Until now, the Fortune 500 superstars have been the only ones who could afford the high-tech and expensive marketing technology solutions, invest the resources in implementing them — and then discard them with a shrug if they don’t work out.
For the “you sell or you die” small- and medium-size business, that’s never been an option. Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology at VentureBeat, has seen a major shift in the market — marketing tech companies have woken up to realize there’s a huge SMB customer base out there.
For a preview of his January 2016 VB Insight report, Rogers was joined by Sean Moeller, founder and CEO of Daytrotter, Amber Whiteman, Vice President at Metia, and VentureBeat analyst Andrew Jones in the webinar “Marketing tech High/Low: Fortune 500 tools on a tiny budget,” to talk not just about the boom in affordable technology solutions, but the size-agnostic tools out there companies can jump on with little to no capital investment and the techniques SMBs can’t afford to ignore.
How do you market like the big guys? Here are the key takeaways.
1. Your people make or break you
Regardless of company size, your first investment has to be in the skilled staff it takes to leverage the technology you invest in, whether free or paid. “No tool is going to run completely independently and turn out amazing marketing campaigns for you,” Whiteman says, “without some appropriate strategy effort and content, as well as the technical chops to use those tools.”
2. The ROI is in marketing automation
Based on VentureBeat Insight ROI studies, Rogers says, marketing automation is the single tool that will, almost without fail, give you a return on your investment.
Luckily for small and mid-sized companies, there’s a definite shift towards a lower tier of marketing technology and marketing automation solutions, as companies make a big push to enter the SMB market. Companies like Act-On, Salesfusion, and Salesforce are coming in with solutions priced at $1k a month or less.
3. Social media is free and effective
The majority of the 1,500 top brands on Twitter, Rogers found, are just using the free Twitter web client. The rest? They’re using internal solutions with Twitter API, or free tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to run their massive businesses.
“For basic brand awareness, discussion around brand and ways to give customers and potential customers a way to connect with you and your brand,” Whiteman says, social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are really valuable, with no initial investment.
To be really successful, she adds, you do need additional investment, such as Facebook or Twitter advertising, or LinkedIn for B2B marketing. “With some small investment, you can actually see some great results,” she says, “especially when you’re starting from some pretty small numbers. You get to see those numbers increase pretty quickly.”
4. Stop blasting your customers
Open and click-through rates have dwindled to microscopic numbers as customers get inundated on every channel. The future, Jones says, “is less about blasting out more messages and more about sending fewer messages that are personalized and hitting people at the right place and the right time, and across different channels — not just across email, but as a web notification, as an in-app message, and other personalized situations.”
Based on relatively little data, personalization tools let smaller business leverage increased segmentation, or machine learning for more one-to-one engagement, and increased relevance to boost KPIs.
5. Invest in conversion rate optimization
CRO solutions are among your best investment. The vast majority of tools cost less than $500 a month, and Rogers found they show an average ROI of 223.7 percent. The top performers are seeing astonishing returns of 1000 percent.
No CRO tool does everything — A/B split testing, multivariate testing, analytics mobile funnel, surveys, expert panels — but Rogers reports that companies like Optimizely, Crazyegg, Hotjar and more offer free or low-cost plans that will get most small businesses started.
6. Tie it all together with content management
WordPress, Rogers says, now powers 25 percent of the entire web. And that’s because it’s incredibly easy to use, fully customizable, and seamlessly integrates with all of your marketing automation technology. Your website “very much becomes your hub,” he says, “with all your other digital channels as spokes.”
The investment is relatively small, but the impact of content creation, content curation, and content promotion through all the channels you put in place can be huge.
For more information on the affordable marketing technology small and medium businesses can’t afford to miss — plus a rundown of the best strategies, techniques, and solutions you need to invest in — check out our free webinar, “Marketing tech High/Low: Fortune 500 tools on a tiny budget.”