Laurie McCabe is co-founder and partner at SMB Group, and specializes in conducting market research and analysis, as well as consulting on the SMB market and requirements of SMB users.

Q: For an SMB using traditional CRM, what might be the most compelling reason to integrate with a marketing automation solution?

A: Marketing in general is what greases the skids for sales. Today, marketing is more about education and engagement and less about the Don Draper days of having a great ad, putting it out there and having people come running.

Marketing can do a lot of the work up front, so that when you’ve got to have that higher priced human being involved to close the sale, the customers are already more educated and committed. It has to be integrated, because the whole customer buying journey has really changed, and there are so many more touch points before they actually engage with sales.

Q: Research, like that conducted by Buyer Zone in its State of B2B Lead Generation Report, shows that size matters when it comes to marketing automation adoption. Only about 18% of small companies (< 10 employees) are adopting the technology. As a small business expert, what are your thoughts on this? Should more small businesses be investing in marketing automation?

A: I agree with that statistic; for businesses under a hundred, it’s about 20%. But should they be investing? Well, marketing automation’s a big umbrella.

I think that for very small businesses, it’s probably fine for them to use a point solution or two in terms of marketing automation, but in most cases, unless you stay very small—in  terms of how you’re trying to market and brand your business and generate sales, not just employee numbers—at a certain point, those point solutions will become tough to manage, and you’re going to be spending way too much time trying to connect the dots, doing repetitive tasks and making sure that you’re distributing content across different channels.

Then, of course, you’re at a loss in terms of being able to really track and manage things or having any kind of analytics. Essentially, all businesses reach a point where marketing automation is probably is a good investment for them, but very few are going to start with it right out the gate. It’s usually when people reach a pain point and they say “Wow, I just need to automate these marketing processes, because not only is this causing me a lot of pain, but I’m not doing a good job with lead generation, tracking and campaign execution. It’s too much getting lost in all the gaps.”

Q: How should/can marketing automation be used to nurture customers beyond the conversion?

A: It’s widely accepted that your most profitable customers are your repeat customers, so you really want to pay attention to this. But a lot of businesses pay more attention to generating new business when they start out. The key is in getting customers to stay connected with the company, even when they’re not buying, so that you are top of mind when the time comes that they do need your category of goods or services.

Secondly, how do you nurture these customers? How do you turn them into advocates for the company and what you do? This ties right in to how the buyer journey is changing, because we’re really at a point now where a lot of the reasons somebody may decide to buy something is based on peer review. It’s critically important to be able to nurture and capture that.

Thank you, Laurie! Follow her @lauriemccabe or visit her blog.