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While it is incredibly useful, Marketing Automation Software isn’t the sexiest of tech.
MA needs to be solid and dependable. It can align sales with marketing, it can help personalise content, but it isn’t likely to rank alongside the iPad in the wider consciousness anytime soon.
In short, it has an image problem. This may not seem like a huge concern, but it is contributing to a slow uptake by a hugely important market sector: SMEs
Whether you are a vendor or an internal marketer looking to streamline processes, selling marketing automation, both the concept and the software itself, can be an uphill struggle.
Small-to-midsize businesses might not have the endless chequebooks of the mega-concerns who initially championed automation, but the sheer number of SMEs makes them an attractive target to vendors, and their agile business models are ideally suited to benefit from automation and increased integration.
Unfortunately, there's often a lack an understanding regarding how smaller businesses function on a day-to-day basis, even from some internal departments.
Vendors tend to promote solutions based on mass marketing models, whereas most SMEs will prospect on a highly targeted level, meaning that knowledge of individual customers can be more important than saving time through enterprise-level automation.
It’s a shame, as this valuable information is usually available but is often segmented by software, filed away as a CRM function which isn’t made available to Sales, so they end up with a different view of things compared to Marketing.
This is a huge problem; complete access to the bigger picture has become essential as teams integrate and job lines blur.
MA software really does need to have a more robust analytics capability, with granular information available to all users. This means that there’s a reluctance to adopt the technology, despite the advantages it can offer.
The reasons behind this are straightforward enough. For one thing, most buyers aren't fluent in marketing-speak.
Indeed, some recent surveys have shown that many feel marketing teams are unreliable because of their failure to measure and report campaign success accurately.
This isn't to say that marketers aren't filling out their reports properly, merely that there's still a tendency to cram in the odd buzzword and esoteric measurement that won't impress those outside the marketing sphere.
These people don’t really care about the mysterious arts of engagement and emotional response, they care about making money.
If you want to sell them on marketing automation, you need to show how it will realistically affect business costs and conversion.
Approaching the problem strategically
Automation needs to be matched to business goals and tied directly into the prospecting process.
Vendors and marketers should start talking about ways automation processes can increase leads, and show exactly how personalisation can increase conversion.
Come armed with case studies, not buzzwords.
In addition, most SMEs probably won’t see automation software as essential, and they probably won’t have read up on the latest advances in the field. Just finding the time to listen to your pitch is a significant investment for many, so don’t waste it by being overly salesy or simply reeling off uninformative technical details. Instead, look at providing practical examples.
How can automation software make them money? That’s your elevator pitch.
You also won't find readily available research budgets, so show off the short-term benefits first.
Show how you can redirect customer focus so that they really pay attention to high margin products, and ways to reduce expenditure on individual sales. How quickly will the software pay for itself if it’s used properly?
Underline its ease of use. It should have a straightforward, intuitive UI so it can be put straight to work with minimal resourcing.
Overall, pitching to an SME is about realising that they may have very limited resources. Most of the people you’ll be speaking to will be an expert in their field, but it’s unlikely that the field is marketing.
Marketing automation can ultimately provide fantastic long-term returns, helping with expansion strategies and overall growth, but in order to convince smaller businesses that it's worth experimenting with, make sure you can show the quick returns too.
It doesn’t matter how shiny and lovely the product is, if you can’t demonstrate raw ROI then you could be dead in the water.