While many of these tools may compete with one another, it’s important to understand that most compete to automate certain marketing tasks to free up your time. A few like Salesforce and Marketo handle a full range of marketing tasks, but their prices tend to place them out of reach for most small businesses.
Marketing Automation Frees Up Creative Time
Are you wondering if you should consider try a marketing automation tool? My advice is yes. They free up creative time you need to craft effective email and social media messages.
There’s a lot out there about robots taking over even professional jobs, but relax. Artificial intelligence can’t take over marketing skills like creating themes, content, graphics, and video for campaigns, websites and social media.
The automation part handles and coordinates the message delivery process. It follows your instructions on details like delivery times, segmenting customers and messages through different channels (social media, email) and gathering data for reports. Once you have those in place, you’ll find more time to create.
As I discussed in an earlier blog, analyzing digital marketing is a key trend in 2017. Remember, data collected throughout a marketing campaign provide valuable insights into audience reactions and help sharpen messaging.
In addition, marketing automation tools operate through the cloud, making it easier for everyone to access them and view up-to-date information. Any IT person will tell you that reputable cloud services do a solid job to keep software updated and virus-free, saving them considerable time as well.
Small Businesses Need Social Media Automation Tools!
Few small businesses can survive without using social media automation tools like HubSpot, Buffer and HootSuite. These tools let you create messages for different social media channels, schedule delivery and provide analytics for each channel used.
They also display your own channel feeds, giving you insights into what your peers are reading, thinking and sharing.
Many tools alert you to “trigger events” you tell them you need to know about. Two, IFTTT and Zapier, let you respond to these triggers.
With IFTTT (it stands for “if this, then that”), you set up a kind of chain reaction, or “recipe,” between different channels. So you can tell Instagram what kind of photos you want tweeted out, or make sure certain YouTube videos go to your WordPress site. There are more than 4,000 recipes.
Zapier helps you create a “zap” to monitor a particular channel for a “trigger” and than act on it by sending it to 250 other channels and platforms, such as Dropbox.
Automation Supports Intelligent Email Marketing Campaigns
Social media automation tools don’t do much to directly support email campaigns.
But automated email tools do a great job to connect with different channels. Moreover, they interface very well with corporate clients who use Salesforce (and most of them are using Salesforce).
Email automation also lets you focus on the creative side. You can use preformatted templates or design your own and add business logos, graphics and video. Also, you can tailor content and designs for different customer segments, and let the automated tools handle tasks like delivery schedules, tracking and analytics such as:
- How soon emails are opened after delivery
- How many are forwarded
- Call-to-action (CTA) responses
MailChimp is probably the most popular email automation platform. As WP Beginner notes, it easily interfaces with other tools like Shopify and WordPress. It offers a “forever free” plan that’s a steal for small businesses and nonprofits: 12,000 emails for up to 2,000 subscribers. It’s PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice for 2017.
WP Beginner, however, recommends its close competitor ConstantContact as the best choice for small businesses, citing its “unmatched support” and the most user-friendly platform out there.
Both services share important similarities that distinguish them from the rest of the competition including:
- Built-in social media sharing tools and merge tags that customize emails to different channels
- Import from Gmail
- Work with Google Analytics
- Support A/B testing
A bit surprisingly, neither offer 24/7 phone support but both have extensive resource and video libraries.
Other popular email managers include Infusionsoft, Campaign Monitor and Marketo. The first two, though, don’t offer features small businesses need like image libraries and unlimited emails. Marketo’s price—starting at $895 per month—is simply too high for most small businesses.
There’s lot to consider when selecting a marketing automation tool. We hope this article provided some food for thought if you’re in the market for such a tool.