Good question. These days, it’s a question of efficiency as much as cost. Well-featured automation solutions can cost much less than a set of stand alone solutions, especially when you consider that tools like SharpSpring include a very powerful CRM that is tightly integrated to your website.
Depending on the license level, one seat on Salesforce can cost 5x what a marketing automation solution costs per month. And while Salesforce has very extensive reporting and is generally regarded as the gold standard of CRM solutions, it has one glaring problem when it comes to small and medium size businesses (SMB): most SMB clients utilize < 5% of the features of Salesforce, and report that they find it complex to use, especially for generating reports and exporting lists (such as for email campaigns).
For a company with strong internal IT and marketing tech skills, you can put together a collection of tools that manually and semi-automatically perform some automation. That type of marketing tech stack would require drip email (perhaps Mailchimp), a CRM that is integrated with the email solution, good in-page analytics to see where users are spending time and clicking, content syndication from blog to social, perhaps a curation tool, an SEO tool, a forms plug in with download monitoring tool, and several other parts.
The real drawback of standalone marketing solutions is inefficiency. When it comes time to generate a report for management about ROI and how the marketing spend generated MQL’s or measurable results, most marketers spend several hours or days putting together a dashboard snapshot.
Marketers have to log into multiple systems, extract data for the time period, analyze it and tie it to conversion, sales, and budget.
So at the very least, marketing automation simplifies reporting and ROI tracking by its very nature. For example, with marketing automation, your third party email solution and your website forms are moved into the automation platform. It’s the only way to close the loop on what a site visitor does. By using a tool where all the parts are aware of each other, we can follow the anonymous visitor all the way from initial page view through every read blog post, white paper download, return visit, email with sales, scheduled demo, to closed sale.
Stand alone marketing solutions seem simple when considered by themselves. But as part of a system, they create complexity. As a set of individual tools, they don’t scale as your leads grow, the reporting isn’t as good, and there are multiple dependencies on 3rd party vendors who don’t always play well together.
Most importantly, the bolted together stack doesn’t give you some of the most powerful advantages of marketing automation:
- Personalization: after a user provides an email on your site, now its time to nurture them. Give them contextual content when they return, send thank you emails after certain behaviors, and make regular contact through drip campaigns.
- Automatic notification of sales staff when they visit your website (in real time).
- Lead scoring: as they visit certain high value pages, use this to score them in the CRM
- Life of the lead: see a single timeline that shows their complete history of interaction
- Visitor ID: identify anonymous visitors by reverse lookup of their company from IP address
What is preferred by many companies of all sizes is an integrated solution that is constantly being improved, is singularly and holistically focused on the ecosystem of attracting, nurturing and converting leads. That’s called Marketing Automation.