Every business is unique in the way that it starts. Some have plenty of funds and experience, some could have none at all, with many in between.
Yet I’m pretty sure one truth remains constant, when a business grows, it invest more in tools. These tools may be used to produce better results, improve productivity or provide better data to make decisions. Either way, they come at a cost; whether that be financial or time. Plus there may also be issues with training and changing internal behaviours.
So it’s not easy to weigh up the pros and cons, or decide when to invest and what to invest in.
When we talk about Growth Automation, we are referring to a single tool for all your Marketing, Sales and Customer Service.
Typically a growth automation tool will be suitable for businesses looking to sell products or services that require a certain amount of consideration by the buyer. We aren’t talking about a pair of trainers, more like several thousands of pounds on a machine, software or service.
The more people within the business devoted to Sales, Marketing and Services, the more essential this tool will be.
I suppose I’m writing this article now because I wish I had read an article like it back in 2012, when I took over the running of Strategy Plus. In 2012, times were tricky for us. It wasn’t long after the recession and I had to pay out more than we were bringing in.
Like the vast majority of people, the first goal was to start making profit and the only way I knew how to do that was to sell. Just like my Dad, my first plan of action was to get on the phone and start drumming up business. Back then, investing in hundreds of pounds a month on fancy automation software just wasn’t an option, we needed that cash to pay the rent.
Many years have passed by since then, and we are now in a luxurious position of having the budget to invest.
Deep down however, I’m now thinking we should have done this sooner. If we had, where would we be now?
So, the question I’m really asking is…..
“Is there a formula you can apply to decide when you should invest in a Growth Automation system?”
To answer this, first of all, we should really cover what I mean by Growth Automation?
A Growth Automation tool is a “single point of truth” for all your online activities, that directly affects turnover, reducing time and increasing their effectiveness.
The anatomy of a Growth Automation tool
A complete Growth Automation Tool will offer all of the following elements, under one roof, to save time and optimise results. Costs have been included (in dollars as most of them charge that way) for each tool as you can see how easily these costs start to ad up if you choose to go down the pick and mix solution, rather than a single growth automation tool.
Most of you will have heard of or maybe even use a Client Relationship Management (CRM) software. In simple terms, this is a place to store all the data about the contacts and businesses you work with; whether that’s prospects, clients, suppliers, strategic partners etc.
This is key for efficiency and productivity and yet we were late in taking this up. As it’s only as good as the latest data you input, sometimes I felt it took more time entering data than actually getting on with the job.
I’m impatient, can you guess?
There are many providers of CRM and even choosing one is a minefield. Pricing differs dramatically, some are suited to different sized businesses and some integrate with different technology, whether it be email, accounting or customer service systems.
You will be happy to know I won’t be reviewing and comparing CRM systems, but I just want to let you know, this is the data hub for the automation to work with.
II. Marketing Automation
These are the kind of tools a Digital Marketing team would want to be using to streamline and optimise their activities:
Usually integrated into your website as standard, open source platforms such as WordPress will have these included free of charge. If your developer didn’t include this, then there will be an additional charge to add or use a 3rd party such as Medium, which may cost more.
Monthly price $5pm
- Landing Pages
Landing pages are now commonplace to increase conversions from outbound campaigns including emails, paid and social.
Unbounce produces landing pages for websites and requires little to no coding.
Monthly Price: $79-$400
- SEO Tools
Moz offers reporting and performance insight for your rankings, traffic, links, social media, content, and brand marketing.
Monthly Price: ~$99-$249
- Native Ad Platforms
Whether it’s Google, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, most networks you want to advertise on have software that will help you bid for ad space. Without a connection to your CRM or marketing systems, you won’t be able to do closed-loop reporting.
Ad Roll helps companies to see all of their digital ad spend in one place and easily connects it to specific marketing campaigns, and they work by taking a small percentage of your total ad spend. As you spend more on advertising the level of service and features increases.
- Email Marketing
MailChimp offers email subscriber profiles, automation and personalization, optimization and analytics.
Monthly Price: ~$0 – $209
- Web Chat
Snap Engage enterprise chat software for businesses that helps capture leads and interact with customers.
Monthly Price: ~$99 per month / 5 users
- Social Tool
Hootsuite is a leading social media tool that lets you manage multiple networks and profiles.
Monthly Price: ~$29 – $599
III. Sales Automation
These are tools that help ensure your sales guys save time and have real time insights to maximise their effectiveness.
- Email Tracking
Yesware provides software that works in your email to track and provide sales automation.
Monthly Price: $25/user
- Calling Software
Uberconference; free to start. Visually focused and easy to setup conference calling software that does not require PINS.
Monthly Price: $15
An online video platform for businesses that is focused on increasing sales and service rep productivity.
Monthly Price: $12
In order to replicate the connected data of an all-in-one platform you will need a service like Zapier to ensure all your data is syncing together.
Monthly Price: $20 – $250
- Meeting Tool
Simple tool that will help you replicate HubSpot’s meeting link functionality.
Monthly Price: $12
- Document Tracking
Helpful document tracking tool for sales and marketing teams. Has a plugin which works with Gmail.
Monthly Price: $45/user
- Quoting Tool
Creates visually appealing proposals and includes e-signature functionality.
Monthly Price: $25 – $250
Well known company in the e-signature space. Has a strong mobile app that allows you to track, sign, and manage your signatures.
Monthly Price: $25/user
- Automation & Reporting
Insight Squared is a flexible platform that helps you sift through your sales data. They have both templated and customizable reports.
Monthly Price: Request for pricing.
A useful tool that helps you connect Salesforce and Slack together. You can update Salesforce data via Slack.
- Enablement & Playbooks
Sales Enablement software that lets teams find the right sales content and uses data to help optimise the sales process.
IV. Customer Services Automation
Tools to ensure you engage, learn and respond to your customers, for long term profitable growth.
- Conversational Inbox
Front is a conversational Inbox that allows teams to respond to people over email, SMS, social, and live chat. They also offer a web chat widget for an additional fee.
Monthly Price: $15-$59 per user/month
- Knowledge Base
Several conversational support tools incorporate a simple knowledge base but if you are in the market for a point solution, HelpJuice offers a powerful system to build a world-class knowledge base.
Monthly Price: $199 – 249
- Survey and Feedback
Survey Monkey is a simple to use online survey tool that starts free. If you are going to be regularly soliciting feedback from your audience you will need a business license.
Monthly Price: $37 – $99
- Live Chat
Enterprise chat software for businesses that helps capture leads and interact with customers.
Monthly Price: ~$99 per month / 5 users
The Growth Flywheel
You may have come across all these tools from various software, but not many will have coupled up Customer Service tools with Marketing and Sales. The reason for this is because of Hubspot’s alternative model to the sales funnel, The Growth Flywheel.
The flywheel acknowledges the undeniable truth that existing customers are a major factor in growing a business.
13% of all sales are driven by word of mouth marketing.
No longer should businesses focus on a sales funnel where it ends with a customer gained. The Flywheel should be adopted so that Customer Engagement becomes an essential part of the growth strategy.
There are probably countless possible factors that go into making decisions about tools to adopt, yet this formula couldn’t get any simpler.
U = Net Cost of Software (the cost of the automation tool against the individual alternatives being used (examples listed above)
X = The value of your time per hour
Y = Hours saved (Hours invested in automation – Hours spent on existing Sales, Marketing and services tasks)
No = U > XxY
Yes = U < XxY
This formula doesn’t take into account the most important factor, the increase growth in the business, we haven’t done so as you can’t put a figure on this. It may be 5% for some and it maybe 50% fo others. The tool will only do so much, the level by which your business utilises its potential, will decipher the increase in growth.
Here’s an example for a small business (as we are) with one person managing the automation and all the tasks involved. There is also an estimated 10% increase in performance due to the use of the new automation tool.
U = Net Cost of Software – £3600pa
X = The value of your time – £50ph
Y = Hours saved – 120 pa
Z = Increased revenue by 10% – £20,000
No = U > (XxY)+Z)
Yes = U <(XxY)+Z)
Answer is Yes £3600<£26000 = (50×120)+£20,000)
Does this apply to you?
Typically when business is quiet or when you start the business, it is tempting to think that when you have more time than money, you spend your time rather than spending cash on fancy software.
Yet this formula is just as relevant, as long as (XxY+Z) is greater than U, you should invest in automation software, no matter how tempting it is to spend on advertising or other quick and easy options to achieve short term gains.
Without automation, your marketing efforts will not be as effective, sales will slip through the net and the customers you do gain may not be the boost to growth, they should be.
We should have done this sooner
I believe business decisions are not always based on facts, they have a lot to do with gut instinct. I believe I have made a lot of errors because of my gut instinct, my inherent paranoia about spending money on “the next big thing” or the optimism I have to belittle any hurdles in front of me. This is why I would love to be able to make decisions based on the black and white facts in front of me.
I believe that the above formula will hopefully make the decision process easier.
I’m not saying this is an easy decision to make, but I now know, we should have invested the time and money 4 years earlier.
What if you want to get a taster before signing up?
We partnered with Hubspot recently, 10 years after the first course we took with them and now utilise their system in-house. They offer an incredible amount of tools free of charge…..
This is a perfect way for you to try out the system with no investment other than your time and/or the cost of sourcing an agency like our own to help you set it up.
Every Marketing Strategy needs a foundation to work from. We offer just that with our Inbound Growth Foundation Package costing £3000+vat.
We will perform a deep dive into your business, goals and online presence to create a clear view for the strategy and tactics needed for successful sustainable growth.
Here are just a few of the key deliverables you can expect to receive once we’ve completed:
- COMPANY POSITIONING STATEMENT
- VALUE CANVAS
- PRODUCT MESSAGING TEMPLATE
- KEYWORD RESEARCH
- SOCIAL MEDIA & CONTENT AUDIT
- COMPETITOR REVIEW
- BUYER PERSONA PROFILES
- OFFER IDEATION
- SMART GOAL SETTING
- INBOUND WEBSITE AUDIT
- 12 MO. INBOUND MARKETING PLAN
- HUBSPOT TRIAL & TOOL REVIEW
- COMPREHENSIVE WALKTHROUGH
Our methodology is split between two half-day workshops, a final presentation and along with our work in the background.