Up until very recently, marketing automation seemed reserved for enterprise-level companies with complex marketing environments—and big budgets. But smaller organizations are faced with complex marketing environments too, and lately more companies, like InfusionSoft and HubSpot, are providing small businesses with affordable options. If you haven't considered marketing automation because you thought it was out of reach, it's time to start thinking about what it can do for your business.
Marketing in the Millisecond Economy
Technology has made customers impatient. Maybe I should say it has allowed customers to act on their impatient nature more easily … and has made them even more impatient. As a consumer, I know technology has done this to me, but I also blame Amazon for raising my “need for speed” expectations—I can order a MacBook Air on Wednesday and have it my hands by Friday, shipped free, as part of my Amazon Prime membership.
Consumers just aren’t willing to wait for much of anything nowadays. According to a recent University of Massachusetts study, if a video hasn't started streaming in five seconds, about 25 percent of potential viewers will bail before viewing, and if it doesn't start in 10 seconds, that number almost doubles. And forget waiting around at home for the HVAC guy to come fix a broken air conditioner; according to a 2011 study done by TOA Technologies, 70 percent of respondents said they would recommend a company solely on its ability to keep service appointments on time. If a service technician is 15 minutes late, that figure drops by 43 percent. In today’s world, “wait” is definitely a four-letter word.
Because we’re living in an “always on, always connected” world, marketers are faced with the reality that when trying to generate interest from consumers, speed thrills, and the lack of it kills. And as Brad Rencher, Adobe’s senior vice president and general manager of digital marketing, said at this year’s Digital Summit, “online marketers only have 300 milliseconds to connect their actions/activities to memorable, engaging experiences"—experiences that move consumers in the direction of becoming a customer.
Automation Shifts Time to Relationship Building
So how can marketers adapt to this superfast pace? From a small-business perspective, when you think about marketing, lead generation is usually the first, second and third thing that comes to mind. And it makes sense; you have to have leads before you can turn them into customers and brand advocates. So while we’re blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook and running webinars, know that those who are more strategic in executing these activities tend to have more success than those taking a more informal approach.
In the 2011 "SMB Social Business Study," conducted by CRM Essentials and SMB Group, 11 percent of strategic users surveyed said they were very satisfied with the impact their social activities had on website traffic, while 9 percent were very satisfied with the impact on lead/sales generation. In 2012, those numbers jumped to 26 percent and 22 percent, respectively, marking year-over-year increases of 137 percent and 144 percent. Comparatively, 5 percent of informal social users were very satisfied with lead/sales generation in 2012, the same as in 2011. And informal users very satisfied with the impact on website traffic increased slightly, from 3 percent in 2011 to 5 percent in 2012.
While the numbers help demonstrate the importance of taking a strategic approach to lead marketing activities, it’s important to note that a main cog for implementing those strategies was the use of marketing automation tools. Such tools can help manage the maze of content formats, delivery channels and interaction types that come out of lead generation events. They can also help marketers bring a level of consistency to an increasing number of activities, measure the impact and manage the process.
There's More to Marketing than Lead Generation
It’s easy to understand the preoccupation businesses have with lead generation, but there are other areas of marketing that, if invested wisely in, can have a huge impact on marketing success. Adobe recently put out a study that found 86 percent of the 1,800 companies they surveyed spent less than 15 percent of their marketing budget on website optimization activities. So it probably comes as no surprise that website conversion rates are below 1 percent for 35 percent of the companies surveyed. But the companies who use 25 percent of their marketing budget on site conversions were twice as likely to enjoy conversion rates of at least 9 percent.
Spending a portion of marketing resources on conversions is critical, because it typically takes a number of interactions over the course of several months to convert a lead into a customer. Therefore, having a system in place to stay connected to those prospects by nurturing them with content is crucial for staying “top of mind” when they're ready to get serious about buying.
Automation tools help companies set up lead scoring and sequencing, so you know exactly when the time is right to convert the lead into a full blown opportunity. This helps companies decrease the number of good leads that fall through the cracks because they were ignored after the initial interaction. It takes a consistent rhythm of information and interaction to build enough trust for many prospects to feel comfortable with taking things to the next level. More and more companies are realizing they need a strategy carried out by an automated system to be efficient, and to be able to handle the needs of a quickly growing small business.
It’s About Customer Journeys and Lifecycles
You can’t create the kind of experiences that turn clicks into customers and brand advocates if you’re constantly stuck in lead generation mode. Remember, those milliseconds go by quickly. So you have to have a plan, and that plan needs at least a certain amount of automation to be carried out efficiently. Quick execution and quick analysis should lead to better decisions and more time to focus on understanding the customer. Because that’s the only way you’ll go from vendor to trusted partner. Taking your time to build relationships with customers is critical to winning them over in the long run—show them you really do care beyond what their wallets can bring to your bottom line.
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