Marketing automation software—which is used to develop, execute and track marketing campaigns–has changed the landscape for companies of all sizes, but especially small businesses.  Automating much of the communication and follow-up that used to be done manually allows small businesses, with their small staffs and limited resources, to shift priorities and use employees’ time more effectively. In fact nearly all—98%–of small business software buyers are shopping for marketing automation software, according to a new report by research firm Software Advice, a division of Gartner.

This kind of software helps companies manage lead generation, allows marketers and sales people to build relationships with those leads, and lets management track and analyze the performance of campaigns.

That automation can be a game-changer for small businesses, which are often overwhelmed with managing clients, contacts and leads, according to the Software Advice survey. Here’s how the right marketing automation platform can transform your small business:

Eliminates a lot of the guesswork that goes into sales and marketing.

Business owners will know for certain things they used to guess at, like which content gets the most traction and what is most relevant to different leads and how long to wait before sending a second email to a prospect.

Reduces errors.

Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s the reason why data entered into a CRM system manually almost always has erroneous information. Marketing automation software automatically populates web forms, greatly reducing errors. Hatchbuck’s tools add a new contact record every time someone fills out an online form, which not only helps with accuracy, it eliminates a lot of tedious data entry.

Improves communication.

One of the most important things marketing automation does is improve your communication with customers and prospects, and reduce the time it takes you to respond to their queries. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that prospects are seven times more likely to buy from a company that responds to their inquiry within an hour.

Personalizes communication.

Messages that are personalized—and tailored to the recipient—will have a much bigger impact than generic ones. They are more likely to be read and create loyalty with your brand. Without an automated system to keep track of every customer and contact’s history and activity, this would be a herculean task. But with marketing automation, it’s efficient and effective.

Lets you nurture leads over time.

You can automate sending personalized emails to prospects, educating them about your product and familiarizing them with your company over time. Our tools, for example, allow you to do things like track email conversations and allow sales people to segment and organize their contacts in ways that make sense—by status, demographics or specific need.

Leverages data.

Marketing automation collects and harnesses an enormous amount of valuable data, tracking every interaction with customers and prospects and then analyzes it, allowing you to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns so you can improve engagement and sales.

Lets you compete with the big guys.

It used to be only large companies had the resources for marketing automation software, but products specifically designed for small businesses—like Hatchbuck—make it affordable and easy to implement and allow the smallest businesses to market like the Fortune 500.