Is Marketing Automation Relevant to SMEs in the UK?

TeamWe've been researching the adoption of marketing automation in SMEs.  Finding data is very hard, yet there is a clear feeling that adoption of automation is slow.  Recent research featured from Software Advice shows only 2% of SMEs have a marketing automation platform and 47% are still using manual methods.  And yet Econsultancy (2015) found that 88% of companies they surveyed were very clear or quite clear about the benefits of marketing automation including:

  • More relevant communication
  • Increased customer engagement
  • More timely communication
  • Opportunities for cross-sell and up-sell
  • Saving Time
  • Increased revenue.

So why are SMEs slow to jump on the marketing automation bandwagon?  Is it because they don’t understand the opportunity enough, or are vendors not meeting their needs?

We carried out in-depth interviews with SMEs in a variety of industries to find out what they thought about the marketing automation opportunity.  Here we look at four different personas that are fictional but are based on extensive research.  Do you see yourself in Tammy, Nigel, Edward or Gordon?


Tammy the Traditionalist

Tammy works for a well established firm.  They are highly focussed on customer loyalty.  However, there is little interest, investment or skill in digital marketing techniques. Tammy's firm are traditionalists who like to put leather on the street. Communications with clients are highly personal.  Meetings, telephone calls and carefully crafted individual emails are preferred.  Whilst Tammy's firm sees a need to have a website, they do not engage fully in the digital world.   Tammy can see the benefits of marketing automation for other companies, but not themselves.   She sees that perhaps marketing automation could be useful for saving time dealing with smaller, lower value, customers. 

Edward the Innovative Entrepreneur (IE)

Edward is a highly enthusiastic solo-preneur with an active interest in digital marketing.  He has already adopted an off-the-shelf marketing automation package to drive leads into his business.  Strategically he understands digital marketing, but doesn’t always understand the details of implementation.  His current solutions present niggly problems and he finds himself struggling with the process of using them.     Edward is excited about the deeper insights he could gain from a system that tracks the entire web journey of the customer.  However, he has concerns about the time, training and cost of taking on a new system.  

Nigel of No Need Now

Nigel, like Tammy, is very much focussed on customer loyalty and is motivated primarily by return on investment.  However the company is smaller, a start-up with a handful of employees. Nigel sees a need to have a digital presence, but purely to let potential customers know that the company exists.  He recognises that his website needs to be up-to-date and responsive, but has little interest in its upkeep or driving traffic to the site.  Like Tammy communications with clients are highly personalised.  Customer records are currently kept on excel spreadsheets.  Nigel does see potential in automated marketing for spin-off products which have a larger customer base. 

Gordon of Great Growth Group

Gordon heads up a small branch of a much larger group.  Gordon is highly focussed on customer loyalty and growing market share.  Digital marketing techniques have been employed, but many different systems have been used.  This has created frustrations, particularly in terms of list management, and there is no single view of the customer. Much time is lost in uploading and downloading information between systems. Gordon is interested in how marketing automation could help his company to grow and retain the customer base.  He is very interested in the idea of having all customer data in one place, easy to access remotely by people within the company and external consultants.   He is however concerned about investment in time and money.


What we discovered is that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for SMEs.  Their concerns, their business processes, motivations, budgets are all so different.

We asked Tammy and Co to look at Commsbox and comment on how this type of integrated marketing software could help them in their businesses.

Marketing planning meetingTAMMY

Tammy isn’t aware just yet of how marketing automation can help.  Being a traditional company, they haven’t yet seen the need for marketing automation.  Unfortunately, Tammy’s firm may fall behind without realising it.  It’s important to be able to show her some practical benefits.  Tammy is open minded and can see the benefits but just isn’t ready yet.

What excites Tammy about Commsbox Marketing Automation:

  • The easy to use interface
  • Keeping her website copy alive, up to date and relevant
  • Saving time in the long term by automating processes
  • Having a tool that will give her power and control over her marketing
  • Being able to carry out low cost promotions.

What can we do for Tammy?

Chances are that Tammy just doesn’t understand how digital marketing can help her enough.  We can help Tammy by carrying out a digital marketing audit, looking at where her company stands compared to her competitors and how she could be planning now for the future.


ManagerEdward is already tied into a marketing automation package so he is unlikely to change suppliers.  Edward may experience difficulties with his current supplier’s package at some point as it's an off-the-shelf solution, so he has to mangle his processes to fit with what the software does.  This is annoying, but at the end of the day, he doesn’t want to spend time and money investing in something new unless and until his current solution no longer meets his needs.  It’s important to Edward that any change he makes will bring real benefit. 

What excites Edward about Commsbox Marketing Automation:

  • Being able to update his website with relevant web copy
  • The easy to use interface
  • Having one big database of all his clients and prospects
  • Being able to see how individual customers interact with his digital presence
  • Being able to identify what individual contacts were personally interested in

What can we do for Edward?

As Edward’s business continues to grow we need to keep Edward informed of updates to Commsbox, so he knows what his options are for the future.  We can make it easy for him to swap systems by easily uploading his current contact details into the Commsbox CRM system.  And we can develop new functionality for him if he needs something slightly different to the standard package.


Nigel really doesn’t have a need for marketing automation.  He has a handful of specialist customers and knows them very well.  Manual systems, excel spreadsheets and a static website will continue to work for Nigel for some time. 

What excites Nigel about Commsbox Marketing Automation:

Nothing really!  We have to accept that not everybody needs marketing automation!  Perhaps as his business matures, and competitors start to use this type of technology he will be a later adopter.

What can we do for Nigel?

Nigel may want to keep a watching eye on what is happening in digital marketing.  Signing up to our blog could help him keep abreast of key issues such as the recent impact of Google’s algorithm change.  When Nigel does identify a need for a more sophisticated digital presence, the lack of current systems will make it easy for him to transfer his web presence to a Commsbox responsive website.


Gordon is already engaged with digital marketing, but using many tools has left him with integration problems.  Heading a dynamic, growing company, Gordon has been enthusiastic about using new techniques which has led the company to try out many new tools and methods of promoting online.  However, this has left Gordon with many problems including systems that are difficult to use, lack of integration between systems, messy lead and list management and a lack of detailed customer insights.

What excites Gordon about Commsbox Marketing Automation:

  • The ability to address multi-platform audiences – whether they use mobile, PC, tablet
  • The easy to use interface
  • Being cloud based, consultants and staff in multiple and remote locations can all access the tools
  • The ability to enhance SEO reputation through the SEO optimisation tools and blogging platform
  • Having all their customer data in one place rather than spread over disparate systems
  • Allowing for fast changes to their website
  • Having detailed customer insights to drive better marketing and decision
  • A less labour- intensive way of understanding their customers.

What can we do for Gordon?

Gordon will benefit from transitioning from many disparate tools to one integrated marketing tool.  Commsbox offers bespoke consultancy and web development for clients with more complex requirements.

Find out more about in our guide "Making the Case for Marketing Automation"




Caroline WrightCaroline is Marketing Director for
CommsBox, marketing automation software.  Her industry experience spans high technology companies, charities, membership organisations and the creative industries. Caroline also works as Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at the University of Hertfordshire and has been instrumental in setting up their new BA Marketing with Digital Communications.  She also works with postgraduates on MSc Marketing and with professionals taking Chartered Institute of Marketing/CAM Digital Marketing Diploma.You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


Thank you for this post. Good luck.
Comment by Deepija - 15 October 2020
Nice Blog, Thank you for sharing a valuable topic.

Thanks & Regards,
From <a href="">Call Center Software</a>.
Comment by Call Center Software - 21 March 2020
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