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Social Media Management Is A Low Priority For SMBs Trying Out Marketing Automation

Contact management, email marketing, and lead tracking are the main things these first-time buyers of marketing automation systems want.

As small-to-medium sized business prepare to buy their first marketing automation software systems, a report by Gartner research unit Software Advice finds that the primary interest lies in managing lists of suppliers and customers, email blasts, and new business leads.

In a random selection of 365 of Software Advice representatives’ phone interactions with SMBs, nearly three-quarters cited contact management as the main focus for purchasing marketing automation software, while more than half wanted to better manage their email outreach. About 43 percent were looking to marketing automation to better track leads.

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Luke Wallace

This represents a readiness on the part of SMBs to streamline their digital marketing capabilities, and to use reporting and analytics tools within the software to deepen their understanding of what leads generate sales both online and in-store.

“Marketing automation can be used to send target audiences personalized emails, tailored discounts and relevant product suggestions well before the point of sale,” said Software Advice’s Luke Wallace, who authored the report. “This piques their interest and begins to build the brand relationship. When customers do arrive to shop, they are then more apt to be in a sales-ready state.”

Furthermore, marketing automation promises ease and efficiency when it comes to contact management, list segmentation, A/B testing of web pages, email marketing, and performance measurement.

Does Software Belong With Social?

Wallace was unsurprised by SMBs interest in the software, but he noted an interesting trend when it came to SMBs’ automation requests.

“While most buyers still request [some] traditional marketing functionality — email marketing and/or drip-campaign capabilities, for example — only 4 percent request social-media marketing functionality,” Wallace said. “At first glance, this seems surprising. However, with so many social-media marketing fails circling the headlines, it’s quite possible that many first-time marketing automation software buyers are wary of entering this space.”

Since so many customers interact with brands on social media — more than two-thirds of customers buy from the brands they follow on Twitter — this hesitancy could hurt some SMBs in the long run. But Angela Hausman, owner of digital media marketing company Huasman and Associates, provides another perspective.

“Asking for social media marketing, specifically, might be taking a step back from where they currently are in their thinking,” Hausman said in the report. But on the other hand, she noted, some buyers are simply wary of social media marketing altogether.

In other words, the way that marketers see the social media space is shifting. They’re moving away from the idea that social media marketing is a “siloed” activity, and they could be taking a more holistic view of digital marketing, where social media is just one of many integrated components.

This approach is much more in line with today’s integrated, cross-screen world, and it is perhaps a worthy example for businesses that are fearful of social media marketing to follow.

Hausman advised companies that are eager to improve their social media marketing to avoid being “button-pushers,” and to instead take an active role in communicating with consumers on social media. It’s okay to push out some automated social posts as long as the bulk of the interactions retain the touch of something personal.

“The takeaway is that social media isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ environment,” she said. “The whole idea of social media is to be social.”

Balancing Personalization And Automation

The report makes clear that interest in marketing automation is growing, and that SMBs stand to reap significant benefits for boosting their digital marketing efficiency.

The key will be to ensure that they run integrated, cross-screen campaigns going forward — and that they add social media to the mix while still being careful to keep it personal, as consumers will only respond to digital marketing that delivers authentic experiences and communication that directly addresses their expressed interests.

“Where some marketers run into trouble is that they fail to make note of the context surrounding consumer behavior before incorporating it into personalization schemes [with automation],” Wallace said. “Then, some end up seeming insensitive. Hands down, empathy and a human element are essential to keeping personalization creep-free and feel-good.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of GeoMarketing.com. A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.