by Patrick Biddiscombe
There are four major trends occurring in this space today:
1. The barrier to entry to implement marketing-automation software is lower than it has ever been before for startups and small businesses. At the same time, the capabilities of the platforms themselves continue to evolve, enabling increased sophistication and segmentation possibilities. This is allowing companies to implement the platforms at an earlier stage and then as they grow the platform is able to scale with them.
2. Due to the aforementioned increase of sophistication, marketing and sales operations have become more important as the platform can now span departments—demand generation, product marketing, customer success, sales ops—in larger companies. Add on the necessity of proper CRM integration in order to track marketing contribution to the pipeline, and the infrastructure required for full usage cannot be underestimated. In some cases, this can even require dedicated management time.
3. Within the marketing team itself, automation has evolved from basic email drip campaigns, where the importance of contextual relevancy continues to increase and is fueled by a marketing content engine.
4. Especially in the software-as-as-service space, marketing automation now plays a role in the customer success team. This can vary from a designated customer success member working within the marketing-automation platform to the integration of customer success–specific automation platforms with marketing software.
With the lower entry cost and increased sophistication of the platforms, startups and small businesses are able to invest early and continue to use the same platforms as they grow. Companies that are investing in content marketing are also able to invest in marketing automation to amplify these efforts at an earlier stage.
Companies must also ensure that if they are making the investment, then the infrastructure is in place on the CRM-side of marketing and sales operations. This way the platforms can be used more effectively with maximized time to value.
Marketing teams are being held to higher and higher standards and must be able to show contributions to the bottom line. This is especially true in high-growth or venture-backed companies. In many regards, having marketing automation tied to a CRM is a prerequisite of this effect.
Companies, even startups, with plans for high growth and scale in the future should invest in marketing automation early so that the infrastructure can scale with the business. These are some of the factors that should be considered and will impact time to value for businesses that are more established or don't have plans for hypergrowth:
- Existing inbound lead velocity: If you have 10–20 leads per month, marketing automation probably doesn’t make sense (yet). However, if you’re generating 10 leads a day from your website, it’s time to invest. Also consider what your potential inbound-lead velocity will be at scale, as it can be easier to implement marketing automation to grow with your company if you anticipate a higher volume over the coming months.
- Employee or vendor resources to manage the platform: This could mean hitting a milestone such as hiring a director of marketing, having $50,000 in monthly recurring revenue and/or a minimum sellable product with more than 10 customers.
- The size of your contact database: If you have 5,000–10,000 contacts that could be nurtured, marketing automation would be a powerful tool.
- Your current website traffic: If you’re generating more than 3,000 unique visits per month, marketing automation may be a good fit.
- Investment in content marketing: Content is the fuel that feeds the marketing-automation engine. If you’re not planning to invest in content creation, an investment in marketing automation will likely be less successful.
- A real understanding of your target audience: If you don’t fully understand it, your marketing efforts might be driving an increase in unqualified traffic only. Take the time to research and understand your audience first.