Updated for 2017 – Marketing Automation is on the rise, helping companies large and small reduce their sales costs whilst building up their client base, automatically. Online success often starts with web subscribe forms to build up an email list, linked to an email marketing system like Mailchimp, aweber or my favorite, CampaignMonitor. Many even include basic email automation options. Then there’s various add-on tools like optinmonster to help boost signup rates. But this isn’t enough now…
eMail Marketing vs Marketing Automation
Marketing Automation is eMail Marketing on steroids. More email automation, better qualified leads, more business tools to track effectiveness. We found a good summary in a 2014 article. Venturebeat article.
But where to start? Small businesses or bloggers with a story to tell, with under say 2,000 contacts, don’t need a full multi-user marketing automation system, designed for companies with several salespeople. Instead, young entrepreneurs could start with Drip at just $49/mth. Ample features, Drip was once accurately labeled as a lightweight marketing automation system that doesn’t suck.
A strong competitor to Drip is Convertkit. We’d recommend combining it with the slick WordPress plugin we love, PopupAlly. Convertkit is great for bloggers, content marketers or startups building up a subscriber or client base. Like Drip, you’ll need to invest ample time to set it all up properly and tweak to your needs (we can help). But this particular combo is incredibly powerful, for the modest money spent (From $29/mth).
WordPress-Based Marketing Automation
Most email and marketing automation systems run separately from your website, just pulling entries from various webforms placed in WordPress. This isn’t a problem for most people. But InboundNow is a new WordPress plugin that can let you to do your email marketing chores within WordPress. A modular system that’s great for small/home businesses that like the simplicity WordPress provides.
But the above options aren’t enough if you’ve thousands of contacts or several salespeople employed, who need a steady stream of leads and a smarter system to track prospects, as well as their own workload and sales targets. You will need something much more powerful. A multi-user, fully-featured marketing automation system, complete with a built-in CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) that holds client and prospect details.
Business Marketing Automation Options
There’s hundreds of marketing automation providers (reference) and it get’s very confusing. The chart below outlines the key functions in most ‘high end’ systems and to some extent, explains their high cost. But here’s our top 4 picks for New Zealand users running a WordPress website.
Marketo is the industry standard and most popular worldwide, but is not particularly cheap to setup or maintain. They do provide a WordPress plugin, but then again, so do most others. They, like all others in this group, also link into most third party CRM offerings like Salesforce, MS Dynamics etc.
Hubspot is somewhat better value, starting from $200/mth, although you may quite quickly need their $800/mth Pro upgrade, making it similar to Marketo pricing. I still get confused over the Hubspot offerings and various add-ons. My impression is they’ve tried to be all things to all people, including their own website offering which is really weird. As such there is considerable duplication of the tools WordPress already offers, like a blog, company pages etc.
Infusionsoft is better priced, more focused and somewhat easier to run too. I found them ten years back and fell in love. Content marketers and trainers love them too, helping them monetise their site, with advanced subscription, automated mailouts and tracking tools.
Our Choice for NZ WordPress users – Ontraport
But our recommendation for serious business users is Ontraport. It’s easily the best value option for businesses and the rising star in marketing automation, getting great reviews. Ideal for established small businesses as well as those with larger sales teams from 2 to 20 people. Running sub-teams or multiple affiliates is also possible and handy. Ontraport provides users a well-featured selling platform, with good lead scoring tools, advanced analytics, SMS messaging and CRM functionality too. This alone can eliminate the need to run a separate Salesforce, Goldmine, SugarCRM or MS Dynamics system.
Ontraport also has superb WordPress integration, including various tools for the building of subscriptions, membership areas, even a shopping cart for donations, private training or virtual products. Yes, WordPress does have great options around membership and subscriptions using Woocommerce. But sometimes, especially when you’ve over 10,000 members, it makes more sense to have this side controlled and managed by an external, more powerful system like Ontraport – Let each technology do what it does best. WordPress (or any website platform) is not good as a ‘business system’ or building large, complex sales workflows – But WordPress is superb as a website that can really engage, entice and track visitors.
Lastly, the other reason that makes Ontraport unique, is they don’t try to lock you in to long term contracts or force you to sign up for a year or more. This alone provides considerable peace-of-mind.
p.s. It could double what your business is worth
Nobody expects you to fully appreciate what this technology can do from one small blog post like this. And setting up an effective marketing automation system takes considerable planning, skills and effort. Paying for the software each month is the easy part. But, we’ve seen businesses who take on more automation around sales go from strength to strength. These customer-focused business systems help run the company and as such can add huge value and goodwill. This is especially obvious when it comes time to sell the business or retire. It’s the quality and the data within your business system, not just your products or services that will enhance, sometimes double your selling price.