How SMB’s Can Easily Get Started With Marketing Automation

Want to use the internet to grow your business?  Good!  You should.  And you likely hear a TON of messages about how to go about achieving that success.  All of the “noise” around what to do and what to pay attention to has the result of leaving most SMB marketers and businesses confused about the essential things to pay attention to that will move the needle on their business growth goals.

This post will sort out the confusion and provide you five steps to get started on the road to success.   First, we’ve got to clarify one thing:  Inbound Marketing alone is not likely to give you any immediate success, no matter what you may be hearing.

Why?  Because by definition, “inbound” marketing means people and traffic are finding you.  You are doing NO outreach.  Your content is getting found – hence, inbound.  That means inbound marketing is a combination of Content Marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and Social Sharing from your visitors who do find your content and are moved to share it with their networks.

So, we’re going to offer you a pragmatic online marketing approach that blends the inbound marketing tactics with targeted outbound tactics, such as marketing automation, that will actually move the needle on your growth goals.

Make sense?  Read on.

To make this easier, we’ll assume that your number one goal is to get new customers, and to use the internet to do that.  We’ll also assume that you don’t want to wait 6 months to a year or more to see some movement and success.

Here are the five steps:

1) Identify the 5 top “problems” that your target audience currently experiences that your business, service, or product solves, and then put together a great report, white paper, or eBook that shows your target audience how be better address, prepare for, or handle that specific problem.  DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT, SERVICE, or BUSINESS, except at the end where you have a “bio” about the author.  Format it into a PDF document for easy download.

Tip:  To find out more about what might interest your target audience, or what their big issues and problems might be, use your top keywords/keyphrases, and find out what’s being said in social media, book reviews, blogs, etc.

2) Put together your landing page(s).  Why more than one?  Because depending upon how you will drive traffic to this content, you will want people to come into specific landing pages so you will be able to distinctly measure your success with different approaches.  Make sure your landing page has a very simple lead capture form on it (i.e. first name, last name, and email address), to reduce friction.  Also make sure you have compelling reasons for people to want to download your content – enough to exchange their name and email for it.

TIP: Start with a simple short form landing page with a lead capture form.  You can also experiment with longer-form copy using A/B testing on your landing pages – but we’ll save that for a more advanced step.

3) Put together the nurturing sequence of personalized emails that will be sent to the people who download your content piece.  Here’s a super easy process for these emails:

  • The first one thanks them for their interest in your content, and provides them a link to download it.   It can also include information about your organization and how you are positioned in the market place – just as an introduction – not to “sell them stuff’.
  • Then, write an email for each point you make in your content.  If you make 5 points (i.e. The 5 Keys to Successful…), then you will have 5 more emails that cover each of those points.  Take the content you used in your report, white paper or eBook, and recast it in a simple format for your email.  Think about expanding on the points for an added Blog post or article on your site that your email can link them to.
  • What’s a great call-to-action you can make at the end of this series, for folks who may be interested?  Perhaps a free 20 minute consultation?  A live demo?  A 30-day trial?  A Webinar invitation?  Something that will help you further engage them.  Another report, white paper, or eBook on another problem or issue they may be facing?  This will be your last email in the series.
  • Set them up to send out in a drip sequence – with the first one going out as soon as they complete the download form.  The second one going out the next day, and then you could start to space them out a little further.  We oftentimes recommend something similar to the Fibonacci sequence, which better maps to a person’s interest cycle.

TIP: This is where marketing automation will flourish, and without it, this step is almost impossible.  The leads captured should come into your marketing automation solution, and trigger the immediate fulfillment email, and kick-off the nurturing sequence you’ve assembled.

4) Promote your Content, and drive traffic.

  • Email:  If you have an email list, promote it to your existing list to help you better segment and understand who your most responsive and interested leads might be.   Optionally, if you have a very targeted audience and can purchase a tightly targeted list, you could do that and send a specific set of emails to  them (perhaps 3 or 4 – one every other week – but only to those who DO NOT respond), letting them know about the content you’ve got available, and sending them to a specific landing page.
  • Social Media:  Post the existence of your content on your Facebook Fan page, to LinkedIn Groups that are relevant and have your target audience as members, and post on Twitter.  Remember to come up with several different posts for Twitter, so you can have multiple Twitter posts about it (since people only look at their feeds at specific points throughout the day).
  • Blog Post?  Or Comments? – Are there some great blogs that also target your audience or subject matter?  You could comment on related blog posts and promote your content, or use the trackback mechanism if they have one.
  • Social Media Bookmarking sites:  Often overlooked, but something that can give you some traffic by people who are NOT in your extended social network, can help you grow awareness.  These are sites such as Delicious, Technorati, Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon.
  • Pay-Per-Click (aka: Adwords):  You can set up some Ads on target keywords for your audience that you may not be ranking high for, and promote your content for those key phrases.  Be sure that your landing page uses the key phrase in the title/headline of the landing page – and have a distinct landing page for each keyphrase or keyword grouping.

NOTE:  This is why you have distinct landing pages (and more than one) – so you can see what traffic you get, versus how many downloads for your eBook from the page – it will help you measure the effectiveness of a channel.

5)  Measure, tweak, improve, repeat.  As you do, you will create a great web of content and nurturing sequences that will help you generate more leads, and understand who is most interested in what you have to offer – so you can follow up with those and find out if there is an opportunity there.  Use your marketing automation solution to find out who has responded (clicked through your nurturing emails, downloaded other things if you’ve got them), and contact them directly to find out if there’s an opportunity with them.

About Kim Albee:

Kim is the founder and President of Genoo, who has been architecting and building internet software solutions for businesses since 1996, starting with some of the largest companies, and now focusing on her passion to help small and midsize businesses truly compete and grow.  She is a frequent speaker at online marketing conferences, and has additional online marketing resources that expand on this article.  You can follow her on Twitter, or email her directly at


  1. says

    Sound advice for SMBs looking to put marketing programs in place. I’m willing to bet Kim’s next guest post will address how SMBs successfully align Sales and Marketing processes and energies by using marketing automation and CRM.

  2. says

    The Marketing Automation world is in disarray. Once seen as the cutting edge, people have now seen that the emperor has no clothes and even its protagonists – Eloqua and Marketo are desperately trying to recreate themselves as Revenue Performance Management (though without fixing the flaws that made Marketing Automation so bad).

    Marketing Automation is an outdated, discredited method of marketing – an early attempt at applying technology. The reason for its failure is that the new technology was allied to some very old fashioned thinking. It was designed to automate push methodologies, otherwise known as annoying people.
    It is based on lottery marketing – annoy enough people and someone will buy.
    It is based on the old fashioned idea that a sale starts with a sales visit, rather than establishing credibility and building relationships online.
    It believes that sequential spam will entice people to buy.

    Part of the problem is that its users are acting for their own ends, not the customers. It is part of a tickbox process to get prospects to a level where their dysfunctional sales departments will deign to contact them. Symbolic of a silo mentality between the two departments, rather than the alignment they pretend is at its core.

    I covered the problems a while back:

    And this is a half baked response to Hubspot’s excellent pieces:
    And Mike Volpe’s recent address:

    Let me take on the core of this piece in a couple of short sentences I wrote a few weeks back on the Technology Aided Prospecting Group:

    Outbound Marketing is what people do when they’ve got their Inbound Marketing wrong.

    How many of us have had a Monday meeting at which the refrain has gone up “we haven’t got enough leads”. So sales is dispatched to make more calls, and marketing to send more emails. Both totally ineffective – indeed they only deflect people from the work they should be doing – but they give management the warm feeling that something is being done.

    But the reality is that if you haven’t enough leads, you aren’t attracting enough people to your products. You’ve done something wrong days/weeks/months – even years – ago and not enough people want what you offer.

    The answer isn’t to shout louder like a barrow boy trying to sell vegetables.

    But if you haven’t done the good work upfront, that’s all you have left. “

    • says

      So let me get this straight, if you are a small widget brokerage and all you really have is a website and a small office with a couple a couple of admins and 3 sales people you should not conduct outbound marketing? I guess this guy should spend say $45K a month on Advertising, SEO, Blogging, and posting to his 30 followers on twitter. . Then when does get a reply he should not follow up with them at all, just wait on them to email in their order for enough widgets to cover the cost of all those employees and all that advertising. Wait he is a small business that doesn’t have that kind of money. So when his $5k of marketing spend doesn’t work he should just fire everyone and wait 6 months to a year for his marketing to take off to the point that companies are begging him to sell them his widgets. That is how Microsoft does it right? OK wait, if you are Microsoft you should not conduct outbound marketing or follow up prospects? OK wait they are a little too large, how about Oracle? Wait Larry Ellison is the owner (essentially) of Oracle and I am sure he is evil, if not evil he is rich and that is the same thing. So that brings us to No wait they have a whole group working all day long doing nothing but outbound.

      I have to tell you that after a day of looking at Graphic Designers complain about crowdsourcing I thought I had seen it all, but at least they didn’t post a self serving link in their complaints.

      The reality is that Hubspot or whatever form of “so called” inbound marketing all hinge on exactly the kind of follow that Kim describes above. Search “inbound marketing” and Hubspot’s PPC ads are all over the place. They post on peoples blogs all the time, they do outbound push marketing. I think they even have a PPC module in their software. While they are a great organization I don’t think they would be where they are without a huge upfront budget and following up on their prospects. I know they email me plenty, and I am fine with that.

      Truth is there is a mix of both and the smaller the brand and budget and youth of the company the more that company has to reach out of customers instead of just wait on them to come to them.

      Not sure what industry you are talking about but even today Direct Mail still works better than anything else in terms of ROI for an Automotive Dealership. Direct Mail, not social, not seo, not PPC, not radio or tv or anything else. There are a few reasons for this but to turn to your nose at making a phone call or sending a coldish email is maybe a little harsh.

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