Marketing Automation is a second beating heart, thinking brain, and breathing lungs for your business. You may not have the resources to hire someone to manage all of your customer and/or client interactions.  That’s the beautiful power of Marketing Automation. Powerful technology takes the place of a human being and frankly, sometimes does the job better.

Still unsure of what Marketing Automation can do for your business? Or even what it is? According to Hubspot (whose Marketing Automation platform is THE most popular amongst marketers everywhere),  Marketing Automation refers to “the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions, such as email, social media and website actions.” We can almost 100% guarantee that you have been at the receiving end of an automation at some point in your life.  

Those constant Amazon emails – you know, the one with the “If you love 10-Pack Solid Gold Golf Clubs, You’ll Also Love…” subject lines – are a prime example of Marketing Automation. Trust me, there’s no sad, pale little man sitting in a basement somewhere sending you those! (*Disclaimer* If there is, I’m really sorry and I’d like to personally thank you for not judging my Amazon searches.) The POINT is, Amazon has a really robust Email Automation program that you’ve no doubt enjoyed.

Most businesses, both B2B and B2C, can implement powerful Marketing Automation software to increase upsells, reduce cart abandonment, nurture warm leads, and so much more.  But the challenge lies in finding the perfect Marketing Automation platform for your business. As a digital marketing agency with 10+ years of marketing technology experience, we’ve tried our hand at several platforms, and we’ve learned one thing: one size does NOT fit all. Every business has different needs and will, therefore, require different functionalities in their technology,

Here’s how to choose the best Marketing Automation platform for your business.

A brief intro to the biggest contenders in the Marketing Automation game: For years Hubspot, Marketo, and Pardot were the three most commonly used automation platforms. Organizations in every industry were thrilled with the toolbox of these platforms, and the UX and technology suited their needs enough to get by. As time passed, handfuls of new technologies boasting “A more powerful CRM” or “We’ll help you send better emails” were thrown into the ring. By the time 2017 rolled around, you’re looking at hundreds of MAPs with thousands of users each.

So how do you cut through the noise to find your MAP match? Follow these steps.

 

  • Define Your Automation Needs
  • Research and Compare
  • Trial Run and Recon
  • Finalize!
  • Make it Rain

 

 

Step #1: What are your automation Needs?

Gather your marketing team in a room and clearly map out your marketing strategy. Outline your efforts for every stage of your marketing funnel. For example, what messages do you want to send to people who have NEVER heard about your company before? Where do you want to display these messages to give them maximum exposure to your target audience?  Once your strategy is clearly defined, you can identify where a machine could be doing the work, and where a team member must be involved.

An example would be: Johnson’s Wholesale Liquidators is looking to increase the number of manufacturers and retailers who pass on their extra SKUs to JWL. Their strategy is to send out a newsletter to their current providers as well as a list of contacts the CEO, Tom Hicks, has forged a connection with on LinkedIn. While these emails can be custom-crafted in Gmail by the CMO, Larry, it would save JWL considerable time, funds, and energy to offboard this task to a MAP. So Email Automation is a Need.

Additionally, they want to get very granular with their user journey. If a potential provider clicks on a link, JWL wants them to receive an entirely different follow-up sequence. So Unlimited Sequencing is a Need.

While social media marketing plays an almost negligible role in acquiring new providers, JWL understands how important it is for brand credibility and B2C marketing. So an SMM manager, either baked into the software or available as an integration, is a Need. Keep refining your Needs, and throw in a few Bonuses. If the MAP can provide  Search Marketing tools and A/B testing, that’s great, but not a must-have.

 

Step #2: Research and Compare

This is the fun part. Ask friends in your industry (or even competitors!)  what Marketing Automation Platform they use and why they like or dislike it. Compile a list of personally recommended MAPS. Then hop online for additional options.  Try and narrow down the options as you research. If you see a negative review over the course of your research that scares you, cross the platform off your list. Choose your top ten based on reviews, functionality, pricing, customer service/support, and UX- you don’t want to get stuck with a platform that’s devilishly tricky to operate.

Once you have your top 10, compare how many of your Needs and Bonuses each includes. If you find one MAP that “does it all” – congrats! You’ve found your dream platform! If you’re stuck deciding between a few and simply can’t choose – don’t worry. It’s all part of the process. Here’s a good plan: choose your top three contenders. Create a test project for each and try it out for a trial period (if your software doesn’t offer a trial…you may want to dive a little deeper into their customer service reviews).  Which brings us to Step #3-

 

Step #3: Trial Run and Recon

Let’s give this baby a test run! Have your marketing team test out the software (or softwares if you’re still undecided) for the trial period. Don’t migrate all your content just yet- create a test project for the trial. Have them carefully monitor and take notes about their experience. Specifically:

  • How simple is it to create campaigns within the platform?
  • Did you find the software intuitive, or did you “have to get the hang of it?”
  • Were the campaigns you tested successful?
  • How easy/difficult was it to interpret the data and analytics the MAP spat back?
  • Was the support team responsive, patient, and helpful?
  • Would you rather stick pins in your eyes then look at that layout all day?

Ask them to be perfectly honest, as this decision will likely impact them for the year or so. In fact, maybe kick off the recon meeting with your own scathing review to encourage that open atmosphere. The team is going to disagree on some things, particularly if you’re testing more than one MAP at a time. People are going to choose favorites and fight for their choice – but that’s healthy. Your team will benefit from bouncing the pros and cons off each other, and will eventually come to a unanimous decision.

Step #4: Finalize!

Give your account manager a call – it’s time to sign on the dotted line!

 

Step #5: Make it Rain

It’s time to set up your automations to perfection and start making money while you sleep. Set up those babies, and let the platform do the work for you! Of course, some light maintenance will be necessary, and interpreting the data should (hopefully) be a weekly task, but as far as sending emails, drafting social posts, writing blogs, sending site messages, etc. etc.: you are off the hook!

So that’s our strategy for finding the perfect platform for your business. To help jumpstart your research, here are some helpful resources detailing several Marketing Automation platforms and their functionality. Happy Reading!

 

The Best Marketing Automation Software of 2017 [CHART] by PCMag.com

Best Marketing Automation Software by g2crowd.com

https://www.ngdata.com/top-marketing-automation-software-tools

Check your inbox. For real, leave this app and check your inbox.

Ok, welcome back.

How many of the emails, that now call your inbox home, will merit even 2 seconds of your attention? Some, you’ll skim mindlessly, pausing mid-swipe to double-take at a cat GIF.
A few may get the trash-tap treatment before even the first “Hey there, gamerboy91!” is revealed. And others will fatally suck, resulting in a frantic jab at the dreaded unsubscribe button with exaggerated fury.

Why do crappy emails make us so MAD?

A wise woman once said, your personal inbox is like your digital foyer. You don’t mind welcoming new people to your home…until they stop knocking before they enter.

In other words, we’re open to receiving emails as long as they’ve provided value in the past and may provide value in the future. But once they start to “make themselves at home” in our inbox, and take their invitation into our personal space for granted, they’ll lost our trust, interest and patience – FAST.

So what does this mean for us, both as email marketers and (hypocritically) serial email deleters? Will email marketing be forever lost to the Wikipedia pages of web practices that have grown obsolete?

Here’s your answer: According to Campaign Monitor, in 2017, email marketing ROI averages to $38 for every $1 spent. That’s 40x more than what Facebook engagement usually brings in.

That’s a revelation. That’s game-changing. That’s a wake-up call to the digital marketing world.

No, email marketing is far from dead. In fact, it’s just getting started. So how can you gain that coveted, proverbial “Welcome Mat” into your customer’s digital foyer? By following three key guidelines:

1: Knock first
2: Bring a hostess gift
3: Be a gracious houseguest

KNOCK FIRST
Even if your host expressly invited you into their home, do you simply barge through the door on your first visit? Of course not. You knock. In email-land, this is equivalent to an opt-in email. These automated emails double-check with the recipient about subscribing to your list, even if they voluntarily subscribed to your newsletter.
You may think this a cumbersome extra step, but it makes all the difference. Tempting as it is to just grab as many email addresses as you can and start blasting those newsletters, you won’t build lasting relationships that bring in real sales that way. Check out the automated opt-in email below. We can assume the recipient has already been getting emails from Archant for a while:

archant

Archant is showing their valued subscribers that they care about their preferences while SIMULTANEOUSLY ensuring that only those interested in their product are receiving their meticulously crafted emails.

BRING A HOSTESS GIFT
Provide value. Make it worth their while. Make them second guess themselves as their finger hovers over the trash icon: maybe there’s something of value in this email that I’m about to throw away?

This doesn’t mean giving away inventory, or even promo codes. Check out this email for received from Glossier, a fun makeup company with a super-strong brand personality:

 

glossier header

glossier photos

The images were perfectly screensaver-sized, and were lusciously visual, brand-consistent and of course: free.

Glossier didn’t charge a penny for these images, and yet, as the recipient, we felt like it was an exclusive gift from the glorious founder herself. What a simple, clever way to deliver value to your email list!

So while offer codes, downloads, and free swag are great “Hostess Gifts”, you don’t have to limit yourself to physical deliverables. You know your target audience better than anyone – you know what they’ll appreciate. Even if it’s just a screensaver.

BE A GRACIOUS HOUSE GUEST
There are some unspoken rules when you’re a guest: use your inside voice, don’t clog the toilet, feet off the coffee table…to name but a few. In order to stay welcome in your audience’s mailbox, you’ve got to be a dream guest.

Pop in only once in awhile: daily emails are a surefire way to get your recipients annoyed at you.

Don’t be too loud: if every subject line is YOU’RE ABOUT TO MISS THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME! and all your offering is another $5 off your order off $500, then you’ll lost trust fast.

Show appreciation: say “Thanks for letting us visit” every so often. It reminds your audience that you appreciate and respect that they’ve invited you in.

canva photo

Canva sent out this email when they hit 2 million users on their site. In an effort to show how they still care for every customer individually, they let users know what number user they were. This isn’t earth shattering information, but it made every customer feel like they were a part of something greater and individually relevant.

Start sprinkling these strategies into your emails and pay close attention to your open rate. Remember, even if customers don’t engage with your emails, they could be actively reading, enjoying, or even forwarding them. By establishing your newsletter as one of the few they don’t block, you’ve got more than just a foot in the door: you have a guaranteed seat on their living room couch.

Have any other tips for crafting emails that have staying power? Tell us in the comments below!

Looking to improve your email marketing techniques? Ajax Union is a full service digital marketing agency based in Brooklyn, New York. Our team is here to help you become an amazing company. Contact us so we can walk you through the realm of online marketing. Visit our page to learn more about our new technology product, B2Bx.

No product or service is ubiquitous; consumers are unique and not all are going to coincide with what your company is offering. With that in mind, it’s important to stress your company’s individuality and seek out the “right” type of client or customer.You know they’re out there, but how do you find them? And more importantly, how do they find you?

 

Social Media

Now that you’ve established who that perfect customer is, find out where they spend their time. Social Media has an outlet for just about everyone, so find out which channel your target market prefers. Facebook ranks as the world’s most popular social media channel (no surprises there) accounting for 71% of all internet users. It’s a great starting point — and one which allows you to target users by what their other interests are, or even to target friends of existing fans. Pinterest is preferred by women ages 18 to 49, and Instagram is popular with younger internet users, ages 18 to 29, and minorities. On all networks, interacting with brands, personalities, and groups your ideal customer is also likely to be interested in is a great way to improve reach.

 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

The first step in effective SEM is picking a set of keywords your customers will actually use. This means using language customers may type in looking for specific products — their jargon, not yours. SEM can also can target geographically, which is especially helpful for businesses targeting locally, such as restaurants, cleaning services, medical practices, and city or region specific non-profits.

 

Email Marketing

Use your email to reinforce brand image and clarify product offers. To make sure your email list is focussed and targeted, provide a clear unsubscribe option — not just out of legal obligation, but to make sure anyone who accidently submitted a form or joined a list can get off you list of potential customers. Better yet, provide an option for less frequent emails to keep anyone who is interested, but doesn’t want too many updates.

 

Content Marketing

Targeted content designed to attract your ideal customers is key. For example, for apparel or accessories retailers, a well-edited blog focussing on styles and trends on brand can be a great asset. If you’re Hot Topic, don’t write about pastels for spring–stick to content that truly reflects your brand. Create articles, infographics, videos and slide shares your ideal customer would want to see, even if they aren’t completely about your product. For example, a company that sells pet food can help find customers by creating pieces about pet grooming, training, and animal rescue to attract animal lovers and likely pet owners.

 

Digital PR

Online Press Releases are a great way to address consumer questions or concerns directly, and help attract consumers looking for specific information. For instance, if your brand has launched a line of sweatshop-free clothing, highlight your efforts in a press release to garner the attention of consumers looking for fair labor items.

 

SEO

As with SEM, productive, effective Search Engine Optimization begins with a set of keywords carefully chosen to fit the searches of your targeted audience. Try using Google Trends to key in on what words or phrases people are actually looking for. Additionally, make sure to audit and update your SEO frequently with new product offerings.

 

Inbound marketing

If you are a service provider, a brief form fill can help visitors self identify in ways which clarify whether they are a good fit. For example, if you service clients primarily on the east coast, a form fill asking what region the person is writing from can help you understand immediately who may be eligible for referral to another service.

 

When a potential customer for a service calls in, it’s also imperative to appropriately qualify them and make sure you are a good fit for each other. Questions about needs, budget, and timeframe will help you both determine when it’s a good fit.

 

Customer Service

As your business grows, make sure to check in with customers to see how they are feeling about your service or products. If you are are a service provider and a customer’s needs are no longer a perfect fit for your model, offer referrals or other options. Evaluate your business model to make sure it still is a fit for the kind of customers you want to service. A good fit means a win-win.

 

Need help targeting your ideal customer online? Contact an Ajax Union representative today!

An email marketing campaign’s success hinges not only in the quality of the email content, but also on the quality of the design and email layout. There are several key factors to consider when designing for emails, but the primary point to remember is that designing for email is not the same as designing for a web page. Email clients have unfortunately remained relatively stagnant while web pages have moved forward with their coding standards so certain HTML and CSS markups are not supported by many email service providers. Keep in mind, the growing demographic of mobile users have pushed for the need for responsive email layouts as well.

However, don’t let this deter you from moving forward! This guide will help address some of the issues that come up when designing for email. The three main factors to consider when getting started on your designs are:

  1. Simple is best. While complex, visually appealing designs are eye-catching, they are difficult to translate correctly throughout all the email clients without running into many coding issues. A complex design will also be problematic for mobile devices.
  2. Code like the ‘90s.  Email service providers have limited scripting support when it comes to HTML and CSS. In turn, you’ll need to rely heavily on old-school coding styles, meaning the use of tables and inline CSS.
  3. Troubleshoot. Always test your emails. Run them through troubleshooting tools like the ones provided in Email on Acid and Litmus, which allow you to preview how a design will look in most of the popular email clients.

The Design:

  • Simplicity is key when designing quality emails. While the aesthetic of the email is important, the content should be the priority. With that in mind, it is ideal to have a clean, branded design without taking away from the content.
  • Overall email structure should be 600px wide—this will ensure that the email will load properly in various email clients in a vertical layout.
    • Use full body background colors instead of background images, which are often not supported.
    • Avoid image-heavy email designs.
      • Too many images and not enough text content can get your email flagged as spam.
      • Many users have image-blocking, preventing them from viewing your designs. DO NOT rely on images to convey the most important information.
      • Images should be optimized with the smallest file size without decreasing the quality to avoid long load times.
      • Use JPGs or GIFs for image file type. Avoid using PNGs since they’re not supported by some email service providers.
      • Animated images (GIFS) are not always supported.
      • Use ALT tags in images.
    • Embedded Videos and any Flash built asset will not be rendered by most email clients.
    • If the text is not within a graphic, use a font-family that is web-friendly. (Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia). See this guide from MailChimp for more on email-safe fonts.

The Structure
As mentioned in the design section above, keeping your email width at 600px will ensure that it will be viewed by most email clients.

  • Structure your emails in a responsive layout. This also hinges on the design so it is important to create a design with mobile devices in mind.
  • Some CSS is not supported by many email clients. Refer to this guide by Campaign Monitor when coding emails.
    • If you’re making your own email template, avoid using CSS classes and external stylesheets. Use INLINE CSS for this purpose.
      • Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor offer tools to bring your CSS inline.
    • Do not use CSS shortcuts.
  •  Basic HTML tables are highly recommended when designing a multi-layout email; divs are not supported by certain email clients.
    • Note: Outlook applies one pixel of table-padding to all cells so you will want to apply your desired table-padding to all tables.

The Content

Personalize your subject line.

  • Put the most important content, including calls to action, above the fold (the part of the email that is visible when initially opened).
  • Keep content short and relevant.
  • Add links to images to increase your email’s click-through rate.
  • Text should be easily readable, at 14px and up, particularly for longer newsletter-style mailings.
  • Add UTM tracking to links.
  • Make it easy to subscribe/unsubscribe (have these links in the header or footer).
  • Subscribe/Unsubscribe, Forward to a Friend, View as webpage, and social media links should be clearly visible in the header and/or footer.
  • Abide by the CAN-SPAM Compliant.

Need help with your email marketing? Contact an Ajax Union representative today!