How does marketing automation work for small businesses?

Small businesses are struggling to keep up with the rise of marketing automation. Only 14% rate themselves as advanced users of marketing automation and 90% of small businesses...

What is marketing automation

Businesses are increasingly turning to marketing automation. But what is it, and are small businesses being left behind?


One of the most startling takeaways from the Gartner 360 Summit in 2014 was the statement that “by 2020, 85 percent of customer relationships with businesses will be managed without human interaction”. While this may sound somewhat futuristic to many, from a marketing perspective the future is already here: it’s called ‘marketing automation’.

So what is marketing automation?

According to Dave Chaffey at Smart Insights, “marketing Automation enables businesses to automate tasks and workflows for the marketing and sales process, including prospect and customer profiling on landing pages, lead scoring, sending automated personalised emails and web recommendations to support lead nurturing and customer engagement”.

Larger businesses and organisations are increasingly turning to automated processes to create a more personalised, responsive marketing ‘funnel’ that delivers customers (or qualified leads) within requiring costly human intervention. An eMarketer report this year revealed that 74% of marketers who use data-driven marketing say they have benefited from a competitive advantage in customer engagement and loyalty and 55% say they have increased revenues.

Yet small businesses are struggling to keep up. A Gleanster study from 2015 cites that only 14% rate themselves as advanced users of marketing automation and, interestingly, that 90% of small businesses that haven’t invested in marketing automation say that the primary reason is the expense.

This may not surprise to anyone who works in SME marketing – where budgets are tight and time scarce. But it does raise the question of whether the perception of automation being expensive is correct.

Email is one of the primary tools of marketing automation. Creating different mailing lists with a series of auto-responders aimed at nurturing leads through ever more tailored communications is often the starting point towards personalisation. This, combined with a parallel approach to web traffic tracking and a smart CRM strategy, forms the bedrock of many marketing automation systems.

Given that 95% of small businesses use email as a primary channel for communicating with prospects and customers and 75% believe email is the most cost effective option for personalising communications and measuring effectiveness, you would think that SMEs are in a good position to take the next step.

Why aren’t more small businesses using marketing automation?

To explore this burning question and others I’m hosting a free webinar on 17th November, Marketing Automation on a Shoestring, featuring expert panelists Philip Storey and Gemma Went, plus Tamsin Fox-Davies from Constant Contact. To start the discussion we we’ve created a useful infographic, below, which seeks to explain how small businesses can make use of automation techniques and processes. Enjoy!

Marketing Automation for Small Business

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