Marketing Automation - And So Should You!

Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain those customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result. - McKinsey Global Institute 

In the simplest terms, marketing automation includes any tools or platforms that automate marketing tasks, manage data across various channels, and allow for data analysis over time. Automation tools don’t just make life easier for companies – but more importantly, they revolutionize the experience for their customers.

A Forrester study estimates that by 2023, annual spending on automation tools will more than double. That’s $25.1 billion spent annually by 2023.

But with all this money flowing out, many organizations aren’t trained in using automation technology – let alone understanding its long-term capabilities.

One survey revealed that 58% of marketers reported they were struggling to find efficient strategies to make use of automation tools. In other words, they have the power, but not the expertise to wield it.

While we’re well on our way to transforming UX through data-driven decision-making, a vast learning curve lies ahead. Data and automation can strengthen customer relationships, increase marketing ROI, and save time and energy. This is the untapped potential of technology and the future of business.

What Can Businesses Do with Automation?

Asking what businesses can do with automation is like asking what someone can do with a computer. There are limitless options.

When it comes to marketing, there are several areas that directly benefit from automation now - customer relationship management, social media, email marketing, landing pages, and lead generation to name a few.

To be more specific, let’s say you want to segment your email lists into geographic groups. Or send an email to everyone who purchased a specific product. Or remember to follow up automatically with customer support issues. Maybe you want to send out product recommendations periodically without having to remember, or retarget leads who recently visited your site in a timely manner.

Individually, these tasks are simple enough, but altogether, they can take hours and create significant confusion. Furthermore, without the data to review your past results, it can be nearly impossible to tell whether performance is improving in any given area.

In this sense, we can look at automation as a means of taking radical responsibility for your marketing processes (without the headache). It’s the difference between uncertainty/unease and confident scalable marketing that generates measurable results.

What Can Businesses Expect from Automation Platforms?

Automation is one thing – You can automate in simple ways on platforms like Facebook and Hootsuite. But bring together automation and integration for an exponentially more efficient, data-driven, marketing program. One of the best things about a solid automation system is that it brings all your other tools together in one place.

Let’s look at Salesforce as an example. This platform takes a CRM approach, fusing sales, marketing, and customer service so your whole company has a 360-degree view of the user experience for each individual – not just your userbase as a whole. Salesforce knows that personalization is paving the future of successful business. It’s a highly customizable platform that can adapt as your business grows or changes course.

Hubspot is another great example of a platform that allows you to streamline all marketing tasks from one central command center. Using workflows, companies can manage email lists, send internal notifications, select conditions and triggers for automatic personalized emails. Imagine the free time that opens up for a team whose lead generation strategy is set to autopilot – tasks are handled in a uniform manner and nothing falls through the cracks from the inevitable human error.

Getting Started with Marketing Automation

Before even researching tools and technology, it’s important to gain as much clarity as you can.

The first step is likely the easiest - reviewing your current marketing strategy, tech stack, and their shortcomings. Identifying the weak spots or difficult aspects of running your business is probably obvious for you and/or your marketing team. You already have an idea of what’s not getting results, or what’s really time-consuming and laborious. Having this knowledge front and center as you search for marketing solutions will help guide your decisions. It will also keep you from drifting in too many different directions as you explore the endless possibilities these platforms offer.

Next is a step you’ve probably heard often: Have a goal. Plunging into automation technology without a goal is just like plunging in without knowing your specific weak spots – How will you know what choices to make? Your goal may be as broad as nurturing leads or as specific as generating 100 new subscribers per month. In any case, you’ll be better able to analyze your data for effectiveness when you know what results you’re looking for.

Finally, your automation tools are only as effective as the people who use them. Training your team to step outside their comfort zones and learn new marketing technologies will round out your results. This means working to eliminate silos between departments like marketing, sales, and IT. Strategic decisions that allow all team members to play a role, or at least be in-the-know about the company’s automation tools with create cohesion. Automation platforms are a great way to foster a culture of centralized data, collaboration, and clearer communication which creates cohesion within the organization.

Ready to dive in and learn more about data and automation for small business? Read more on the blog or get in touch to start optimizing your marketing ROI.


How Slack Is Accelerating Digital Marketing

Since its inception in 2013, Slack has quickly become a staple in many offices and workspaces around the world. As of this year, the platform boasts 10 million users per day, and a whopping 43% of Fortune 100 companies use it in one way or another.

At first glance, a simple instant messaging tool for teams doesn't seem very revolutionary, albeit convenient & lighthearted. (Slack's loading screens greet users with witty banter like, "The Elders of the Internet are contemplating your request..") Slack's interface is impressively clean and simple too, which doesn't sufficiently reveal the vast capabilities hiding within the platform either. But Slack is more than just another tab in your browser or another platform you have to remember a login and password for. If used to its fullest capacity, it's a robust command center for marketers and marketing teams to execute each of their tasks. Let's briefly review some of Slack's capabilities and features.

A Marketer's Dream Command Center

Digital Marketing - Teams can manage entire campaigns from channels within Slack and keep data separate. It can also be integrated with other popular marketing platforms like MailChimp. Manage your editorial calendar, content marketing strategy, analytics, and even finances and invoices. You can also set campaign reminders and get help at any time from your personal assistant, Slackbot.

Statistics - All team members can access performance statistics and share relevant content on the designated channel. You can also monitor social media marketing budgets, respond to customer feedback, and share results from email campaigns. With Slack, teams can pinpoint KPIs and ensure they are met.

Content Sharing - Teams can share links, documents, videos, and screencasts with a simple copy and paste.

So what are the implications of such a diverse, multi-faceted, and widely-used platform?

Email on the Backburner

Image result for email is dead

For several years now, some marketing experts have harped on the idea that email is dead - or will be soon. Yet, many professionals haven't seen a hint of evidence of that. Many still spend their days plowing through emails, trying desperately to organize the influx of information in their inboxes. But for those that still insist the end is near for email, Slack would be just the platform to deliver that final crushing blow. It's a team communication tool that is more direct than email - Simply click the name of the person you want to speak to. It's also more conversational, which saves time by cutting the fluff and formalities you'd often find in an email.

Seamless Integration & Automation

The biggest gamechanger Slack introduces for digital marketers is simple automation. Social media apps many teams are already using like Hubspot and Hootsuite can be integrated with Slack, along with automation tools like Zapier and Marketo. Users can create tasks in Hubspot for every Slack message they need to take action on. Hootsuite users can send specific social media posts to Slack and add comments or solicit feedback from team members. Zapier can help with tasks like automatically sending all Facebook posts to one Slack channel. In this way, teams are virtually limitless in how they can customize Slack to meet their unique marketing needs.

By learning to navigate Slack using quick keyboard commands, users no longer need to switch between their own email, social media, data platforms, and email marketing platforms as often. All information is gathered in a central hub where every team member has instant access. Not to mention, teams can say goodbye to silos. Something as complex as launching a product can be simplified with custom Slackbot reminders and integration with Google calendar. For data, tools like Statsbot can pull information from Google Analytics right into Slack. Surveys from SurveyMonkey can be brought in as well. For organization, tools your team already uses like Trello and Asana can be integrated. There's no limit to the amount of data teams can review together.

Global Knowledge

1 online geniuses slack

Not only is Slack uniting and simplifying communication on teams, but in entire industries. Marketing professionals worldwide are joining Slack channels like Online Geniuses and Open Strategy, which is where thousands of digital marketers now go to learn, share information, and ask questions. Some channels even interview well-known entrepreneurs and open the floor for questions. These channels serve as hubs of expertise in the latest marketing trends. Startups can also create channels for its userbase or membership to raise questions, report issues, and even celebrate the brand. Channels can be unique in that they invite users into direct, informal communication with the company itself.

 

 

Marketing and data automation is one of the fastest-changing industries thanks to ongoing advancements in technology. Keeping up can be a serious challenge, especially for smaller teams with more limited budgets. In this sense, Slack is leveling the playing field with an accessible, affordable platform that provides access to all the essentials - marketing, data, and collaboration.

Digital marketing can quickly become a monstrous job that takes up too many team members' time and energy. With Slack's help in automating tedious tasks, teams are spared both the mental and digital clutter of doing everything manually. That's more time spent on the important stuff, less time wasted on busywork.

 

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If you'd like to learn more about how you could leverage Slack to maximize the use of data and automation in your marketing flows, feel free to contact us, we just might be able to help!

 


SOI: The Engines Of The 4th Industrial Revolution

We are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution. From AI to IoT to machine learning to automation, companies must evolve to survive. Lennar International, the division in charge of bringing the dream of owning a US home to the world for Lennar, a Fortune 200 company, partnered with innovative upstart ONE12th to re-imagine itself as a data-driven, digital-first organization. The Systems Of Intelligence (SOI) connect data to business outcomes in order to maximize efficiency. ONE12th and Lennar International’s Lecia Rothman led the transformation through a System of Optimization, by placing the SOI as the engine at the center of every process. This enabled Lennar International to leverage, and stay one step ahead of, the data-fueled technological advances of the 4th Industrial Revolution… And so can you.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is bringing with it an accelerated pace of innovation, particularly when it comes to the vast troves of data being generated and the technology that is transforming the way we harness that data. At ONE12th, we believe that our historical focus on digital marketing has led us to the forefront of the disruption and opportunity being generated in its wake.

Systems of Intelligence (SOI) is a collection of systems that aggregates all of the relevant first and third-party data in a cloud-based database which is connected to both PII, through CRM, as well as real business outcomes. In the case of Lennar International, we had implemented Salesforce/Pardot combined with other systems in the mar-tech stack. This set of systems allow the International Division to capture inquiries, to then nurture those inquiries based on their geographic and language criteria. Their relevant digital behavior, as well as interactions with a call center, are tracked in order to deliver a personalized, high touch, international home buying journey. The systems qualify inquiries to become MQLs automatically as the inquiries meet certain criteria. At this point, they are put in the care of a human.

The 4th Industrial Revolution focuses on how technologies are interacting with humans’ physical lives. This point in Lennar International’s systems is where the rubber meets the road, and the automated marketing engine drives into the hands of a human, to keep moving forward. These specialized individuals communicate personally with each MQL in order to tailor the home buying journey to their unique needs. Once MQLs are qualified as SQLs, they move seamlessly through the sales process. The data from the final stages of this process continuously sync throughout the international systems so that it can be aggregated and leveraged to optimize demand generation, the automated marketing nurture, the actions of the humans and ultimately, the home sale process itself. And that, our dear friends, is data being put to work maximizing real business outcomes while improving the customer experience.

In order to build a truly Data-Driven / Digital First Organization, having the technology and data flows in place is not enough. Lennar International quickly realized this as it watched the technology advance away from their pre-established operations. It needed to redefine itself around it. 

And who better to take on this challenge than us, the win-win partnership team that dared to build their SOI in the first place. Re-enter Lennar International’s Director of Digital Strategy (“Change Agent”), Lecia Rothman and the ONE12th team.

The System Of Optimization Project (SOO) leveraged a data-first management consulting approach through which ONE12th transformed Lennar International into a digital-first organization. At the center of this organization would be the previously developed Systems Of Intelligence (SOI). 

The first key milestone was the implementation of a scientific brief to foster thoughtful, data-driven ideas both for digital activity and offline initiatives. Due to the “data science” brief, Regional Business Directors were now proactively developing and testing new digital-first ideas. Along with scientific briefs came new customized communication flows and interconnected collaboration tools that fostered these types of ideas. With all of this enhanced focus from the whole organization on data and digital; new nurturing processes, data structures, and team roles were developed, debated and implemented to maximize data use and automation. 

There were a number of key optimizations to the technological architecture. There were custom web services developed in Microsoft Azure to monitor the database for marketing/sales trends from the likes of Facebook, Linkedin, Talkdesk, Google Ads, Salesforce, Pardot, and other sources. KPIs were visualized through Power BI, set certain automated flows in motion and triggered predictive notifications for specific team members in Slack. Additionally, an Idea Management System leveraged Microsoft Onedrive and Slack for the budget approval process and automated campaign/project performance tracking through Salesforce. Last but not least, Slack channels brought in lead information as they progressed through the funnel to enable contextual discussions beyond the sales teams, maximizing collaboration around every international opportunity.

With the conclusion of this SOO transformation project for Lennar International, we are excited to be able to share a lot more about this work, the valuable insights we learned along the way and how they could be leveraged by any organization to position itself to lead in the midsts of the 4th Industrial Revolution. 


An Integrated Marketing System

Many organizations focus on individual media and technology platforms rather than approaching marketing as a whole. They concentrate on silos, instead. The truth is, marketing is a system -- an interconnecting network of small components, where individual marketing elements work together in unison. Here are some of the benefits of approaching marketing as a system.

Working in silos could result in duplicated data and errors. This is because data is spread across several locations, making it difficult to pull and analyze.

"Silo marketing can reduce the efficiency of a company's communications," says The Houston Chronicle. "Sheer volume leaves each channel competing for consumers' attention. Thus, the impact of each channel's message drowns in the collective roar.

A marketing system, on the other hand, gets more powerful over time. This system collects valuable real-time data that you can use to improve engagement and execute your workflows.

Why Marketing is More Interconnected Than You Think

Different marketing methods serve different purposes, but they are all part of something much bigger. Individual marketing elements should work in harmony to achieve a common goal. A marketing system combines all of these individual elements and provides organizations with actionable insights into their customers, and campaigns. It utilizes technology, data, and automation to execute these insights flawlessly.

A marketing system will introduce controls, workflows, procedures, and key performance indicators to your organization. It will enable the organization to scale and make sure all of the stakeholders within the organization are on the same page. Using the latest marketing technology, this system will also improve collaboration across different departments. There will be one centralized system, not several individual silos.

"Centralized data is easier for teams to work with," says Data Science Central. "All of the authorized people have access, and the data is readily available and can be updated and changed as needed. It makes the whole collaboration process so much smoother."

Linear workflows are no longer thought as the rule but rather as the exception, is simply not the way consumers behave. As technology evolves, marketing is becoming increasingly interconnected. Approaching marketing as a system will enhance sales and revenue, increase consumer trust and help track customers at all the different touchpoints.

System Levers

Levers are crucial components of a big marketing system. Unlike silos, levers provide a marketing system with agility.

Organizations use levers to fuel their campaigns and get insights into their customers in real time. These metrics provide organizations with valuable intelligence for solving problems and forecasting future trends. You can discover what your customers really think about you at various points in the sales pipeline, for example, and collect data from a range of sources for more detailed insights.

A Single Source of Data

A marketing system provides a single source where data is reliable and consistent, which improves transparency, accuracy, and business intelligence. This system will continue to evolve -- it constantly captures and analyzes data, which makes insights more accurate over time. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) facilitate this process even further.

But what can you do with all this data? A data-driven marketing system, among other things, will help do the following:

  • Harness your existing business data: Utilize the existing data in your organization for better personalization and engagement, which will fuel your future campaigns.
  • Deploy marketing solutions throughout the customer journey: With a centralized marketing system, you can deploy marketing solutions at every stage of the customer journey. This can maximize your ROI.

Here are some of the benefits of a marketing system:

  • Proper attribution: A marketing system provides you with greater insights, so you can attribute value to your campaigns. Find out which campaign elements make the most impact, for example.
  • More visibility and control: A marketing system and its levers let you navigate your market in real time. You have greater control and more visibility into your marketing campaigns.
  • Turn your insights into money: A marketing system provides you with insights that you can use to increase revenue, boost sales and save money in your organization.

Here at One12th, we build Systems of Engagement, Systems of Intelligence and Systems of Record. We'll be happy to discuss how a systems approach can benefit your organization. Schedule a call to talk to one of our Marketing Systems Specialists today. 


Slack, an Automation Tool

Slack continues to be one of the communication tools of choice for companies worldwide and their marketing teams, and for good reason. With Slack, you can communicate across teams in a variety of ways and even automate your marketing. It's popular with a variety of companies, including LinkedIn and Salesforce. As of 2018, Slack has grown to 8 million daily active users and is used by 500,000 organizations (up from 6 million daily active users and 50,000 teams in 2017). This cloud-based tool makes collaboration simple so you can improve your workflows. As an incredibly flexible and highly customizable tool, Slack is helping businesses and their marketing teams take control of their workflows via automation. Here's how:

Reporting

Every marketing team has key performance indicators (KPIs) to follow and meet. But ensuring those KPIs are actually being met requires generating reports and often sifting through large sets of data. With Slack, you can automate this process.

For example, you can share the latest metrics with your marketing team by creating a custom slack solution that integrates reporting to automatically generate critical reports daily, hourly or the timeframe of your preference. These custom-built integrations can help you stay abreast of changes, trends, and traffic in real-time so you can make sure your team is hitting key metrics.

It's important to note that reporting not only makes catching issues feasible but it is a way to find marketing opportunities in real time, too. Thus, once issues are discovered, you can work together with your team to act on the information provided from these insights. For example, if you discover your conversion rate is declining due to a UX issue, you can quickly communicate with your UX team via your slack channels about any required changes they need to do in order to fix the issue.

Content Calendar Updates

Being on top of your content marketing is essential for managing an important part of your inbound marketing. However, updating your calendar based on new emails that flow in or one-off instant messaging chats you receive per occurrence can become repetitive. It can also be ineffective if you aren't updating your calendar as the information comes in since you can easily miss important dates. But with Slack, you can automate calendar updates. For example, you can create a custom solution to automate reminders for your editorial calendar events on Google using Slack integrations.

Slack also provides a way for teams to visualize content and receive notifications for important updates to your editorial or content calendar. For example, you can help your marketing team quickly visualize the tasks that need to be completed on your content calendar by integrating it with your calendar and creating a custom Slackbot that automates notifications for calendar updates.

Sales

Achieving customer success means everyone on the team needs to be up-to-date on each step of the customer's journey. With Slack, you can achieve customer success by automating your sales workflow process. One of the key issues with ensuring that prospects transform into paying customers is the follow-up. Follow-up requires nurturing your potential customers. However, your marketing and sales teams aren't robots (yet). They can't be available at any given moment every time.

But with the help of Slack, automating this part of the sales process is possible. For example, marketers can have custom solutions made, such as chatbots, that integrate with Slack, to communicate with customers in real-time. These chatbots can automate the sales process by automatically filling out information in the sales database on behalf of the customer. These dynamic software applications can also set up reminders automatically to follow up by specific dates so that marketing and sales team members know when to reach out to the lead without overwhelming her. Also, these team members can easily pick up where another team member left off by accessing notes the chatbot may have automatically generated based on its conversation with the prospect.

Slack's deep integration with Salesforce also makes it possible to nurture prospects and access information quickly. For instance, you can use the Salesforce integration to link your Salesforce records to Slack channels. This makes it easy to communicate with team members about updates to a lead's contact information or opportunities to further nurture a lead.

Final Thoughts

When you want to take your marketing to the next level, it's important to integrate solutions that facilitate automation. Slack helps you to streamline your workflows with automation so your marketing teams can be more effective and productive. It starts with a problem, followed by a solution, and culminating on a beautifully crafted tech integration. Go forth and integrate, your team will thank you for it.


The Hottest Digital Marketing Trends in China Right Now

China is a digital marketing powerhouse. It boasts the world's second-largest search advertising market and spends more on digital advertising than Japan, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea combined. With the world's largest population -- more than 1.4 billion people live in the "Land of the Red Dragon" -- breaking into this market could prove lucrative for your organization. Here are three of the hottest digital marketing trends in China right now.

1. China is a Global Player When it Comes to Voice Marketing

Chinese brands have invested heavily in voice marketing technology in recent years, and experts predicted that the country's intelligent voice market was worth more than 6.21 billion in 2015. Millions of consumers across the country use their smartphone to search for goods and services with just their voice.

"One of the obvious reasons for more rapid adoption is the complexity of the Chinese alphabet," says Eye for Travel. "With thousands of individual characters, typing on a small screen is rather more difficult than for those using the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet."

While intelligent voice assistants like Alexa and Siri dominate the U.S. market, innovations like Baidu's Raven H lets Chinese consumers access information with simple voice commands. Raven H looks nothing like the Amazon Echo or Google Home -- it's essentially a stack of multi-colored squares.

As more people in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen purchase smart speakers and voice-enabled mobile devices, expect China's intelligent market to grow even bigger in the next few years.

2. Artificial Intelligence Marketing in China is Booming

China uses more artificial intelligence (AI) devices than any other country in the world, according to a recent report. Twenty-one percent of the country's population already has an AI device like a home robot or autonomous car and 52 percent plan to buy one in the future. In the United States, only 16 percent of people own an AI device.

The booming AI market has prompted Chinese marketers to engage with consumers in new and exciting ways. Marketers here use the latest AI technologies to personalize communications and offer customers unique interactive experiences that increase brand awareness.

Take AI apps, for example. Customers can immerse themselves in virtual environments where they can learn more information about a brand's products and services.

3. Search Engine Optimization Still Dominates

China has the world's largest online population -- around 772 million and growing -- which proves profitable for brands who break into this market. Despite recent technological innovations like voice-enabled devices and AI, search engine optimization (SEO) is still one of the most popular (and powerful) digital marketing methods here.

Although SEO is a little different to the US and other Western countries, the process is essentially the same. Websites that rank the highest on search engines like Baidu, Sogou and Qihoo 360 generally receive the most traffic. Marketers optimize sites in order to increase their position on search engine results pages.

One of the biggest differences between SEO in China and SEO in the US is mobile search. Mobile device owners in China make up the bulk of search users, with 88 percent of the online population searching for information through their smartphone or tablet.

Want to grow your organization's impact in China? The three trends on this list are a great way to generate leads and improve brand awareness. Use voice search marketing technology to target potential customers, AI to enhance the customer experience and SEO to move buyers through your sales pipelines. Expect these three trends to keep dominating China's digital marketing landscape over the next few years.


How Watson Is Changing Marketing

Most people have heard of IBM's Watson artificial intelligence software. Watson has come a long way since winning Jeopardy and is being used for a variety of applications. Brands and marketers face more competition than ever before and are awash with data they are only just beginning to use. Watson can parse through that data and provide actionable insight to help brands make lasting connections with consumers.

1. More Targeted Promotions

The holy grail of advertising is being able to sell the right product to the right consumer at the right time. Traditionally, advertisers paid for spots during television shows or sporting matches to reach a particular portion of the larger viewing audience. Over time, advertisers have been able to drill down to more granular target audiences and tailor their messaging accordingly. IBM Watson takes targeted advertising a quantum leap forward. Watson can target even more specific subgroups and offer dynamic advertising based on a variety of factors. For example, IBM is partnering with personalized data marketer Jivox to craft real-time contextual ads. If the weather turns cold, customers can be presented with ads or coupons for nearby coffee chains; ads can even include animated snowflakes if it begins to snow outside. Weather is just one of many data points that can be used to power data-driven digital marketing campaigns that boost sales.

2. Live Testing Advertisements

Another area where IBM Watson can support marketers is analyzing reactions to live testing advertisements. Normally, marketers and brands test early versions of advertisements in a simulated environment and then make adjustments based on feedback. This could be focus groups or other small test environments with a small number of subjects. Live testing involves analyzing reactions to marketing messages in real time and make adjustments automatically. For example, a car brand wants to develop a marketing campaign for a specific vehicle. The brand might make dozens of versions of the advertisement highlighting specific aspects or selling points. IBM Watson can test combinations on Facebook or other platforms and zero in on the most successful combination, creating an ad that is more likely to sell cars.

3. Predictive Analytics

Collecting data doesn't mean anything without the tools to parse through that data and find relationships in the numbers. Watson's Predictive Analytics tools help marketers identify those relationships and develop actionable insights. For example, a fast food chain wants to determine the attractiveness of offering a 20% off coupon during the fall. Watson can parse through spending data from previous quarters to determine which customers are most likely to respond to a coupon. That analysis can be based on previous behavior with coupons, income levels, and the length of the customer relationship. Watson can even determine when during the fall such a coupon would be most effective. This allows companies to maximize their marketing budgets and get the most bang for their buck. Predictive Analytics is also iterative; the longer the relationship with a customer, the more accurate and effective a promotion becomes.

Marketing is increasingly becoming data-driven and marketers need the tools to parse through data and make actionable insights. Watson gives companies the ability to better understand their customers by finding those quantitative relationships. Whether it's trying to understand which customers to target or what marketing messages will best resonate, Watson is changing the face of modern marketing.

 


Top 5 Marketing Automation Tools for 2018

Top 5 Marketing Automation Tools for 2018

The right use of marketing automation can increase customer lifetime value, make your marketing processes more efficient, and even help increase your revenue. By harnessing all the data at your disposal, automation can help you execute a more comprehensive marketing strategy that cuts across channels. For instance, you can follow users around on the web, delivering relevant messages to them when they are more likely to engage with them. Granular personalization is possible with automation, and it does not come as a surprise that most marketers swear by these marketing automation tools. However, to reap the benefits of data and analytics, you need to choose the right marketing automation tool for your needs. Here are five of the best out there, right now, ranked from top to bottom.

1. Pardot

If you are looking for a tool that can handle all your marketing automation tasks, Pardot should be on your priority list. In addition to having one of the most comprehensive template libraries for workflows, Pardot also has a built-in search marketing automation tool and a social media marketing tool. The search tool can pick up data from Bing, Google, and Yahoo, and you can post real-time updates on all leading social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. Pardot even allows you to test your automated workflows so you can see all your imagined user-case scenarios in action before you make them live.

What we like about Pardot:

  • Really clean UI, which is very intuitive and easy to learn
  • Comes integrated with Salesforce, which allows seamless integration of your sales and marketing processes
  • You don't really need API integration, thanks to Pardot's form handlers. Even if you aren't using Salesforce CRM, bringing your third-party data into Pardot is a breeze.
  • Comprehensive search marketing capabilities
  • Blended lead scoring and grading, which allows you to hone in on your most interested customers, and hence, improve your conversion rates.

2. Autopilot

Right alongside Pardot, in terms of capability, is Autopilot. This cutting-edge marketing automation tool offers seamless integration with Salesforce, Slack, Zapier, and Segment. Perhaps the best part about Autopilot is its smart lists. You can combine lists, behaviors, and UTMs to create dynamic segments. These segments can then be engaged with predefined action-based workflows. Autopilot releases new integrations and features regularly, and most of them are handy for marketers.

What we like about Autopilot:

  • Clean and intuitive UI
  • Neat drag-and-drop functionality
  • A 30-day free trial for those new to marketing automation
  • Real-time activity reporting, which allows you to optimize your campaigns in real time
  • There is no cap on third-party integrations

3. Marketo

Marketo is one of the most popular marketing automation software out there. While it may not be the most intuitive automation tool, it has an extensive feature set. Marketo's in-depth reports are especially useful for marketers. The predefined templates allow you to get off the blocks quickly, and the report templates can also be customized extensively, depending on what you want to focus on.

The tool takes a modular approach to marketing. Marketing automation, customer engagement, marketing management and real-time personalization are all different modules that you need to pay for separately. This means you pay for only what you need. However, it can lead to more expensive marketing automation for companies that need all the features.

The software's landing page and newsletter builder are a bit clunky, too. If those are your primary marketing objectives, you might be better off elsewhere.

What we like about Marketo:

  • A comprehensive feature set that covers the whole gamut of modern-day digital marketing
  • Native integration with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, which allows you to integrate your sales and marketing reporting easily
  • Deep reporting, with report templates to get you started quickly
  • Fast and reliable customer support

4. HubSpot

HubSpot's marketing automation tool is meant for small businesses. The beautifully designed UI is intuitive enough that you won't need to hire an IT expert. The capabilities are limited, especially when it comes to handling complex workflows. In fact, the custom automation workflows only give you "Yes" and "No" options. However, if you are a startup or a small business, HubSpot has plenty to meet your needs. Lists are easy to make, and integration with third-party CRM is a breeze. If you want A/B testing functionality, you will need to pay for HubSpot's highest plan.

What we like about HubSpot:

  • A quick learning curve -- HubSpot is intuitive enough for someone new to marketing automation
  • Really neat landing pages, with impressive built-in SEO for fast results
  • An active community and a huge reservoir of knowledge on marketing and marketing automation -- especially useful for first-time users
  • Free trial

5. Infusionsoft

Like HubSpot, Infusionsoft is also popular among small businesses. It is one of the best-designed marketing automation tools, and its campaign builder is especially impressive. The company also allows easy integrations with over 300 third-party tools, although there is no native integration. Infusionsoft can be useful for small e-commerce stores, given its built-in inventory tracking and payment processing capabilities.

What we like about Infusionsoft:

  • Universal tracking, which allows you to track your audience across channels
  • Integration with more than 300 third-party tools in the marketplace, which cover almost everything in marketing automation
  • The intuitive campaign builder -- easy for creating complex marketing workflows
  • Decent testing capabilities

When deciding on a marketing automation tool, keep in mind your primary objectives and the size of your campaigns. For instance, if A/B testing landing pages forms a big part of your digital marketing strategy, Marketo might not be the ideal choice, given its clunky design capabilities. Take into account what you want to achieve with marketing automation. It is the best long-term strategy to fully utilize the power of data and analytics.


Marketing Automation and Big Data: A Perfect Match

In an age where digital data is not only valuable but ubiquitous, organization and automation becomes a marketing agency's pillars of time management and financial advantage.

 

More needs to be done to understand the motivations of a consumer. Content creation and targeting are only the tip of this iceberg and the start of a deep dive to converting a customer into a lead or sale. It's data that educates a marketer on what makes an individual tick. Through data, they'll be able to establish what exactly triggers them and the most efficient way to do so.

 

To do so, you need to build a customer profile:

 

"Through marketing automation systems, we should be able to build better-rounded customer profiles through variable data field capture during different communication touch points."

 

Using big data can gain a marketing agency advantages when it comes to developing relevant content and messages, collecting and analyzing data on how customers interact, and delivering a more consistent, positive customer experience across devices.

 

Digital advertising isn't just posting an ad online and hoping for the best. Leveraging automation enables agencies to determine what type of content is best at attracting leads, how they find you, and why they chose to connect with you. It can help figure out how, when and where customers tend to interact with you, as well as what platforms and devices they're reaching you on.

 

Even though we're online, you still have to imagine a face and personality behind that screen.

 

Online marketing may have muddied the border between buyer and seller, but it hasn't completely eroded it. The intimacy of conversation may get down to bare bones quicker, but getting to know one another, in order to build up a level of trust from the seller's side and understanding from the buyer's side, has not been completely lost.

 

Now instead of asking questions, you're simply provided with profiles through those variable data fields we just mentioned. You get to know their behaviors, tendencies, and interests, while marketing automation and big data work "together to create an effective way to collect, sort and gain insight from thousands of data points about customers, campaigns and products or services."

 

This can partly be done by the miracle of predictive analytics, which can predict the future by mining the past. Consider Amazon; they gather past purchase data, wish lists, similar purchases and customer ratings to predict future shopping patterns. They simply acquire all the data they need to build up an accurate enough profile that will efficiently usher you from point A to point B:

 

"With the increased accuracy of self-learning algorithms, marketers will be able to better deconstruct big data to create incredibly targeted and optimally timed user experiences."

 

Getting a customer from each of those points requires a meld of data and automation; the data working as the blueprint, and automation working as the tools, delivering quickness, accuracy, and an improved user experience, one that puts the user in the driver's seat:

 

"They can access the exact information they want, how and when they want it. But every potential customer isn't necessarily going to want exactly the same information. With automation, you can also create multiple paths, so each person can have a different experience, based on their own needs and interests."

 

When "80% of your sales come from only 20% of your customers", automation is a necessity to pinpoint just what type of customers will react and how. For example, say you're running an email marketing campaign and you're trying to deliver the best possible user experience, you might monitor:

 

  • When your customer open emails
  • When they engage with content
  • What content they engage with
  • The frequency with which they choose to engage
  • Conversions that take place

 

Platforms like AutoPilot can deliver a tailored experience that accommodates each and every one of your leads as a unique individual, rather than just another part of the catch-all. Sure they might share similarities by way of being interested in what you're selling, but they all have different triggers and ways of going about things.

 

On the other end, the Zapier platform can help gather that data and turn it into data you can use to create a more efficient workflow and finish routine tasks quicker.

 

These platforms and tools will not only help you get better organized, but they'll help you draw in more leads. You can't treat your audience as a monolith. They might all like your product or service, but they all arrived there differently, are using different devices, react to different content, and come from different areas where the product or service might serve a different purpose.

 

You may not see them, and that disconnect and widening gulf isn't helping, but there's still a person behind the screen and the only way to turn them into a sale or lead is treating them like one.


The Art of a Successful Mobile App Push Notification

Locating the fine line between being helpful and being a nuisance is critical to cultivating a healthy relationship between buyer and seller. Unlike in the past when the most annoying part of advertising was seeing or hearing a commercial too much, now it's reaching your potential buyer through too many outlets.

 

Just consider how many avenues a marketer can go to reach their audience. They can reach them via social media, their email inbox, their search engines, websites they frequent, text message, and now even their mobile apps, through push notifications.

 

Now this is where the fine line is truly tested. Because push notifications can either be an extremely helpful tool that can maximize conversions when used correctly, or a reminder to that app's users to never buy anything from that company again.

 

For those who don't know, push notifications are those little messages that  pop up on your phone promoting something from an app. For example, I have an app that encourages me to write every day, so I set a reminder within the app to send at a certain time that pops up on my phone at that time.

 

But when used by a brand, it can be a promotional selling point. Those who opt-in to push notifications with your app can receive exclusive deals or sneak previews of products offered solely to the people who receive those notifications.

 

Unfortunately, push notifications have received a bad rap, often justified, because of how misused they are by those who ultimately decide its content, frequency and timing. According to Marketingland.com, "a whopping 52% of consumers view push messages and in-app messages as an annoying distraction."

 

Just like with all things marketing, you have to know and understand your audience before you develop a strategy to reach out to them. Find out what they like, what they don't like, what they'll be receptive to, when they're awake, when they're sleeping, and when they're most likely to buy. However, few things may be more important when it comes to sending a push notification that works than literally knowing who they are:

 

 

Take a look at this example from Business2community.com:

 

 

Success through personalizing push notifications is no different from social media or email marketing campaigns. Users are far more receptive to ads when it's directed to them, rather than a generic message that's blasted out to thousands of people connected through the same interests.

 

But don't think simply personalizing a message is everything you need. A strategy, naturally, still needs to be implemented:

 

"Personalization depends on a solid segmentation strategy. You can start by segmenting users based on their in-app behaviors or known information about them from your CRM (Customer Relationship Management)."

 

Your users aren't a monolith. They're all special in their own little way and want to be treated as such. We're here to make conversions and if that means coddling each and every individual to nurture them into following through, then do so.

 

Also consider the frequency and timing of your notifications. Once again, it's time to step into the shoes of your audience to understand their tendencies and behaviors. Consider local time zones and the time of the day.

 

Is your audience going to be interested in buying your product at 7AM when they first wake up, or at 7PM when they're unwinding from a day at work? Also, if you send a notification at 7PM to your eastern time zone audience, consider that your west coast audience receives it at 4PM, when they'll still likely be working. It's up to you to develop a method to stagger the timing of the deliveries to fully optimize your notifications.

 

The benefits of a successful notification strategy can be extremely rewarding, with "users who enable push notifications [being] far more engaged than users who don't. The study found that push-enabled app users logged 53% more monthly sessions compared with users who had not engaged with a push message."

 

They're also more likely to use your app over a longer period of time:

 

"Push-enabled users have higher longevity rates. After three months, 41% of push-enabled users were still using the app, far exceeding the 18% of push-disabled users who were still using the app."

 

Of course, you have to first entice your users into receiving push notifications. There has to be an added incentive other than the occasional offer or reminder. A solution to this could be making the app's experience worthwhile only if the user accepts push notifications:

 

"Companies often think of push notifications only as a means to re-engage inactive users. What if you changed your perception to seeing push as not just an integrated part of your communication strategy, but an integrated part of a user's mobile experience with your brand?"

 

There has to be value to your notification if you want people to stay interested. Make it engaging by including a product image, the product's name, the price info, and a CTA that are deeply linked with product views within your app.

 

Even better, be unique and spontaneous:

 

"Identify niche mobile use cases and channel them through push. Some examples include location-based offers, price drop alerts, time-sensitive offers. Think of push notifications only when you you want to tell your users about something that's useful in their NOW."

What do you think of push notifications? Let us know on our Facebook or give us a call!