Salesfusion, becoming Sugar Market, commenced Industry Insights, an interview series with industry analysts and marketing and sales experts. Industry Insights kicks off with an interview with David Kirkpatrick. David Kirkpatrick—award winning journalist, author and marketing expert—is Manager of Editorial Content for MECLABS, parent company of MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments.

Q: What makes marketing automation particularly relevant for small to medium sized businesses?

A: It is important for optimizing time spent, if you’re big enough that you can’t manage your entire database by hand, easily. If everyone’s really actually using it, having that extra layer gives an SMB tracking ability and some of the marketing activities that a pure CRM package cannot provide.

Q: Given the increasingly complex needs of the modern SMB, how can SMBs best address the disconnect between sales and marketing? Is the answer technology?

A: I think sales and marketing should be in alignment anywhere. The challenge is this: the CMO is taking over the CIO and CTO, in the C-suite.

Now, because of all the technology and the fact that they’re buying and handling this technology and the data that’s coming in, now marketing activities are no longer a black hole. Now they’re trackable. Now there’s ROI that can be attached to it. Now all of the sudden, CMOs are surpassing the role of the CIO.

The actual alignment issue now is between marketing and the IT department. Technology helps get marketing and sales in alignment, but technology is the reason that marketing and IT have to get into alignment.

Q: It was argued at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 building customer personas is key to transforming email marketing programs. Do you agree? Why or why not?

A: I’m not sure who said that, but I’m going to say no, only because there is no key. There’s no secret sauce. It all depends on the type of campaigns your run, the types of customers you have, the types of products you have, your overall marketing strategy. Personas are not necessarily going to be the key depending on how you do things.

Q: How would you address concerns from SMB CMOs/CIO/CFOs who want to adopt or progress in marketing automation but lack significant budget?

A: I’d say number one, check things out. Talk to your peers, particularly someone that you know doesn’t have a gigantic budget.

I recall a case study I did 2012, and they had budgetary issues. They really checked around, and they ended up going with a highly scalable program from one of the larger players in the field. Their lead generation increased by 300%. Beautiful number. That’s when acquisition costs were down 50%. Their monthly costs, just for their automated lead nurturing campaigns, were down $6,000. Unless you’re really doing it wrong, which is possible, you’re probably going to see some kind of return. If you’re on the fence, you’re probably going to save some money, and you might save a whole lot of money. It’s one of those cases where you’ve got to spend a little bit. You’ve got to spend a little time. You’ve got to do some learning, but you potentially could see very dramatic results. I’d say anyone would love to see their lead gen go up by 300%.

Q: How can SMBs create the necessary culture to implement marketing automation successfully?

A: This goes back to some of that marketing-IT alignment we discussed earlier. That’s an easy sell with marketing, and even with salespeople. They’ll understand exactly what you’re going to do for them. If you’re aligned with your IT department, they’re going to be your advocate if you have to sell this to the C-suite, or the leadership, within the company itself. Your IT person can be your worst enemy or your best friend here.

You can follow David Kirkpatrick @davidkonline.

Thank you, David!