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Marketing Automation for Small Business: 3 Challenges and How to Fix Them

Marketing automation for small business

Marketing automation tools, while very effective, were not designed for local businesses. There are many well-established providers of marketing automation including Hubspot and Marketo, but they cater to B2B companies and businesses with large marketing departments who manage an influx of leads that come through the web.

As a local business though, let’s say a coffee shop for examples sake, “leads” are everywhere. They’re the person walking past your shop on their way to work. They’re the first-time customer who just moved into the neighborhood and wandered in. They’re the person who frequents the bakery across town.

Where online businesses have website visitors, brick and mortar businesses have actual in-store visitors.

Challenges With Marketing Automation For Small Business

There are other issues at play too, besides the fact that traditional marketing automation software wasn’t built for small businesses.

Merchants Don’t Have Time To Become Sophisticated Marketers

For one, small business owners are busy. The time and required focus it takes to send frequent email campaigns and build their customer lists is challenging. A recent survey by Streetfight in partnership with Thrive Analytics highlighted that 42% of Merchants rate a lack of time as their biggest digital marketing challenge, followed by budget and expertise. While they recognize that digital marketing is effective, they don’t have the time to run their business while also becoming a sophisticated marketer. 

According to a survey by Constant Contact, SMBs spend an average of 33 hours per week on marketing activities, including SEO, online banner ads, website updates, and email newsletters. 

Merchants would love to reduce this time, but only if they were able to do so without decreasing the return they see from existing local campaigns. 

One of the most effective tactics for gathering email addresses is tying email acquisition to loyalty program registrations promoted in-store. Add in marketing automation for small business and you have a pretty powerful tool. Still keeping you on the edge of your seat, aren’t I? Read on.

It’s Expensive

Believe me. I know. I’ve evaluated all of the major marketing automation tools, and been a customer of two of them. While they’re very effective and offer a wide variety of features and functionality, they can be out of reach for small business budgets. Plus, most small businesses don’t require all of the features they’re paying for. Most require hefty implementation fees and some require yearly payment (in the ten thousands) up front. 

Small Businesses Lack The Tools To Measure Marketing Effectiveness

Again, this goes back to not having the time or expertise. Most local small businesses are ill-equipped to measure marketing effectiveness. 58% said they asked their customers directly while only a third said they even tried to determine where every lead came from. Only 55% use some kind of a dashboard, and that’s most often a social media platform. 

The Future Of Marketing Automation For Small Business

Despite these challenges, there is good news. Small businesses recognize the importance and effectiveness of digital and email marketing - they just need the right tools to help them. Again citing the Local Merchant Report, nearly twice as many small businesses use digital marketing techniques like digital advertising (57%) and email (51%) than local newspapers (32%) or YellowPages (31%) and they rate them highest in effectiveness. 

Email marketing is an effective staple in any great digital marketer’s toolkit. According to Noah Elkin, chief product officer at Industry Index and former executive editor at eMarketer, it boils down to customer retention and engagement. “Email continues to be a staple activity among consumers, and as such, it plays a vital role in customer retention and engagement.” 

Email opens on mobile devices have nearly tripled in the last three years. As a result, it’s essential to optimize email marketing campaigns for mobile.  “It also means getting smarter about the data used to personalize email messages, whether that’s identifying the right recipient, crafting the right message for the right device or determining the ideal time to reach that individual,” added Elkin.

Marketing automation tools are now being designed with small business's in mind. Auto-Engage for example, lets local businesses target the right person, at the right time, and in the right format - all based on their customer visit frequency. Here's why local businesses should be investing in marketing automation:

Set it once, and forget it: As discussed, local business owners and operators are too busy to run timely marketing promotions to their customers. After setting it up once, marketing automation will automatically send customers offers based on their visit history. 

Make sure new customers become loyal customers: Remember earlier when I mentioned that customer who just happened to stroll in? The fact is, first time visitors come back for a second visit only 27% of the time. 2nd time visitors return at a 70-80% rate. It's important to provide incentive for first time visitors to return, increasing the chances that they’ll become a loyal customer.

Measurable Results: Say goodbye to guessing how your marketing offers performed. Modern marketing automation platforms let merchants track the number of  customers who received their offer, how many opened the email, and who visited their business to redeem the offer. Closed loop tracking tells you exactly what’s working and what offers customers respond best to.

Have you tried marketing automation at your local business? What have the results been like?

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