marketing automation

Navigating to complex world of marketing tech

We're off on a new direction again, advising companies about strategy and teaching content development. Our new video series will feature service vendors and customers to help you better navigate the complex world of marketing technology. Grab a cub of coffee and join the conversation 

Video: Footwasher Media Winter '17 Newsletter: a New Path

Marketing practices are failing companies. Here's how to be more effective

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Content marketing works. Numbers don't lie.

Adding the analysis as a foundational part of our methodology was incredibly important in being to understand what is happening in this clients outreach to new business, but what brought about the changes was a fundamental shift in how they communicated and the quality of their content.

Last year, Footwasher Media solidifies its approach to content strategy by incorporating analysis as a foundation stone in the methodology. We partnered with several marketing automation companies and started telling prospective clients that unless they adopted and used something other than Google analytics that we could not take their business. That requirement significantly limited how much new business we took on because 9 of 10 companies and organizations were not will to use it.

After almost one year of changing to the new methodology I'm happy to say that ALL of our clients are experiencing remarkable growth in their business.

I've chose one particular company to highlight (that I won't name) that has had the most improvement because they had the most work to be done.

When this company came to us in August of last year, we used several measurement tools to evaluate where they were. Their website had been up and running for a couple of years so there was some data to grab. On avert, the site has an atrocious 96 percent bounce rate, had only 14 percent of their traffic coming from direct searches, 14 percent from search engines, 1.2 page views per visit and 0.02 minutes per visit.  Oh, and they average 2 visitors per month.

We engaged with them in October and immediately began implementing a strategy using the Sharpspring marketing automation platform, our lowest cost partner. By December we had renovated much of their content and implemented a strategic plan to develop a quarterly email newsletter program. Their budget was extremely tight but we worked with what we had.

By the end of January, two months before we sent the first newsletter, we started seeing significant increases in the website traffic and lead generation. That growth has continued as we approach the end of the first year.

The bounce rate has dropped to 62 percent on average with an outstanding 20 percent on months when we sent out the newsletter. Admittedly 62 percent is nothing to crow about, but is dramatically better than what it was. What was truly gratifying is that the site average 42 percent of the web traffic directly from the emails. Often, visitors use the email to fund the site as a repeat visitor, rather than going through search engines, however even search engine visits have almost doubled over last year. 

The best part was the engagement of the visits that went from 0.2 minutes to a stunning 8.7 minutes as of October 1. That is the average time of visit for the period between October 31, 2014 to October 1, 2015.

Adding the analysis as a foundational part of our methodology was incredibly important in being to understand what is happening in this clients outreach to new business, but what brought about the changes was a fundamental shift in how they communicated and the quality of their content. 

This methodology works. The numbers don't lie.

Marketing Automation vs. Customer Relationship Management: What is the difference?

The biggest barrier to adoption of marketing automation (MA) is a complete lack of understanding of what it is and what it does. That is also the single biggest barrier to effective use of customer relationship management (CRM) software.

 The biggest barrier to adoption of marketing automation (MA) is a complete lack of understanding of what it is and what it does. That is also the single biggest barrier to effective use of customer relationship management (CRM) software.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, (CMI) which issues reports on the state of the content marketing),the use of content marketing as a strategy is growing and is prevalent in growing companies. However, only 39 percent of the companies reporting having a strategy are claiming to see results, which tracks well with the stat that 35 percent have a documented strategy.  

To check those numbers, we approached more than 50 companies in the past year and asked them if they were doing and we focused on the use of marketing automation tools as part of the documented strategy and, if so, what were they using.  Less than half of companies actually had a clear understanding of what content marketing actually is which tracked well with the CMI study Howver 43 said they were using marketing automation tools identifying Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, primarily. We found that interesting because neither are MA platforms. They are CRM platforms.  So, in this post we would like to spell out the difference.

  • CRM will help you manage the relationship of customers you already have.

  • MA helps you create new customers.

It is that simple, but let’s expand a bit.

As Salesforce defines CRM: “You can store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in one central location, ideally in the cloud so the information is accessible by many, in real time.” That’s a really good thing… once you have the customer on the hook. Getting them on the hook is the job of the MA platform.

Marketing is a combination of advertising, public relations, social media and just plain relationships. Until MA technology came along, that required an overwhelming amount of work for a few people, or an overwhelming amount of personnel to do it well. An MA platform does for a marketing team, what CRM does for the sales team, and does it with relatively low cost and complexity, depending on what platform you choose (see previous post).

Some CRMs, like Salesforce and Dynamics have options for marketing automation, but none of the companies we talked to were using those options because they are expensive, difficult to understand and buggy. In fact, none of them were using the CRM capabilities to their fullest, even though they were spending thousands of dollars every year on the tools (and almost all were unhappy with the results).

All MA companies we talked to provide integration with leading CRM platforms. Some MA platforms, like Hubspot and Sharpspring, offer CRMs included in their offerings at no additional cost, although they are not as robust as a leading provider, like Salesforce. However, since most companies are not using their CRMs to their fullest potential, it is something of a waste of money to have a top-of-the-line CRM in place. 

With that in mind, a company hoping to get the most out of automation on a minimal budget, it makes more sense to purchase a subscription to an MA service than a CRM. And if you can afford the cost of a leading CRM, adding an MA service will increase the value and ROI of all your sales and marketing efforts.

Your company might be one of the few that has truly embraced modern digital marketing, but it is unlikely, especially if you have not seriously considered a marketing automation platform. From our personal experience at Footwasher Media, our use of MA has increased our ability to find new leads by an order of magnitude. Our clients who adopt it willingly have seen similar results. Those that rely only on the CRM do not see growth.

In our next post, we will get into the specific value of these tools in respect to content strategy and development.

If you'd like to talk about how to figure out this content strategy thing, drop us a line.

Marketing automation is a must for success, but you may need some help in figuring it out.

This will be the first of several posts on the value and application of third-party marketing automation software. We will cover several aspects of this to simplify your understanding including:

  • The difference between CRM and marketing automation software (surprisingly, most people are wrong)

  • How it helps your sales team (more than they might realize)

  • How does it affect content (a LOT!)

  • Where to find the ROI and prove it to the boss (easier than you might think)

But in this first part, we are going to address the two biggest questions: Who should you use? Can you afford it?

Who you should use

There are dozens of providers of this software and over the past two years, Footwasher Media has been checking out about 20 of the top rated. There are as many lists rating them as there are providers being rated so they don’t offer much help. Most of the rating is based on the number of customers using the service and their revenue. We decided on a different set of criteria: what customers say about them and whether their pricing is transparent.

That latter point is rather crucial. The market leaders (and we won’t name them but you probably know who they are) all appear to have relatively low prices published, but they don’t tell you, up front about the set up charges, the add-ons, the cost for additional services that you might think you get, etc. It’s quite annoying.  Then there is the issue of what customers say.  Marketing automation software is not easy to understand and use. There is always a three-month learning period at the least. But some of the offerings are harder than others. 

So over the past two years we’ve settled on three providers to recommend: Act-on, SALESmanago and SharpSpring. All three land in the top 10 or 20 of most ratings.

For the sake of transparency, Footwasher Media has partnership agreements with all three, but we also have partnership agreements with several others that we don’t recommend. We are agnostic regarding who you might choose, but we highly recommend that you pick one. 

You CAN afford it

Act-on is the most expensive and, in fact, is a bit higher in cost than most of the sales automation packages. The difference is that you what you see is what you will pay (here’s a link to their pricing). It gets rave reviews from customers for ease of use and that might have something to do with the 24/7 customer service they offer. The downside is that they don’t offer a CRM. Many of the big names not include a CRM and those that don’t have integrated the big CRM names, like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Act-on is one of those. So in choosing Act-on, the cost is in addition to what you pay for your CRM.

SALESmanago from Benhauer Marketing Technologies in Poland comes at a significantly lower cost (here’s a link to their pricing), but it differs a bit from Act-on. SALESmanago charges a monthly fee based on the number of contacts you have in your database, while Act-on charges according to the number of leads you send emails to every month. So you might have a database of 30,000 customers, but if you only send out 1,000 emails you pay the base price, while with SALESmanago you pay for the number of names in the list. Even at that, SALESmanago is cheaper. The downside is that SALESmanago is still something of an unknown quantity. It has significant traction in Europe but is just getting introduced to the US so there is not a lot of data on customer feedback. Still they offer the same 24/7 customer service as Act-on.

Finally we have SharpSpring. We not only recommend it, we use if for Footwasher Media for a simple reason. It’s really cheap if you work through a partner agency like us SharpSpring works almost exclusively with agencies and allows them to resell the service to clients for whatever the market will bear. If you prefer to go it alone, it can be pricey (if you want to know specifics, contact me at lou @ 

Another plus is it is the easiest marketing automation software to set up, has a remarkable ability to interface with multiple other marketing and social media services and, best of all, IT HAS ITS OWN CRM!

That CRM is not as powerful as Salesforce, but we have found that most companies with Salesforce are not using the capabilities to their maximum so they are wasting money. The SharpSpring CRM is quite sufficient. In fact, I’ve even run a 100,000 name list through it flawlessly, which brings me back to cost. There are no additional costs, no tiers, and no set-up fees other than paying three months in advance.  The downside is they have limited customer service, relying on the agency partners to handle most of the simple stuff. But the relationship works.

There is an added benefit to SharpSpring. It is owned by SMTP, one of the oldest and most respected email lists houses in the industry… and SharpSpring uses that database to help identify anonymous visitors. That’s huge.

That is not to say, however, that you should pick the cheapest one.

SharpSpring is an excellent choice if you are a startup company with a limited customer list and absolutely no marketing staff. It’s easy on the budget and has a lot of great features of more expensive packages and can make the job of marketing much easier. But because customer service is limited, when things go wrong it’s hard to get them fixed quickly. The team is quite good and responsive within working hours, however.

If you are a larger company with an established customer base but a limited marketing budget, SALESmanago is a solid choice and will make the most of that budget, plus there is no long term commitment. The relationship is month to month and customer service is excellent. 

Medium-sized to large companies might want to look at Act-on, especially because they’ve been around a while, they have an extensive worldwide service network and they can just take the worry out of the whole process.

If you would like to have a deeper discussion of the options we recommend, or want to talk about another provider and get an honest assessment, fill out the form at this link and we’ll give you a free 30 minutes.

Comeback next week and we will cover what the difference are between sales and marketing automation.

Click-bait strategy is losing traction, but not soon enough

Tom Foremski's Silicon Valley Watcher blog took a look at InPowered (you can read more in the link) this week and it gave me pause to rejoice that someone gets that click bait is a horrible strategy in the 21st century. I'm less than sanguine, however, that the move to engagement as a primary measurement of content success. Sharable content

Sales people get that clicks and unique visits are useless.  That's a good thing.  CEOs and marketing executives still haven't read the memo(s).  That's where the break in the chain is and that's why click-bait companies are still wildly profitable.

A company like InPowered has the right approach: charge only for engagement.  But that means the cost per engagement is going to be huge compared to the pennies charged for clicks.  The executives in charge of the online marketing aren't making the case to the CFO that while clicks cost a lot less than engagement, they make a lot less money.  What's even sadder is that most companies already make the investment in SalesForce, Hubspot and other sales and marketing automation tools, but few are actually using the technology that will help them measure content engagement and adjust what isn't working.

Footwasher Media has partnered with a couple of automation tool providers and we've been surprised to find out how their customers underutilize their features, basically because they can't seem to understand that the tools don't measure clicks.  Sales execuives are one of the few corporate people that understand how useless clicks and unique visits are and they've become use to the data marketing people provide them being only clicks and unique visits, so they dismiss data from automation tools as being only that.  It isn't though.

One of our partners has modified its tool with unique technology to filter out useless data and return only interest from live human beings.  One client switched over to the partner recently and was stunned at how "little" traffic they were getting... until they realized that they were getting actual business leads.

We are entering a brave new world of marketing and customer engagement, but we're still in the trailblazing portion of the age.