Archive for the ‘Marketing Automation and Demand Generation’ Category

Marketing Automation Systems are on the Rise

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Guest post by Gene Morris.

Two common business terms combined describe the an increasingly popular outreach tool: marketing automation. According to marketing research firm Raab Associates, the marketing automation system industry will reach $750 million in 2013, growing 50 percent from 2012. Developing a personal rapport with businesses has been an enduring characteristic of successful B2B marketing, so it seem counterintuitive to rely on automated emails and social media platforms. But marketing automation systems aren’t meant to replace personal engagement. Rather, they provide a way to stay regularly connected to potential clients.

Marketing Automation Systems Automate Lead-Nurturing EmailsOnce an unproven strategy, marketing automation has emerged as a vital B2B tactic. As you scale your brand outreach, marketing automation systems can keep you relevant, in touch and on time.

What is Marketing Automation?

Nurturing a lead into a customer is a gradual process. A series of emails may pique a client’s interest, followed by phone calls to get more in depth and a meeting to seal a deal. In the past, if your business wanted to market to a wide audience, it took an armada of dedicated outreach specialists. Marketing automation software handles some of the menial tasks that take up marketers’ time. Professionals can pass along first-contact emails to marketing automation systems, enabling professionals to focus on prospects that have expressed interest. Automation systems can also remind professionals when it’s time to check in with a client, follow up with a prospect or search for new leads.

Marketing automation systems can benefit both B2B companies large and small, whether you’re looking for cash flow at American Express or growing a customer base from scratch.

How Does it Work?

The systems may be automated, but the set-up is under your control. To launch an automated email campaign, marketers draft templates explaining the benefits of a potential partnership. The system can either send out emails automatically or pass through an approval system to ensure relevance. A web display marketing campaign used to require hours of research to find relevant sites at appropriate rates. Now, marketing automation systems can search for web sites in your industry at your price. Systems like Marketo can unify marketing and sales efforts. Marketo can connect with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics systems, further simplifying the outreach process.

Why Should I Use It?

Marketing automation systems are a significant step up in sophistication from email service providers (ESPs). We might look back some day and think how trite these systems were compared to (blank), but in the current marketing space, marketing automation is proving its worth. The Internet has opened up a new sea of advertising space, and savvy companies are using technology to get on top of technology. It’s the only logical solution. The longer you wait to adopt technology-driven marketing strategies, the lower you’ll be on the digital marketing totem poll. These systems will help you win business.

About the author: While finishing his degree in finance, Gene Morris enjoys spending his free time reading and writing about business and tools for financial management.

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Is your website a top performer — or a black hole for sales and marketing?

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Guest post by Lisa Cramer.

We used to analyze website effectiveness by how well it conveyed who you are as a company and how quickly and easily it informed visitors of the value you deliver to them. And while we continue to discuss website effectiveness in terms of conversions – providing content that prospects find interesting enough to be willing to give up some of their own information in order to receive it – now that’s no longer enough. Now, with more and more buyers doing their research online at your website and other sites, it’s important to be able to digitally track and see as much as we can about that company and person before they ever reveal themselves to us.Tracking Tools Provides Insights About Website Visitors

Online tracking of web visitors has taken on added importance for sales and marketing. While web analytics software tells us important metrics like how many visitors we have, which pages they visit and for how long, sales and marketing need more leads.

Using web analytics I can evaluate how my site’s doing as a sales and marketing tool, but now it’s time to take it a step further. I need to be able to actually see if the prospects I’m trying to attract to my website are indeed the ones visiting. I need to see what pages those companies go to and what exactly they are doing on my site. And even more to the point, I need to be able to turn that anonymous visitor into a known entity.

When a company visits your website anonymously, technology can’t tell you who the individual is, but it can certainly tell you their company. And, with links to readily available data sources (including LinkedIn) you can easily find the individuals with the titles that are your targets. When a company comes onto your website it’s an opportunity for you to proactively take its anonymous interest and turn it into a lead. We know from client experience that taking anonymous visitors and converting them into identified prospects directly leads to revenue.

The key criteria in converting an anonymous visitor to a known lead is to not only know who the company is but what they were looking at on your website. For example, if Company A was visiting the LeadLife website and it spent a long time looking at pages and blog posts related to lead nurturing, then we would know to engage the VP of Marketing, CMO and/or CEO in a discussion about lead nurturing’s value to sales and marketing, and ultimately, to the bottom line. Conversely, it would be much more difficult to generate their interest if we had instead initiated a conversation on lead scoring.

What’s now available in technology and supported through process change can help you to make sure your website is performing for sales and marketing in the most effective way. It’s no longer only important to analyze website metrics such as the number of visitors; it’s now time to convert those previously anonymous visitors to known ones.

About the Author

Lisa CramerLisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of an on-demand lead management solution that helps drive revenue by bundling a state of the art marketing automation platform with highly-experienced marketing and sales specialists. In 2009 and 2010, Lisa was recognized as one of the top five “Most Influential People” in sales lead management, and in 2011 was named one of the Top 20 Women to Watch in sales lead management. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisajcramer or connect on her B2B marketing blog.

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Best New B2B Marketing Blogs – The Blog Tree (Infographic)

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

The best B2B marketing blogs are once again creatively presented by marketing automation provider Eloqua and JESS3 in this year’s Blog Tree. It’s gratifying to see that Webbiquity sprouted a leaf this time out. As Joe Chernov explains in his blog tree post,  “All gene pools benefit from healthy DNA, and if the blogosphere is going to continue to evolve, it’s important that new voices are heard. The Blog Tree: New Growth cheers about 60 active, insightful blogs launched (or significantly re-engineered) after January 1, 2009.  It’s truly a collection of the freshest voices on the Web.”

You can find the interactive PDF version of this very cool infographic here or in Joe’s post.It’s great to see some familiar names like Pam Moore The Marketing Nut, Mack Collier, Savvy B2B Marketing and B2B Bloggers on this year’s tree, as well as a lot of new blogs to check out.

Best New B2B Marketing Blogs - The Blog Tree

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Review: Six Small Business CMS and Web Marketing Systems

Monday, August 29th, 2011

What’s the best web content management system (CMS) for your small business? Should you look at something beyond a CMS—a web marketing system (WMS), that provides additional functions like customer relationship management (CRM) and email? There’s no shortage of options, and the decision is an important one: you’ll be “married” to the platform you choose for as long as your current site is up.

Content management systems are valuable tools for small businesses that 1) don’t want to make a big investment in IT infrastructure, 2) don’t have web development (HTML, CSS etc.) expertise on staff, and 3) want to be able to maintain their own web content (adding new pages, text and images) over time, without needing to learn web coding skills.

“Free” CMS options such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have an obvious appeal (price) to small businesses, but none are cost-free. All require some level of technical expertise, and Joomla and Drupal particularly have steep learning curves. Low-cost, fee-based tools are generally more user-friendly, provide more features, and most importantly come bundled with support. For businesses looking beyond “free” tools, here are six CMS and WMS options that can help you get more sales and marketing productivity out of your website, while being easy on your web content contributors.

Keep in mind that all of these tools impose some design limitations; if you need a truly custom look and feel like these sites, your only option is to hire a professional web design and development firm. But if you can live within a template (and most of these tools do offer a respectable array of options), you can save thousands of dollars on design and coding costs.

CMS Only

These platforms offer website building and content management tools with hosting, but no “extras.” If you are just looking to get a site up on the web and already have systems in place for CRM and marketing automation, these tools are worthy of consideration.

Squarespace

Pricing: $150-$600 per year ($12-$50 per month)

Squarespace LogoSquarespace is a generally well-regarded tool with reasonable design functionality for building natively search-optimized websites and blogs. It offers a solid set of features including site search, multiple permission levels for different types of contributors, a form-builder, and  built-in analytics. The learning curve is far less daunting than most free CMS alternatives, and a strength of the tool is its mobile support. For anyone looking for an inexpensive, easy-to-use, basic website building and management tool, Squarespace is definitely worth consideration.

UPDATE: After closer examination, SquareSpace is not worthy of consideration, due to weaknesses in search engine optimization, specifically:

  • • Custom meta title tags for high-level pages are limited to 50 characters (even the most conservative SEOs recommend 65 characters for the title tag).
  • • Meta title tags inside a section (e.g., “blog”) will always begin with the section name. You can customize the section name, but you can’t override the fact the all-important first few characters of every page title in that section will contain it.
  • • You can’t create custom meta description tags (!) which are essential in “selling the click.”
  • • The people behind SquareSpace seem to lack understanding of how SEO works. True, manipulative tactics don’t work, but solid, white hat SEO is essential to getting a website ranked highly. Their information is both inaccurate and offensive to legitimate SEO professionals.

LightCMS

$240-$1200/year ($20-$100 per month)

LightCMS LogoLike the other tools listed here, LightCMS is low-cost, easy to use, search-optimized and provides tools like a forms builder. What sets it apart is better design flexibility than most of the alternatives, calendar tools and built-in ecommerce functionality. For developers and agencies, LightCMS also offers one of the most attractive partner programs. Considering all of its features, LightCMS is another shortlist-worthy tool for basic website creation, particularly for smaller B2C companies who want an easy-to-manage online store.

Solution Toolbox

$300 per year ($25 per month)

Solution Toolbox LogoAnother website building option that includes extras like ecommerce functionality with credit card processing, and nightly backups. The site is a bit cheesy, but the functionality of the tool is solid. Solution Toolbox provides their own comparison of their system to Squarespace and LightCMS, but take it with a grain of salt; it’s biased in their favor of course and some of the specifics are out of date (for example, Squarespace now includes a forms-builder). Still, for smaller consumer marketers who want to run an online store in addition to their basic website, this is worth a look.

Web Marketing Platforms

These suites combine CMS functionality with additional web marketing applications to provide more than just a website, but a complete online marketing software system.

Business Catalyst

$480 per year ($40 per month)

Business Catalyst LogoBusiness Catalyst combines the features of the products above—a CMS, forms builder, and ecommerce tools—with email marketing functionality and a basic CRM system. It provides respectable design flexibility and support for mobile devices. Though the product had issues in its original incarnation, Adobe has fixed many of these issues since acquiring it in late 2009 and continues to invest in product development. The catch? Business Catalyst isn’t sold directly to users, only through web developers and agencies (though there are ways around this).

Genoo

$2,400/year ($200 per month)

Genoo LogoGenoo is a solid, easy to use tool, very strong on email marketing / marketing automation. It offers some of the best built-in SEO tools of any of these packages. Genoo doesn’t provide native CRM functionality, but does have a pre-built integration to Salesforce.com. This is ideal for midsized companies with at least moderately sophisticated internal marketing resources who are already using a separate CRM system and are ready to graduate from hosted email marketing services. Genoo’s offering includes training on how to use its lead-nurturing capabilities.

ePROneur

$1,800/year ($150 per month)

ePROneur LogoThis is a complete web marketing package for smaller, non-ecommerce businesses. It provides a robust CMS for a website and blog along with native CRM, email marketing, and forms-building tools, as well as comprehensive strategy guidance for making all of the pieces work together. The ePROneur package uniquely combines hosting, software, services and strategy to help companies with limited resources effectively generate leads and revenue online. The web marketing resources section of the company’s website also offers a wealth of free strategic and tactical web marketing information.

Any of the alternatives above can help small to midsize companies cost-effectively build and manage their web presence with no IT infrastructure and limited technical expertise. The key from there is to choose a platform whose strengths match up with your business type and needs. And also to investigate multiple options to determine which tool, and company, you are most comfortable working with.

FTC Disclosure: Webbiquity has no affiliate relationships with any of the vendors in this review.

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Is Salesforce.com a Player in Marketing Automation Software?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Guest post by Lauren Carlson.

Salesforce.com is the cloud computing darling of customer relationship management (CRM) software. They have significant control of mind share in that space, and their legacy in customer service and sales force automation software is strong. However, CRM is a trifecta. It is made up of sales, service and—wait for it—marketing! So, where does Salesforce.com stand as a marketing automation solution?

Salesforce.com Marketing & LeadsMarketing Automation Software Guide decided to answer this question. Up front, Salesforce.com will garner appeal because the marketing app is bundled with the Sales Cloud 2 product. You can’t argue with a free app. However, there are several best-of-breed players in the market that have developed robust, feature-rich systems that can handle the most sophisticated marketing strategies. So, when should Salesforce.com make your marketing automation software shortlist? When should you look elsewhere?

To answer these questions, MASG evaluated the system by looking at product functionality. They assessed the seven high-level functions of a marketing automation, identifying capabilities and gaps. You can view the chart on their blog post here.

For a more in-depth analysis, you can visit the MASG blog. However, the verdict is that Salesforce.com is a great place to start with marketing automation. It has the necessary tools and capabilities for very basic marketing activities such as limited email marketing and campaign management. However, as your company grows, your marketing activities might need to scale as well. In this case, we suggest seeking out a best-of-breed vendor, such as Marketo, Eloqua, Genius, Manticore Technology, Genoo or the wide variety of other systems. These vendors have sophisticated features and processes that can meet the needs of marketing teams in any size organization.

Lauren Carlson is a CRM Market Analyst with Software Advice.

FTC Disclosure: Webbiquity has no financial relationship with any of the vendors mentioned in this post.

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