Today, a business owner has a hard time navigating the complexity of the digital marketing landscape. According to SmarterInsights.com, there are more than 120 different marketing channels. In addition to the plethora of digital marketing channels, a business owner is continually confronted with decisions on new marketing technologies entering the marketplace at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, ignorance isn’t bliss as most people today form their opinion of your company online before they become customers. So having a great online experience requires not only the right strategy and plan, but the right tools and technologies to make implementation of that plan achievable.
In the B2B space, according to an IBM research study, more than 50% of a prospective buyer’s research is completed online BEFORE a salesperson is ever contacted. If you are a business owner and not staying connected to these digital marketing opportunities then your hope for a greater future is eroding to those able to embrace the digital marketing revolution. A revolution to the extent that 2016 marked the first year that digital marketing budgets have exceeded traditional marketing budgets.
Besides competitive reasons, there are also financial risks around digital marketing ignorance. Unfortunately, there are still many false and downright wrong practices permeating through service offerings that lure in unaware business owners including search engine submission services, email list brokers, and others.
The best offense is a strong defense. Gaining knowledge from trusted sources to simplify the digital marketing complexity can help business owners not only assess risks and opportunities but also may create new windows of competitive advantage. While the first step is really business oriented: understanding your target audience, value proposition, buyer’s journey, channels, etc., I’m focusing this post on the tools and technologies. Here are the core tools and technologies that you should be familiar with:
Content management systems
In today’s digital marketing landscape, the technology for building and managing websites has improved significantly. In days of old (only about 10 years ago), the only way to build and manage a website was either through a very expensive custom content management system or to have a developer on staff or hire an outsourced web company. Today, platforms like Drupal and WordPress make a majority of the web design, development and ongoing maintenance relatively simple. Even further, newer tools like SquareSpace, Weebly, Shopify and other hosted applications provide businesses very simple capabilities to design and develop a great looking website for less than $100/month and without the need for deep technical expertise. Even better, the cost of web hosting your website has dropped drastically where hosting solutions from providers like Digital Ocean can cost a business less than $15/month.
Marketing automation is software that automates and streamlines some aspects of a business’ marketing processes. The software typically includes marketing tools like landing pages, lead capture/scoring/delivery, and email marketing and typically integrate with a company’s customer relationship management system. It can help a small sales and marketing team become more efficient, however many businesses get caught up in the hoopla believing marketing automation can place its marketing on autopilot. Unfortunately, this thinking leads to far worse outcomes and wasted money. Marketing automation can support a good marketing program if designed effectively and in collaboration with the sales team.
Email marketing platforms have been around for quite some time and their importance are well enough understood by business owners. Although some talking-heads have claimed that email is dead or lingering compared to social media – the data doesn’t show that.. Email is still the number one form of digital communications. The most effective ways for a business to use email has changed significantly though, but building great relationships with high value content and asking for permission are still the norms for email marketing.
Social media platforms
I hear business owners frequently state that social media is a lot of work. But social media platforms like Buffer and HooteSuite have reduced the workload and streamlined the social media process. Today, it is easier than ever to commit to and manage an effective social media presence. These social media platforms enable a business to schedule the date and time of social posts from a central system versus having to visit each social media account separately.
Customer relationship management
Customer relationship management or ‘CRM’ platforms are must-haves for every business. In essence, CRMs like Salesforce, ZOHIO, InfusionSoft, and SugarCRM provide critical record-keeping for all leads and customers coming into the business. In today’s fast-paced digital environment, it’s questionable how a business can efficiently and effectively operate without a CRM. Typically, these systems not only hold lead and customer contact data but also tracks the sales team’s activities enabling management to have greater oversight and apply clearer accountabilities. Most CRMs integrate with marketing automation platforms to provide streamlined marketing and sales operation. Rather than having two disparate systems used by sales and marketing, coupling marketing automation with a CRM enables a single view of the entire sales pipeline and draws better alignment between sales and marketing.
As a business owner, it’s an imperative to understand what digital marketing technologies exist today and whether they offer new opportunities or help reduce future risks. Being informed and choosing to implement a certain technology or not is a much better option than not knowing whether or how these tools can improve your current customer acquisition efforts.
Kevin Gold is a co-founder of Growing B2B. GrowingB2B helps businesses build a marketing-led lead generation effort to enable sustainable growth. To make sense of the complexity of the customer acquisition process, tools and identify how to better align your marketing and sales efforts, join GrowingB2B at the Customer Acquisition Accelerator Bootcamp. Register Now as it starts January 12, 2017. If you can’t make the bootcamp or just need help developing or improving your customer acquisition efforts, contact Kevin here.