October 6, 2016

Marketing Automation Guide, Part 2: The Big Guns

Lee Steely

CRM, Sales Integrations, and Beyond

Once you’ve mastered the marketing automation basics in piecemeal (outlined in Part 1 on the blog), you’re likely to get the itch to go bigger. Say you’ve developed a healthy customer base; you’re regularly generating leads and conversions; successful digital marketing campaigns are in a solid flow, and your marketing budget is due for an increase–but you know there are avenues still untapped, and marketing campaign organization’s gotten unwieldy. It may be time to look into CRMs and more comprehensive integrated Marketing Automation software.

What is CRM software?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. While this sounds like something an account manager does, using CRM software services for digital marketing can help you manage existing online customer relationships by keeping track of your existing leads, customer behaviors, and campaign analytics, in addition to growing and nurturing new leads. Your online sales funnels are supported and expanded by automated processes you designate within your chosen CRM software, and you’ll have a one-stop place to go for campaign analytics and occasional third-party support services. Marketing Automation software includes any software that supports the digital marketing process beyond CRM level. The variety of services on offer and level of usability varies widely across the market, and with so many options available, it can be hard to know which software is likely to be the best fit for your business.

We’ll run through the highlights on a few of a few of the most popular options to help you get started.

Hubspot

hubspot

Hubspot offers a basic CRM and sales software for free, which gives you an online ‘hub’ for keeping all interactions with customers and prospects organized in one spot and tracks campaigns and inbound marketing tasks. With the free sales software integration, Hubspot gets you up and running with inbound marketing strategy and managing your team in one place, and the user interface is pretty simple to master for those new to CRM tools.

In Hubspot’s case, the CRM is really the open door to introduce you to Hubspot’s automated inbound Marketing Software, which is offered at Basic, Professional, and Enterprise levels, depending on the size of your business and scale of needs. If you decide to take the plunge here, take advantage of the Basic Onboarding period Hubspot offers to really learn the ins and outs of how each feature works and get some instructional help (you’re paying for the benefit either way–make sure you put it to use while the onboarding period is still going). Hubspot’s Marketing Software integration is really a content marketing support tool: it can offer you additional subdomains for publishing your content, SEO recommendations and analytics for blogs, integrated social publishing capabilities, and mobile responsive optimization. When you’re coming up with content marketing, Hubspot can also make recommendations on the strength of your CTAs (“Calls to Action” in content marketing), email building, optimizing, and A/B testing, and similar support for landing page marketing. If you’re passionate about re-targeting leads online, Hubspot’s tracking cookie is one of the most precise tracking tools on the market.

Out of the available options, Hubspot Marketing Software is one of the strongest for content marketing support, so if you’re ready to broaden your content horizons, this may be your best bet. One thing Hubspot will not do is generate your content for you, so make sure your team is already familiar with content marketing goals and benchmarks before you head to Hubspot for additional support, or you may find you’ve bought yourself some bells and whistles that only overwhelm beginners.

Infusionsoft

infusionsoft

Infusionsoft’s lowest level price offering is just the CRM and basic Marketing Automation, which gets you a lot of the same benefits as Hubspot: you’ll have the one-stop dashboard aspect that tracks campaigns, marketing tasks, and existing leads to re-target, as well as the ability to build landing pages and emails from templates inside the Infusionsoft Campaign Builder. Infusionsoft will also alert you to contact behavior that represents a re-targeting opportunity for follow-up emails, calls, or other actions, keeping you relevant to the customer throughout the lifecycle of a sale. Just like Hubspot, you can use Infusionsoft for A/B testing on campaigns, free hosting, visitor tracking, and reporting.

Deciding on the level of the package you want to commit to with Infusionsoft is all about the numbers you have and the numbers you need: annual pricing goes up based on how many existing contacts you need to manage, how many emails you want to send per month, and how many users you’ll want to authorize to use the software from your team (the lowest “Essentials” level pricing gives you 3 users to start). If you’re also looking for additional sales or e-commerce automation, those features may make the higher price tiers worth the investment for you.

Act-On

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Act-On’s lowest Professional tier software starts at a higher price point, but the well-designed, easy-to-use user interface really makes Act-On stand out when you’re using it day in and day out. If you’re easily overwhelmed by over-complicated systems, the Act-On interface may be worth it.

The features you’ll get with the Professional tier version of Act-On are similar to other market offerings–you’ll be able to manage and optimize all stages of the online customer experience by keeping an eye on your online sales funnels and customer behavior, track email and landing page campaigns, and get detailed reporting, includ SEO audits and standard A/B testing abilities for all campaigns. If you’re tracking just one account’s needs–in other words, if you’re a small to mid-size business–you’ll do just fine at the Professional level; whereas businesses that need to track multiple accounts with different needs (like corporate chains, or marketing agencies) will need to spring for the Enterprise edition.

Pardot

salesforce-pardot

If everything else covered here looks like small potatoes, you’re probably a candidate for Pardot. Pardot is the B2B Marketing Automation software offered by Salesforce, a popular sales software and cloud computing company you may already be familiar with. At a higher price point, Pardot is a best fit for larger corporate company structures with more complex reporting needs from the outset. Here, you’ll get all the standard marketing automation offerings we’ve covered with their competitors, with a significant increase in the floor for tracked leads, an unlimited cap on emails for email marketing, advanced ability to create dynamic content (content customized for individual user behavior), and a host of neat integration and reporting services. As always, the pricing scale goes up with the sheer volume of marketing actions and storage ability your team requires.

User interface is a bit more unwieldy with Pardot compared to Act-On or Hubspot, but it’s hard for software this large and capable to compete with the slick, simple interface smaller-scale software can offer. The strength you’re choosing Pardot for is sheer size and comprehensiveness in features and reporting.

Get to Tracking Your Inbound Strategy

And there you have it! Our round-up of some of the most widely-used marketing automation software out there. As far as we’re concerned, there are no winners or losers in this bunch–it’s all about picking which software is the best match in features and price for your company’s specific needs.

The most important thing to remember: purchasing software can only help you scale your inbound digital marketing strategy if you’re also putting resources into learning and making the best of the insights the software will help you generate–it’s not a set-and-forget marketing team that can do the work for you. Be ready to immediately start getting your hands dirty learning how to get the most out of your software’s features, or that annual fee becomes the price of a wasted opportunity.