A Match Made in Heaven – CRM & Marketing Automation

By Joe Greenspan, VP of Commercial Operations, Act!

Anyone who runs a small business knows that the job involves wearing many hats. These entrepreneurs are CEOs, customer service representatives, bookkeepers, salespeople, product engineers, and everything in between. This constant versatility makes for long days, but is crucial for a small business to survive in a highly competitive landscape. According to US Census Bureau business formation statistics, nearly 5.4 million applications were filed to form new businesses last year. That’s the most of any year on record, and a 53 percent jump from 2019, before the start of the pandemic. This explosive growth highlights the increasing competition small business owners will continue to face.

The disruption caused by the pandemic has obviously taken a large toll on small businesses, shifting customer expectations and behavior, and leaving overworked entrepreneurs and employees in a place where they’re looking to adapt their business to survive. Sales and marketing are two other areas where it is particularly important for small business owners to lean in and maintain focus, but optimizing these areas is no small feat. Sales is the lifeblood of any company, but it can be challenging to keep an ever-growing list of clients straight while giving new leads the time and attention they deserve. Marketing can be seen as a “time suck” that consumes cycles and delivers underwhelming results, or as a luxury reserved for bigger companies with dedicated resources. Fortunately, technology solutions exist to help even the smallest companies “punch above their weight” for both of these growth drivers.

In our increasingly digital world, an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution can be the beating heart of a small business sales operation as it centralizes client data and documents interactions, enabling them to be leveraged in order to advance customer lifecycles. Having all the information needed to support sales and customer relations in one place is a time saver for always busy entrepreneurs, and the creation of persistent records means it’s easy to get up to speed. And the benefits of CRM are not limited to boosting efficiency. The software can also help nurture leads. CRM’s ability to track every touchpoint with a prospect means small businesses won’t be second guessing when they last reached out, and the delicate steps that lead to sales conversion can be tracked so businesses can send their prospects the right follow up messages at the right time.

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As more small businesses leveraged CRM over the last 20 years, solution providers realized that CRM in concert with marketing automation could help businesses check two very big boxes off their operational to-do list. An integrated marketing automation and CRM platform means small business leaders don’t have to be a pro to easily generate powerful insights from their customer data. Data ranging from web traffic to email click-throughs can be synthesized and served up in a simple and easy to understand format. Marketing automation can also help generate leads. Creating something as simple as a newsletter sign-up or lead capture web form can help gather prospect data. When that data is fed into a fully integrated marketing and CRM platform, it is quick and easy to set up follow-ups like phone calls and emails. Once a customer is in the ecosystem, marketing automation tools can also be used to help manage that relationship by triggering automatic email outreach, scheduling follow-up phone calls, and sending relevant surveys based on recent services. In addition to saving a small business owner time, all of these interactions also create a better, more seamless customer experience. That kind of attention from a business can drive an uptick in repeat customers and help lengthen the customer lifecycle so a business earns more from each customer. Even better, these objectives can be achieved while a small business owner maintains a personalized human connection with a customer in a fraction of the time it would take to do the individual outreach.

For small business owners, there is no asset more valuable than time. With the many hats they are required to wear to keep the lights on, investing in a full-scale marketing program can seem intimidating or unrealistic. And while sales are often the heartbeat of a business, finding ways to spend less time nurturing every lead can seem like a daunting, if not impossible, task. Fortunately, investing in CRM software with fully integrated marketing automation, creates an easy-to-use pathway that can help with expanding and energizing customer relationships and engaging and nurturing new ones. Securing all customer data in one place empowers small business owners to access marketing intelligence to drive new offerings, deliver targeted loyalty programs that connect with customers, and run promotions that are more likely to help their business grow. CRM and marketing automation solutions should be considered two halves of the growth equation, and when the two are fully integrated, businesses can take advantage of automated workflows to accelerate the sales process and build more loyal customer relationships, making more money and investing less time.

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