Poor Man’s Marketing Automation

Few of the companies that I work with are large enough to manage (or can afford) a full-on marketing automation system (MAS) like Marketo, Hubspot, Silverpop or Eloqua.  Marketo has come out with a “lite” version of its offering to support smaller businesses but even this is a little too heavy for smaller companies.

The idea behind MAS is powerful: every company has a large pool of leads with whom it wants to engage on their terms and be able to track when a lead is ready to engage in a purchase related conversation.  Some folks have taken this idea to an extreme – that through MAS and social CRM one can automate the entire sales process; just tweak the inputs and out pop more sales.  If only this were the case!  This notion reminds me of the Mechanical Turk, the late 18th century automaton that appeared to play chess expertly, impressing many people.  In fact, the automation had a human chess player hidden its base that made its moves: an early case of the promise of technology not quite measuring up to reality.

Who is Minding the Store

So, the sale of complex solutions need a warm, sentient body minding the store, focusing on opportunities and managing them through to a close.

Still, the basic MAS thesis holds true; that the web has fundamentally changed the way businesses buy complex solutions, with potential buyers of your offering wanting to research their options and signal when they are ready to engage.  A good sales team will continue to cold call but will do so in a much more focused manner, calling into lists about which they a record of activities.

Basic outbound email marketing, using simple tools like MailChimp, ExactTarget, MyEmma or ConstantContact, is a good start but tends to be to be focused on simple, “one size fits all”, outbound content (e.g. a monthly newsletter).  You can enhance your use of an outbond email marketing tool by:

  1. Segmenting y0ur list into a few, clear buying personae
  2. Manually tracking responses to outbound content
  3. Scoring those responses with a simple rubric that determines when to kick a lead over to y0ur sales team for pursuit

This means that you will have to spend a fair bit of time getting to know your lead list and manipulating data manually, which is not a bad thing: an emerging company sales and marketing team should be close to its leads and have a handle on who its active prospects are.  As you grow y0u can transition to an MAS.


  1. Good stuff, Hugh.

    As a co-founder of Voodoo Viral Marketing (and a guy who’s helped companies sell many kinds of products), I am very familiar with small-medium business owners’ need for a no muss-no fuss platform. One that combines the best of email marketing and marketing automation, but in form that requires minimal staff attention. Voodoo’s solution is to make video content and voluntary viewership the key factor in the “simple rubric” you mention in #3.

    Here’s the idea: Send an outbound email campaign with an intelligent subject line to minimally pre-qualify those who bother to open the email. Once opened, the email itself contains a video thumbnail along with a relevant description of what the video contains. If the recipient clicks-through to watch your video, you know they are DEFINITELY interested in your product or service, and therefore worthy of a call from Sales.

    So the rubric becomes super simple: a click-through to watch the video means the sales team should call…every time! It’s impressive how effective this simple process and elementary form of “lead scoring” has been for our clients. Many millions of dollars sold to people who would have been lead-scored right out of the sales funnel by a more complicated approach.

    Here’s to video and the power of simplicity!

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