform a business and its marketing strategy. It can proveROI and helps you make better overall marketing decisions. It can also be frustrating to use if you don't commit to it and take the time to learn how to use it effectively.Take your time, read lots of reviews and see what current customers are saying about their Marketing Automation solution. Have a question about Marketing Automation and how it benefit your business? Contact me here to learn more.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.