Marketing Automation has been around since the 1990s. Back then, the focus was on automating email marketing— managing the development and delivery of emails to target lists at scheduled times. Over the decades, software developers expanded the capabilities of Marketing Automation to meet the requirements of a variety of marketing functions and users.

Today, Marketing Automation refers to a broad range software technology for marketing and it is an important element of closed loop marketing. Its evolution has raised many questions about what it is, what it does, and whom it benefits.

Closed-loop marketing represents an evolving challenge for many organizations. While the promise of closed-loop marketing has been with us for over a decade, effective implementation can still be elusive – particularly for larger enterprises that have data and organizational complexities that can impact a smooth implementation.

As part of the architecture for a closed-loop system, it can be very helpful to agree a set of Closed-Loop Marketing Design Principles that can serve to guide decision making around applications, data, technology and processes. We often develop and facilitate agreement of a set of principles across marketing, sales, technology and finance teams. Below are a few examples of Design Principles that can serve as a starting point.  These need to be refined and tailored to your organization through a cross-functional facilitation process.

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When implementing CRM and Marketing Automation, first align marketing and sales with a Revenue Systems Blueprint.

For 20 years, CRM (and now Marketing Automation) has promised to help organizations capture customer value. Businesses that attract, sell, service and retain the best customers see positive effects on growth and profitability. By delivering relevant experiences, customers engage more deeply, become more loyal, and act as advocates. As sales and win rates go up, cost of acquisition goes down, satisfaction increases. The longer the relationship, the more opportunities there are to cross sell additional products and services and build lifetime value.

But, as the diagram below illustrates, marketing technologies are expanding rapidly and cut across every dimension of the marketing, sales and PR ecosystem. It is not as simple as selecting a CRM or a Marketing Automation solution. Successful implementation requires alignment across different business areas, especially marketing and sales.

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What do Playstation, U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM), Target, Home Depot, Apple iCloud, Snapsave, and Evernote all have in common?

They each have been hacked within the past year resulting in a treasure trove of sensitive information being released.

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Society now lives in two worlds; the physical world and a digital one.  The information we put online has given hackers the ability to cultivate information over time, chip-away at your digital-self, and execute an attack that spans into both.  New viruses combined with new technologies have changed how we must protect our businesses and online investments.  DDoS attacks, otherwise known as Distributed Denial of Service attacks, Trojan Horses, BadUSB, as well as malicious codes like SoakSoak and ShellShock (Bash), all effect WordPress websites.

74,652,825 sites out there are depending on good ol’ WordPress. That’s one site per person in Turkey. Around 50% of this figure (close to 37 million) is hosted on the free WordPress.com. In the realm of self-hosted sites, WordPress accounts for 18.9% of all websites,” as of last year according to an article by ManageWP.

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Effective sales pipeline management is vital to your business. Align your teams around a ‘lingua franca’ to better manage deal qualification, forecasting and the sales process.

We know the B2B sales pipeline is changing.  Inbound marketing and emerging marketplaces (like 99designs, Thumbtack and BlurGroup among others) manage elements of prospecting and the lead generation cycle outside of direct sales. Marketing plays a bigger role to drive inbound leads into the sales pipeline and marketplaces can replace some elements of sales outbound prospecting.

In complex or considered sales, the professional management of the sales process from working lead to committed remains vital.  It is important to get the sales team on the same page and using the same sales process. Quite often, we see companies that are not using a common language for the sales pipeline. Forecasting is much more difficult when we are unclear about the status of each deal and the stage in the process. Firms often over-invest in some deals and under-invest in others while colleagues who support the sales effort become frustrated when time is wasted.

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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