A Brief Introduction to Marketing Automation
Automation is all around us. From sci-fi movies to robots and tech news, everyone seems to be talking about it. The world of marketing is no different.
In recent years, marketing automation software providers have exploded in popularity and today, almost every SaaS product seems to offer at least some type of automation technology. This trend has impacted the small business software industry more than any other.
It’s estimated that businesses spent more than $40 million on such products in 2019. More importantly, this growth shows no signs of stopping, as the latest estimates expect the CRM industry alone to grow to $80 billion in the next five years.
But how did this sudden popularity come about?
Before we answer that question, let’s cover some basics first.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation refers to software solutions, like CRMs and ERPs, which automate repetitive and monotonous tasks, such as publishing ads, sending emails, and scheduling social media posts.
However, CRMs and ERPs aren’t the only automation solutions on the market. Far from it. As we mentioned earlier, nearly every type of SaaS product offers automation technology. This includes social media marketing platforms, project management tools, email managers, and even live chats.
How do businesses use marketing automation?
Businesses use marketing automation in a variety of ways, but all of them are similar in one regard: they handle boring, uniform tasks that repeat themselves in a predictable manner.
Typically, businesses use automation technology to handle long lists of contacts or leads. The software can parse through the data and quickly send personalized email templates that increase the conversion rates. Similarly, automation platforms are often used to create a better overview of all marketing data.
Marketing teams have to rely on data from a number of different sources, such as organic traffic, paid advertisements, social media campaigns, etc. Compiling all of that data on a single dashboard allows businesses to make informed decisions on their marketing activities, more quickly and efficiently.
Meanwhile, accounting can use these platforms to automatically produce invoices, arrange payment schedules, and track expenses.
However, even automation has its limits. For example, creative work like designing postcards or graphics still can’t be automated, despite the growing success of platforms like Canva. More on that later.
Now, we’ll explore marketing automation’s popularity and its effects on small businesses and companies.
Why is marketing automation growing in popularity?
Marketing automation owes its growing popularity to its utility and versatility.
By using workflows to automate tasks, businesses reduce the workload on their employees, increase productivity and create a better work environment. All of that can be achieved because automation removes the most tiresome and boring tasks from the workforce.
As the tiring tasks are automated, employees become happier and even more productive, because they no longer have to spend time on tasks that they don’t see as engaging or interesting. This is arguably the best effect of marketing automation.
But it’s far from the most notable one. CRMs produce a variety of positive effects.
In fact, they can:
- Increase the customer lifetime value
- Improve engagement rates
- Decrease the sales cycle duration
- Improve the marketing return on investment (ROI)
- Streamline communication with clients
- Ensure better collaboration between departments
All of this can be achieved by using marketing automation solutions to their full extent. However, you shouldn’t expect any software to launch your business to success or unprecedented growth.
As strange as it may sound, automation still requires a lot of hard work.
The potential downsides of marketing automation
We’ve already hinted that marketing automation has its downsides.
As mentioned earlier, automation is still unable to help with creative work.
More importantly, automation software can be incredibly expensive. The prices range from as little as twenty dollars per month to thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, depending on the size of the business.
This is why it’s important that you carefully assess your business before you decide to try out marketing automation. You may not need or be able to fund automation products.
Further, your business might not be a good fit for marketing automation. If you can’t spend a few weeks or a month implementing automation technology, chances are you won’t see notable results in your work.
In fact, if your workforce is closer to their pension than their college years, it may take them months to come to grasp with all the intricacies of automation software. Similarly, if your business works with a limited number of suppliers and customers, you may not need automation at all. When the business volume is relatively low, it’s actually more efficient to keep your work manual rather than implement automation.
Of course, automation improves scalability, but a new business that’s just starting out and still fighting for its place on the market likely doesn’t require any automation.
It goes without saying that offline businesses need to be more careful with how they approach automation, as it typically involves moving a large percentage of the business online. Keep in mind that this process could easily go on for months, during which your business likely won’t be able to work at full capacity.
As with every other technological advancement, marketing automation is still in its early stages. While it may already be a great investment for large businesses, small companies should approach marketing automation with a bit more skepticism. If you’re unsure whether or not to invest in automation technology, consider employing a professional marketing company that will help you better evaluate your company’s needs.