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Marketing automation tools for small businesses – Are they really worth the investment?

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It wasn’t long ago that the current crop of marketing automation tools was a luxury affordable only to larger organisations. However, with the development of cloud technologies and open-source code bases, amongst others, it’s now possible for small businesses to share a slice of the pie as well.

Having said that, it doesn’t by definition mean that marketing automation tools come cheap or are indeed worth looking into by default. They not only require a financial investment upfront (despite the relatively lower costs), but they’ll also need your time and in-house resources to fully take advantage. So the question then becomes: are they really worth it and can these tools deliver on the advertised benefits?

What is Marketing Automation?

If you’ve delved in the world of marketing, you may have heard of the term marketing automation, but what does it actually mean? The term refers to the use of technologies and software platforms designed specifically for marketing departments to be used with their communication programs.

Marketing automation helps to execute, manage and streamline repetitive tasks, such as customer data integration, campaign management and customer segmentation. This allows marketing efforts to be carried out more efficiently across several online channels such as social media, websites and emails.

What Are The Benefits?

Marketing automation takes a lot of the time and effort out of complex e-marketing campaigns. It prioritises leads and takes them through the full marketing funnel, allowing you to take them from being casually interested in your product or service, to creating warmer leads that are ready for sales.

Apart from significantly increasing efficiency, one of its main goals is to nurture prospects for the long-term, far beyond closing the deal. By sending out targeted, more personalised messages, it strengthens communication efforts. Rather than focusing on quantity and spamming people, it helps to improve the quality of your campaigns. Consumers will have more choice over the type of marketing materials they receive, which helps them through the buying process at their own pace.

Small businesses can tap into a vital source of revenue in the form of current customers. Sales reps can make the most out of these technologies by accessing customer’s engagement history, receiving lead alerts and creating valuable follow-up lists. By using their customer data for upselling and cross-selling campaigns they can maximize customer lifetime value. This form of revenue is crucial if you are looking to grow your business.

Is It Worth The Investment?

The simple truth (as cliché as it may sound!) is that any tool is only as powerful as the user. It’s clear that marketing automation tools can help drive your business forward, but only if you fully understand their benefits and how they can be used in your specific market.

Having said that, take note that top performing businesses state that this type of technology is critical to future success. That is because scalable and effective lead management is so important for making growth possible. If you’re looking to help streamline your business process and grow more quickly and effectively, marketing automation tools will be key assets you’ll need.

While some companies may worry that implementing these types of technologies will require increasing headcount, this is not necessarily the case. After all, the point is to reduce workloads, rather than create more work. It enables marketing departments to improve the sales cycle by allowing them to prioritise their workload and access valuable customer information. This helps small businesses to increase revenue from engaged leads, helping to drive future growth.

How Can I Make It Work For My Business?

To take full advantage of the advantages offered by these tools, you’ll need to be ready to allocate the time and staff investment. However, that does not mean that small businesses that don’t initially have that time available can benefit from these technologies.

Creating simply one or two lead nurturing campaigns at the early stages of the cycle can have a massive effect on revenue by increasing the volume of qualified leads. You should make sure to periodically adjust and optimise the process in order to get the best results.

About the Author:

Mary Ann Keeling is a freelance consultant and an experienced social media networker. She likes to spend her free time cycling and doing water sports with her friends. Connect with her on Twitter – @MaryAnnKeeling