Only five years ago, marketing didn’t involve much technology for many small businesses. The technology existed—with about 150 companies offering solutions in areas like marketing automation, email marketing, and customer relationship management—but it was only affordable and feasible for larger companies.
Today, the same marketing technology landscape consists of more than 3,500 providers—a number that has nearly doubled since 2015 alone, according to ChiefMarTec.com. That means small business owners have more opportunities than ever to leverage technology for marketing and customer communications.
“In all things tech, so much has changed,” said Tom Kahana, director of marketing operations at Infusionsoft. “There’s not much difference between small business technology and enterprise technology.”
But many small businesses still haven’t embraced marketing technology to its full extent—or at all. According to the 2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report from Infusionsoft and LeadPages, 41 percent of small businesses use only one or two software tools in their marketing, and 11 percent don’t use any.
Without using technology to streamline marketing efforts, small businesses spend too much time on manual tasks—and not enough time on the strategic initiatives needed for growth. “As your company scales, you’re going to need to find ways to make things less manual,” Kahana said.
Kahana discussed the four categories of marketing technology solutions that small businesses need to succeed: email marketing, customer relationship management, website analytics, and social media management.
Practically every small business relies on email to communicate with leads and customers. Some use tools that allow them to send emails to thousands of contacts simultaneously. But email broadcasts only achieve so much when you’re trying to communicate with customers in a way that’s efficient yet still personal.
“You really need to be able to have something that gives you the ability to communicate automatically to your audience,” Kahana said.
Email broadcast tools allow you to send the same message to everyone at the same time. Automation software like Infusionsoft allows you to email all of your contacts, too—but with messages personalized for each contact, sent at the time when the information is most relevant. Automated emails are triggered by actions like a customer making a purchase, clicking a link, or completing a web form—allowing you to send emails without having to type and hit “send.”
Automated emails can help you introduce your company to new prospects and communicate with them as you nurture the lead into a sale. Automation allows you to scale a personal message to hundreds or thousands of contacts, allowing you to accomplish in moments what would take you hours of work to complete.
To learn more about how automated emails help you connect with customers, check out our e-book, This Time, It’s Personal: 20 Tips for Sending Automated Emails Without Sounding Like a Robot.
Customer relationship management
In the 2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report, 42 percent of respondents said they use an email provider, like Outlook or Gmail, to store customer contact information. It’s an OK solution for a short period of time. But as your business grows—adding contacts and employees who need access to them—you need a more sophisticated solution for managing and organizing customer information.
A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is more than a modern-day Rolodex. A robust CRM captures contact information and also records how that person interacts with you—showing the forms they completed, the emails they opened, the links they clicked, and products they purchased.
A CRM can provide “a full snapshot of how the customer engaged with you, from lead creation to won business,” Kahana said. “Having that 360-degree view is incredibly important.”
By using a CRM, small businesses better understand their customers’ interests and behaviors and adapt their marketing strategies accordingly. Rather than blasting the same message to everyone, small businesses can segment a contact list by demographics, interests, or purchase history to ensure customers receive only the information that’s pertinent to them. Those insights become especially powerful when a CRM is integrated with a marketing automation tool, as is the case with Infusionsoft.
To learn more about how a CRM benefits your business, download our e-book, More than Sales: Using CRM to Grow and Manage Your Entire Business.
Your website isn’t a static billboard for your company that people glance at before continuing on their way. It’s probably the first place that prospective customers go to learn about and interact with your company. As visitors click from page to page, they’re evaluating whether they want to do business with you—often making a decision before they ever talk with a representative of your company. That’s why an analytics tool is critical to understanding the effectiveness of your website.
“You need to know what people are doing on your site, what they’re doing on social media, what their path is from the site to the sale,” Kahana said.
Google Analytics, a tool with free and premium paid versions, holds the answers to most questions about web traffic. The tool can provide statistics like website visits, page views and time on site; show you where your visitors live and what they’re searching for; and identify which sources—like search engines, social media channels, and links from—were responsible for bringing customers to your site.
Such insights provide opportunities to improve not only the website but the entire marketing strategy. For example, bounce rate tells you the percentage of visitors who leave the site after viewing only that page, allowing you to change those pages to keep more visitors engaged. Referral source tracking shows you how customers are finding your business, suggesting where to spend more—or less—on your marketing efforts in those areas.
Social media management
Countless statistics can tell you about the growing prevalence and influence of social media worldwide. To name a few: More than 2.3 billion people—nearly a third of the world’s population—use social media, according to We Are Social. That includes 90 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29, says Pew Research Center. And according to McKinsey & Co., social recommendations drive one in four purchases.
It’s imperative for small businesses to use social media to connect with current and prospective customers—and on a routine basis, not just every once in awhile when someone remembers to log on. But regularly posting to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat and other networks can require hours of weekly work. Technology, Kahana said, can make social media posts more manageable.
“To make life easier, rather than logging into three to five social media accounts, use something where you can log into one and connect to all of them,” he said.
Tools like Hootsuite and Meet Edgar allow small businesses to manage multiple social accounts from a single platform. They also provide analytics and allow posts to be scheduled in advance, ensuring that your business has a strategic and consistent presence on social media.
Using tools for email marketing, customer relationship management, website analytics, and social media management will help your business compete in a world increasingly reliant on technology.
But realizing the full power of these solutions, Kahana said, means ensuring that tools are integrated. Disconnected software tools, like a CRM that isn’t integrated with an email marketing tool, can lead to inconsistencies in data and create manual, time-consuming tasks. An integrated suite of tools provides the opposite outcome: better information and customer communication in less time.
“The beauty of all of these technologies is that they have an integration connection that will help you streamline workflows between the systems,” Kahana said. “When your lead gets created, it goes to your email marketing system and it goes to your CRM—and all of that information is tied into your web analytics.”