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The marketing of products and services in this era of globalization and internet communications is challenging businesses in new and complex ways. But Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management tools are providing businesses in every industry with some important assistance. For although certain truisms of marketing remain the same as they have since the beginning of commerce, such as – “people do business with those they know and trust,” “word of mouth is the best advertising” and “80% of company profits are produced by 20% of its customers,” the way businesses attract, build customer relationships and retain them long term, has changed enormously over the last 15 years.

For example, consider the difference that social media has made to marketing today.

Facebook was born in 2004 and within a little over a decade it has transformed the way people connect, communicate and get information on just about everything.  Since all of these activities are essential to marketing it’s not surprising that social media platforms have completely changed the way we buy and sell things forevermore.

Here are some factoids that published recently in an article about social media. They clearly demonstrate that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ are playing an increasingly significant role in marketing and brand development today.

  • 81 percent of respondents to a Forbes survey indicated posts from their friends and family directly influence their purchase decisions.
  • 38 percent of moms are more likely to buy products from brands that other women ‘Like’ on Facebook.
  • 78 percent of people say that a company’s social media posts impact their purchase decision.
  • 9 out of 10 users watch videos about the tech products they buy.
  • 50 percent of social media purchases take place within a week and 80 percent of purchases take place within 3 weeks of users marking an item as a favorite.

Globalization and increased media channels make it harder for small businesses to compete.

Even if you don’t want to sell your products overseas, your customers can still buy from foreign companies over the internet. That means – like it or not – your business is part of a global market.  So whatever you do, whatever industry you’re in, every marketing dollar you spend has to work harder today than it ever has before. That’s true whether you’re spending those dollars on print ads or copy content, broadcast spots or email marketing, social media or billboards.  Because not only has your competition increased but so have your media choices. You have to reach out to larger audiences and contact them more often, just to keep pace with, let alone overcome other companies. Yet to be most effective, your marketing still has to connect with your target market in ways that specifically appeal to them.  Beginning to feel overwhelmed? No wonder!

Fortunately, there are now new electronic programs that can help you cut these challenges down to size – marketing automation and customer relationship management or CRM for short.

What is Marketing Automation?

In a recent article published in, David Taber gives an excellent description of what Marketing Automation and CRM systems do and how they differ from each other. “Marketing automation is all about low-cost, effective communication with prospects, which means email and social media communications.  Every marketing automation system starts with basic email blasting and adds tons of features designed to facilitate beautiful, effective mail sequences on an industrial scale.  In order to improve email effectiveness, the marketing automation system includes templates for the mails and campaign designers to provide a clear, consistent path for the customer as their level of interest and information evolves. The customer journey from awareness through interest to desire and finally to action is explicitly mapped, with content and calls to action tuned for each branch in that journey.” 

Customer relationship management systems, on the other hand, are founded in sales force automation (SFA).

As Taber explains, “While both marketing automation and CRM systems operate on leads, contacts, and companies, they work in very different contexts.  The marketing automation is almost entirely focused on leads.  In contrast, the SFA user sees leads as important only in the short term. The successful sales reps using it will be working on deals (opportunities) and talking with contacts (leads that have been fully qualified and promoted or converted). So CRM systems must support the following sales business processes:

  • Lead qualification
  • Early sales cycle (including demos and call scheduling)
  • Forecasting and pipeline management
  • Quote generation and order configuration
  • Order confirmation and fulfillment
  • Contract establishment and termination
  • Ongoing account management
  • Renewals and repeat orders

Marketing automation and CRM perform functions that frequently overlap to some extent.

Between them, you’ll find it much easier and cost-efficient to accomplish three important goals:

  • To keep your brand and products in front of your entire customer base on a frequent basis
  • To identify the prospects most likely to become customers
  • To convert contacts into sales-ready prospects

Yet these tools are not always designed to serve the needs of smaller businesses.

As a rule, Marketing automation and CRM systems are built to deal in large universes of customers. But if your business involves marketing to hundreds versus thousands, these tools may have some serious drawbacks. For one thing, they represent a considerable upfront investment of money, time and effort.  In addition, they’re not really designed to provide smaller companies with the kind of information that would be most useful to them.

According to Rick Carlson, founder and President of SharpSpring, an innovative Marketing Automation system, while CRM systems such as Sales Force and Google Analytics, can tell marketers a lot about the effectiveness of their inbound online marketing and account management activities, they are not as effective when it comes to tracking offline and outbound activities. And that’s where smaller businesses tend to spend the greater portion of their marketing dollars.

How solving a problem for one company led to a new system that can help many.

As managing director of various small to medium size businesses through the years, Carlson appreciated the challenges that these companies face competing against each other and large corporations. It was this firsthand experience that Carlson cites as his inspiration to develop SharpSpring.  As Carlson explains, “…over the years of managing SMBs… we’d be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on outbound marketing activities to drive leads to the sales team, but we’d have zero visibility into what was working and, more importantly, what wasn’t.” To solve this dilemma Carlson “took another look at the analytics in a different way and developed a whole different approach to tracking results. The transformation,” he recalls, “was nothing short of stunning. Within a month, we were able to cut our cost per lead in half and within three months sales were up 80%. Plus, we could see exactly where we were getting the best return on our marketing dollars – and it wasn’t costing us a fortune to extract that information.”

Wanting to share the benefits of this new system with others, Carlson and his team developed SharpSpring, as “a full-blown solution that could bring the same low-cost, high-value results to other businesses.”

Here are the three main benefits that Marketing Automation systems like SharpSpring offer small businesses.

Marketing Automation provides vital campaign data.

Having the right information about your audience, their reaction to your marketing efforts and how quickly those efforts are producing significant ROI, can be the difference between making a profit or suffering a loss. Systems like SharpSpring provide this data consistently and constantly, enabling even start-ups on limited budgets to:

  • Track email performance
  • Measure the effectiveness of each marketing campaign
  • Monitor how leads are reacting to campaigns
  • Track the traffic on designated sites
  • Prove the ROI of specific marketing efforts

This means that even a company with a relatively small budget can track what works and what doesn’t so they can put their dollars where they’ll have the best effect on the bottom line.

Marketing Automation makes it easier to personalize your message.

Why is that important? For several reasons. Personalized messages are more likely to get opened, read and acted upon. But don’t take our word for it.  Check out the observations below from various data companies and information resources to prove this point, starting with this bar chart borrowed from Accenture below:

  • Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%. – Aberdeen
  • 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement. – eConsultancy
  • Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. – Campaign Monitor
  • Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates. – Experian
  • Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue. – DMA
  • Automated email messages average 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than “business as usual” marketing messages. – Epsilon Email Institute

Last, but least, automation not only helps you attract new customers, it helps you retain current ones.

Anyone in sales and marketing knows that getting new customers isn’t nearly as profitable as selling to the ones you already have. According to, retaining 5% more of your customers can increase your profits by up to 95%! But how can you find the time, energy and money to reach out to new customers while building customer loyalty with your current customer base – and run your business, too?

This is the kind of thing automated marketing was created for. For example, SharpSpring, the marketing automation system we use and recommend, nurtures the customer relationship through cross-sells and upsells. It allows you to set up a schedule when personalized messages are sent out and then monitors customer behavior so you see which messages to continue with and which to change. This feedback is critical and allows you to strengthen your sales pitch and your brand constantly.

In addition, SharpSpring has found that “triggered messaging is a perfect way to suggest testimonials, ask for product reviews and send referral incentives.” Imagine being able to highlight a glowing customer review on your website or social media with a minimal amount of time and effort to attract new prospects. This is a truly cost-efficient way to acquire, nurture and close the best leads.

Have we convinced you to consider Marketing Automation yet?

If so, please contact us so we can tell you more about how this new tool might help you. And if not, maybe you should read this blog again – because we think you might be missing out on a way to make your business grow – a lot![/text_output][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Michele Allen

With over 30 years of design and marketing experience, I founded Crux in 2005, a 360° Creative and Marketing Agency, catering to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and non-profits. Specializing in experiential spaces, museums, brand development, and digital marketing, I excel in crafting memorable experiences while emphasizing the significance of authentic brand communication. I offer expertise in Brand Development, Trade Show Exhibits, Museums, Corporate Spaces, Interactives & VR/AR, and Digital Marketing, committed to tailored support and guidance.