What SMBs need to know about Marketing Automation Software: An Interview with Industry Expert Adam Blitzer

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Marketing Automation software has emerged as one of the must haves for SMB marketing professionals.  Combining the functionality of many tools marketers have come to rely upon – email, CRM, search and social media –  into a suite that makes it easy to develop, execute and track marketing programs, it’s no surprise that this category of software is now on the purchase short list of many SMBs.   A recent study by SMB research firm TechAisle indicated Marketing Automation software is among the investment areas for SMBs.

Dell recently added Marketing Automation software from Pardot to the Dell Cloud Business Applications portfolio so I took the opportunity to ask Adam Blitzer, Pardot Co-Founder and COO his perspectives on the emergence of Marketing Automation software for SMBs.

About Adam Blitzer: Adam is the co-founder and COO of Pardot, responsible for product management, marketing, and operations. He is an industry-recognized expert and author in the field of marketing automation and a frequent speaker at industry events such as Dreamforce, SugarCon, and American Marketing Association panels. Below is a summary of Adam’s view on what SMBs need to know about Marketing Automation.

Why is Marketing Automation so interesting for SMBs now?

Marketing automation is still a relatively new technology; so much of the driving force behind the recent surge of interest amongst SMBs is simply the excitement that comes with discovering a new tool that can really help transform the way they do marketing. With the variety of systems out there, marketing automaton is now accessible to both enterprise users and SMBs with more limited resources. Small business budgets are tight, and marketing resources are limited, so everyone is looking for ways to do more with less. Marketing automation is a great way to achieve this goal, not just because automating processes saves time, but also because the analytics available show marketers how to more effectively invest the budget they do have to get bigger returns.

What are the Business Benefits for SMBs that use Marketing Automation?

When we talk to SMB marketers, the loudest trend of all is that there are never enough resources. When it comes down to it, it’s all about operating as simply and efficiently as possible. The results of implementing marketing automation reverberate throughout the organization, impacting day to day marketing and sales operations, as well as speaking the language of ROI that appeals to the C-Level set.

Marketing automation saves time for marketers and sales reps alike. For marketers, streamlining all of their marketing efforts in one central platform is a huge timesaver. Furthermore, advanced reporting features provide insight into which marketing campaigns are yielding results, allowing marketers to focus their efforts on these campaigns rather than guessing blindly at ways to reach qualified leads.

On the sales side of things, tracking features provide detailed insight into the needs and interests of prospects – not only giving the sales rep an edge in a phone conversation but also preventing sales reps from wasting time trying to contact leads that aren’t yet ready to talk.

Cold leads can be placed on an automated lead nurturing track, gradually introducing them to the product while sales reps focus their attention on the hottest leads. Lead nurturing helps recoup a significant amount of marketing investment by reducing lead loss. Often money goes into obtaining new leads, but a large percentage of those leads are never reached by sales – sometimes purely because the timing was off. Gradually nurturing those leads with tailored content can help keep your brand top of mind until they are sales-ready.

By shortening the sales cycle, saving time and streamlining efforts, marketing automation helps small-staffed SMBs to achieve the results of a much larger staff.

There are many marketing software applications in the market, where does Marketing Automation fit?

Marketing automation takes data and functionality from common tools marketers use – email, CRMs and social, among others – and streamlines them in one comprehensive suite, making it easier to see how all of these campaign elements work together. In many cases, you can use these tools from within the platform, sending email blasts or scheduling social media updates, for examples. For other systems, it’s a matter of combining data from the two systems to help you work smarter – like pulling in opportunity data from your CRM to track marketing ROI.

There are a few features that are unique to marketing automation, and may not be covered by any other systems in a marketer’s current toolbox. These shiny new features might include prospect tracking, lead scoring, drip nurturing and ROI reporting. Let’s walk through an example of how these features can work together with more traditional marketing tools like email and social.

When a visitor to your site converts to a prospect, tracking features can pull their activity from before they even filled out the form – all the way back to the keyword search that brought them to your site. From there on out, all of that prospect’s activities (every page on your site that they visit, every one of your emails that they open, even the tweets they click on your company Twitter account) are tracked. These activities can be scored according to customizable requirements, allowing the marketer to determine the activities that indicate a more sales-ready lead. The prospect is then placed on a nurturing track according to their level of interest and understanding, and customizable automation rules allow the marketer to decide which emails they will receive and when. Finally reporting features allow marketers to see how each of their campaigns has performed and draw conclusions on how to further tailor their marketing efforts.

So, essentially, not only does a marketing automation platform bundle all of these common marketing tools (email, social, CRM) in one place, but automation makes them easier to use, prospect tracking makes them more targeted and effective, and, perhaps most importantly, advanced reporting features provide insight into which campaigns are working and which are not.

What does an SMB need to consider when choosing Marketing Automation software?

There are several factors a smaller business should consider when choosing marketing automation software – it is an important investment that requires some research, and there are several great players out there. A marketing automation platform should be easy to use, agile, and robust – and should be backed by great customer service. The biggest factor for SMBs is making sure the system has great training and is simple to use. You don’t want to have to dedicate precious staff resources to figuring out how the heck to run the thing on a daily basis. Finding a vendor that listens to the needs of their customers and that makes them a priority when building out new features is key. And choosing a solution with an SMB focus will ensure that the needs of enterprise companies don’t trump SMB requests. It is also important to find a company that focuses on customer service, so that you can rest assured that if a problem does occur it is dealt with swiftly (and with a smile!).

Why partner with Dell?

Dell gets SMBs, and from our first meeting with Dell, we knew they got Pardot, too. They understand an SMBs’ need to keep costs low while growing revenue – and all with limited resources. They’re dedicated to keeping prices affordable for these smaller businesses, while still maintaining quality. We share these same priorities, so we were very excited to be chosen to join the Dell Cloud Business Applications family of SaaS applications alongside some very good company – Salesforce.com, Adobe EchoSign, AppExtremes Conga Composer and Boomi. It’s important to us to work with other businesses that share our focus and understand the needs of the SMB market.

For more information on the benefits of marketing automation check out:

About the Author: Bill Odell

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