Near the end of 2017, ActiveCampaign released findings from its SMB Martech Report: Beyond Email Marketing. In recent years, martech has evolved rapidly, and become more accessible thanks to cloud software and improved tool integration.
For small to medium businesses (SMBs), this means a chance to be on equal footing with brands that have historically enjoyed the benefits of greater budgets, resources and access when it comes to marketing technology and advertising.
Based on the research, ActiveCampaign thinks marketing automation technology will be the tool small businesses use as they “graduate” from email marketing. Of course, those brands will have a lot to learn, and this report is designed to help SMBs succeed as they advance beyond email marketing.
SMBs: Ready for Martech, but Will Face a Learning Curve
The four key findings in the report illustrate where SMBs are along the path to martech and marketing automation adoption:
- Seventy-six percent of SMBs use multiple marketing software tools. Yet, almost half remain unfamiliar with the concept of marketing technology stacks (the group of tech tools a brand uses to execute marketing strategy). At the same time, more than one-third of SMBs think marketing software provides benefits, and plan to increase investments in it. Thirty percent of small businesses have struggled with marketing software, and 16 percent find martech intimidating.
- Sixty-four percent of SMBs using email marketing will incorporate automation within two years (only 30 percent are doing so right now). Eighty-two percent of SMBs already using email either use marketing automation now, or plan to within the next five years.
- Forty percent of SMB marketers see automation as out of reach. Just over one-quarter of current software users find it too complex. Interestingly, 85 percent of SMBs using marketing automation think they’re leveraging its full capabilities, yet more than half only use its most basic functions.
- Companies with 10 to 49 employees are where marketing automation really begins to take root, with an adoption rate of 30 percent. Companies with 100 or more employees are seeing adoption rates of nearly 50 percent.
Small and Medium Businesses are Ready to Graduate from Email to Marketing Automation
A certain level of fear and tension is understandable when expanding beyond email marketing. Even when SMBs see the value of incorporating marketing automation, they see several solutions as out of reach.
Still, many of these brands are building martech stacks without even realizing it (as stated earlier, over three-quarters use more than one martech tool). Fortunately, the more tools a brand adopts, the more familiar it becomes with the concept of a martech stack.
Brands using more tools also have an easier time describing their martech stacks – overall, about 75 percent of SMBs know how to describe what they’re using. So, what are they using? All-in-one solutions and integrated best-of-breed stacks are used at about the same rate, while fragmented stacks are somewhat less popular.
Over 90 percent of SMBs track the return on investment (ROI) of their martech solutions. As they continue to see the added value of these tools, ActiveCampaign predicts greater adoption of the integrated best-of-breed stacks.
SMBs can ease their fears of martech adoption by planning for future integration. An investment roadmap breaks adoption into more digestible tasks. Despite the learning curve, smaller brands can be confident that martech will become easier the more they dive into it.
It makes sense that SMBs would begin with email marketing, figuring out a basic strategy before trying more advanced options. Right now, 47 percent of SMBs using email marketing also use customer relationship management (CRM) software, and 30 percent of them use marketing automation.
ActiveCampaign sees this as a natural progression, especially considering that only 7 percent take on email marketing and marketing automation at the same time.
Fortunately, 85 percent of SMBs who do incorporate marketing automation into their martech stacks see results within a year. Sixty-one percent say it’s contributed to moderate growth. While only 40 percent of email-only SMB marketers rate their strategy as “good” or “excellent,” a full 80 percent of those using marketing software feel their strategies are that beneficial.
It’s wise for SMBs to not bite off more than they can chew, but email marketing and marketing automation must be seen as a package deal for the future. This becomes more realistic when brands look for best-of-breed tools for integration, rather than all-in-one solutions.
As mentioned earlier, 40 percent of SMBs feel marketing automation is out of reach. Unfamiliarity, cost and not knowing where to start are among the main reasons.
Much of this is validated by the brands already using marketing automation. Complexity is a primary obstacle to getting the full value out of chosen solutions, along with a lack of time. These things hold marketers back from moving beyond email automation to customer service, content and mobile efforts.
To build confidence and ROI, brands should take advantage of support offered by martech vendors. They should also test and experiment internally to work out the kinks of individual tools. Finally, seeking out tech-savvy new hires means finding ideal candidates for mastering the martech stack.
What Moves SMBs from Email to Marketing Automation?
Customer acquisition and revenue growth drive SMB martech adoption, but they aren’t the only things leading to this advancement. Company size is an important factor as well.
Solo entrepreneurs tend to use just one marketing software tool, and 30 percent don’t even use the email marketing software they have.
SMBs with 10 to 49 employees, however, use marketing suites at a rate of 41 percent, adopt marketing automation at 29 percent and are familiar with the concept of martech stacks at a rate of 61 percent.
Companies with 100 to 499 employees are 40 to 50 percent likely to use four or five tools, adopt marketing automation and create best-of-breed martech stacks.
The same goes for marketing departments – the larger they are, the more likely they are to adopt marketing automation.
ActiveCampaign wraps up with these recommendations for SMBs looking to move beyond email marketing:
- Select tools that understand how you work and provide appropriate guidance and recommendations.
- Add one tool at a time, which allows you to look for tailored solutions of quality, rather than an all-in-one.
- Find marketing automation that integrates with your other platforms – choose native integrations over third-party integration tools.
- Don’t be enticed by latest and greatest tools, unless they can truly provide the outcome you need.
Get Comfortable with Automation
If your SMB needs a little more encouragement before diving into martech and marketing automation, check out these tips on helpful tools from MarTech Today.
Can martech and adtech (advertising technology) converge to create even better consumer insights? Find out in our discussion on the topic from last summer.
Marketing technology, including the automation variety, is going to continue marching forward. It’s easier than ever for small to medium businesses to keep pace, and now’s the time to start building your toolkit.