WHAT WAS ONCE NOVEL TERRITORY HAS BECOME A MAINSTAY OF MARKETING STRATEGIES AND A TRUE NECESSITY FOR MEETING ELEVATED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS.

Salesforce, the market leader in customer relationship management (CRM), commissioned a study by The Harris Poll in June examining how small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) adapted to the challenges of the pandemic.

The results showed that most businesses were in fact able to survive the worst of the lockdowns and supply chain disruptions by accelerating their digital transformation and better leveraging their existing technological resources to maintain strong relationships with their customers.

According to the report, currently growing SMBs share several commonalities:

  • 75-percent said their customers now expect online transactions
  • 95-percent are taking aggressive action to mitigate and prevent cyberthreats and the loss of sensitive customer data
  • 71-percent explicitly credit digitization for saving their business
  • 66-percent said their business would not have survived the pandemic using technology from just a decade ago
  • 65-percent are currently using customer service software and 51-percent are ramping up their investments in that area even further

In addition to transforming their core business functions and customer service operations, many are also investing in marketing automation platforms (MAPs). A report published by marketing consultants Demand Spring found that B2B firms are especially relying on these tools to scale their marketing strategies and exploit new channels.

A large majority (68-percent) of the study’s respondents said that their MAP approach was netting results by enhancing the customer experience (CX), enabling greater personalization in marketing outreach, and promoting lead nurturing efforts.

Other takeaways:

  • The number one reason given for employing marketing automation was for email campaigns (79-percent)
  • 52-percent said MAPs were an essential part of their CX strategy
  • After just two or three months of trying out a new MAP, 56-percent saw conversion rates increase
  • 52-percent said they were prioritizing integrating their automated marketing with other parts of their technology stack

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So, it’s clear that technology is essential to survival and automation is a path towards growth for a wide swath of businesses across industries. In fact, Xerox’s 2021 State and Fate of Small and Medium Business report, which polled 1,200 business leaders from companies with 25 to 1,000 employees, revealed that 64-percent of them believe they will emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position.

“66% of small business owners said would not have survived the pandemic using technology from just a decade ago.”

In some quarters automation is viewed skeptically as a nefarious attempt to cut costs by eliminating human beings from workflows. Naturally, there are cases where automation can completely obviate the need for human oversight, but they are extremely rare. Much more commonly, automation is eliminating rote and repetitive tasks like mass emails, call tracking, order processing, and data entry.

That frees up human resources to focus on tasks better suited to skills computers lack, like creative thinking, abstract problem solving, and working as a collaborative team. In most cases, automation doesn’t supplant humans, it empowers them.

More Data, Fewer Silos

Even better, computers are simply unmatched when it comes to collecting and analyzing customer data, which is vitally important to optimizing communications for greater customer acquisition and retention. Not taking advantage of the tools that make analytically-vetted CX possible is tantamount to marketing malpractice given how powerful and accessible they are today for even the smallest businesses.

Thanks to A.I. chatbots that are capable of answering most basic questions and directing the more complex ones to the appropriate human agent, businesses that could never afford 24/7/365 customer service now can.

“After just two or three months of trying out a new marketing automation platform, 56% of businesses saw conversion rates increase.”

And when they take the added step of connecting their A.I. service to a CRM solution, they generate the customer data that turns their chatbot into a customer service superstar that knows who it’s talking to, their preferred mode of communication, prior purchases, and all other bits of information that facilitate faster and more helpful interactions.

The sources of data that feed into chatbots and MAPs generally can derive from:

  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Browser Cookies
  • Web Traffic
  • Apps
  • SMS

Each touchpoint is another opportunity to spread brand awareness, deliver a consistent and gratifying brand experience, and to collect more data that will allow for greater personalization in a virtuous cycle.

From a marketing standpoint, all these fancy tools really boil down to one thing: being better able to meet and exceed customer and prospect expectations with faster and more personalized attention. It’s just not possible to provide the kind of one-on-one, customized care that the marketplace increasingly expects at any meaningful scale without the help of automation.

“CRM data turns chatbots into customer service superstars that know who they are talking to, preferred modes of communication, prior purchases, and all other bits of information that facilitate faster and more helpful interactions.”

Another advantage of automated marketing tools is that many play nicely with a variety of platforms. That means not only can you build them into your own website and apps but they can also be deployed on the social media sites your customers are already active on — which opens up even more avenues for structured data collection, opportunities to retarget visitors that didn’t convert the first time you interacted with them, and to make smart product and service recommendations that are finely tailored to their stated needs.

The Wizard Behind the Curtain

With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that demand for MAPs is sky high right now. The global market for marketing automation software is pegged to top $10 billion by 2025. Yet, brand managers that use these tools already know that even the most advanced, A.I.-infused, data-rich automation is only as good as the people implementing and managing it.

For all their strengths, your MAP cannot perform high-level planning, create beautiful and compelling content that excites your audience, or coordinate a marketing team. That still takes specialists who can synergize these discrete components into a seamless and ROI-positive marketing strategy.

It’s the nature of almost all technologies to become more accessible with time. Computing power that once took warehouses of equipment to manage are now insignificant in comparison to even the cheapest and most common smartphone. And digital marketing automation tools and platforms once limited to globe-spanning enterprises with nearly limitless resources are now attainable by businesses of all sizes.

The only question is: are you taking advantage of all they have to offer?

 

Hanlon implements the latest marketing automation solutions for growing brands every day. Reach out to learn how we can accelerate your digital transformation and energize your marketing.