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Large and small businesses alike use email marketing to reach customers and prospects. But one survey found that small and midsize businesses allocate the largest share of their marketing budgets (15%) to email, according to research from iContact.

Companies invest in email marketing because it reaches consumers where they spend most of their time—their inboxes. Email marketing allows you to frequently communicate with your target audience rather than sending them a flyer once a month or quarter. What’s more – and what’s important to small businesses – is that email marketing is extremely cost effective. You can send newsletters, promotions, and new service announcements inexpensively.

While email marketing is effective, it’s not necessarily the easiest marketing strategy to master. People receive an upwards of 50 to 100 emails per day. To avoid getting thrown into the junk folder, marketers have to create an email that’s attention grabbing and contains valuable information, which is easier said than done. Luckily, marketing automation can help tremendously improve your email marketing strategy.

Marketing automation integrates and automates your marketing strategies into one centralized area, allowing for improved productivity, better reporting, and more. According to research from VentureBeat Insights, companies that use email marketing are 75% or more likely to buy marketing automation software over the next year.l

It’s important to note that marketing automation software doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are several low-cost offerings designed for small businesses (VentureBeat lists eight here, while Software Advice has a more comprehensive list that you can view by price or business size.)

If you’re still mulling the technology, consider these ways that marketing automation can help bring your email marketing strategy to the next level:

1. Improved Segmentation

Your customers don’t want to feel like just another number in your long list of emails. In order to be effective, email messages must be custom-tailored to a customer’s preferences, past activities, location, and other variables. With marketing automation, your customer relationship management (CRM) platform is integrated with your marketing automation platform, which allows you to more easily segment buyers into different categories for more precise targeting.

2. Increased Productivity

When you have a small business with limited resources, time is a precious commodity. Manually creating each and every email is extremely time consuming, unproductive, and leaves room for human error. With marketing automation you can set up an entire multi-stage email marketing campaign to run on its own (hence the automation), which allows the marketing team to reel in the most high-quality leads in a short amount of time.

3. Better Data Analysis

A typical email marketing platform reports on a standard set of statistics, including open rates and click through rates. While beneficial, it’s difficult to make any meaningful connections with these statistics (i.e. return on investment). With marketing automation, however, you can determine how many leads and sales are won through your email marketing and tie your efforts directly to revenue.

Email marketing is an effective strategy on its own. However, when paired with marketing automation, your email marketing has a number of added benefits, from better data analysis to improved segmentation. If you’re looking to get a better ROI from your email marketing efforts, then it might be time to invest in a marketing automation platform.

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