Choosing an Integrated Marketing Platform
More and more businesses are starting to consider integrated marketing platforms as an opportunity to improve and enhance marketing processes. Integrated marketing platforms offer opportunities to provide a consistent message across all platforms such as email, social and mobile, improving the brand experience. They can provide the ability to link up with other systems helping businesses to increase efficiency and cut back on duplication, as well as have access to the same data. They also provide excellent reports and analytics in many cases. Integrated marketing platforms are able to analyze behavioral data from customers to make sure that there is better targeting and segmentation and increased opportunities to present customers and potential customers with timely messages. A whole array of different businesses have developed integrated marketing platforms have sprung up and deciding on the right one can be a challenge. In choosing between them, below are some of the key features and functionalities you should consider looking for.
One of the excellent functionalities that the best integrated marketing platforms offer is automation. By uniting business logic and decision making it is possible to create campaigns in an automated manner, saving time and increasing efficiency. Ideally an integrated marketing platform will include the possibility of creating automated campaigns that include email, mobile and social. A system that also has the ability to allow customer events to automatically prompt certain types of campaigns can also be extremely beneficial to make sure that you can present your messages to customers exactly when they need to see them, increasing the likelihood of sales. It is also useful to be able to send automated messages based on customer preferences and when customers demonstrate certain types of behavioral responses.
Largely gone are the days of generic non-personalized email campaigns. Yet email marketing is still of primary importance, as it is estimated that 91% of people check their email every day. This makes email marketing of value to most businesses. Being able to present a personalized message to customers is an important touch in assisting with engagement, so systems that provide this type of functionality may be a good choice. Good integrated marketing platforms can feedback on the best time to send emails, as well as assisting with segmentation processes. Templates and forms for emails and newsletters can save on time, especially for businesses that may not have in-house design capabilities. These templates should be optimized for display on different kinds of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and should also be easy to edit and customize to meet the needs of your business. The ability to be able to import orders from email (as well as other, non-email orders) may also be of value to some organizations.
According to Pew Research figures from 2015, 64% of American adults now own a smartphone, compared with 35% in 2011. Mobile is the fastest growing marketing channel for accessing customers. A company selling a good integrated marketing platform will have recognized this trend and will have included mobile marketing features. Good solutions will allow organizations to be able to optimize their marketing campaigns for the increasingly mobile customer. Messages need to be able to be optimized wherever a customer might see them, whether that is a tablet, desktop or smartphone. Depending on how your business operates it may also be advisable to select a platform that allows you to access it and make changes via your smartphone, increasing your efficiency. The whole point of an integrated marketing platform is that it is exactly that: integrated. Some platforms provide the opportunity to be able to log in to one application to send mobile, email and social campaigns and this can offer a more consistent message to customers. Text marketing is another feature of some systems, allowing the personalization of SMS messages, which can be a helpful feature.
Did you know that as of 2014, social networking was the online activity on which Americans spent most time? Or that 46% of Internet users turn to social media before purchasing? Some organizations are still in denial about social media but there are no signs of the importance of it to marketing abating. That means it is another feature to look for in an integrated marketing platform. When considering social media the goal is to increase engagement with customers, getting involved in relevant conversations on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. A good integrated marketing platform will allow you to post messages to social media platforms from within the system. When social media is done well it can have a significant beneficial impact on revenues. Ideally it is best to look for social media features that allow you to combine this channel with email marketing. This has been found to be highly effective for many businesses. Features to look for here include the ability to insert social sharing links in emails and the possibility of tracking the influence of social media on email marketing.
Integration with business processes and e-commerce systems
For the majority of organizations, one objective of putting in place an integrated marketing platform will be being able to integrate the new system with other systems that your business is already using. This saves significant developer time and avoids hassle. It is especially important to be able to link to e-commerce systems, and it may also be helpful to be able to integrate with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. The ability to be able to integrate to your backend Enterprise Resource Planning system can also be extremely useful in increasing business efficiency and effectiveness. Some systems provide an API based solution that facilitates this integration, allowing connections to different kinds of data sources. Integration provides the opportunity to create a more consistent approach across the business with everyone using the same metrics. Good, solid integration provides an opportunity to save time and money. In addition to pre-built integrations that the organization provides it is worth reviewing the resources that are available for developers for integrations before committing to a purchase. This could prove to be very important in the longer run.
Reporting and Analytics
Measurement of marketing initiatives is critical for continuous improvement, and with that in mind it is important to select an integrated marketing platform that will allow the generation of reports that you need to monitor return on investment. Real time reporting is good so that you can see exactly what is going on at any given time. Reporting that is visual, such as through graphs or charts may be easiest to view at a glance. Being able to see revenues, who unsubscribed from email lists, understand engagement by location, review bounce rates and monitor trends are all types of features worth looking for. Being able to compare campaigns easily is a useful reporting feature, as this enables you to observe more easily the difference that small tweaks can make. The ability to be able to create different kinds of reports, but also to be able to export them to other formats such as Excel is also useful for co-ordination across the business. Some systems allow you to be able to customize your dashboard which can enable faster monitoring of data, so this is also worth looking out for. A word of warning – be sure to review the system carefully to see that it has got the capability of producing the reports that your business needs. It does not matter how many reports are offered if the ones you need are not included. The bottom line is that a great system will provide you the insights you need to fine tune campaigns without adding unnecessary complexity to your business.
Ease of Use
One last word on the user friendliness of integrated marking platforms is worthwhile. Ease of use of systems is always beneficial and there are many reasons why. An intuitive system will save time and increase efficiency in the longer run. Such systems speed up the time taken figuring out how the system works and how it can work for your business in the first place, and make life easier every time you come to train someone new on the system. Intuitive systems use simple functionality for customization such as drag and drop. It is basic, but being able to view the system easily on any type of screen is also a usability must-have.