Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are forecast to contribute to the rapid, continued growth of the marketing automation industry.
A recent report from Forrester Research forecasts the marketing automation industry to surpass $25 billion in revenue by 2023, nearly doubling the current market with a 14% compounded annual growth rate for the next 5 years. There is a strong correlation between this projected growth and investment in marketing technology with 55% of marketing decision-makers planning to increase their spending on marketing technology.
With this kind of investment, the industry has seen a slew of new marketing automation platforms come to market with robust tools and competitive pricing. This has opened the door to SMBs looking to get a leg up on their competition by modernizing and aligning their sales and marketing efforts.
What is Marketing Automation?
The definition of marketing automation has remained somewhat fluid until recently. It refers to software that helps automate marketing and sales engagement processes like email outreach, maintaining social media, and tracking website interactions.
In recent years it has become more clearly defined as a centralized platform to manage all these functions while integrating with a business' CMS, CRM, social media, meeting, and other sales & marketing software. Companies like SharpSpring, Hubspot, and Marketo have led the industry in standardizing this model in a way that penetrates markets beyond large corporations. These modern platforms focus on driving lead generation and conversion while optimizing marketing spend.
A key function of marketing automation platforms is lead generation and nurturing. Leads enter these self-contained systems through inbound marketing efforts. Based on their selections they are fed the information they want through their preferred channel. Forrester Research reports that companies that excel at this type of lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost than those that don't.
Lowered and Offset Costs Drive Adoption
Historically the cost of marketing automation tools has been a significant barrier to SMBs. However, the software-as-a-service model (SaaS), employed by SharpSpring or Marketo agency partners, lets companies manage costs as part of a monthly budget.
While initial setup is a significant investment, businesses are seeing these costs offset by the ability to clearly gauge returns on their investment. According to SalesForce research data, 82% of marketers see positive return on investment (ROI) from marketing automation and see on average a 3.1% increase in revenue compared to competitors who use no marketing automation. This means the tools often pay for themselves in a matter of months.
Consolidated Platforms Offer Greater Efficiency
In addition to the increased revenue from marketing automation, SMBs realize benefits from consolidating various tools to bring many aspects of digital marketing under one roof. SharpSpring, for example, provides robust drag-and-drop landing page and email building tools, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and campaign optimization all in one package.
For SMBs, automating things like client nurturing and lead generation frees up valuable time and personnel to focus on strategy. Research by Walker Sands shows 69% of marketers using these tools say they help them be better and more efficient at their jobs.
Email Lists & Protected Data
With Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) making headlines this year, SMBs find themselves wondering about liability and data security when delving into digital marketing. The toolsets and structures built into many marketing automation platforms give SMBs legal, ethical frameworks for collecting this personal data. By building an environment of landing pages, email funnels, and website tools provided by these platforms, marketers can ensure each piece of data gathered prompts the user for consent. Email systems track user preferences to provide only content they ask for while allowing them to unsubscribe at any time.
Most beneficial to SMBs is having all user information in a centralized location. This allows marketers to easily review any personal information gathered while automating the process of removing information should it be requested. Marketers can even segment the data by permissions and give their leads the ability to remove their information themselves.
DIY vs. Certified Agency Partners
Like most SaaS solutions, marketing automation platforms offer users extensive controls to manage their programs. SMBs can find this both a blessing and a curse because of the technological learning curve and the time investment for the initial setup. While larger organizations can keep this process in-house, SMBs often find it more cost-effective to employ a certified agency partner who can help design and implement an effective automated marketing strategy.
Leveling The Playing Field
For years, large enterprises have used marketing automation to streamline their processes, increase profits, and centralize their data. As the industry expands these more accessible platforms help level the playing field for SMBs trying to speak to new, larger market segments.