The key to expanding any business lies in the creation and application of systems that allow expansion of profit producing efforts, while minimizing the increase in energy expenditure of the team members. One area that will really benefit from automation and systematizing efforts is sales and marketing. Let’s face it, it is really inefficient to have a huge team of marketers performing each and every task, every day, when you can have software handle most of the repetitive tasks. Not only is it more efficient, it allows for controlled experimentation as well as quality control.
Here we are going to take a look at some of the considerations one needs to make when considering whether or not to employ sales and marketing automation software. These software packages can handle a huge variety of tasks, including: workflow automation, CRM integration, social media integration, A/B testing, landing page creation, customer targeting, lead nurturing, email marketing, and sales process management. That’s a whole slew of functions crammed into one piece of software, so you can see the power of leveraging software to make your team more productive.
Before we start listing off some of the least expensive marketing software solutions, let’s take a look at when to use marketing automation software.
Don’t use too much too soon
One mistake that could be made is the application of this software too early in the life of the business. A lot of this software is focused on the middle of the funnel, after you have already acquired the leads. If you don’t have a large basis of leads to work with, then the software you are just going to be trying to squeeze as much as you can out of each and every single lead. Of course, this can be bad for business long term, as customers don’t like being constantly marketed to – they are people, too, you know.
If you don’t have a solid lead generation process in place before you deploy your software, you will quickly run into the following problem: how to deal with lead turnover. If you have a large percentage of your leads evaporating every month (through email unsubscribes, etc.) then your marketing automation software isn’t going to do much good for your middle funnel efforts. You need to have in place a strong lead generation system, right off the bat.
Some people may counter “well, what about just buying a list of leads”? Sure, this is one option, but is it really a good one? What are the consequences? For starters, people don’t like getting spam email, and seeing your business name associated with spam can have fear reaching negative consequences for your business. Beyond that, email filters will begin to associate your sending IP address with spam, which will hurt your business long term.
The moral of the story here is that you can’t rely on automation software alone, or too soon in the building of your business. You need to have a solid organic lead generation system in place first, so that you can take advantage of all the software has to offer.
Good vs. Bad Software
So, we know that the timing of deploying software is important, but what about the software itself? What qualities go into the best customer relationship management software (aka sales and automation software)? Like almost everything in business, the distinction between good and bad is going to center around the focus of the software. If the software is strictly focused on meeting the needs of the marketing firm, then it’s not going to be very effective in the long term. If it’s focused on meeting the needs of the customer of the marketing firm, then it’s going to be a winner.
Traditionally, email marketing automation meant triggering a sequence of emails based on some action taken by the prospective customer. They sign up for a list, so the software starts sending out a series of emails with information the customer may or may not want.
Another way to approach sales and marketing automation is inbound lead automation. Here, we use all the information available about the prospect to deliver them the information they want and need, to help them make a purchase. This is much more customer centric, and will actually be a big turn on for customers.
The best CRM software will take into account the needs of your leads and the interactions you have with your customers across all of your marketing avenues (blog, social media, YouTube, etc.). This information will be used to understand the needs of the customers and how those needs can be met by your business. This approach is less email centric, and gives much higher quality information about your leads. This is the way we want to go!
When is it time to use marketing automation or CRM software?
As we suggested above, using the software right off the bat probably isn’t the best idea. Your business should start out doing things the old fashioned way, and then consider employing some fancy software later on, when you will be able to get the most out of it. Some questions to ask yourself when making this decision are:
Is the sales team in over their heads with the sheer volume of leads you’re handing them?
Do you have a strategy that matches up with your customers’ journey?
Are you tracking everything you can about your leads?
Most importantly, do you have a proven lead nurturing system that you want to scale?
If you can answer affirmatively to these questions, then it’s a great sign that you may strongly benefit from using some sales and marketing automation software. Before you dive right in, though, you need to consider a couple of caveats:
The marketing software doesn’t do a great job of lead generation for you – you will still need your organic system
You must focus your marketing efforts on the actual person you are trying to get to buy your products – don’t forget your avatar!
In other words, the software can’t do everything for you and you must always consider the fact that you are dealing with real people. If you forget either of these two points, the software isn’t going to do what you need, and you’re ultimately going to backslide.
So I’m ready for marketing automation – which software should I use?
There are a number of inexpensive packages one can use. Cheap marketing automation software, or even free automation software, is out there and some of them are quite good. We’ll give you a bird’s eye view of a number of software packages so you can get started in your search for the best marketing automation software for your business.
Please remember that your number one priority is to keep your end customers in mind, at all times. Using this software isn’t a silver bullet to all your marketing problems, and won’t make up for a bad customer experience in the first place. Always nurture your leads like you would want to be treated, and this software can help your business expand and grow with little personnel overhead.
This software package does a little bit of everything, and has a catchy name at that. A Hungarian based company, they offer some complete functionality for free, as long as you are below 400 emails a month and one user. This can be expanded all the way up to a couple million emails a month at a cost of thousands of dollars per month. It can do all of the following:
Integrated email, SMS, and direct mail
Sales process management
Automated marketing campaigns
Call center integration
Built in CRM
Built in e-commerce
Surveys and polls
As you can see, this is full featured software that can duplicate the efforts of a large team of people. This is a great resource for small businesses who want to scale their operations, without having to scale their team.
Another great piece of software that comes to you at no cost is Aquazua. It’s a sort of hybrid program that does a little bit of everything, so it can help you augment your marketing team on many fronts at the same time. It does some sales, marketing, and some customer service. It features
Automation of workflows
It starts out free and can go up to a modest $250 / month or more.
Originally designed by a marketing firm to meet their own needs, you can have this software for starting at around $40 a month. This is quite affordable, so let’s take a look at the features it provides
Visitor identification (through IP address)
Live web chat
Automated notifications and follow ups
Social media integration
As you can see, there is a huge variety of software packages out there to help you automate your sales and marketing campaigns. They handle many of the features that a team of people would do, at a fraction of the price. This is great for small businesses who want to scale their efforts without scaling their payroll. Please keep in mind the fundamental rules of doing business, however!
Always be generating leads organically, so that you have a consistent and high quality stream of prospective customers. Treat them like people, because well, they are, and always try to provide them with the best experience possible. While it may be tempting to upgrade to software automation really early in your business, doing so can be harmful to your business as it could damage your brand, or associate your sending IP with spam email. Realize that software isn’t a replacement for these fundamentals, and won’t do you any good if your business doesn’t have them down. Once you do, however, there are quite a few packages available.
Some of them are free! This is the best price, of course. Free and cheap crm software is a great thing, as it allows you to test the software without expending too much capital. Once you find something you like, you can upgrade to a paid package and really start to scale your efforts. The payoff from investing in a good sales and marketing automation system will be over a period of years, and your business will thank you for it later!
Latest posts by Brandon Fallon (see all)
- Don’t Fear the Dentist! - May 4, 2016
- Build your Future with Construction Management Software - April 10, 2016
- The Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2016 - March 18, 2016