Marketing automation for the little guy is helping to power the new economy
Just because startups and freelancers lack dedicated marketing departments, it doesn't mean they can't take advantage of marketing automation. Contributor Mary Wallace outlines the emerging opportunities.
The internet, coupled with mobile devices, has provided a fulcrum for an escalating number of aspiring entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. Because of these technical advances, entrepreneurs offering everything from outdoor landscaping to speech writing can represent themselves in a cost-effective way.
In fact, over 33 percent of the entire American workforce is involved in some type of freelance work, according to an in-depth report by Spera undertaken last year. (Registration required.) Either they’ve been laid off, they are an expert, or they are looking for additional income.
To be a success as a freelancer or entrepreneur in this environment, a laser focus on creating the best possible product or service and getting it to market are a must. Marketing and business expert Seth Godin cautions that the focus must be on shipping the product or service rather than on listening to others or waffling on the administrative details (like marketing) of running the business.
But to whom do you ship? Without a reliable client base, there is no need for the product to be shipped and there is no business. Entrepreneurs need to be able to uncover, engage and nurture prospective clients. Developing both customer understanding and amazing content are the initial pieces to the puzzle of business success, and getting that amazing content in front of customers and prospects is the next piece to put into place.
Marketing automation requirements for startups
Getting the right content to the right customers is what marketing automation tools do best. Think beyond email service providers (ESP) like Vertical Response and Mail Chimp, which have limited functionality, to true automation platforms like Eloqua and Marketo.
Historically, though, this kind of technology was not a viable option for startups. InfusionSoft CEO Clate Mask told VentureBeat, “Most vendors in the sales and marketing SaaS industry are gunning for the enterprise clients and their products show it …”
That’s because traditionally a marketing automation platform presented too many hurdles:
- Marketing automation works best when there is an entire marketing department to take advantage of its functionality.
- Marketing automation solutions are expensive.
- Marketing automation contracts extend over a period of time, in some cases spanning multiple years.
Thankfully, there are more options available today, with marketing automation solutions like ActOn, InfusionSoft and GetResponse that are available for entrepreneurs. These solutions provide functionality that’s similar to that of the leading marketing automation platforms, but without the barriers:
- They are simple to use. There is limited setup required, and technical experts are not needed to administer back-end processing.
- Limited effort is needed to keep campaigns running.
- The solutions are scalable as the business grows.
Simon Grabowski, CEO of GetResponse, told me, “We saw this need and designed our new marketing automation solution to be both easy in functionality and advanced in capabilities. The mindset was to let any small business owner launch a complex automated campaign with the use of visual workflows.”
Because of these new tools, entrepreneurs can now effectively market their solutions without appearing like the corner mom and pop shop… unless, of course, they want to. Through these small startup-sized marketing automation platforms, they can see who their prospects are, uncover what they are interested in and communicate with them based on their needs.
By creating emails and landing pages with prebuilt templates, they can quickly begin a thoughtful yet automated communication with future and existing clients. Lead nurturing and a quantifiable method for viewing lead quality help them focus on prospects who are ready to buy instead of wasting valuable time talking to leads who are not ready or not interested.
Like other business leaders, entrepreneurs who use these tools have an advantage over their competition. According to a Regalix study reported upon by eMarketer, they are more likely to see improved lead management and nurturing, see measurable results and develop enhanced targeting and personalization.
Marketing automation empowers business growth
Marketing automation has been liberated for the entrepreneurs behind the new economy. It is no longer just for large companies who have well-staffed marketing departments.
“There is a big trend in the martech, fintech and adtech world of more companies creating tools for the rising demand of entrepreneurs,“ Itai Elizur, a content marketing expert for small businesses, told me.
This is much-needed good news. The slimmed-down cloud-based marketing automation solutions, like workshare offices and SaaS-based accounting solutions, empower small businesses to better compete on equal footing with enterprises.
Now entrepreneurs can easily harness the power of marketing automation while keeping their focus on what matters. And what matters is shipping the product.