SMBs Plan to Adopt Marketing Automation Despite Cost & Familiarity Issues

December 14, 2017

Three in 10 SMBs in the US (fewer than 1,000 employees) that have an email marketing solution in place also have marketing automation software, per results from an ActiveCampaign study [pdf]. The survey of email-using SMBs found that the bulk of those without a current automation solution plan to adopt one in the next couple of years.

Specifically, almost two-thirds (64%) plan to start using marketing automation software within the next 2 years, while another 11% see automation adoption on the 3-5-year horizon.

All told, 82% of SMBs with a current email marketing solution either already have automation technology (30%) in place or plan to add one within the next 5 years (52%).

Separate research from Gallup and Wells Fargo recently found 15% of small businesses reporting having introduced a marketing automation tool within the previous 2 years.

Cost, Complexity Hinder Adoption

Among SMBs not using marketing automation software, cost is the leading reason given for not doing so, cited by one-third of respondents.

Beyond cost, issues with familiarity and complexity are also rife. One-quarter said they’re not using automation software as they’re simply not familiar with it. Around one-fifth said they don’t know where to start, while similar proportions pointed to lack of time or marketing teams to execute.

Interestingly, fewer cited the complexity of use (16%) or intimidation (6%). However, separate responses suggest that complexity plays a greater role with automation than other technologies. Some 41% said they feel that marketing automation is “out of reach” for their company due to being too sophisticated or complex. That compares with just 27% saying the same about email marketing and 23% about customer relationship management (CRM).

Complexity of use is also broadly given as a reason for not being able to make the most out of current automation software. Among those SMBs who are using automation, complexity ranked only behind lack of time as the biggest challenge to deriving the most value from their software.

Other Survey Highlights

  • Roughly three-quarters of SMBs using email marketing software report using multiple marketing software products on a regular basis, including more than one-third using at least 4.
  • SMBs responding to the survey are as likely to describe their marketing software and technology stack as an all-in-one solution (29%) as they are to describe it as a best-of-breed stack (28%).
  • More SMBs have embraced and benefitted from marketing software (36%) than have struggled to effectively use it (30%).
  • Among those currently with a marketing automation solution in place, email marketing drip campaigns are the most common use.

The full study is available here [pdf].

About the Data: The results are based on an ActiveCampaign survey of 310 US small business employees who oversee their company’s marketing strategy or activities. Respondents were limited to professionals working at companies with less than 1,000 employees that have an email marketing solution in place. Most have been in business for more than 10 years with annual revenue exceeding $1 million.

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