5 Features You’d Expect in Your Perfect Marketing Automation Software Solution

You are probably on a path to choose the best marketing automation software for your business. In our latest post, we've covered all you need to know about marketing automation when you are a small business owner. Automation is a trend. And every small business can embrace this – it's not just a game for the big players. In order to choose the right tool, there are some things to keep in mind. There is not just one category of automation tools. Some help enterprises with their robust database and multi-channel campaign orchestration, others help small businesses get rid of the daily marketing routine. Let's dig into the 5 features you'd expect to find in your perfect marketing automation software solution.

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Unlimited options for segmentation

You read that correctly, the options are unlimited. If you have your database of (even) a few contacts, you may want to segment them according to a criteria that makes sense for you/ your business or industry and communicate with them in a personalised way. Personalisation is crucial to get the best out of every message you send. If your audience does not identify with the problem and solution you bring, no one will buy from you. Understanding your audience comes first. Segmentation is something that helps you distinguish one segment from another. Technically platforms that automate your marketing efforts have to allow you to segment your audience based on many criteria – be it past purchase activity, website behaviour, demographics or firmographics.


Segments are groups of audiences that are internally the same, but externally different from each other. Segmentation in marketing is crucial as it allows you to differentiate between desires, problems, perspectives, characteristics and habits of your customers. Your overall marketing strategy – your content, marketing channels, budgeting etcetera – needs to come hand in hand with having your segments recognized.


Tools like Hubspot or Keap offer you CRM as well as an automation engine. This gives you the ability to collect contacts from more sources and segment them for further marketing communication.

Real-time behaviour monitoring

This term might seem quite complex, but trust me, there is nothing complicated about it. People visit your website, fill out forms, interact with you on social media and answer (or don't answer) your emails. Say you have more than 1,000 contacts (leads) and you try to be as responsive as possible. Monitoring and reacting to all these touchpoints would be impossible – knowing you don't have 100 sales reps or marketing specialists at hand. These actions represent triggers in automation platforms that allow you to start any kind of action you desire – send an email after a purchase is completed, add a user to your remarketing list after she visits the website, send an SMS after a form is filled, send an alert to your colleague once your potential customer visits a website. These are all marketing activities that can be fully automated. You obviously want to have a solution that allows you to monitor those touchpoints and react to them accordingly. 


There is nothing worse than not being responsive. Triggered emails (to name one of the channels) generate 24x more revenue per send than batch campaigns. The reason is that this approach works with the perfect timing to deliver your message.

Multi-channel campaign management at your disposal

I know, this one is obvious. The fact is, that not every tool has all channels covered for you. We continuously put stress on the 360° customer view & customer-centric approach. What we mean by that is simple: “Be where your customers are”. Does your audience use Instagram? Be there with them! Are they searching for something on Google or Bing? Be there too. Are they Messenger lovers? Engage with them there. And guess what, your customers are probably on all of them (+ many others)… We've spoken about the importance of a multi-channel approach in our latest blog. Make sure to check that out.


In order to be present on multiple channels, you need the right tools in place. Many tools, nowadays, use integration with major advertising platforms. Some go beyond and offer you SMS, Messenger or Whatsapp messages. Make sure to choose the channels wisely before you pick an automation tool. And make sure to pick a tool that improves with time – new marketing channels show up almost on a daily basis and users adapt pretty quickly. Look at Tik Tok, which launched in 2017, and now has more than 800 million people! Insane? Not at all – welcome to the 21st century. ActiveCampaign understands this well, offering you SMS, social, website messaging, etc. 


Be where your customers are.


Content creation

This really needs to be pointed out: content is, at the end of the day, what the users see and interact with. If you're backed up with best-in-breed tools, embrace the newest technologies and have everything technically covered, your message won't be successful if the content does not resonate. "Content is King." I know you've probably heard this Bill Gates quotes a thousand times, but it simply is true. Automation tools allow you to create emails (that's where these tools come from – email marketing), but do they allow you to create converting landing pages, forms or dynamic content that changes on your website according to your channel? It definitely should. Pay attention to the creative part of your messaging. If you fail here, nothing will help. A perfect marketing automation tool will back you not only on the technical side of things, but also the creative.


Having mentioned website personalisation, take a look at how Exponea does it. Even though it's a tool focused on bigger companies, there is some inspiration to be found...

Product Suggestion by Exponea
Personalised Product Suggestion by Exponea

With content creation comes hand in hand AB testing. You never know what will resonate the most, so you should constantly be testing. Let your customers decide what works best – and make sure to get the important data back to your tool so that you can constantly improve. If you're not sure what price the sweatshirt should be sold at, test it. Launch the website with two prices – showing the higher price to 50% of your website traffic and the lower price to the other 50% – and see the result. If you're not sure if a question works better over a simple sentence in your email subject, test it. If you're not sure, put your thoughts and best estimations away and let the users decide – it's them who buys your product, not you. 


Overall, a good automation tool – and most of them do – needs to offer you AB testing on every channel and piece of content.

Analytics

Numbers, right. Without analyzing your efforts, no improvement can happen. Metrics like email open rates, click rates, or cost per acquisition, might sound overly complicated, but once you understand them, they can help you continuously improve. Every software company that develops a marketing automation platform knows this and gives you some great analytical features in hand. Nonetheless, one thing that you should keep in mind is that less is sometimes more. Dashboards and cohorts tend to be complicated. You end up looking at 100 numbers without getting the context. That is not right. Choose a tool that interprets data clearly and in an organised way. 


We've focused on campaign management across multiple channels and wanted to make numbers (the boring part) as easy as it gets. See the dashboard below that displays how easy it can be if you focus on a few key metrics (which you should):

Key marketing metrics
Focus on the Key Marketing Metrics

We have covered 5 features you’d expect in your perfect marketing automation software solution. There is a plethora of tools that allow you to automate your marketing efforts, so choose carefully. It takes some time to set everything up and, believe me, you don't want to change your mind after your money and time were invested into the onboarding. Focus on these 5 factors and you'll cover the majority of what's most important. Remember, there are thousands of features, tools and channels. Zoom in on what brings you results – 20% of your effort brings you 80% of the desired results - said by Pareto as we all know.

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7 Ways to Save Time on Daily Sales & Marketing Tasks

You, as an SMB owner, have a bunch of daily sales and marketing tasks you are probably facing every day, right? With these tips we will help you save some time.

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Take Your Small Business to the Next Level with Marketing Automation Software

One of the buzzwords and a key trend in marketing is automation. Even though it may sound complicated and unaffordable for small businesses, the opposite is true – you only have to know where to begin. If you know what to focus on, choose the right software and analyze your efforts, marketing automation can truly get your business to the next level.


Marketing automation is, as the name suggests, a category of technology that streamlines your marketing activities. It gives you the power to focus on customers with the highest potential and saves your time by triggering messages (campaigns) across multiple channels without you having to start them manually. A miracle, I know.


There is always a buzz around new technologies. We recommend reading our article about the difference between Hype & Trend. Marketing automation, we believe, is a trend to stay. Jump on the train as soon as you can. No matter how big your business is. If you choose an affordable solution, your business can never be too small for this.


There are more arguments to start using a marketing automation tool:

  • It saves you time by automating manual effort.
  • If done well, it increases the revenue and saves cost.
  • It allows you to nurture your most valuable customers and focus on new customers with the highest potential.


Stop. Doing. Manual. Work. Period. Let technology help you automate. It's not as hard as it looks. You will find out soon, just bear with us…


Where do you start?

Let us guide you through the very first steps to start using marketing automation that will take your business to the next level.


1. Set your priorities

Be clear about what you want to achieve and how you'll track it. This is a prerequisite to get started. If you don't clearly set your expectations, you won't know where to go and you won't recognize when you get there.


Do you want to save time? Great!  Are you more interested in increasing your response rate? That's cool too. Would you like to generate more leads? That counts as well. Goals and expectations should come out of your status quo - no one will help you here, just you, so start by defining your goals.


2. Define the customer journey & touchpoints

Know the journey of your customer. You can only optimize if you know what leads your customers to purchase. We are fans of marketing funnels that help you (in a simplified way) understand the customer journey. Draw one for your business – you will get a better idea of where your customers get stuck.


Let us give an example here. Say you run your real estate business. Your primary selling point is your website with all the listings and offers. You run Google, Bing and social media ads to generate traffic. You might send some newsletters too.


Your primary goal is to generate leads and close them, right? There are multiple touchpoints throughout the customer journey (before you close the deal). Here is what a customer journey may look like:


3. Find out what can be automated

Now that you know how your customers behave – you've identified the touchpoints, let's slowly start automating. Or better said, let's find out what can be automated. Tools like Hubspot, ActiveCampaign or Keap are mostly focused on email marketing, social media ads, search & display ads, SMS, widgets and pop ups on the website. These represent the channels that you can use to get in touch with your audience. Let us expand on our example above. The touchpoints where the communication can be fully automated are now marked in red:

4. Choose the right automation software

There are plenty of tools to choose from. Going back to your potential question: “Are these tools affordable for small businesses?”, note that you don't have to pick Marketo or Hubspot to automate your efforts. These are tools mainly for enterprises that operate with big marketing budgets. Not in our case. We go small. But effectively…


Let's list some of the tools you can use to start automating your communication:


  1. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign gives you not just marketing automation software, but CRM on top. Its pricing starts at 9 USD (if paid annually) and offers not just email marketing, but also SMS, Facebook targeting, subscription forms and personalised content on your website. It's a great tool.


  1. Keap (by Infusionsoft)

You will have to go deeper into your pocket here. Plans start at 49 USD, but they offer you a sales pipeline plus invoices & payment management on top of what ActiveCampaign gives you. If you lead a sales team, this can be a great choice.


  1. Drip

As well as other automation tools, Drip focuses on campaign orchestration – creating a single view across multiple channels. We worship the 360°customer view and so does Drip. Their focus is ecommerce and they offer great features, like personalised product recommendations.


  1. Mailchimp

It started solely as an email marketing tool, and is now moving into the automation platform. Mailchimp offers features like landing page creation, social media ads and soon-to-be-launched marketing CRM. Pricing starts at 9,99 USD plus they offer a freemium to play with the tool and use basic features.


  1. Zapier

We love Zapier – the glue of the internet. It allows you to connect two platforms that, by themselves, do not communicate with each other. Say you generate leads on your Wix website and need to send them to your Drip account. Zapier helps you do that – automatically of course. With more than 1,500 platforms, they are the real glue of the internet...


  1. groost

As much as we love Zapier, we adore our own solution – groost. The name itself says that it'll grow & boost your business. We do it by automating and simplifying your campaign management. If you need to generate more leads, increase website traffic or get more post engagement on your social media profile, you probably run paid campaigns – knowing that organic reach is constantly decreasing – which can be overwhelming. Learning how Google Ads, Facebook Business Manager, LinkedIn Campaign Manager or Bing Ads work takes ages. Not with groost – a single platform for all your marketing efforts. We do offer freemium too to show your business on both Facebook and Instagram – try it out!


5. Analyze your efforts after some time & improve

Make sure to come back and analyze your efforts. As Peter Drucker said, if you can't measure it, you can't improve it. Analyzing what works and what doesn't is crucial. We recommend running continual AB testing to optimise every step of your funnel and every touchpoint with your customers. All tools that have been listed above allow you to do so easily.


These are the 5 easy steps to get started with marketing automation. Some of them might seem obvious, but believe me, there is no shortcut. Set your priorities first, define the customer journey and touchpoints, find out what can be automated, choose the right tool(s) and after some period of time, come back, analyze and improve.

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Find Your Customers Where They Truly Are

A  few months ago, I moved to a new flat. Before that, I had been doing thorough research on what part of the city is the most child-friendly in terms of security, what are the prices and how far the flats are from the public transportation. I took many things into consideration before even getting in touch with an agent.

Did I Google things? Of course! Was I keen on reading research on what parts of the city suit my needs? You bet I was! Did I spend some time scrolling on Pinterest for furniture inspiration? Yes, I did.


I was lucky to meet Josh, a real estate agent who has been in the business for some time. We got in touch after I visited his website and read his article about the prediction of real estate prices, plus went through some interesting content on his LinkedIn profile. 


I was astonished by the speed of his reaction. Within two days, I had 5 flats to choose from. And a few days after that, I went to see them all.


What I did, nonetheless, within those two days, was thorough research – again. This time, I examined Josh's Instagram profile and checked out the other flats he had to offer. I read the reviews on his Google listings and read more educating articles on LinkedIn. I am a social media freak and I probably use all of them. But Josh was always there… Offering me exactly what I was looking for. At the exact time I needed it.


What I just described, was a perfect user experience and great customer-centric approach. Josh knew his business would grow if he invested in these channels. He also knew what content to serve on each of them. And I engaged, liked, followed – was totally sold! – Successfully ended my buying journey – call it whatever you want. Josh won. So did I.


Do I live in one of these aforementioned flats today? I surely do and I am happy with my decision.


Reach your customers wherever they spend their time. This is a golden rule Josh and other successful businesses completely abide by. 


The fact that you are missing out on the chance to speak to your customer or potential customer on any channel can only be leveraged by your competitors… If you don't worship the customer-centric approach, they will.

And by customer-centric I mean going beyond on what YOU want to be doing to what a CUSTOMER wants to do – where she spends time, where she expects to get in touch with your business, where she takes out her wallet and pays for goods or services...

We are not talking solely about social media here. Customers visit your store – interact with you personally, get in touch with someone from support or sales, search for a cheaper substitute on Google or Bing and eventually visit your website. To gain trust, users tend to rely on reviews and customer feedback listed on your social media profiles. One customer – multiple channels. And you'd better be on all of them.


Customer Interact with Multiple Channels
Your Customer Interacting with Multiple Channels



Every touchpoint matters. Everyone builds the complete image of you through your customers' eyes. And everyone determines whether a customer chooses you instead of your competitors.


In 2018, the average time spent daily on social media was 136 minutes. That is more than 2 hours of one's precious time. And more than 2 hours for you to catch their attention with what you have to offer.


What you can count on, is the fact that they will search for products like yours. And if they don't find you, they will buy somewhere else…

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How to Publish Articles (Natively) on LinkedIn Like Pro

If you're wondering where you can get your articles published, so that it reaches a broader audience, we have great news for you: LinkedIn allows you to create and publish articles natively on their platform. Not only can you leverage the wide user base that LinkedIn has, but you can also use their analytics to see how your posts perform.


Like Facebook did with Instant articles, LinkedIn has switched from being a solely networking-based platform, focused on professionals, to a content-based platform that allows its user to educate themselves while spending time on their platform. That's also what both LinkedIn and Facebook (amongst other platforms) desire – to keep you, me and other users on their platform for as long as they can.


Does this feature represent the potential for you to share your knowledge among other people? You bet it does - if “done well”. Let's jump right into how you can publish articles natively on LinkedIn like a pro.


To get started, click the “Write an article” button. Can’t find it? It's right there, have a look:

Write an article — LinkedIn


Isn't this one of the features that has been in front of your eyes the whole time, but remained undiscovered? 


Once you hit the button, magic happens. You are redirected to an interface where you can create your native LinkedIn article. Having said that, you can now configure the content: add a headline, background image, write the article, add engaging or educating infographics or other visuals and finally, publish!


We won't leave you without any tips and tricks to get started (just keep reading), but we recommend you play around with this feature to get a better idea of what all you can do.

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How To Use Facebook Groups For Your Business

Facebook Groups are one of the basic components of Facebook. You are probably even a member of some of them.


It's a place where people with the same interests can connect online. The basic principle is that it is an online place for people to discuss, share experiences and express their opinions and attitudes. It also allows people to organize events, share photos, videos, or broadcast live videos.


Any Facebook user can create a group and its operation is completely free. Each user can be a member of up to 6,000 groups at the same time. 


Unlike FB Pages, groups can be closed, and while the Page serves primarily for brand presentation, groups are focused on users and their activity in the community.


There are 3 types of Facebook Groups:

Public groups are the ones anyone can find and join. On the other hand, Closed Groups can be found, but their content is hidden and the membership must be approved by its moderator or administrator. This is a great tool to control who wants to join the community and thus control the membership. The highest level of privacy is offered by the Secret group. You cannot view or search those on Facebook. Members of these groups are directly invited by administrators or other members.


Key takeaways

  • Anyone with a Facebook account can create and run a group for free
  • A user can be a member of up to 6,000 groups at the same time
  • Groups can be public, but also completely hidden and closed
  • You can create events, share content, and discuss, exclusively in a group, without showing content on your wall
  • As an administrator, you can delete a group at any time

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How to Define Your Buyer Persona

Do you know who you should have in mind as your ideal buyer? What are their needs, what do they desire, how and when do they like to consume content, and through which channels? To answer these questions, it's extremely helpful to create buyer personas. The personas are developed based on a combination of customers' behavior and your understanding of their motivations and challenges. In the process of creating these personas, you’ll gain insights into how your audience thinks and discover what they want. You will find out the communication style that works for them, and the ways in which they like to consume content. Also, you can find out the ideal price they are most likely to pay for your product or what features the product should have.


For your business, it is crucial to define your buyer persona (aka marketing persona). What are buyer personas? Imagine them as a representation of the demographic where you can find your ideal customer. Creating them helps you understand your customers' needs, while online marketing gives you the ability to target groups or individuals according to specific aspects you can define by creating the personas. Your result? A more efficient and effective marketing campaign.


The challenge of current operating businesses is whether or not to take time out of your already busy day in order to spend time on a persona project. But so much information and knowledge can be gained and your marketing can really improve by doing it flawlessly. And remember, personas are also crucial to getting your 5 marketing Ps right


How do you start? 


1. Ask questions!

To elaborate your personas you need to determine what their goals and attitudes are. You have to ask yourself, what do they know? What do they respond to? What are their behaviors? What do they need? Where are they?


Do qualitative research to gather this knowledge. Ask them. Watch them. Follow them. 


Try to create one or more buyer personas. Developing personas helps you understand your buyers as much as possible. It can provide insights into the different roles in companies or families, as well as into an individuals' life.  This information may eventually factor into a customers’ decision to make a purchase. 


Basically, personas are a comprehensive kind of map of your customers’ minds and personalities, helping you see the world from their perspective. With this X-ray super power, you can find and tailor your ideas to fill in the gaps, meet their needs, and ensure that your content is interesting and relevant to them.


2. How do you get this information? 

Well, you are an entrepreneur, you know nothing is easy. The best source of information is interviews and surveys! Do you see your customers in person? Ask them! Do you have a sales or customer support team? Ask them about the customers. Once you determine your personas, you can schedule user interviews that last about 20 minutes or send them a survey. Make sure they get a little reward afterwards :)


A good source of information is also statistics and reliable broad research done by companies. 


I am sure you have heard that some companies even hire trained anthropologists to watch what people do and how they behave. Your research can be as deep as you want. Just do not bother your clients for too long. 

3. How do you create the personas? 

Once you’ve collected your responses, comb through your research to identify the common threads, concerns, hopes, desires, and challenges people face. Sometimes, you may notice a common theme or even phrase in your responses. These are incredibly valuable.


Have you gathered all of your data from research? Now you can start developing your unique segments. Divide the people by:


a) Demographic

b) Location

c) Interests

d) Behaviour

e) Whatever is relevant for you e. g. job title


4. Finalize them!

Once you have your “rough” personas, it’s time to polish it all. Make sure you have a name for each, and circulate your personas for feedback from relevant people (e.g., your sales team). Once refined, memorialize these in a Google Doc or Excel spreadsheet that is easily accessible. Use these finalized personas to brainstorm content. Going forward, you should be able to identify: Which persona will be interested in your product, service or idea. Why will that persona be interested in it? Make sure to regularly review and update personas, as well.


The more detailed your personas are, the better your marketing targeting can be. You should be able to imagine them or draw them. You should be able to simulate an interview with them, to know what tone you should use, and what their interests are. Imagine that you are selling something to them personally and play with your new imaginary customers. 


You know you did a good job if your personas are: Divergent from each other, feel real, and are easy to explain. Create files for each one, so you don't forget anything about them, hang pictures of them around the office, so you feel they are present. If you have coworkers, they all should know these personas perfectly. Your aim is for the company to culturally adopt the concept of talking about these personas as real people.

How can personas help create content?

Audience insights: 

Your created personas will help you understand your audience’s concerns, preferences, and goals. When you know these, you are able to create content your buyers will find engaging, relevant, entertaining and valuable. Personas help you determine that very sort of content you will need. If you divide your current content down by persona, you can simply see which personas are getting enough content - they are nurtured, and which personas need more or a different kind of content.


Communication styles: 

Because you already know who you are talking to, set the tone, style, and delivery strategies for your content according to your personas. For example, some buyers respond best to a friendly, conversational voice, with some jokes and questions, while others trust a more formal tone and serious negotiation. By creating your personas, you’ll determine the best tone and style for your content. You can even target the topics you should be writing about for each persona. 


Content preferences: 

At the end of the day, personas tell you where buyers prefer to get their information. Are they like bookworms? Do they like to sink their teeth into 100-page guides, or do they prefer short, concise texts and easy graphics? This information will help you set the way you create your content for each persona and how your buyers will discover it. It's the same for your creatives. Some people won't watch a video, some will only respond to a colorful picture and some only to a call to action post. Create content that will engage your buyers more effectively. 

Note: The delivery strategies for your content may or may not be the same for all your buyer personas. It is also okay to have only one or to have many buyer personas, it's up to you!


How can you target those personas via online advertising platforms?

Besides demography e.g. age, location and sex, each platform gives us a different way to target the customers. 


LinkedIn, as an employment platform, allows us to target people based on their job title, their knowledge, education, abilities, their current employer, as well as companies they have been employed by or their level of seniority. 


Facebook is more informal and fun, so you can target people according to their interest, pages they like, devices they use, travel plans or according to an upcoming birthday in their friend list. There are a vast number of options you can select to describe your persona(s) as precisely as possible. If you take an interest in this topic, you can read more about Facebook targeting according to interests , as well as location


To sum it all up…

Create a comprehensive list of your personas. 

One campaign should target one persona, for a more effective strategy.

Smaller campaigns, with an in-depth target, are more effective with an individual persona.


Having said this, buyer personas are something you REALLY need to run your business and use the online platforms effectively. Got any questions? Don't hesitate to contact us! 

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