Gone are the days when marketing automation is something that only huge enterprises could afford. In 2014, less than 5 percent of companies were using some form of marketing automation. But this year, things are about to change in a big way. Marketing automation is becoming more popular. In fact, it’s considered one of the biggest trends in sales and marketing for 2015.

For those who are still new to this concept, marketing automation is basically a way to distribute the right message, to the right clients at the right time in a quick and automated fashion. With marketing automation, companies can follow up on a lead or inquiry so much faster than the usual days and weeks it normally takes a human (or lazy sales reps). As marketers, we know the importance of chasing down hot leads. Research by insidesales.com and Vorsight shows that leads called within 5 minutes of receipt are 100 times more likely to be contacted and 21 more times likely to become a qualified lead than if called 30 minutes after receipt. Marketing automation changes that and supports the delivery and execution of the best results.

These days, even small businesses can embark in sales and marketing automation without spending a ton of money. With the proliferation of more affordable and easy to use automation apps, small businesses can automate repetitive tasks such as social media postings or email autoresponders so they can concentrate more on communicating, educating and building meaningful relationships with their prospects and clients.

So what used to be a “possible” marketing idea a few years ago is now being considered as a necessary building block to any marketing plan. If your company doesn’t look into adopting sales and marketing automation technology, then don’t be surprised if your competitors leave you eating their dust or your cost of acquisition kills you, whichever comes first.

Here are some brilliant examples of how to use sales and marketing automation.

1. Toyota: Revolutionizing the way customers communicate

Toyota is one of the best and now, the largest car maker in the world – and it’s not only because they make awesome cars. Toyota believes that cars are not just products; they believe that their cars should interact with their owners.

What used to be just a vision in 1996 is now a reality with Toyota Friend, a social networking service based on Salesforce Chatter that allows Toyota owners to interact with their own car’s dealerships, and with Toyota itself. Very much like a great friend, this app connects owners with family and friends through major social networking sites: Facebook and Twitter. It even prompts owners to recharge whenever their PHEV or EV are running low, even going as far as tweeting service information.

2. Canon: Capturing and centralizing customer activity

Global innovative imaging pioneer Canon is one of the world’s best not only because of its technological innovations, but also because of its ability to adapt to paradigm shifts. “Being new is not enough,” so says Chairman Haruo Murase.

And, so they worked towards being more relevant in the social and mobile world through Salesforce Sales Cloud. With this app, Canon gained the ability to connect with employees and customers more effectively so they can focus on other important things. The Sales Cloud centralizes customer information which staff use to capture customer activity and prevent overlap. With this, Canon’s large army of direct sales staff can get better insights to what’s happening on the frontlines, in real time.

3. Coca-Cola: Harnessing the power of mobile

Dubbed as one of the recognizable brands in the world, Coca-Cola has even greater aspirations for the future. They want to increase their operating income by 6 to 8 percent in the long term, which is quite ambitious even for a large company like them. To do this, they looked at their current ways of doing things to see which processes needed some tweaking to increase efficiency and profitability. They discovered that most of their sales people were spending too much time carrying out administrative tasks.With the help of a mobile app based on Salesforce’s platform and Service Cloud, Coca-Cola was able to revolutionize not only its sales, but also every area of operations. The mobile app enabled technicians to log activity updates in real time and retrieve their work schedules faster, which allowed them to deal with customer requests more promptly. The app likewise helped sales reps to dramatically reduce the time it takes to on board a new customer by about 60 percent, while also cutting in half all technician administration costs.

4. Red Cross: Leveraging social media

American Red Cross’s way of communicating to people has gone a long way from using telegraphs to communicate emergency and preparedness messages. These days, the Red Cross is at the forefront of leveraging the power of social media and advanced marketing automation to get messages out to the public.

Its Digital Operations Center, which monitors and keeps in touch with the public, uses the Marketing Cloud to “listen” to social media conversations to gather information about disasters or monitor public preparedness for perceived dangerous situations. Consequently, the app enabled Red Cross’s command center to determine where to position aid workers on the ground.

Are you a small business wanting to take advantage what sales and marketing automation has to offer? You don’t have to be a huge multinational to leverage the power of cutting edge marketing technologies. You can take cues from these examples and implement measures that fit your specific needs and budget. Marketing Automation for Small and Mid-sized companies can range for as little as $150 a month.

Xtendly helps small to medium-sized businesses leverage the cloud with world-class but affordable and user-friendly marketing automation and CRM solutions.

Talk to us today.