The height of Marketing Technology when I was a Marketing Junior was a nifty invention from Microsoft called Excel. It was the one place to record contacts details, leads from shows, and other prospect lists. If you wanted to track a contact from the first connection to a valued customer you had to have a degree in Excel programming. Or just have a good memory for names.
Today, there are so many technologies out there, you’ll struggle choosing your inbound marketing platform to support the goals of the marketing department – to identify and engage with prospective customers – and pass them, when ready to engage, to a willing and eager sales force. Chief amongst the arsenal of apps is the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system (ranging from the extremely broad services like Salesforce to specialist Lead Management systems like LeadMaster) and the faithful Email Engine (from MailChimp to Dotmailer).
Whilst early CRM and Emailer systems were very clunky and manual they have, of course, got easier and slicker. Automation grew within these applications so that you could set up campaigns and just set them off and let them run. And then, in slipped Marketing Automation, when suddenly we could also automate responding to prospects as well as sending targeted ‘stuff’ to them!
Now, this is all great – and you may have some or all of these. But to me, these are “apps” and not an integrated “inbound marketing platform”. Sure you can have all the APIs to connect them up – but that doesn’t make it a platform either. What is missing for me is some central control and a central report dashboard which tells me what is going on across all online marketing activities and up and down the sales funnel. That’s a marketing platform.
A marketing platform can’t stop with just CRM and Email these days. Any marketing platform must now link into company websites and social media sites and these must be two-way links. So the platform must be able to ‘publish’ and to ‘monitor’ all the interactions between all online marketing channels. Only then can we actually identify a person, not just an IP address and so begin to address each prospect according to their persona. Social Media sites don’t pass us a great deal of information, but a link from social media page through a call-to-action to a website landing page with a contact form – now you are getting somewhere!
The platform should also be acting as your eyes and ears – monitoring keywords and contributing to the SEO. In fact, I would go further and say it should be acting as your ‘Advisor’ – e.g. “tell me which combination of keywords placed in blogs and pages would get me noticed and save me some PPC budget along the way?”.
So my argument would be that it’s fantastic to have an app for every individual online marketing task – but not at the cost of having no real idea what is happening across the online domain. I want to know who is travelling through my domain and I won’t see that if they are jumping between all of my clever apps without me knowing.
In the UK the most vocal suppliers at the moment are the CRM, Emailer and Marketing Automation Suppliers. All of them do far more than one thing now – but I would argue that they generally are only automating certain outbound marketing channels. Again, I would argue a true ‘all-in-one’ marketing platform must be outbound and inbound – it must be able to publish and promote – but it must also listen and respond.
As such, we’re going with the HubSpot platform – from the company of the same name – because it does all of the tasks of individual apps as well as any in the market – but wrap around them that all-important mechanism for linking all interactions together around 2 key ‘databases’ of Contacts and Keywords.
Watch out there will be more appearing over the next couple of years.
…or there is always Excel.
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