Marketing is becoming automated.
That’s a fast-growing trend illustrated by yet another marketing automation company getting venture money.
Marketing technology company HubSpot just announced a $16 million Series C financing round from three venture capital companies, bringing its total venture pot to at least $33 million, .
Started three years ago by two entrepreneurs, HubSpot is an inbound marketing system that helps optimize small and midsized businesses’ Web presence so prospects are more likely to find them online. HubSpot plans to go public eventually.
So, what about this trend? Traditionally, marketing your business was a very hands-on activity, requiring expert knowledge (or paying for expert knowledge). Increasingly, though, business marketing services are being turned into automated tools you can tap into online, using the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Big investments like the one in HubSpot prove this approach is likely to have staying power.
In 3 to 5 years, the marketing landscape could look very different than it does today. Marketing strategies that once required considerable knowledge of marketing, lots of labor or the big budget necessary to outsource the job to experts will be available to any small business that can afford a monthly subscription fee. Instead of paying thousands a month for service providers, you could pay a couple hundred dollars a month for an automation tool or system to help you instead.
Of course, marketing services aren’t entirely automated (yet), but they’re getting there. These services walk you through processes that were once entirely manual, simplifying something that formerly required a great deal of time and effort. They turn services into replicable processes that can be done in less time.
Examples of marketing services that small businesses are already using are plentiful—just a few of the more popular ones include:
· SalesForce.com’s CRM tools
· Constant Contact’s e-mail marketing service
· Google’s AdWords system for advertising
· online press release services like PRWeb.com
· LotusJump’s link building and SEO service
· Logomaker’s logo and branding design tool
· Knowem’s social media identity protection system
There’s good news and bad news about this trend. If your business is a marketing agency or marketing consultancy, your industry is changing (aren’t they all?). You need to think about how the expertise you offer fits into this increasingly automated world. When services previously offered only by “experts” are available to everyone, how will you package and sell your own expertise? Can you “productize” your service and turn it into an automated tool? Or will you choose the niche of customers who want “high touch” service rather than automation?
If your business needs marketing services, good news: These tools can help level the playing field and make you more competitive with big companies -- for a far lower price than you’d pay for the old-style services. Of course, there’s a learning curve involved as you’ll have to figure out which service works best for your business. You and/or your staff will have to learn how to do your part in understanding, using and monitoring the automated products and services you choose. But the end result will pay off in cost savings and new profits.