Traditional email blasts take effort to bring together. As Litmus's State of Email Report of 2017 highlighted, nearly 70 per cent of companies spend a week or more on the production of just one email … and may well have up to five on the go at one time! For a small business, that’s a great deal of resource tied up.
Email marketing blasts are also something of a blunt instrument. How can you be sending the right message to a would-be customer when you have no idea where they are in their buying cycle? You can’t … which makes it all too easy to send emails containing off-topic content that damages the careful customer nurturing that’s gone on before.
For example, using autoresponders to send emails at predetermined intervals is motivated much more by the sender’s ambitions than the recipient’s requirements.
Marketing beyond the inbox
Unfortunately, this kind of ‘mechanical marketing’ is becoming less and less effective as consumers become less and less willing to be passive participants in the purchasing process. They want to be centre stage and that means wooing them through tailored content and messaging that recognises their needs. This can’t be done using email marketing alone.
So, if businesses want to reach, engage and influence their buyers, they must recognise the need to look beyond the inbox to maximise their marketing efforts.
With email marketing no longer enough, that means turning to the plethora of social media channels their prospects are using. Those that do are likely to reap the rewards as businesses using three or more channels for their marketing can expect customer retention rates that are 90 per cent up and levels of engagement 250 per cent higher.
But there’s a problem.
When there are so many platforms available – Small Business Trends lists 48 that could be used for marketing
– how can SMEs possibly take advantage of the opportunities on offer when they barely have time to make email marketing work?
The benefits of marketing automation
Fortunately, there is a way to overcome this particular challenge and that’s to use marketing automation.
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, marketing automation operates at much a broader level than email marketing.
Marketing automation is all about using software to organise the repetitive, time-consuming and tedious tasks associated with areas like content delivery, social media posting, ad campaigns and email sequencing into workflows. Once set up, these workflows happen automatically in the background to help deliver the round-the-clock responsiveness customers are looking for.
By using marketing automation, SMEs can eliminate previous friction points and bottlenecks from the marketing process. No longer, for instance, are there delays waiting for ‘someone’ to do ‘something’ to make something happen. Saving time is the outstanding benefit that marketers say they get from marketing automation (Adestra).
Not only that, but by using marketing automation software, marketers can gather invaluable data about buyers from their interactions with landing pages, web forms, social media, physical and online ads, phone calls and emails. That enables them to define their buyers’ journey ever more clearly and respond accordingly. Today, marketing is very much about understanding the “I want to buy now …” and “I want to do something now …” moments. And marketing automation lets you do that.
Because of the new insights offered by marketing automation, you immediately acquire a newfound capacity to score and prioritise your most interested prospects, keeping deals moving forward and shortening the time from a customer’s ‘first contact to first payment’. You can then engage with those prospects at just the right moment through personalised messaging that deepens long-term relationships.
‘Slicing and dicing’ audiences into niches to consistently generate and nurture better leads is something that email marketing can’t do so precisely. So, these much more targeted campaigns yield a far higher ROI than non-segmented email blasts, achieving open rates that are one-third higher and generating over a quarter more orders according to figures from Omnisend.
All in all, marketing automation lets you take individuals along a highly personalised path that’s dictated by their actions and responses at specific ‘trigger points’. This is why companies that use marketing automation software create 80 per cent more leads and enjoy a 77 per cent increase in conversions.
Having these clear insights makes SMEs ‘intelligently agile’, all very different from ineffective and reputation-damaging high-volume email blasts. It also makes them more profitable, as marketing automation can push up sales productivity by as much 14 per cent and reduce marketing overhead by more than 12 per cent.
Email Marketing vs Marketing Automation
A quick comparison of their various features shows the breadth of marketing automation against the much more limited capabilities of email marketing:
The way forward
If you are selling a restricted range of products to a relatively small database of prospects with broadly similar demographics, you may not need segmentation or separate messaging. In which case, sticking with email marketing, at least for now, may be the right thing to do.
However, for many SMEs, continuing with email marketing is rather like driving a car that you never take out of first or second gear. You move forward, but don’t get to where you want as quickly or efficiently as you could.
However, if you do want to take your business to the next level, you should consider introducing marketing automation.
And if you are a smaller business, you should look at Act! Marketing Automation software in particular as the way to strengthen your all-round marketing effectiveness, whatever sector you are in.