Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Venture Harbour. Commissions do not affect our writers’ opinions or evaluations.

There’s no shortage of stories about small businesses that have grown their profits by an order of magnitude after implementing marketing automation software.

Thanks to tools like Keap & Ontraport, the ability to automate actions based on customer behaviour has enabled small businesses to operate as if they had legions of staff working around the clock.

In this post, I want to shine the spotlight on a handful of small businesses that have creatively scaled their businesses by improving productivity through automation.

1. How walking brides through the wedding process increased Paper Style’s revenue by 330%

One of my favourite examples of marketing automation is a case study by a wedding invitation company called Paper Style.

Given the ludicrous amounts of money people spend on all kinds of wedding items, there’s obviously a huge amount of opportunity for anyone who can appear in the right place at the right time during the wedding planning phase.

With the help of their marketing automation software, Paper Style executed this beautifully. They started off by creating a typical timeline of bride buying behaviour.

This timeline assumed, for example, that brides would likely buy wedding favours before thank you cards.

As soon as someone entered into their email system, a series of emails were sent out to identify whether they were shopping for themselves or for a friend. This would then determine which sequence they’d be moved into.

The result of moving from a generic newsletter to personalised marketing automation was quite dramatic for Paper Style. Their open rates increased by 244%, email click rates by 161%, and their revenue per mailing increased by 330%.

2. Meet Barry, Synduit’s automated salesman

Keap’s campaign builder is notoriously addictive and endlessly powerful. The combination of these makes it easy to spend weeks fine-tuning sequences.

And… that’s exactly what my friend Dan has done.

Dan is a co-founder of Synduit, a company that builds automation software for small businesses in the service sector. Naturally, he’s converted on the power of marketing automation.

After meeting him at a conference in Thailand, Dan told me about his sales guy, Barry. There’s something interesting about Barry, though. Barry is 100% automated.

Apparently his customers send emails back and forth to Barry for months, without even realising he’s automated.

So, how does this work?

There are four stages to Synduit’s sales process. Each stage has a sequence of automated emails which aim to move the lead into the next stage of the process. The process begins when any one of three criteria are met:

1. A lead reaches a lead score of 4+ flames in Infusionsoft
2. A lead takes an action that triggers a ‘start’ tag
3. The lead is manually added into the campaign

If the lead is new, they’re added to a 7-week / 14-email sequence. If, at any point, during that 14-email sequence they fill out a ‘let’s chat’ form, they are added to a 6-email sequence to schedule a call.

After the call, they’re either added into a sequence that indicates that they’re going to convert, or they’re added into a nurturing sequence. After a customer purchases, they’re entered into a series of post-conversion anniversary emails at 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months.

Now I don’t know specifically what result this has had for Synduit, but anecdotally, it seems to be working very well for them.

For me, this case study highlights the fact that when you automate 90% of your sales process, and refine each email and each landing page over time, you end up with an incredibly powerful sales process that takes out the inconsistency of human error.

I have no doubt that Dan is just getting started, and will absolutely crush it as he experiments with more and more variations in his automation sequences.

3. How eZanga boosted repeat traffic by recommending personalised blog content

While not overly groundbreaking, eZanga used marketing automation software to increase their blog traffic by recommending similar content to people who’d subscribed to their mailing list.

In this instance, I think the design of eZanga’s campaign let it down slightly, but the idea has a huge amount of potential. If this email looked like a personal email from one of their team members, I imagine the results would go through the roof.

That said, even with this design, they noticed an increase in repeat visitors to their blog. The reason I included this example, though, is not because it was particularly inspiring, but because of where you could take this approach.

If you wanted to, you could take this to another level by recommending products that your readers might be interested in – or actions they could take based on the content they’ve engaged with on your site.

For example, if you run an organic food business and someone subscribes to your blog while reading a post about coconut oil, you could send them an email inviting them to like and share a Facebook post you wrote educating people on coconut oil. You might also recommend some good links on where to buy coconut oil at a discount, providing an affiliate opportunity.

Any recommendations with this level of personalisation would likely have an insanely high engagement rate.

4. Thomson Reuters Increased revenue by 175% while reducing lead conversion time by 72%

For years, Thomson Reuters had a typical one-size fits all approach to email marketing. Leads were not well defined, and were therefore being lost at all stages of their funnel.

thomson reuters 5 Creative Ways Small Businesses are Using Marketing Automation

But these things were just symptoms of a much bigger problem. From experience, an ironic problem that’s common among most large businesses.

The problem: Their sales and marketing teams weren’t communicating effectively.
One of the side effects of implementing marketing automation software was that Thomson Reuters had to sit down and define what a lead was, and what determined the quality of a lead.

By standardising their sales process and implementing a lead scoring system, it enabled their marketing and sales staff to focus on the same metrics and contribute towards the same goal.

Since implementing Eloqua, they’ve seen a 175% increase in revenue attributed to marketing leads, and a 23% increase in the total number of leads. What’s also interesting is that they simultaneously decreased lead conversion time by 72%.

What I love about this case study is how it illustrates how marketing automation software, when implemented correctly, can form the glue between a company’s sales and marketing teams.

5. How Capterra quadrupled sales by making their qualification process more efficient

A few years ago, a study on the Harvard Business Review suggested that you’re 60x more likely to qualify a lead if you follow up within one hour, compared to waiting 24 hours.

Earlier this year, Capterra posted a case study backing this up. Using marketing automation software, they grew their sales by 400%.

Not by A/B testing their email subject lines, or experimenting with landing page sequences, but by reducing the amount of time their reps had to spend qualifying leads. This boost in efficiency enabled them to get more done, and bring home more bacon for the company.

What I find particularly interesting is how they did it.

In essence they created an API that fed all of their leads into their marketing automation software. From there, they created a series of email sequences to ‘reactivate’ unresponsive leads, eliminate post qualification checks, and improve email contact during out-of-office hours.

The results speak for themselves: a 94% reduction in average response time, and a 400% improvement in qualification rate while maintaining the same close rate.

In Summary

Due to the relatively high cost, small businesses have been slow to adopt marketing automation software in comparison to larger businesses.

What’s important to remember with automation software is that the investment should be compared with the return on investment. If a tool like Infusionsoft can help your business generate an extra $5,000/month, then the $199/month fee isn’t quite so significant.

If you want to compare some of the different tools available, we’ve written this in-depth comparison of marketing automation software providers.

Marcus Taylor is the founder of Venture Harbour. He’s also an early-stage investor, advisor & the youngest Patron of The Prince's Trust.

More from Marcus

  • Follow Marcus