Is automating marketing a solution for SMEs?

Information technology solutions enable the optimization of communication, but how should you go about it, which tools should you choose, and what are the advantages? We’ve rounded up some expert advice and testimonials.

A person in front of a computer with pictogram-style graphs.

Marketing automation refers to the practice for a company to manage, automate, and optimize its marketing campaigns and customer interactions more efficiently and personalizedly. This approach relies on the use of specially designed software tools to automate repetitive tasks, coordinate complex marketing activities, and provide valuable data for informed decision-making.

The Zurich-based company Adnovum, specializing in software development, implemented a marketing automation strategy a year and a half ago. "As we operate in a sector with a relatively long sales cycle, the aim of this project was to enhance customer support and better integrate our marketing activities with our sales team, explains Andreas Punter, Chief Marketing Officer of Adnovum. The result was a significant increase in traffic to our website and lead generation (note: contacts that a company hopes to convert into potential customers)."

"Implementing a marketing automation strategy firstly results in a significant efficiency gain at a reduced cost, emphasizes Sarah Seyr, lecturer at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) and an expert in digital customer experience and human-machine interaction. This allows for more targeted promotion of the business, for example, through a weekly newsletter or the sending of a personalized email when a potential customer wants to download product documentation or register for an event."

According to the HSLU specialist, this "marketing automation" can prove beneficial regardless of the industry or target audience (B2C, B2B). "It's more about determining the online interactions you want to achieve. A neighborhood gelato shop may not really need email campaigns, unlike a home ice cream delivery service for whom it makes complete sense."

Setting concrete goals

Embarking on marketing automation is a promising initiative, but it also comes with its share of challenges. From maintaining data quality to finding the right balance between automation and personalization, addressing regulatory compliance, and the need for initial investments. "The tools on the market promise a lot, but it's essential to take the time to start by defining concrete and achievable goals, says Alejandro Schmid, co-founder of Growth Academy, a Zurich-based company offering courses in digital marketing. This involves establishing a personalized roadmap and progressing step by step. Don't hesitate to experiment with different approaches and then analyze their effectiveness."

The initial work required to produce content tailored to your target audience should not be underestimated, notes Andreas Punter of Adnovum: "You can create a list with thirty goals, but it's better to start by prioritizing two or three points. Also, if you engage an external partner, choosing a single provider, capable of handling tasks such as website development, content creation, or software configuration, can be beneficial."

The selection of appropriate tools is another stumbling block. Today, there are dozens of solutions on the market offering various features for lead management, personalized targeting, and campaign analysis.

"Obviously, one must consider what happens with the data, where it is stored, and who has access to it, emphasizes Sarah Seyr from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences. Also, what happens in the event of a tool change? Losing data can be catastrophic for a business." Finally, it's essential to think about how marketing automation elements integrate with other systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software or analytical tools, and whether the company has the necessary internal skills to implement them.


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The cost of a marketing automation project

The expenses incurred by a marketing automation project can vary significantly depending on the size of the business, the scope of the project, the choice of automation platform, and the level of customization required. In general, costs include the purchase or subscription to an automation platform, implementation fees, staff training costs, expenses related to the creation of marketing content, as well as maintenance and support fees.

"There are many tools offered for free or on a 'freemium' model, which may be sufficient for an individual business, explains Sarah Seyr, lecturer at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences (HSLU). In this case, it's important to be clear that you're paying with your data." The expert estimates that a project beneficial to an established SME can represent an investment of CHF 5,000, and CHF 20,000 for a highly advanced project. "The advantage is that there are plenty of useful resources that one can study for free before diving in."

Last modification 01.11.2023

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