In every business-related networking event you attended last year, you would have heard “marketing automation” pop into conversations very frequently. It’s heartening to see. However, as I dig deeper, I generally find that while most businesses are aware of it, and understand the importance, not many people are actually using it. So, it’s the business equivalent of classics — everyone thinks they’re great, nobody has actually read the books.

A study from Ascend2, conducted earlier in 2015, also backs my observation — only 24 per cent of the surveyed businesses use marketing automation extensively; 35 per cent use it to some extent, and others don’t use it at all.

This survey was based on a small sample of professionals worldwide. However, I know for a fact that the adoption rate in India is much lower. And, strangely, some folks use their automation tools just for email campaigns, which is a huge under-utilisation.

A few common reservations Most small business users have a few common reservations about making marketing and sales automation a part of their business process; I’ll address them one by one here.

“Our team is too small for automation”: Now, this might be true for you right now. Maybe your lead volume is low, and you are fine managing them in an excel sheet. But, what happens when the volume starts to increase? You have to hastily shuffle around, and make room in your current budget for the growth, in the form of manpower, several tools, and so on. Why not have a system in place right from the beginning that will scale with your growth? Anyway, this is a call that you need to take, based on your current processes.

“Our lead flow is manageable, manually”: No matter how low or high the lead inflow is, I am sure that you have multiple lead sources. Without an automated lead capture system in place, some leads will definitely slip through the cracks, costing you a closure opportunity. And, you won’t even know it happened. Therefore, you need a system that captures all your leads — from inbound phone calls, website, digital campaigns and offline sources in one place.

Plus, don’t you need to attribute which source is working the best for you in terms of revenue? A system in place would help you with that.

“Our costs will go up – don’t we need to hire an expert?”: In one word: No! On the contrary, your team’s productivity will go up, thus reducing the cost.

Automation tools come with training and onboarding programs. Plus, you should always go with the tools that are easy to use, and where the features are relevant to your needs. You don’t need one hundred features that your team would never use.

For a small team, productivity is the most important asset. When you have just three sales people on the team, and nobody to assist them, you cannot have them parse through all the leads to qualify and prioritise them, in addition to making fresh sales calls too.

It’s just a lot of avoidable work that kills your sales team’s productivity. Automate a few of these tasks — like a first follow-up email for queries, and lead prioritisation, and see how well your sales team performs.

Benefits of automation Now, here are a few additional benefits of automating your marketing and sales processes.

Automation reduces the lead response time: One downside of trying to do everything manually is the delayed response time.

Imagine this as a process — a lead comes in, you manually assign it to a sales person, the sales person finds the most relevant lead to call first. This creates a considerable time lag. Not to mention the confusion that might occur when two sales people end up calling the same prospect, because there isn’t a common lead view.

Automation makes sure that lead distribution is immediate, and follows some logic (based on geography/lead source/service). The team’s interaction with the leads also get recorded, so that there is no confusion.

Automation keeps marketing and sales on the same page: When a business starts its marketing activities, the teams think that they can make do with the free versions of several tools. So, they use one system to create landing pages, another to send out email campaigns, and yet another one for customer relationship management.

As the business starts to grow, the requirements increase, and the small businesses would need to upgrade their systems.

Segregated systems not only become harder to scale, and more expensive, when you grow, but give an incomplete picture of your leads (marketing and sales don’t have one common view). Information about the leads is scattered. You can avoid this when you have one system to manage all activities right from the beginning.

So, these are a “few” reasons why small and mid-sized businesses need to adopt marketing automation as soon as they can.

Nilesh Patel is CEO, LeadSquared