We’ve been talking all month about email marketing, and today I’m going to dive more specifically into something I’ve touched on in a few previous blogs this month: Email marketing vs. marketing automation. Perhaps you are wondering why you would need a marketing automation system—hopefully this will help you out.
Lists are Dead
Don’t waste time adding contacts to different list each time an email needs to go out. The new and more efficient way to handle your email marketing is to build a system that can be left to run in an automated fashion that work without you having to interact with it.
Layers of Segmentation
Another reason you need this system is because it allows you to add multiple layers of segmentation to every single contact on your list. I’m not talking about different audience groups like “donor” or “volunteer” or “alumni.” You can use behaviors and tags to dictate which marketing campaigns individual users receive.
The Name Says It All: Marketing Automation
The benefits are simple: Instead of having three or maybe four systems that handle your email marketing, your CRM, your Analytics, your landing pages, all those different pieces that go into it, you end up with a single system that controls all of those elements. That consistency of using just one tool allows tighter integration with your Analytics and just less silos.
So…who offers the best system?
There are many companies out there that offer these types of solutions. I’m only going to go over the three that we’re familiar with.
HubSpot has been a pioneer in inbound marketing and they’ve really tailored their system. If that’s what you do and you need to handle SEO, email marketing, the marketing automation, creating landing pages, using social tools, HubSpot may be a fantastic fit for you. Like all of these systems, the level of functionality you get depends on the level of integration that you choose. If you use Hubspot for your landing pages, your blog, etc. then you’re going to see a lot more benefit that just using one piece or another.
This is a great system. I love the fact that you can literally drag and drop and build campaigns based on “if this then that” type of logic. There’s also an E-commerce component built in, so if you’re doing online sales – Infusionsoft is probably a good fit, but stay away from using that E-com functionality. It’s the weakest part of their system, and it really only makes sense if you’re trying to sell a single book or something along those lines. If you’re doing “real” e-commerce then you’re going to want a real E-com package to run your online store, and then integrate that with Infusionsoft to handle the marketing automation.
Act-On is the most recent software package I’ve become familiar with, but I like a lot of things about it, particularly the interface and the pricing is pretty solid, too. It’s a little bit more customer-friendly than the other two platforms, and still includes that ability to see your campaigns in a flowchart-like interface that I’m a huge fan of. What’s great about Act-On’s pricing is that you only pay for “active” contacts – meaning people that you’ve actually emailed in that month. Marketing automation platforms can be cost-prohibitive for folks with really large lists, so this system gives you the ability to start small, without having to go through and decide which list to import, and which you need to wait on because you don’t want to get bumped into a higher pricing tier. Act-On also has some great ability to sync the data with another system (such as a CRM) using an API or by FTPing records nightly. The second option is preferred for a lot of situations, since cost to implement is super-low compared to coding an integration with their API.
A Quick Word on Costs
You’re going to pay more for marketing automation platform than you would for a Constant Contact to something like MailChimp or Emma. You should because it does much more than any of those systems. It’s not just email marketing. It’s part CRM, part behavioral tracking, part landing page builder, part blogging engine. I’d be willing to bet, if you add up what you’re spending on your email marketing system and some of these other tools that you have, the cost usually comes out close.
Infusionsoft and HubSpot both require a $2,000 upfront training where they walk you through the system. I’m not necessarily opposed to this. What I have found in the case of Infusionsoft, though, is that you’re basically spending $2,000 for four or five one-hour consulting calls—so $400 or $500 an hour for consulting.
You have to be very process-driven.
I love the quote from Deming that says, “If you can’t define what you’re doing as a process, then you don’t really know what you’re doing.” That’s what these systems let you do. The possibilities are limitless, but having that next tier of track-ability where you’re able to assign tags, monitor behaviors, and then schedule marketing messages based on that is just an amazing tool for any marketer. I highly recommend you look into that if you’re struggling with what I think is the biggest challenge facing a vast majority of organizations we’re talking to: Doing a great job—not a good job, not a fair job—a great job with your email marketing.