Our Review of Inbound Marketing Automation Platformsby Jeff Sears
Your New MVP: The Inbound Marketing Automation Platform
One of the key concepts of inbound marketing is providing valuable content without a heavy-handed sales pitch. Being a trusted and valued source of authentic information helps your website and your business gain credibility. The blogs, downloadables, and other inbound content you post can increase your SEO and organic traffic.
But what happens when people visit your site? Are you only monitoring them with Google Analytics? Are you monitoring user behaviors with a tool like Inspectlet? Are you looking at who is filling out forms and downloading information? The most important question: Are you doing something with all of these insights?
What Makes a Marketing Automation Platform Valuable?
There are many inbound marketing platforms available. These platforms watch what users do on your website (and even on social media) and document it in one place. Once you know more about those users (through forms, chat, or download requests), you can connect a name to those behaviors and interests.
Some platforms can also search public information for additional insights on that lead. Social media accounts, company, industry, and other insights may be found through online searches. When you consider all of these data points—website history (pages viewed, forms, downloads) and publicly available information (company, industry, etc.)—you may get a better idea of what that person wants. This allows you to understand what interests the contact, even before your first call.
Let’s say someone has been on our site multiple times and finally completes a form. From that data, I can tell the person has spent time looking at our brand development services and some of our case studies and blogs about branding. If they also signed up for our newsletter, Meld Intel, I know what types of topics interest them. From the contact form, I can now connect their name, business, and specific interests or needs to those other data points. The platform has gathered and provided me with sales insights that will help me with my sales call.
Marketing automation may help to trigger automatic emails based on certain actions. This is a common inclusion in inbound platforms. It might notify me when the person has filled out the form, or it might capture a ‘lead score’ to let me know how interested this person may be. Because they filled out a form and have a certain lead score, I could start them on an email drip campaign. Or I could retarget those individuals with relevant promotions using Google Ads.
There are so many possibilities, but it all depends on the platform(s) you are using and how much time you are willing to invest in setting it up properly. Instead of trying to remember to follow up with a lead who hasn’t responded, the platform can do that for me, or it can remind me to make a follow-up call.
Factors We Considered in Our Search for a CRM
During the fall of 2018, Meld conducted an assessment of a dozen inbound marketing platforms to identify which platform would be best for our needs. Here are the items we considered:
- Is it easy to use?
- Is it easy to program?
- Does it provide a CRM or list management feature?
- Does it provide an email marketing feature?
- Does it have marketing automation (logic triggers for actions)?
- Is there a marketing calendar feature?
- Can you post blogs from the platform?
- Does it allow personas?
- Does it allow personalized (dynamic) messaging?
- Is it mobile optimized or does it have a mobile app?
- Can you create/host landing pages?
- Are there A/B testing capabilities?
- Are there sales or activity dashboards?
- Is reporting available?
- Does it provide notifications (email, mobile) on certain actions?
- Does it integrate with other platforms (CRMs, Zapier, etc.)?
- What other features does it offer?
- Does it provide training resources?
- Does it provide technical support?
- What is the pricing model?
- What are ratings and reviews from current/past users?
Companies we considered were well-known: HubSpot, Found.ly, Marketo, SharpSpring, Infusionsoft, Adobe Campaign, Eloqua, Watson IBM Marketing, and SalesForce.
We had some discussions with reps from our top-scoring platforms and ultimately selected to partner with SharpSpring.
Why We Went with SharpSpring
Meld uses SharpSpring for our own inbound marketing efforts, but also for some of our clients. It provides a CRM, email marketing platform, and marketing automation platform, all in one place, at a very reasonable cost. As both marketing and sales efforts are captured in SharpSpring, there is line-of-sight between sales and marketing team members and efforts. Rather than use an online database, MailChimp, and other automation platforms, SharpSpring is our primary platform.
Recently SharpSpring rolled out a Sales Optimizer Tool (consider it a virtual assistant) and have also just released their own Digital Ad Platform that can reach Google, Facebook, Instagram, and every major online advertising network, all in one place! The platform offers many other features, and we’re currently only utilizing a handful of them. The great thing is that it’s flexible, so you can use the features that are most helpful to you.
As a certified SharpSpring agency, we can customize your set-up and provide guidance and training on its features. Best of all for you, we can provide access to the platform at a significantly discounted rate.
Is SharpSpring Right for You?
SharpSpring might be a good solution if you are looking for an inbound marketing platform that:
- Includes a variety of robust features (see above)
- Reinforces consistency in your marketing
- Helps to automate frequent marketing tasks
- Provides valuable insights to your sales team, and
- Shares reporting metrics you can use in a variety of ways
- Reduces the number of platforms you have to learn, integrate, and use
Reach out for a demonstration or for more information on how this platform may be able to support your business.
Interested in learning more about inbound marketing? Check out our video blog and see how inbound marketing attracts more customers to your business.