While creative and substantive marketing is required to sustain almost any business for the long term, it’s especially important for small businesses, for whom traffic and conversion is a critical feature of their livelihood and a deciding factor of their longevity. As technology continues to permeate virtually every aspect of a company’s communication and collaboration processes, it comes as no surprise that digital tools and automation are emerging as key players in the small business space, heralded for their ability to make marketing simpler, more effective, and more streamlined across a variety of online channels. The capacity to leverage these tools is quickly becoming a market differentiator, helping companies across the industry stand out from the competition and work more effectively, turning technology integration from a “nice-to-have” feature into one indispensable for addressing the myriad challenges and opportunities the small business sector routinely encounters.
An Industry Outlook: Marketing Pain Points and CRM Possibilities
A recent report conducted by several industry software providers found that out of 1,000 small business owners from across the U.S., nearly half (47 percent) handle marketing efforts on their own, yet approximately the same number (48.5 percent) of owners don’t know if their marketing efforts are effective, while almost 14 percent know for certain they aren’t.
One likely culprit for this lack of insight? Disparate customer data, scattered among machines and personnel, without any solid mechanism to capture, organize, store, track, and share it across the enterprise. In fact, almost 21 percent of small business owners admit they don’t store customer contact information anywhere, and of those who do, 42.4 percent store this data only in their e-mail service such as Gmail or Outlook.
While useful for storing basic customer information, these platforms don’t provide the flexibility or visibility required to track leads and close sales. Rather, this functionality is only found through robust CRM software—leveraged by only 24 percent of small business owners—designed specifically to follow leads as they move through the sales process, monitor customer activity to identify behavioral trends, and segment leads as required to help marketers create and deliver tailored, customized campaigns with higher conversion rates. With a proven ROI—a recent study found that every dollar spent on a CRM system yields an average return of $8.71—CRM is a natural choice for improvement in this space.
Stronger, Faster, and Underutilized: Benefits of Marketing Automation
In a similar vein, the report found that while marketing automation software, designed to speed and simplify the work required to craft and deliver the ultimate customer experience, is a mainstay among some of the industry’s top players—research firm Gleanster cites that nearly 80 percent of top-performing companies have used marketing automation for more than two years—it remains underutilized in the small business marketing sector.
When detailing their goals for 2016, only roughly 16 percent of small business owners cited “gaining efficiency with marketing automation.” Yet, the power and potential of such solutions to radically transform the way in which these leaders promote their business cannot be overlooked. Especially when integrated with CRM functionality, they allow users to automate the critical processes—such as lead generation, sales, and customer service—that enable the fast response and nurturing required to turn prospects into clients. This functionality is especially critical today, as 19.6 percent of small business leaders cited “turning leads into customers” as their biggest challenge for 2016. By taking the place of manual, paper-based processes such as appointment reminders, automation also saves business owners both time and money, an important consideration as they build their company and seek to optimize resources.
The New Small Business Landscape: The Tech Transformation
While tools such as CRM and marketing automation present obvious benefits to the small business sector, the move to embrace such technology is one not meant to be taken lightly, with myriad options and models filling the marketplace at a rapid rate—perhaps shedding light on low adoption rates thus far. Yet, streamlining operations to create a more dynamic and rewarding customer experience is one of the most important investments any company—small businesses included—can make. Moving forward, leaders in this space will be ones who successfully navigate the emerging tech landscape to identify the tools designed specifically to help them stand out, and leverage this functionality to turn small business into big profits.
“2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report,” LeadPages & Infusionsoft, 1-11.
“CRM Pays Back $8.71 for Every Dollar Spent,” Nucleus Research, June 2014 – Report O128, http://nucleusresearch.com/research/single/crm-pays-back-8-71-for-every-dollar-spent/.
“Marketing Automation Benchmark Report,” Gleanster, http://www.gleanster.com/gleansight/marketing-automation.