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13 Maybe CRM is a lousy term

There seems to be a real struggle to capture the flag by software makers when it comes to small business CRM. It’s very difficult to find a clear leader in this space, although many claim to be serving it.

I think the problem may reside in the fact that what small business marketers really want (need) out of their marketing software may be hard to define and it’s probably not customer relationship management.

No, what most small business owners want and need out of marketing software is the ability to get home earlier at night, to be able to spend time doing the tactical work they love (I didn’t say that was best, but it is reality), and to follow-up automatically with leads.

If that’s true then the entire category of software aimed at small business might more accurately be dubbed “marketing automation” software instead of CRM software. Marketing automation software would track contact details, capture leads, send emails, execute on campaign steps, distribute leads to sales folks, and create order and fulfillment tasks and do it all with the potential to use both online and offline marketing tools. (I know, most CRM software does this, but it also rotates and balances your tires.)

The notion of marketing automation software came directly from a recent conversation I had with Clate Mask, CEO of Infusion Software, on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Infusion has poured a great deal of effort into creating a marketing automation tool just for the small business, and while they may not be alone, they certainly seem to be on the right path. (Full disclosure – I am an Infusion user)

Sometimes it’s hard to abandon long established industry terminology and blaze new paths. It sometimes requires a great deal of energy just getting people to understand how your tool is not what everyone else calls it, but when you get it right, the payoff is worth it.

21 Automation, the small business marketer's friend

Marketing AutomationFrom a business standpoint, a lot of small business have some pretty distinct advantages over much larger organizations.

Not always, but in some cases, they can be more flexible, offer personalized options, provide faster/better service, and involve senior experienced level people in implementation.

From a marketing standpoint, I do see small organizations get out sizzled from the sheer wake of bodies and moving parts that a larger organization can throw at a sales pipeline.

This is a place where technology, and the automation it can afford, can come to the rescue.

Technology exists all around us today that allows any small business or one woman band to create robust, multi-part, segmented and personalized campaigns that rival those of the fully staffed marketing departments.

Lots of CRM software makers talk a about automation, but for most small businesses it’s just overkill. The key is to find the right suite of tools that allow you to create the engine to automate contacts, sales follow-up, tasks, email, marketing materials distribution, orders, upsells, referrals and campaigns. It’s about marketing automation, not customer relationship management.

When you take the time to design your lead generation, nurturing, and conversion processes like the big guys, and then hook the system together with the right moving parts, you can compete with any size organization.

And now for some tools to check out!

  • SwiftPage – email lead tracking and scoring that helps identify hot prospects
  • Infusion Software – the best all in one solution for contacts, sales, orders and email marketing
  • Vtrenz – automation for direct marketers
  • Get Friday – outsourcing that is automated
  • Wufoo – creates forms of all type on the fly
  • GotVMail – automates phone messaging, extensions and message deliverability
  • Jott – lets you post to Google Calender, post to blogs, Twitter and send email to yourself or groups from a phone.
  • TripIt – forward air, hotel and car reservations to an email address and get an online trip page with local info and maps added
  • TextExpander – automatically insert any amount of text into an email or document with a phrase – great for commonly written email responses
  • Basecamp and Backpack – automate collaboration with teams, vendors and partners
  • Create Space – on demand CD and DVD publishing and fulfillment
  • Amazing Mail – send pre-designed post cards to 1 or 100 contacts in 24 hours

What are some of your favorite marketing automation tools?

1 Are you awakened or just an entrepreneur?

My friend Michael Gerber is at it again, Awakening another generation of entrepreneurs and showing people how to dream intentionally.

His latest book, Awakening the Entrepreneur Within is shipping this week and is a high level overview of his Dreaming Room experiences.

Companies that embrace the method and practices contained in this book can become extraordinary by pushing beyond what they thought it meant to be a company. I am in Phoenix this week presenting marketing workshops for the users of Infusion Software – this is a company that is truly infused with the Awakened Entrepreneur message and it is just so much fun to be around people and companies that are so alive with a vision.

Michael wrote the foreword to Duct Tape Marketing and I consider him a mentor. Just go get this book! He was also a recent guest on my Coaching Excellence Series. Listen to what he had to say