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Friday, June 21, 2013

Inbound Marketing: Which Software Platform Works for You?

In a world where all your customers, your grandmother, and you, yourself have grown weary to death of interruption marketing, world-over entrepreneurs have begun embracing a little thing called inbound marketing. The principle is quite simple: rather than interrupting customers with ads, commercials, and pop-ups, become accessible. Become search-able. Become so great, delicious, effective, or whatever that your customers market your product for you.

This is especially important for writers--especially self-publishers--to understand: we don't want book commercials or twitter spam promoting your work every ten seconds, we want you to provide useful web content that makes us interested in promoting your work ourselves!

Delightful marketing begins with an organized internet campaign. Many business owners manage inbound marketing via a conglomeration of different programs--one outlet for a blog, another for e-mailings, a separate twitter account--but several integrated software platforms exist to accomplish all this in one package.

Hubspot

By far the easiest inbound marketing platform to find online--which says something of their own marketing--Hubspot offers
  • Keyword research/SEO optimization tool
  • A blogging platform
  • Twitter and Facebook account management with keyword tracking and auto-publish features
  • URL tracking
  • Landing page customization, with optimization features to promote better conversion (turning traffic into leads)
  • List management to allow targeted marketing to different aspects of your consumer base
  • A thinner, prettier version of Google Analytics
  • An app marketplace
  • Web design management and more.
--all for $200 a month.

The biggest inherent concern with Hubspot other reviewers have? You get what you see: the websites, blog, and even analytics tools aren't as nitty-gritty, customizable, and "computer-programmy" as doing it all yourself--good news for small business owners without any tech experience, bad news for experienced SEO geeks or anyone who enjoys Wordpress functionality. By far the most focused on pure inbound marketing, and the most friendly, this software suite may be best for beginners. This is something your self-published author might use.

Marketo

This "grown-up" platform puts less emphasis on social media and blogging, and more emphasis on slightly more traditional marketing techniques, with features included for off-line events, phone calls, and mailings. It includes:

  • E-mail marketing with deep CRM
  • Smart-lists that allow customizable e-mails to target the right consumer base
  • Polls, etc, and other customizable content on landing pages
  • Events organization coordinating on-line and off-line events--with landing pages, e-mails, etc.
  • Sales insight for when-ready leads and phone calls
  • Track-able snail mail
  • Tracking of marketing "efficiency"--which leads come from where
  • Contests and sweepstakes to engage social media users
  • Intense keyword research/SEO optimization
  • Activity log that tracks each customer's engagement all along the way, allowing for strong relationship-building
--all for $1,195 a month.

Reviewers have complained that using the program really requires technical knowledge, even when it comes to designing simple e-mails--otherwise results simply don't look as professional. Marketo support takes a while to respond, forcing most users to rely on the fortunately blossoming social community around Marketo for advice. The social media platform boils down to share buttons and Facebook content, with nothing to populate twitter and little information for blogging. This all adds up to make Marketo a bit less friendly that Hubspot. Nevertheless, the power to see which marketing techniques generate leads, the extremely sophisticated analytics, and the ability to manage off-line marketing provide huge draws for Marketo. This is something your publishing company might use.


Infusionsoft

Infusionsoft advertises itself as software built for "Joe and Janette"--for small business owners. Features include:
  • Web activity monitoring, tracking financial return on investments by lead source
  • Drag-and-drop landing page and web form generator
  • Automated follow-up campaigns triggered by very visual, easy to plan marketing maps
  • Automatic page submission--their ad page calls this "search engine optimization," but it's really only submission to search engines and meta tag inclusion using user-supplied keywords
  • Pre-built campaign templates include ideas like remembering customer's birthdays and automating certain contact requests
  • Drag-and-drop e-mail marketing that includes spam scoring
  • Contact management and prioritization, to allow targeting of most-interested customers first
  • Integration with Wordpress, Customer Hub, Kajabi to create paid-access-only website areas

--all for $219 a month, plus the required training package fee around $1,999.

The e-mail software doesn't work well with Mac, and of course, as with many drag-and-drop programs, the customizability for web forms, e-mail, etc, is limited. The software's greatest benefit lies in its deep integration--with campaign ideas and automation provided, small business owners can run a marketing plan that works from start to finish rather than checking every stop. Social media integration really isn't included, and some have said the sales reports are difficult to navigate. Reviewers suggest that if you have less than 20 employees, this software might work for you. This is something your big-time self-published author or small publisher might use.

Eloqua

At $2,000 a month minimum, this is Marketo's scarier big brother, the most expensive and largest marketing platform here. Experienced marketers--and marketers with deeper pockets--often go for this major market shareholder right away. Features include:

  • Campaign designer with precise controls--includes campaign automation from start to finish
  • Intensely targeted marketing with contact profiling and standardized data management
  • Social data management with apps and reports on social media activity--includes integration with Youtube, LinkedIn, twitter, FB, etc, and the ability for consumers to sign into your website using social media so you can collect data on them
  • Revenue performance software to track marketing efficiency
  • Event management
  • Incredibly detailed, sophisticated, multi-optioned web and e-mail builder
  • Personalized tech support
  • Various other features updated regularly

This is the giant everything-beast, although it does not allow automated tweeting or Facebook posting from within the Eloqua software. That's not much of a loss for a social suite whose social media integration is so intense, you can know almost everything about your consumers as soon as they sign in to your web page. Users recommend Eloqua because of its full tech support, detailed data management systems, and the ability to follow customers from start to finish.

Eloqua allows for large companies to integrate their strategies across brands and websites. There isn't much focus on blogging or quality content generation, though--this suite is more about e-mail campaigns, website optimization, and social media data collection. Businesses that use Eloqua usually assign many marketing professionals to all its different aspects, and for that reason Eloqua allows for multiple security groups. Not every user has access to everything--that minimizes human error. This is something your giant publishing group might use.


Each inbound marketing tool works for different professionals, with Eloqua and Marketo targeting larger companies while InfusionSoft and Hubspot target smaller businesses. In the end, your decision to utilize an inbound marketing platform like these will depend not only on your technical knowledge, business size, or the features of the software, but upon whether or not you want to "do it yourself"--and to what extent. Many authors, who'd rather spend their time writing, may find an integrated package provides peace of mind and boosts sales, but for now I think I'll stick to doing-it-myself! Do you use any marketing software? How's your inbound technique? 

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