Confession: I created a 230-row matrix to compare the industry’s top marketing automation platforms, assessing everything from SEO tools to pricing models to advanced features that would blow the mind of a mere mortal. It became an Excel grid so beefy with analysis that two of the major software players asked for a copy. I blushed.
But I’m not here to boast; instead, I’m here to share with you the top cutting-edge technology features I found in my exploration. With 11 times more B2B organizations using marketing automation than just four years ago (according to SiriusDecisions), these advanced features will quickly become standard tools in the toolshed, even for industrials that may not have yet embraced the core functionality marketing automation provides.
Time to geek out.
1. Serious SEO
With inbound marketing at the center of HubSpot’s entire operation, it’s no surprise that their SEO offering is best of all, bar none. Heck, their SEO features are every bit as robust as many standalone SEO tools out there. The system not only audits existing landing pages and websites for SEO, but it provides as-you-type advice as you build new ones. There’s a keyword research tool that helps you prioritize which search terms you want to target, you can track your rankings over time (as well as those of competitors), and you’ll even find an inbound link tracker to see who else on the web is linking back to you.
2. Integrated Blogging & CMS
Imagine this: hosting your website, blog, and landing pages in the same place. HubSpot is the only major player I’ve found that provides a blog platform and content management system bundled into one neat package. The implications of this bundle are endless: easily sharing content across channels; better analytics on users who visit various portals within your ecosystem; and, quite frankly, it’s easier to manage since you don’t have to log into multiple systems. Pretty cool.
3. Smart Content Personalization
Gone are the days when you had to guess who might visit your site and wonder which content should “win.” With smart content from providers like Act-On and HubSpot, you can serve up different text and images based on user characteristics. For example, a first-time visitor would see a welcome message. On the other hand, if the user is further down the funnel and lives in the Midwest, they might get a stronger sales message highlighting your reps in Des Moines. Sure, this feature increases your content mandate, but the impact on conversion rates makes it well worth the effort.
4. Trackable Personal Emails
With today’s tools, you’re not only able to track “official” emails sent through your marketing automation platform; you can track almost any personal email sent via programs like Outlook or Mac Mail. Pardot, a Salesforce company, has a plugin for Outlook that allows you to send personal sales messages from the comfort of your chosen inbox and then track their success in the Pardot tool. HubSpot has a nifty little app called SideKick that not only tracks opens and clicks from your personal messages, but it shows you powerful information about your contacts right in your inbox as you type.
5. Social Buying Signals
A really advanced offering from smaller provider OutMarket is a feature they call Buying Signals. With this social tool as part of their marketing automation suite, OutMarket monitors millions of Twitter conversations and pinpoints participants who are looking for your product or service. Then, their proprietary technology delivers those leads right to your dashboard. Buying Signals can even go a step further by subdividing those who have recently broken or lost a product they need replaced. Now that’s amazing.
6. E-commerce Integration
Small businesses that sell online should take a strong look at Infusionsoft, the only marketing automation platform around that also ties in to your online store. With their storefront, payment processing, referral program management, and post-purchase automation (combined with many other standard features), Infusionsoft is a strong contender for industrials with modest online catalogs.
7. Native AdWords Analytics
Three of the providers we evaluated — Act-on, Pardot, and OutMarket — have an integration with Google AdWords, allowing you to see in-depth reporting on your ad campaigns in the same interface that tracks your other inbound and outbound marketing efforts. While none of them allow you to actually set up and manage ads themselves within the platform (that would be nice), having this native analytics integration allows for a greater depth of reporting without logging into multiple systems.
8. Email Testing Across Devices
Thanks to two of the players on our list — Act-On and HubSpot — you no longer have to test your email marketing messages in a separate platform. Both tools offer a native integration with Litmus, the leading email testing and analytics service, which offers email previews for countless devices and spam filter testing for various internet service providers. Now there’s no excuse for your marketing messages breaking in Outlook or getting flagged in Gmail as spam.
9. Multi-touch Attribution Reports
I’m sure you’ve wondered where a prospect first learned about your company, but have you ever wondered if there was a second (or third or fourth) point of contact that finally drove them to complete a request form or buy your product? With both HubSpot and Act-On, you can view what’s called a multi-touch attribution report, which is especially valuable for industrials with long sales cycles. According to Act-On, “For longer sales cycles with multiple touch points (e.g., email, webinars, landing pages, lead nurturing tracks, etc.), multi-touch attribution is more appropriate because it distributes credit for all touch points along the path to conversion.”
10. Tools for Getting Organized
Even though Infusionsoft lacks many of the especially robust marketing automation features, they offer a host of additional services that will help any small business stay organized. Built into the platform, you’ll find contact management (read: address book on steroids), lead scoring, tasks, appointments, reminders, and a sales activity calendar. For those who need a personal secretary but simply don’t have the budget, this tool may be for you.
Must-Have Marketing Automation
So there it is. A look at some of the leading marketing automation features on the market today. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. Most of these tools aren’t required to get your marketing automation program in place. They’re nice-to-haves, not need-to-haves. And if they sound expensive, you’d be surprised. Some of the providers mentioned above have packages starting at just a couple hundred dollars a month.
According to Gleanster, 79% of “top performing companies” have been using marketing automation for more than two years. So if you consider your business top performing (or want to be) and aren’t yet on the marketing automation train, it’s time to climb aboard. But if you aren’t sure where to buy your ticket (or if you just want to see that Excel grid), contact Industrial Strength Marketing and we’ll be happy to make a recommendation.