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Marketing Automation and SMBs – an Overview

Before my current role as manager of editorial content, I was the senior reporter for MarketingSherpa. As such, I interviewed hundreds of great marketers and industry thought leaders for case studies and how-to articles. I’m still writing some case studies, but not nearly at the pace I did for over four years.

Because of that past, it is fun to have the tables turned on me, and a few weeks ago I agreed to be interviewed on the topic of marketing automation and small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The interview covered a range of ideas within that topic area and I wanted to share some of my extended answers with the B2B Lead Roundtable Blog audience.

 

Why marketing automation software is relevant to SMBs

A major factor is how marketing automation can help optimize the SMB marketers time. The marketing department at an SMB is typically small just based on the size of the business, but at the same time the customer base – the database – can still be very large and automation software can help with activities such as lead nurturing.

If you think about an enterprise-level company, automation is almost a requirement to augment the CRM software. There’s just too many records in the database to handle this world of highly segmented and personalized marketing any other way.

For the SMB marketer, let’s say you have a one-person staff. I’ve spoken with many marketers doing great stuff with only one person. Maybe you have one, two, three people on your staff. You want to maximize their activities.

They are doing creative things instead of some of the grunt-work associated with handling email campaigns and the like. Automation does a lot of things under the hood that you just physically can’t do even if you wanted to.

 

How the disconnect between Sales and Marketing can be alleviated with technology

For this section, I’m going to reprint part of my original answer during the interview:

I think I’ll provide an interesting answer for you. The first part is Sales and Marketing alignment is a challenge. I’m hearing more success stories which is awesome. The technology is bringing people together because, if nothing else, Sales instead of getting more leads, they’re getting more qualified leads. Technology helps out on that end.

I think Sales and Marketing should be in alignment anywhere. Every time they’re in a silo, it never helps the company for those two pieces to be adversarial or siloed at all. If they’re working together, it’s always going to be better.

The change is, if anybody’s been reading a lot of industry stuff is the CMO is taking over the CIO and CTO, in the C-suite. Very interesting.

If you think back six or seven years ago, if you told the CMO they were actually going to have a seat at the table and not be the voodoo doll at the end of the table that it was a black hole for the budget and no one paid attention to, they would laugh at you.

Now, because of all the technology and different pieces, and the fact that they’re buying this technology and they’re handling this technology, and the data that’s coming in — now marketing activities are no longer a black hole. Now they’re trackable. Now there’s ROI that can be attached to it. Now all of the sudden, CMOs are surpassing and taking over the role of the CIO because they’re buying the technology and telling the CIO, now you make this work for me.

I think the actual alignment issue now is between marketing and the IT department. I would like to Marketing and Sales as a team become aligned with the IT department, but given where we are, and just the direction things are going, if you look at various pieces of research of some of the bigger research firms, that’s the direction that things are going.

I read articles every single day about the CMO and the CIO need to get together. They’re not getting together because of this.

I think the bigger challenge now is for Marketing and IT to be in alignment, and obviously technology is that piece there. I think technology helps get Marketing and Sales in alignment, but technology is the reason that marketing and IT have to get into alignment. If they don’t, it just makes things a lot harder for everybody.

 

Creating a culture that allows for marketing automation implementation at an SMB

This goes back to some of that Marketing-IT alignment.

Within marketing, the case for implementing automation should be fairly obvious – “This is going to make our world easier. We’re going to have to learn how to use it. We’ve got an initial training going on, but in the long term, it’s going to make our lives easier.”

Automation is going to allow the team to track its activities, and hopefully begin handing Sales a higher quality of lead, rather than a higher quantity of leads. The internal sales job to Sales should be just as easy with the quality of leads argument in place.

When getting buy-in from the company C-suite or leadership, the IT department can be your worst enemy or your best friend. By fostering an aligned relationship with them, they can advocate the that internal sell.

You want them to be part of this process, one, because they’ve written those contracts. They’re going to see the pitfalls before the marketer does. They know this is a really nice SLA on this contract. The agreement looks good, but IT will see a loophole that might not be obvious to a marketer. IT will know if the new tech piece will actually integrate with the current set of systems already in place.

I think having IT on board with an automation implementation gives a lot of credibility across the board when creating a culture from leadership down to the sales team.

 

You might also like

Industry Insights with David Kirkpatrick [Original interview from the SalesFusion blog]

Marketing Automation: 200% increase in lead volume [MarketingSherpa webinar replay]

Lead Generation: Revamped marketing automation and CRM technology drives 75% more leads [MarketingSherpa case study]

B2B Marketing: 7 tactics for implementing marketing automation from a fellow brand-side marketer [More from the blogs]

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