If you’re looking for a marketing automation platform that offers many of the same functionality as the more expensive options, give this SharpSpring review a look!  Sharpspring works primarily with agency partners (like Revenue Architects) and is well suited for mid-sized businesses and high end professional sales teams. As an agency, we work with Sharpspring along with other platforms including Eloqua, Hubspot, Pardot and Marketo. We find SharpSpring is an excellent fit for businesses that value inbound marketing. email marketing  and integrated CRM. Depending on the solution architecture in your organization, including the existing infrastructure of CRM and Office, SharpSpring may be a fit.

This post highlights features found in marketing automation platforms as well as a few lesser-known features found in SharpSpring.  Let’s begin with the most common functions of a marketing automation platform:

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Recent studies indicate that financial advisors expect continued strong demand for their services in the next year.  Russell Investments third-quarter Financial Professional Outlook indicated that Advisors remain bullish about the capital markets looking out over the next three years.

Marketing Volatility and Investor Behavior

Source: Russell Investments

However, they worry about investors’ emotional response to market events that could harm their businesses and their clients’ well-being, The Russell Investments study showed market volatility to be the most common topic initiated by clients.  A Fidelity Advisor Investment Pulse Survey showed similar results.

“When investors make emotional decisions, they decrease the odds of reaching their financial goals,” said John Hailer, chief executive officer of Natixis Global Asset Management in the Americas and Asia.

How can financial advisors set reasonable expectations with challenges like volatility and low-interest rates?…how can they take the emotion out of investor conversations to set realistic goals and stick to them?

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Marketing Team Working on Vendor Selection

Choosing a marketing automation vendor can be challenging. Whether you are jumping into marketing automation for the first time, or are re-evaluating your current system, it can be a difficult and daunting task – especially with how many options are out there these days. Marketing Automation Selection Criteria can help.

The vendor you choose will have an enormous impact on not only your Marketing Department and marketing efforts, but could easily touch other areas as well such as Sales, Customer Service and IT. It is important to consider these other groups when evaluating various vendors, as they may have requirements, obstacles and questions that should be taken into consideration.

To help make the evaluation process a little easier and more effective, here is a recommended process to follow: Read more

Every company will have different ways of measuring a qualified  lead, yet there are a set of factors that you can use to map into a lead scoring model. Many marketing automations solutions like Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot, ShaprSpring and others have built-in lead scoring algorithms and pass this information into a CRM system like Salesforce and SugarCRM.

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These scores can be set up to deliver marketing qualified leads based on certain criteria and scores, helping sales teams accept the leads (Sales Accepted Leads) and focus their energies on the top prospects.

Marketing Automation and CRM are both important. We use Sharpspring technology for our small business retainer services to deliver inbound marketing programs and integrated marketing. Sharpspring includes an integrated CRM as well as API hooks into leading CRMs so it is great for small businesses. The life of the lead is a great way to see the flow of the lead through time and the lead scoring approach helps sales focus immediately on the top inbound leads.

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It has been well over a decade since the digital revolution went mainstream. However, according to Google, 55% of small businesses don’t even have a website. The vast majority of those that do, have a website that lacks key features necessary to make digital a revenue generating channel. A common reason for this lack of focus is the belief that real business comes via traditional channels like referrals.

How to supercharge referrals

The problem is that referrals are heavily influenced by digital channels. Your client base needs to know exactly what makes you great and be energized to make a referral. Digital channels provide the necessary energy. A well thought out digital strategy is vital to guide the referral process.

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As we are onboarding some interns with a sales-focused role in a few weeks, we kicked off discussions about what sales and marketing are all about.  For people new to sales, it can be a bit confusing and there remains a range of perceptions about sales and the value of sales – from  “used car salesman” analogies, to the highly professional sales leader.

There are many personal attributes of effective solution sales that are rooted in the DNA of the individual – like empathy, patience, intelligence, listening, questioning, sense of humor, ability to articulate ideas, being likable. This post is focused more on consultative solution sales  – selling a complex, often intangible, product or service to discerning buyers and often, complex organizations. Solution sales requires an approach centered on the client or customer. This sounds obvious, but is often forgotten.

Trends are changing the role of sales.

  • Buyers are using the web, mobile and social to self educate and they are often far more knowledgeable by the time they engage with sales
  • There is a bigger role for marketing now because the web plays a much bigger role in the sales value chain including inbound lead generation
  • Leading companies are aligning the processes of marketing and sales end-to-end recognizing the importance of a collaborative effort

While inbound is increasingly important, there is still a critical role for outbound prospecting and sales. More leads are generated from inbound marketing with valued content and lead gen tools, but sales must qualify and manage these leads while also developing prospects using more traditional outbound strategies.

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Best Price

Companies take a number of different approaches to establishing their pricing , but many wrongly assume that they have limited control on revenue and margin by using more effective pricing strategies. Businesses can implement different pricing strategies and tactics to maximize revenue and margin. Depending on the pricing models and business-specific circumstances, it may take some time to find the right balance. The key strategy is to enable your front-line sales team with the tools and insights needed to maintain optimal pricing.

Here are some tactics you might consider.

 

1. Segment Around Buyer Values to Drive Value Pricing

If you’re struggling to get a grip on your customers’ buyer values, you aren’t alone. Buyer values can fluctuate based on the market competition, market sensitivity to pricing, and other challenges. For companies that serve diversified markets, a one-size-fits-all approach can leave revenue opportunities untapped. Segmentation around buyer business impact and value offers the flexibility to manage pricing differently across different segments, adjusting for those markets where the underlying business value justifies premium pricing. When managed effectively, segmentation strategies can produce margin increases of 10 points, and sometimes more.

2. Pricing Decision Support

Sales representatives have a significant influence on revenue margin. In many cases, sales professionals might be pursuing volume over margin, and with poor pricing tools at their disposal, they likely give away revenue margin needlessly when adjustments to their discounting and other pricing actions might give them better guidance. Getting this right leads to improved margins for the sales reps as well as the business. Companies should be on the lookout for tools and resources that can help sales reps handle these pricing considerations.

3. Allocate Resources Towards Higher Margin Opportunities

Profit is always welcome of course, but some sales efforts will prove to be much more profitable to a company than others. Those marginally profitable segments may be turning over a net gain, but their consumption of resources could be taking away from other opportunities that offer greater pricing power and are even more profitable. Businesses should stratify their various segments by profitability and allocate resources to the most attractive segments.

4. Assess and Adapt

With these strategies in place, use observation and analysis to evaluate the success of new pricing strategies. By closely observing the effects, you will gain insights into what’s impacting revenue and margin performance and you can fine tune your strategies.

Ultimately, the market will be the main driver in determining pricing, yet leaders are recognizing the importance of using value-based segmentation, market research and decision support to inform and enable their pricing strategies.  Contact us if you need help in maximizing pricing impact.

 

Getting a web visitor to take action is the main objective of any web page. Unfortunately, many businesses see still a website as a brochure and do not take into account the way that web usage has changed and what the real purpose is. They spend all their time on design and not enough on usability and website conversion optimization. Pretty is good but conversion grows a business.

1. Use of Strong Visuals

Images need to have a purpose not just be decoration. Derek Halpen at Social Triggers put together a great article on the effective use of images.

He pointed out the following potential reasons for using images.

-To show a key product or service feature

Derek points out how genius the image of Apple Air in the envelope is. Apple is selling the “thinness” feature and nail it with the image. If you are selling a service, a good graphic can explain your offer.

MacBook Air image example for web conversion

-To direct attention

Images can be used to direct the web visitor’s attention. Images of people looking at or pointing can emphasize a key headline or call-to-action like a sign up form.

-To build trust

Using pictures of real people involved in the business whether they are customers or team members builds trust. Derek points out that people want to deal with real people. Stock images just don’t cut it. Customer testimonials have a lot more credibility if they have an image of the customer with them.

Revenue Architects testimonial example

2. Get the Headline Right

Another key page element is the headline. Copyblogger found 8 out of 10 people read only the headline. The promise of the headline must be compelling enough to turn a browser into a reader and then a sign up. Copyblogger offer a 11 part course to help with this. You won’t get the headline right first time. Optimizely lets you to test different headlines (and images) with no coding required. Testing should be an ongoing process.

3. Be Mobile Friendly

The big movement right now is towards responsive design. This means that a web site will reconfigure to be usable for any device from laptop ti smart phone. Website builders from Virb to Wix and Squarespace now offer responsive solutions. Excellent responsive themes are available for WordPress.

Revenizer mobile responsive web exampleDespite this, only 6% of small business websites are mobile ready according to a recent survey. The same study calculated that the lack of mobile readiness is costing US small businesses $1T each year. Mobile is now 28% of all web traffic. 4 out of 5 of these visitors will leave a site if it is not mobile optimized.

Make sure your emails are mobile optimized also. 70% of users will delete an email if it does display well on their smartphone. 75% of users open emails on smart phones.

 

Looking for help with improving conversion. Contact us at Revenue Architects.

For more ideas, go to Revenizer for 400+ more tips on optimizing digital + real time stats on your marketing performance.

The article summary is below.

Revenizer web conversion tips

sw_selectionA lot of businesses who use Constant Contact or Mailchimp or a similar app for email marketing are now recognizing limitations for expand digital and email marketing and more automated inbound programs. To address the selection of a new email service provider (ESP) or marketing automation solution is not easy. It is critical to understand business needs especially when there are different business areas involved. Some business areas may want to run their own campaigns from sales using a CRM like salesforce or MS dynamics or SugarCRM. Others may expect marketing to run campaigns and hand over qualified leads or flow them directly into the CRM. Without  considering longer term strategic direction and the needs of each business group, the choices are not fully clear and this makes a confident selection more challenging.

A further challenge is that today’s revenue technologies are evolving rapidly, and solutions range from email marketing point solutions to integrated marketing automation. As the industry consolidates and new entrants emerge, there is increased importance on ensuring that any solution will fit into a longer term ‘revenue technology ecosystem’.

We are often asked us whether a Marketing Automation solution should be considered over an ESP. While many of the capabilities of a marketing automation system can be found in ESP, Web analytics, and website CMS solutions, marketing automation systems offer additional levels of integration by combining features in a single product. This brings additional capability, including:

  • Behavior / known visitor tracking by maintaining a profile of website visitors and other activities of individuals. While Web analytics products capture page and session statistics, they do not link these to known individual identities. Marketing Automation houses the contact databases and links website visits. This helps inform lead scoring and prioritization.
  • Lead Scoring with website visits, downloads and other behaviors help to build a score to measure the quality of a lead or prospect. Priority leads can be provided to sales departments with greater levels of intelligence. Scores can include attributes (title, company, location, etc.) and behaviors (email responses, Web forms completed, pages viewed, etc.).
  • CRM integration and data exchange. A two-way exchange of contact, campaign and lead information between the marketing automation system and CRM or CIF systems are critical for master data management and intelligent contact and lead management. These capabilities help to ensure that marketing and sales are working from the same information.

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To address these questions and ensure that the process fully considers business and technical requirements, you can use a selection process that reflects both short term and longer term business needs. An objective solution selection process uses an iterative and traceable process to move from requirements through to final selection:

  1. Identifying requirements including key business and technical dimensions
  2. Collaborating to establish the right criteria upon which to evaluate options
  3. Developing a long and short list of potential solutions based on key criteria
  4. Supporting the solution evaluation by engaging vendors where appropriate and applying industry experience, market insight and technical expertise
  5. Identifying a short list and supporting the due diligence process as required.

Want to learn more and get a selection checklist for Marketing Automation? Sign up here.

Association NetworkA modern web presence can deliver solid impact for associations and is critical for an increasingly web savvy membership. Associations need to engage their members and visitor audience with the right content and collaboration and be a resource so members feel value and come back for more interaction. Associations need to provide a valuable member engagement facility, facilitate events and registrations, publish content dynamically, manage member profiles, and actively author and publish content.  With about half of user visits engaging over mobile devices, they also need to deliver a responsive and mobile-friendly experience.  

Yet, many associations do not consider a complete picture when pursuing a website design initiative.  In addition to the website as the hub, associations must think about their broader web and digital presence, including social media and applications, email and marketing engagement, to create a more unified brand experience on the web.

When pursuing a digital / web presence project, consider eight critical dimensions of an effective digital presence:

The Digital Experience Framework

A Digital Experience Index (DXI) is based on eight interdependent dimensions.

  1. Brand: The overall positioning with respect to the target audience segments.
  2. Visibility: Optimization major search engines using keywords for greater visibility.
  3. Design: Delivering a professional, modern, engaging, and responsive look and feel.
  4. Content: Ensuring relevant, dynamic, and credible information is offered.
  5. Usability: Personalization, ease of use and accessibility for both users and admins.
  6. Functionality: The applications, tools and web services needed to deliver value.
  7. Conversion: The experiences that deliver calls to action and drive conversions.
  8. Amplification: How well content and messaging is amplified on social media.

Begin with a Self Assessment

The following is an example of some of the the scorecard assessment elements for the 8-dimension model. Analysis could also include a peer review to reveal additional gaps and opportunities against best-in-class peers.  A simple 1-5 scoring can reveal the ‘as-is’ and suggest opportunities for improvement. By using prioritization, like ‘Must’, ‘Should’, ‘Could’ and ‘Won’t’ do (MoSCoW), you can use the DXI to start building a roadmap for a ‘to be’ vision. 

1. Brand

The overall positioning with respect to the target audience segments.

  • Does the website communicate the brand voice and message?
  • Does the experience resonate with each target segment persona?
  • Are visual communications consistent across the digital footprint?

2. Visibility

Optimization major search engines using keywords for greater visibility.

  • Page titles and meta descriptions are the advertisement that users see that they search?
  • Link analysis shows domain authority?
  • Site structure and internal links can emphasize the top converting pages?
  • Consistent NAP (Name / Address / Phone) structure?
  • Alt descriptions provide an opportunity for additional keyword placement?
  • Web platforms help enhance search engine visibility?

3. Design

Delivering a professional, modern, engaging, and responsive look and feel.

  • Does the site deliver a clean and well laid out design?
  • Do images reinforce a value proposition?
  • Is the site responsive for mobile users?

4. Content

Ensuring relevant, dynamic, and credible information is offered.

  • Blog features enable dynamic content to engage audience more frequently?
  • Quality posts with video improve experience and visibility?
  • Resources for members keep people coming back?

5. Usability

How easy the website is in navigation and user interactions and the effectiveness in the delivery of functionality?

  • Mobile experience is not at the same standard?
  • Navigation is clear and easy to understand, with few clicks?
  • Accessibility is appropriate for the user base?
  • The site is optimized for mobile devices?
  • Font sizes reflect audience preferences?

6. Functionality

The right applications, tools and web services needed to deliver value.

  • Functional priorities identify what audience and members most use and value?
  • An appropriate content management system delivers manageability and reliability and easy administration of content?
  • Integration with the right marketing automation platform?
  • A strong hosting environment is tailored to the web platform?
  • PageSpeed insights help optimize the site for speed?

7. Conversion

The experiences that deliver greater levels of call to action conversions.

  • Appropriate pages are conversion focused with a single objective and clear call-to-action?
  • Users can easily identify actions and suggestions?
  • Site navigation and conversion goals are measured and tracked?

8. Amplification

How well content and messaging is amplified on social media.

  • Investment in content is distributed to achieve a return?
  • Google+ influences search ranking?
  • LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are influential distribution channels?