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8 Sets of Marketing Automation Tools Your Company Can’t Live Without

marketing automation tools

For B2B companies, their universe of potential customers can be broadly divided into two groups. There are unknown or “pre-CRM” prospects who can be described but not individually named (e.g., CIOs at midsized companies). And there are known or “post CRM” prospects whose email addresses (at least) and other information (often) such as name, company, and title, are identified and tracked in a database with various marketing automation tools. Your consistent goal should be to improve customer and prospect marketing to move these leads along the sales funnel.

Much of the work done in content planning and development (blog posts, infographics, video, white papers, ebooks, reports) and the distribution/promotion channels for that content (SEO, social media campaigns, PR, influencer marketing, online advertising) are focused on attracting unknown prospects and converting them into post-CRM opportunities.

Just as there are online tools to help B2B marketers develop content marketing strategy and plans, create content, and generate leads, there are also a range of marketing automation tools focused on helping to move leads through the sales funnel, cross-sell and up-sell existing customers, improve the customer experience and improve customer and prospect marketing.

Here are eight categories of marketing automation tools designed to help personalize content for, deliver it to, and increase engagement with known sales prospects and customers. Collectively, they help you convert contacts into active sales prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers and brand advocates. These marketing automation tools will help you improve customer and prospect marketing.

Social CRM Tools to Improve Customer and Prospect Marketing

Social media is a goldmine of information just waiting to be harvested to improve customer and prospect marketing. Social CRM apps go beyond traditional CRM software by adding prospect social media profiles to standard contact information, and tracking social media interactions as well as emails and phone calls. In addition, the focus of these marketing automation tools is more on increasing engagement than simple data collection.

Complementing typical CRM functionality like email and phone call tracking, social CRM systems generally include capabilities such as:

  • lead capture and nurturing;
  • sales workflow automation;
  • sales forecasting;
  • reporting and analytics; and
  • social media integration.

Among the more popular marketing automation tools in this group, Infusionsoft adds marketing automation features. Base CRM provides conversion rate and sales win rate optimization capabilities. Crystal applies the DISC personality assessment to help improve communications. And tools like Nimble and Bitrix24 support team collaboration.

Email Marketing Automation Tools

Email is the great leveler among marketing channels. Even the smallest companies and solopreneurs can segment their prospect lists and send attractively designed, professionally branded, personalized email messages using an email service provider (ESP).

Of course, not every email you send goes to a prospect or customer; it’s also a tool for communicating and collaborating with colleagues inside and outside your organization.

And you also receive emails. Probably lots of them. So many, in fact, that the very phrase “email productivity” sounds like an oxymoron. But fortunately, there are marketing automation tools to help with those uses of email as well.

Here are different types of email marketing automation tools that can help in a variety of situations but can overall improve customer and prospect marketing:

  • Email marketing services (ESPs): ESPs like AWeber, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, and Constant Contact provide intuitive tools for encouraging website visitors to subscribe to a newsletter or blog; segmenting and managing multiple email lists; creating and sending professional-looking, personalized email messages; and monitoring results (opens, click-throughs, etc.).
  • Email task scheduling: It’s generally not feasible to immediately respond to or deal with the contents of every email message you open. That’s where these tools help. With FollowUpThen, you can make sure important tasks get taken care of by scheduling reminders to be sent to yourself or others. Sortd lets you create a “to do” list for emails you can’t deal with right away. And using Boomerang for Gmail you can not only schedule messages and follow-ups, but also create recurring emails, see when people have opened your messages, and more.
  • Email productivity tools: “Email” and “productivity” don’t have to be mutually exclusive, as these tools prove. Bananatag works with most email clients, enabling you to quickly create email messages from templates, schedule sending, and track results. Mixmax offers similar functionality, though only for Gmail. Create auto-follow-up messages as well as one-time or recurring email reminders with Followup.cc. And use Gmass to add ESP-like functionality to your Gmail account.
  • Special purpose: Finally, there are unique tools for handling a number of specific email-related tasks, among them Unroll.me for inbox and subscription management; OptinMonster for list building; mailVU for sending video email; WiseStamp for creating graphical email signatures; and Touchstone for testing email subject lines.

Email can sometimes seem like a monster trying to devour your day. The tools above arm you to better fight that daily battle and also help improve customer and prospect marketing.

Other Marketing Automation Tools or MarTech

These are arguably the marketing automation tools most people think of first when they hear the terms “marketing technology” or “martech.” A step up from ESPs, marketing automation applications help you capture leads, segment them, automatically send pre-defined sequences of messages to each segment, and monitor website activity of known prospects. These tools are great if you want to improve customer and prospect marketing

These are also arguably the most misnamed category of marketing automation tools. Their fundamental purpose is lead nurturing: using a planned sequence of messages and content to help move prospects from raw lead status to qualified lead, opportunity, and ultimately to customer or active sales opportunity stage.

A more accurate name, based on what these tools actually do, might be “email message sequence automation and prospect website visit tracking”—but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily.

In other words, while these marketing automation tools automate specific tasks within the lead capture and nurturing process, they certainly do not “automate” marketing; and rather than replacing staff, they require specific talent in order to be used in effectively.

Furthermore, as noted in Six Simple Steps To Mastering Marketing Automation, “automation platforms are the tool, not the strategy.” Automating an ineffective process or ill-conceived strategy will only help you do the wrong things faster.

Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape identifies more than 200 tools in this category alone, but among the best marketing automation tools are Marketo and Oracle Eloqua at the enterprise level, plus JumpLead, Act-On, Pardot, Drip, and GetResponse for SMBs.

Online Survey Tools

Survey tools can be used at any stage, but are particularly helpful with known sales prospects. Once you know a little bit about your contacts, surveys can help you learn more, generating more information for you to use to improve prospect and customer marketing tactics.

Surveys can be conducted through social media, email, or website pop-ups. Common features of online survey marketing automation tools include:

  • multiple response types (radio buttons, checkboxes, freeform text);
  • conditional branching logic (change or skip the questions presented based on answers to previous questions);
  • answer scoring;
  • display rules (for website surveys, e.g. display to all visitors, display after x seconds, display on exit intent, etc.); and
  • integration to CRM and marketing automation systems.

Popular survey marketing automation tools include SurveyMonkey, Qeryz, Qualaroo, Fieldboom, and Survey Anyplace and all of these can improve customer and prospect marketing.

Screencasting and Online Presentation Tools

Product demonstrations, “explainer” videos, customer training—there are lots of scenarios in which it’s ideal to be able to be able to capture a sequence of actions on your computer and share it with another individual or group in another place.

Screencasting or screen recording tools make it easy to demonstrate a software application, show how to do a process, or even capture a presentation for sharing online or via email. Common features offered by these tools include the ability to:

  • record the action on your entire screen or just a portion of it;
  • add annotations, captions, and custom cursors;
  • record audio narration;
  • save and share on-screen action in a variety of video formats;
  • add transitions and music tracks; and
  • capture single, static screen grabs as well as motion video.

Among the most popular screencasting tools are CamStudio, Screencast.com, ScreenFlow, and Camtasia. Wink is optimized for creating software tutorials, while Freeseer is designed for recording lectures and conference presentations. Webinaria enables viewers to rate your recordings.

Prezi and Haiku Deck are alternatives to PowerPoint for creating dynamic visual presentations. With join.me, you can share slides, an interactive whiteboard, or anything else on your screen, in real time.

Best Event Marketing Platforms

In the late 1990s, live events like trade shows and customer conferences were huge. Forward-thinking vendors started taking advantage of then-nascent web technology to create technology solutions for event marketers, including the first online event registration systems and show floor maps for the Palm Pilot and other personal digital assistant devices.

Just a few years later, in the wake of the dot-com meltdown and the 9/11 attacks, events fell out of favor. People were nervous about traveling. And besides, the dramatic advances being made in online communication capabilities as the Internet got faster made old-fashioned face-to-face meetings obsolete. Right?

Not exactly. As business professionals have grown tired of the impersonality (and often artificiality) of digital communications, and events have evolved with the times, live events have made a dramatic comeback. According to recent research:

  • conventions and events are expected to expand by 44 percent from 2010 to 2020, far beyond the average projected growth of other industries;
  • 80 percent of marketers believe live events are critical to their company’s success; and
  • two-thirds of B2B marketers say live events are their most effective content marketing tool.

Event technology has advanced dramatically over the past two decades as well. Modern event marketing and management platforms handle far more than online registration: they help event organizers manage speakers and sessions, customize gifts and conduct surveys, and connect to payment processing and hotel booking systems.

Most importantly, they enable event planners to collect and analyze the treasure trove of data that can be used to improve customer and prospect marketing plans. As explained in Four Ways to Capture Valuable Data at Corporate Events, when used in conjunction with RFID-enabled attendee credentials (badges or wrist bands), event management platforms enable you track what guests do and how they engage at events, to learn, for example:

  • Which activities were most popular?
  • Which topics generated the most interest?
  • Which sessions did people leave early—and at which did they stay late to ask questions?

Data collected on everything from leads generated and activity tracking to attendee survey responses and social media sharing helps event professionals choose which outside events to sponsor, and how to improve the attendee experience at their own corporate events.

Among the best enterprise technology platforms are Evite and Eventbrite for small, simple events; Bizzabo and Aventri (formerly etouches) for midsized companies and gatherings; and Cvent and G2Planet for enterprise event management.

Online Tools for Sales Professionals

Guiding prospective buyers along the journey from an initial interest in a solution through qualification education to the final buying decision requires a combination of content, processes, skills (people), and tools.

When B2B sales and marketing teams are aligned, the two groups are using many of the tools above (social CRM, marketing automation, screencasting) in a coordinated manner.

Sales professionals have their own marketing automation tools as well, to help them more effectively manage tasks such as:

  • Automating emails: Tools like Yesware and ToutApp provide email automation capabilities specifically designed for sales people, with email and call activity tracking integrated to Salesforce.com and other popular CRM systems.
  • Scheduling tasks: OppSource and Close.io help sales pros schedule specific sales activities, follow up with prospects based on activity, and set reminders.
  • Arranging appointments: Trying to arrange meetings, calls, or online sessions through email and phone tag can be frustrating for sales people and sales prospects alike. With Appointlet, sales pros can display their schedules online and let prospects easily book a time to talk.
  • Utilizing content: Sales enablement tools like Modus give sales reps anytime, anywhere access to the latest company marketing and sales content, and help marketers understand which assets are most useful to the sales team.

Integrating marketing automation tools and aligning tasks enables marketing and sales teams more effectively work together to guide prospective clients through their buying decision process and helps improve customer and prospect marketing.

Customer Service and Customer Engagement Platforms

Winston Churchill spoke of the Battle of Egypt as being “not the end…not even the beginning of the end. But…perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

It’s apt (if perhaps a bit overly-dramatic) to look at B2B sales that way. They are the end of the beginning of what ideally will be a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with the customer.

The goal, once the purchase order is signed, is to deliver a solution and help make the customer successful with it. This sets the stage to earn ongoing and add-on sales, over time, by providing products and services that make the customer’s life better. And this turns the customer into in advocate that can help drive additional new customer acquisition.

As with the earlier stages of building this relationship—lead generation, lead nurturing, and sales—there are a range of martech tools that can help manage post-sale efforts. Three key categories of tools in this group are:

  • Customer service and support: These applications typically offer capabilities for help desk ticket creation and management; email, voice, and chat integration; knowledgebase functions; and customer service performance reporting. Popular providers include HelpScout, Groove, Desk.com, and Freshdesk.
  • Customer chat: Applications that go beyond common website chat tools, with more of a focus on customer issue resolution and internal support team collaboration. Among the top offerings are Intercom.io (with features for lead acquisition and website visitor engagement as well as support): Engage (personalized one-to-one messaging for account-based marketing [ABM] and high-value, considered purchase environments); and ProProfs Chat (with integration to survey and e-learning tools).
  • Customer Community and Collaboration: Build a private social network just for your customers, with features like forums, FAQs, product documentation, surveys, and group collaboration. Top options include Ning, WorkOutLoud, and MindTouch.

These prospect and customer marketing automation tools help you align the efforts of your marketing, sales, and customer support teams to:

  • better understand your prospects and customers;
  • engage more effectively at all stages of the sales and post-sales process;
  • convert contacts to active leads, and leads to sales; and
  • turn customers into repeat buyers and brand advocates.

From a content marketing standpoint, these tools help marketers develop more relevant, compelling content for sales prospects; guide buyers through their decision process; understand which content assets are most valuable to the sales team; and produce the content needed to help customers be successful. What tools do you use to improve customer and prospect marketing?

The original version of this article was first published on V3Broadsuite.

Tom Pick

Tom Pick is a digital marketing consultant, working with Kinetic Data, a provider of enterprise service request management, workflow automation, and collaboration software. He writes about content and social media marketing topics on the Webbiquity blog.