There are a lot of buzzwords in the world of marketing. One of the biggest, and yet perhaps the least understood, is ‘marketing automation’.

Chances are you’ve heard this one a lot if you’re involved in the nuts and bolts of growing a business. But what exactly does it mean—and more importantly do you need it?

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is simply about making your life easier. It refers to using software and strategy to get visitors to your website, turn them into customers, and then nurture them into ambassadors for your brand.

The way this usually works is through the production and distribution of content (otherwise known as content marketing), via your website, social media, and emails. Marketing automation software allows you to automate a lot of these fiddly manual processes to become an unstoppable marketing juggernaut, even if you’ve only got a small team.

Why does everyone think you need it?

You will probably have heard how automating your marketing processes is essential for growth and how it can change your life. And there’s some truth to that. At Crave we have enough experience with the popular marketing automation software, HubSpot, to know the opportunities it can offer any business—from being a one-stop-shop for blog post and social publishing, to its smart analytical features that can show you what’s working and what’s not.

It’s likely you’ve already been dazzled with software package demonstrations and blindsided with subscription offers that seem like peanuts considering the untold riches that marketing automation will bring you. But in reality it’s not a one-size-fits-all marketing jackpot.

Why marketing automation can be dangerous for a small business

Okay, so maybe ‘dangerous’ is being a little dramatic. It’s not like you’ll download the software and it’ll blow up your server.

However, done badly, signing up to a marketing automation approach without a clear plan of how to use it to achieve your goals can have a detrimental effect on your business. Because while this approach may allow you to automate certain processes to save you some time, it requires a little more strategic planning and resources in other areas to ensure your content quality and messaging is consistent—and is bringing those visitors down the marketing funnel to purchase.

It’s all very well being able to adjust the system to send out 12 blogs a month, 4 tweets a day, and 2 LinkedIn shares. But if you haven’t got the time and resources to produce tailored, quality content for those blog posts—as well as offering varied, personal commentary on each social share to avoid looking like you’re simply spamming everyone—then it simply won’t work. And you’ll end up with a subscription fee eating into your bottom line, while making no difference whatsoever to potential or current customers (or even putting them off).

How to tell if marketing automation will be right for you

If you’re a small business looking to grow and you’re considering marketing automation, then you’re certainly looking in the right area. But for every company for which this approach will work, there’s another that might not be quite ready and will be setting themselves up for an expensive fall.

So, before you commit, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it worth the money?

In other words, have you researched what financial benefits can a more efficient online marketing approach offer you vs the ongoing cost of the software?

Does everyone in the company have the time and inclination to learn how to use the software effectively?

The marketing automation software needs to be at the core of your business, so everyone will need to know how to use it—you can’t just ‘give it to the content guy’!

Do you have the resources to allow you to produce the kind of quality content that you intend to publish and distribute?

Automating processes is one thing, but you still need to create the content. Do you have a suitably talented individual or team ready to wow your customers with useful and shareable information?

Are you prepared to consistently analyse and tweak your strategy?

Marketing automation gives you a wealth of knowledge on how your content is received and how your potential customers are interacting with you. But unless you consistently analyse this information and use it to your advantage, your business will go nowhere.

Are you in it for the long-term?

Automating your content marketing processes can definitely help grow your business, but it won’t be a quick fix. You need to be ready for a long-haul process of producing great content, distributing via social, analysing results and tweaking the strategy—guiding visitors down the funnel and nurturing existing customers indefinitely.

Want to know more about marketing automation or simply want some advice on what kind of content marketing might work for your business?