Using the Power of Technology to Streamline Your Marketing across Multiple Channels
In today’s business environment, with the many different online marketing tools available—websites, social media, e-mail, directories, etc.—developing a cohesive and efficiently structured digital marketing plan can be challenging. Fortunately, software platforms and technologies have been developed that allow users to coordinate marketing efforts simultaneously on multiple online channels. The platforms can also automate recurring tasks, alleviating the need for personnel to ensure those jobs are done and minimizing the risk of error.
What Is Marketing Automation?
Successful companies have come to understand that managing the customer relationship/experience is paramount. Marketing automation offers a powerful tool to allow businesses to promote a positive experience. A marketing automation platform streamlines marketing campaigns by substituting automated solutions for manual processes that customarily require repeated touch or input by humans.
In most instances, a marketing automation platform is web-based, requiring no software installation. The platform allows companies to define, segment, schedule and track all components of a marketing campaign. Though marketing automation is primarily applied to online efforts, it can also be used for offline campaigns.
There are generally three components to a marketing automation platform:
- Tracking and analysis tools—Also known as “marketing intelligence,” this tool uses certain codes embedded in e-mail, social media and web page to identify leads. Some platforms will look at the number of opened e-mails and even abandoned e-commerce carts to help companies gather data about potential customers. In the more sophisticated platforms, it can determine the level of interest a prospect may have, allowing more targeted marketing efforts.
- Automation tools—Once a lead has been identified, this tool assigns a score or value to the prospect based on online activity, allowing the user to formulate and/or send highly targeted content or messages.
- Workflow automation tools—This aspect of the platform allows the user to automate most internal marketing processes, from workflow and approvals to budgets to establishing a marketing calendar. It can also facilitate internal collaboration, where necessary. Most marketing automation programs have workflow templates to walk you through the automation process.
The Benefits of Marketing Automation
The implementation of marketing automation platform offers a number of tangible benefits, from reduced staffing costs and increased revenue to greater accountability of sales and marketing departments. A number of recent studies have examined the impact of marketing automation:
- A 2015 survey by Ascend2 found that 42% of respondent companies used a marketing automation platform
- In a 2017 study by Liana, 68% of participants said marketing automation improved the targeting of messages and nearly half (46%) agreed that it improved the customer experience
- A 2017 report from Adestra found that marketing automation programs optimized production (43%), increased return on investment (41%) and improved marketing campaign management (40%)
- A 2018 study from SmartInsights and Getresponse listed the greatest benefits of marketing automation as time savings (30%), lead generation (22%) and increase in revenue (17%)
What You Can Expect to Pay for Marketing Automation
There are generally two pricing models for marketing automation software—you can pay for the number of contacts in your database or the number of e-mails you send every month. Hubspot, for example, charges $50 per month for its most basic plan and as much as $2,400 for its flagship “Enterprise” product. Those plans all allow you to store up to 1,000 contacts. All Pardot plans have capacity for up to 10,000 contacts, with varying prices. INfusionsoft allows up to 50,000 contacts for a mere $379 per month. There are also some free marketing workflow platforms, as well as some that offer the opportunity to pay as you go.
A Look at Some of the Marketing Automation Platforms Currently Available
There are many software programs/platforms available on the market to help you automate a marketing campaign. Here are some the more popular offerings, with some of their advantages and disadvantages, as determined in testing by PC Magazine.
- Hubspot—With its lower number of stored contacts, this platform is better suited to small businesses that are just starting out or still developing their marketing campaigns. Workflows are generally managed in Hubspot through list building. There’s a feature that allows you to easily and quickly add or delete names from your list. In addition, if you add a web address to your contact record, the tool will automatically populate the record with demographic information, including geographic location or size of staff. Hubspot also offers the capability to directly contact a prospect by e-mail or voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). Hubspot lets you log all call history, including which employees talked with the prospective customer and when.
- Pardot—Pardot is geared toward large companies that have fairly sophisticated marketing campaigns already in place. It’s the most expensive tool on the market, but it also offers more pre-built templates than just about any other platform on the market. Furthermore, the best components of the tool are intended to enhance workflows that have already been created. With Pardot, you can create and schedule social media programs that allow real time simultaneous posting to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Pardot also offers an SEO/SEM too that can be plugged in to Google, Yahoo and Bing, allowing you to monitor search engine rankings and monthly traffic volumes, as well as paid search campaigns.
- Infusionsoft—Apart from some free or pay-as-you-go applications, this is far and away the least expensive option. In addition, Infusionsoft is more user-friendly than other platforms, with the only “drag and drop” tool on the market. The tool allows you to create unique tags and establish automated monitoring functions, based on user behavior. For example, you can set the tool up to automatically delete contacts from the database if they don’t respond to a certain number of messages. There’s also a feature that allows you to see if any contact in your database has interacted with any other contact. You can also set the tool up for real time notification whenever a contact reads a message
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