My January column for CRM magazine focused on why I thought 2013 would be the year marketing automation went mainstream for small business. Larger companies have been relying on it for years, and many SMBs have been implementing it as well. But I think a large number of smaller businesses have been slow to get involved with MA because of the perceived complexity and expensiveness of the tools available to them.
But with more vendors focusing on the needs of smaller organizations, and with smaller organizations understanding they need to change their approach to engaging customers and prospects, I think both parties are ready to do this….
Infusionsoft has been helping the Under 25 employee crowd do marketing automation even before I became familiar with them in 2007 – and they’ve always been true to that market. And while the service has always had a robust functionality set, in the early days it wasn’t for the faint of heart to try and use. You could do some really complex sequencing, but you needed to devote some serious time and effort in order to do so.
But last year at InfusionCon when they rolled out a much prettier, easier to use interface – along with even more functionality – it signaled to me that some of the barriers to using marketing automation were beginning to come down.
And when InfusionSoft announced raising $54M from Goldman Sachs a few weeks ago, I figured they would begin to put that money to use to keep up their momentum - which would also further the mainstreaming of marketing automation to The Under 25ers. Based on today’s announcement of InfusionSoft acquiring social media marketing platform GroSocial, I figured right.
GroSocial helps small businesses do a better job of generating leads from Facebook by managing the process of creating Facebook tabs, timelime covers and backgrounds. It also helps manage Facebook interactions and create contest /promotions, with the goal of turning fans and followers into leads and eventually customers.
Currently there is an InfusionSoft widget for GroSocial users that allows them to capture leads and trigger automatic actions in InfusionSoft. But eventually there will be an integration between the two services to create a fully automated customer lifecycle process – from content distribution and social engagement, lead generation, lead nurture, sales conversion and customer retention.
With the acquisition binge that started with last year’s purchase of Buddy Media by Salesforce.com (and really Radian6 in 2011) and continued on through December with Oracle buying Eloqua (and Vitrue & Collective Intellect before that…and Market2Lead way before that) you could see where things were going in the space. And you can’t forget about the big money raised buy companies like Marketo, Hubspot and others. But most if not all of that was really aimed at companies having more than 25 employees.
What InfusionSoft’s acquisition of GroSocial means is the integration of social marketing automation platforms with traditional marketing automation platforms is here for the real little guys – or will be when InfusionSoft merges these services together. This should make it easier for smaller organizations to fully realize the power automation can bring to engaging customers and prospects across social channels – and then transition them to more traditional processes at the optimal time to close the deal…or execute the transaction for ecommerce businesses.
I had a conversation with InfusionSoft CEO Clate Mask that will be published this week as part of my interview series over at Small Business Trends. We talked about a number of issues including why Goldman Sachs for the funding, as well as why specifically did they go after GroSocial. Stay tuned to hear what he had to say. But one thing I had to ask him about was if these two moves signified a change in direction with respect to swimming upstream to go after bigger companies. Clate said in a pretty definitive manner that InfusionSoft will not be doing that. He says their passion will continue to be to serve the Under 25ers. I expected him to say that, because he’s said the same to me for the past six years - and he's been true to his word. But it also makes a lot of sense from a business perspective, as this is a segment none of the big boys are focusing in on….not yet at least.
So I guess I should say thanks to Clate and the InfusionSoft gang, as they're already making me feel pretty good about my prediction. So....thanks!