One of the biggest difficulties of running a small business is too many tasks for too few employees. Large organizations can afford separate sales and marketing departments and budgets; small companies cannot. Often, just one or two people are responsible for all sales and marketing tasks, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to complete all the necessary tasks. Without creative marketing efforts, however, small companies don’t have much hope of competing with larger businesses.
Areas to Start with Automated Marketing for Small Business
Luckily, marketing technology (“martech”) solutions for small businesses have come a long way. Marketing automation solutions  can eliminate the need for humans to perform certain tasks — most notably email marketing  and social media monitoring — allowing small businesses to streamline their efforts for maximum results in creating valuable leads. The most important ways marketing automation can help include:
- Creating and sending emails automatically;
- Scoring and ranking of leads to maximize productivity;
- Social media monitoring; and
- Dynamic content creation.
Creating and Sending Emails Automatically
Email is one of the most cost-effective ways to communicate with customers and prospects, but it has high failure rates when done improperly. Text-heavy emails have poor open rates, so companies are increasingly adding graphics, animation and even video to their emails.
Doing this manually, however, requires a lot of skills and time that small businesses simply don’t have. A drag-and-drop email template designer, which is often part of an email marketing automation solution, can help people without graphics or coding skills build eye-catching, dynamic emails and newsletters that result in vastly improved open rates.
Once companies create their emails with the help of a template designer, they can designate when these emails are sent, either to begin a campaign or follow up on the actions of prospects and customers. Did a customer or prospect click on a link to your website to view a white paper? Your marketing automation solution can take the next logical step, inviting the customer to further action or providing content of value (a relevant case study, for example, or a “how to” YouTube video).
Email marketing automation solutions such as Apptivo  allow you to easily create email marketing campaigns and set up business rules to perform automatic actions based on a wide variety of trigger events.
Scoring and Ranking of Leads
Many marketing automation solutions have extensive lead management features. They will track each email sent, allowing companies to know who opened or clicked on links. Using this information, the software can identify the highest value leads, automatically putting them to the top of the priority list for salespeople to nurture. While you can’t nurture every lead, you can focus your efforts on the ones that are most likely to lead to a sale, according to Daniel Newman writing for Entrepreneur .
“Marketing automation can help you manage redirects when someone has left an item in an online shopping cart and even send product discounts or other incentives if a customer fails to buy after your first reminder,” wrote Newman. “It’s all based on a series of simple ‘if/when’ statements you establish when you create your campaign.”
It’s also worth looking for a solution that allows you to easily analyze all your marketing efforts in an easy-to-read graphical interface that helps problem areas stand out visually, and eliminates the need to compile manual reports and updates on campaigns. Apptivo’s solution provides an easy-to-read graphical dashboard that reports on the health of a campaign at a glance.
Social Media Monitoring
Social media is like a Swiss army knife with about 900 tools: you know there are some gadgets on it that will help you with digital marketing, but you also know there are a lot of tools that are irrelevant to your business and your customers. Trying each one out, however, will waste time and money you don’t have.
A good social media marketing automation tool allows you to identify and pinpoint the posts most relevant to you. It can help you know what to listen for and where and respond quickly and effectively. Solutions such as Hootsuite  allow small businesses to track, analyze, and respond to the most relevant online conversations about their brands and their industries, according to Hootsuite’s Christina Newberry.
“The exact keywords and topics you monitor will likely evolve as you learn (from social listening) what language people use when they talk about your business and what sorts of insights are most useful for your business,” she wrote.
The most critical keywords and topics to monitor include your brand name, your product names, your competitors and their brand names, industry buzzwords, the names of key people in your company and your competitors’ companies and your branded hashtags. By tracking these things, companies can be surprisingly effective in social media marketing with relatively few resources.
Dynamic Content Creation
So you’ve got your contacts sorted out, and you’re in possession of the tools to create and distribute great emails and social media posts. What content should you provide? While content creation probably can’t be automated, there are tools that help reduce some of the pain by helping you understand where to focus your efforts.
Epictions EpicBeat  and BuzzSumo  are content aggregation tools that explore what’s trending in real time across industries and consumer areas and rank the topics by what’s trending the highest. You can sort by topic, time of day (certain topics are in greater demand at different times of day) and geographical location to better understand where you should focus your efforts to create popular and shareable content that’s most likely to go viral.
The ways marketing automation can help a small business go beyond simple elimination of repetitive tasks. Used in the long term, marketing automation solutions can improve the value of your company’s contact database, building up a core of knowledge that can help you make smarter business decisions and amplify the positive results of your marketing efforts.
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