04 Jun

These 7 Marketing Automation Strategies Will Help You Supercharge Your Business Efficiency

If there’s one area in a business that always has room for growth, it’s efficiency. Making the absolute most of your resources – your time, your leads, your employees’ work, your content, etc. – is a constant struggle that will never truly be totally conquered.

What you can do, however, is come ever closer to that 100% resource maximization mark.

Here are 7 practical strategies, made possible by automation, that you can start using today to supercharge your business into becoming a well-oiled, efficient machine. We’ll go over things that can help you save time, get more work done, and make the most of your website traffic and leads.

Let’s get started with strategy #1.

1. Plan & Write Your Content in Advance


Image credit: photosteve101 via Flickr

When you’re in the middle of a stressful time in your business — say, for instance, when you’re releasing a major product update or when you’re just putting the finishing touches on your biggest ever client project — creating content for your marketing is probably the last thing on your mind.

Before, you were simply plodding along with your content campaign without a strict schedule in mind. All of a sudden, you have no content being published because you have no time to produce it. This will end up negatively affecting the flow of your content marketing and will cause you to lose traction with readers.

The solution?

Plan ahead.

Write your content in advance, then set it for publication at a specific date and time. That way, you’re well-prepared in the event of emergency and the flow is never disrupted.

You can even use automation to set certain parts of your promotional strategy to happen in advance. For instance, you can pre-publish social shares for the post (more on that below) or even write emails promoting your posts (this should be a part of your outreach strategy) in advance, scheduling them to be sent at a specific time after your content gets published.

2. Automate Social Media

Social media is definitely one of the biggest time sucks in modern-day marketing. One minute, you’re tweeting an update, and then an hour later you’re still on Twitter checking out the latest trends.

It’s crucial for your productivity that you minimize both the amount of time you spend during each session of social media marketing, and the number of such sessions you have.

Strict schedules will accomplish the first goal, and automation can help with the second.

Write a couple weeks’ worth of social media updates all in one sitting, then use a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule each post accordingly (use this guide to determine the best days and times to post on social media for maximum engagement).

3. Segment Email Lists

Recent research from Mailchimp has shown that segmented email lists perform significantly better than non-segmented ones. Open rates were on average 14.22% higher, unsubscriptions 7.69% lower, and click-throughs were a staggering 55.38% more frequent!

Clearly, if you haven’t already started segmenting email, you’re missing out big-time (click to tweet).

There’s an endless number of tags you can use to classify your email list into sublists. A few obvious ones are interests, geographic location, purchase frequency, and how the lead prefers to consume content (content format).

Once you’ve setup a segmentation system with your marketing automation tool, you can start sending personalized emails to each group of leads using the information you got when categorizing them.

Although in the short run personalizing email campaigns is just a lot more work, the increased engagement is definitely worth it in the long run, especially after you’ve cultivated a sizeable list.

4. Gather Analytics to One Dashboard

When measuring your website performance, your analytics are no doubt strewn all over the place. Conversion rates on this page, traffic graphs on the next one, and email open rates on an entirely different platform altogether.

All things considered, flipping between analytics dashboards actually wastes a lot more time than you probably realize.

By gathering all of your most important analytics to one single place, you’ll be able to get an overview of how your business is performing just by logging on to one page.

One tool that helps you accomplish this is Cyfe (here’s a quick demo).


Everything you need to see is lumped into one dashboard. Not only will this save time when you’re assessing business performance, but it will also help you to keep track of important metrics you might have otherwise glossed over.

5. Streamline Customer Support

Another area where you’re probably spending a lot more time than necessary is customer support.

A big time drain here is simply in assessing tickets and finding out what problem each customer is experiencing. However, when you have an automated classification system built in, most tickets can be categorized by topic completely hands-off.

If a lot of customers are emailing about a very specific problem that has a very specific solution, you can set stock reply emails with the solution to be automatically triggered whenever a new ticket is made for that problem.

Another popular way to streamline customer support is by using tagging systems to send support tickets to the most appropriate agents.

Zendesk tells the story of how Adroll, a retargeting platform, halved their first reply times by using Zendesk’s tagging feature to connect tickets with the people who could solve them quickest.

6. Niche Down on Your Target Audience


Image credit: Richard via Flickr

One common error that many online businesses make is targeting an audience that is too broad.

Although the benefits of targeting a large audience seem undeniable at first (more possible traffic = more possible sales), the reality is that a very broad audience is 99% of the time accompanied by a very low conversion rate, which sort of defeats the whole point.

The final result is a lot of work and a lot of time spent going after visitors and leads that simply won’t convert.

To solve this problem, you can use automation tools, like lead scoring, to determine which traffic channels your hottest leads and highest-value customers come from. You can also view the demographics of this group of visitors, assess how they interact with your site, etc.. This information can then be used to restrict your target audience to a much more focused and a more manageable level.

The trick, though, is to find the right trade-off between conversion rate and traffic. If your target audience is too niche, even a sky-high conversion rate won’t be able to overcome the low volume of traffic to produce a significant turnover. On the other hand, if your target audience is too broad, the high volume of traffic won’t be able to overcome the low conversion rate.

The best way to find the sweet spot that maximizes conversions and revenue is to test multiple balance points and see which one nets you the most profit.

7. Control Visitor Flow

The moment a visitor gets on your site, you should have a plan for it (click to tweet). The visitor should not meander through the site just as it so pleases – you should be the one controlling its flow.


Say that you’ve done a lot of research and built an incredible, incredible landing page that converts organic visitors (from search engines) at a very high rate. It’s everything a landing page should be: it really shows visitors how your business will help them solve their problems, it’s personalized for this specific type of traffic (organic), and as a result it regularly churns out super-hot leads.

Now imagine a new visitor has come to your site via Google. Prior to this browsing session, the visitor had no idea that your business existed, no idea what you do, and no idea how you can help him/her.

You can’t just hope that the visitor will stumble across your website and eventually land on your high-conversion page by accident. The chance that the visitor will stray elsewhere or even worse, leave, is just way too high.

Instead, you should be guiding the visitor through your website right from the start.

Here’s an example of what you could do.

This particular visitor started its browsing session on one of your blog posts. Throughout the post, you’ve linked internally to other posts multiple times, so it’s very likely that the visitor will end up reading 2+ posts if it actually likes the writing style and presentation of the information.

Now that the visitor has browsed multiple posts, showing an active interest in your content, you can use a call-to-action button placed strategically in the sidebar – or better yet, at the end of a blog post the visitor is reading – that will send the visitor to your special landing page where a conversion is much more likely.

Although it’s only wishful thinking to hope that 100% your visitors follow the predetermined paths you’ve set for them, if you do it right (read: if you test a lot) there’s a good chance that a healthy percentage of them will actually go through your channel, resulting in a much more attractive conversion rate.

Efficiency: The True Goal of Marketing Automation?

Efficiency is easily one of the chief goals of marketing automation.

Think about it: a lot of the features marketing automation tools have to offer are actually targeted specifically towards making the most of your time and your resources.

Higher efficiency will help you to come closer to unlocking your business’s full potential, and that’s exactly what automation is all about.

Whether it’s giving customer support a productivity boost, segmenting your email list for maximum impact, or guiding visitors through your website; using these strategies will help you to seriously boost efficiency.

What methods have you been using to increase work output and supercharge your business? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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29 May

Content Marketing & Automation – 5 Reasons Why It’s A Match Made in Heaven

It was a long time ago that content acquired its place as a pillar of every online marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, and it doesn’t even matter what audience you’re targeting: in this day and age, if you want your marketing to succeed, you need content.

Something that’s become far more recent, however, is the integration of content with marketing automation. Marketing automation really only took off in the late 2000’s, and for the most part the whole idea was reserved mainly to upgrade customer management, sales cycles, and email.

Your everyday marketing content — blogs, white papers, infographics, etc. — was never really a very important part of the plan.

The past few years, however, have proved that everything is changing.

You see, in the years before, content was less evergreen. It was viewed as more of a one-and-done type of thing. You put out some content, allow it to have its day in the limelight, then watch it slowly plummet into the abyss of the oversupply of information that is the Internet, just as soon as you publish your next piece.

Today, the process is completely different.

Each piece of content you publish has so much more potential. Social media, syndication, search engines, and an explosion in the number and types of distribution channels have unlocked a whole new set of possibilities.

So now, your competitors are realizing that their content can get them a lot more bang per buck than ever before. If you want to outdo them, you need to use every available tool to maximize your content’s potential.

And what’s the best way to do that?

Marketing automation.

The two are a match made in heaven. Behind every successful marketing campaign is content, and marketing automation will help you leverage the potential of each piece of content to the utmost.

Whether it’s a blog post, a how-to guide, or a research report, marketing automation will help your content to attract more visitors and convert more of your leads.

Not yet convinced?

To prove my point, I’ll give you 5 ultra-specific ways that you can combine content and unique marketing automation tools to get more leads, more sales, and ultimately more revenue.

1. Incentivize User Information Submission

User information is the lifeblood of any marketing campaign. It’s currency. It’s the gold standard. Gaining customer information is pretty much THE goal of any piece of content you’ll ever publish.

The only thing you want visitors to do really after going through your content (besides directly becoming a customer) is to hop on to a landing page, give you their info and join your email list.

Marketing automation will help you to achieve that goal more efficiently than ever.

There are several different ways it does so, but the dominant idea behind the majority of them is giving users an incentive to give you their contact information.

One company that truly rocks such a strategy is KISSmetrics. On their blog, KISSmetrics regularly releases comprehensive, super-detailed marketing guides. Their most recent one is on Facebook marketing. Before you can download the guide however, you’re required to fill in a short form (pictured below) that asks a few questions about your location.

Content Marketing Automation

Ordinarily, if you’re a new up-and-coming startup, this landing page isn’t likely to be very effective, because few people will be willing to take the time to fill out an entire form just to access one piece of content.

However, KISSmetrics has already built up a marketing blog with a legendary reputation. As a result, their visitors are often already familiar with the value of KISSmetrics’s content, so the have absolutely no problem with spending the few extra seconds necessary to gain access to more of it.

It’s a perfect example of content and automation working together to acquire more user information.

2. Segment Content Based on User Tastes

A second way marketing automation will improve your content’s effectiveness is through segmentation.

While it’s highly important that you try to focus your content as much as possible to your target audience (or better yet, your buyer persona), it’s unrealistic to assume that every piece of content you put out will be relevant to every visitor it attracts.

That’s why you need to try your best to ensure that your leads get redirected to the content that they are most likely to find useful.

The best way to do that?

Segmenting your content.

One company that does this extremely well is Wishpond (check out a full rundown on their dynamic content strategy here).

Wishpond blog flow

Wishpond’s blog traffic flow.

One way they segment their content for their users is by sector. After their leads submit info about what sector they are in, the leads are then plugged into a flow of content, case studies, and landing pages personalized to their industry until they convert.

All this happens completely automatically. The system brings Wishpond more conversions and brings them ever closer to maximizing the effectiveness of their content.

Another popular, completely hands-off segmentation strategy is self-select. Instead of putting your visitors through a pre-determined funnel, you allow your users to carve their own path through your content (with aids along the way that allow them to pinpoint exactly what they want to view). Over time, the content they’re shown becomes biased towards the browsing trends they’ve previously displayed.

3. Built-in SEO

When crafting your next piece of content, it’s pretty easy to forget the optimization stage in the process. Most marketing automation vendors, such as Hubspot and Marketo, offer features that basically build SEO right into the writing process.

Hubspot, for example, gently reminds you to mix in keywords and internal links as you type.


Hubspot’s as-you-type optimization.

Marketo takes it a step further and peruses your written content, compares it to that of your competitor’s, and lets you know about potential inbound link opportunities. That way, not only do you not forget the outreach stage of your promotion process, but you’ll also often be able to pick up a few extra links, adding substantial weight to your content’s rankings in the SERPs.

4. Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is an important indication of the quality of a lead. Every now and then, it can produce an unrepresentative/errant view of the virtue of a lead, but more often than not, it’s still an effective way of identifying the hottest prospects with the most potential.

When you combine content & marketing automation, you can really begin to take lead scoring to the next level.

You can go far beyond generic scoring criteria — like job title, budget, demographics — and begin to score leads based on the actions they take.

For instance, the amount of time they spend viewing your content, the variety and quantity of content viewed, the amount of engagement they’ve shown (social media plugs, comments), and other user activities can all be taken into account.

Incorporating these measures into your scoring system will help you to evaluate the value of your leads more accurately.

5. Measure Content Performance — then Capitalize on What Works

Tracking your content’s performance is a huge part of your marketing. It basically tells you whether or not what you’re doing is working.

If you don’t track your content, the most likely result will be an overexpenditure on creating content that simply doesn’t resonate with your audience. You also run the risk of building up your brand image to the wrong audience; an audience that simply won’t convert.

When results are a priority, tracking is a must.

However, the performance metrics I’m talking aren’t simply the number of visits your content generates, or even the number of conversions it does. Those metrics by themselves, while they have their value, are far too basic to get any comprehensive overview of the performance of a single content piece.


Image credit: Blue Fountain Media via Flickr

Instead, get into more of the nitty-gritty stuff: visitor geography, heat/click maps, visitor flow, conversions, social media shares, comments (including the positivity/negativity of the comments), keyword rankings vs. competitor content, etc..

After publishing and comparing enough content, you’ll begin to notice visitor patterns and trends that will inform you about your audience’s tastes and preferences.

For instance, you might find that white papers are more appropriate for your industry than eBooks. Or, you might discover that leads acquired from case studies are generally closer to the ultimate sales conversion that leads obtained from blog posts.

Whatever your analysis reveals, use the results to guide your content strategy.

Achieving Content Marketing Nirvana with Automation

Automation is truly the future of content marketing. Not only will it bring you closer to 100% maximization of content ROI; but automation will also do the following:

  • help you to obtain information about your hottest, most sales-ready leads that you can then apply in other areas of your marketing/sales strategy
  • help you to identify what content works for your brand and your industry
  • make a significant portion content promotion process hands-off, saving you huge amounts of time in the long run

So basically: more ROI, more time to work on other areas of your business, and more marketing potential. Win-win-win.

With automation, content marketing nirvana is a lot closer than you thought.

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20 May

How Combining Email Marketing and Retargeting Can Increase Conversions

The world of online marketing has so many options. You can create and send out well-crafted emails to your subscribers, or you can take out a few pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google and other social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. If nothing else, you can also rely on a searchers web cookies to show them ads of your product or service long after they’ve left your homepage.

But among these digital marketing strategies, which one works the best? Well the research is in, and if you really want to reach your customers and compel them to buy from you, brush up on your email marketing and retargeting skills. You’re going to need them!

So how can email marketing and retargeting increase conversion?

The Data

Recently, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Facebook put their heads together to see how email marketing and Facebook ads could better work in tandem together. Their new study shows how email marketing combined with remarketing yielded great results overall and led to a much higher conversion rate than any of the two services alone.

Their biggest finding was that of the 925K subscribers monitored, 22 percent of them were more likely to make a purchase after they opened an email and were then targeted on Facebook through ads.

Salesforce study

Moreover, these two platforms were able to show that the ads working together saw a 77 percent increase in the number of people who subscribed to the mailing list. That means that 77 percent more people knew about the brand or saw some type of advertising and got curious enough to look at the ad.

When put together, email marketing and retargeting work quite well together and can extend a company’s outreach. Now let’s look at how each marketing tool can do its part to help your conversion rate and what the statistics show works best.

What Makes a Subscriber Open an Email?

When email first became popular in the late 1990s, email marketing exploded, as did pop-up and banner ads. As people became smarter about email scams and viruses, email marketing campaigns took a slight downturn, but now according to a 2014 survey report from Ascend2 and its research partners, email marketing has the best return on investment (ROI), and is among the most effective and the least difficult digital marketing tactics to execute.

So what makes an email so successful? Take a look at these statistics:

Subject Line: It turns out that the length of the subject line is not as important as some marketers believed. A study from Return Path analysed 9 million subject lines that were received by 2 million subscribers between 1 January and 28 February, 2015. Statistics don’t show any correlation between the subject line length and the read rate. However, researchers still cautioned readers that just because there was no correlation, this did not mean that marketers shouldn’t care about the length of subject lines.

Email List Growing Tactics: According to another study by Ascend2 and its research partners, the most effective tactics for growing an email list are website access and content downloads. That means people visiting your website and downloading your free ebooks or white papers seem to be the best tactics for growing a subscriber rate.

Creating the Perfect Facebook Ad

Facebook ads can seem a little intimidating. After all, you have so little room and so few words to accurately convey your message to your targeted audience so the words you choose need to be just right.

Here are a few case studies that show what audiences respond to the most:

‘Dollars off’ and other free words: You can’t pass up a good deal, and apparently, neither can your Facebook followers. In a 2011 study from Buddy Media, ‘dollars off’ was the best retail keyword for the leading social networking site. Of the 10 words that were included in the study, only ‘dollars off,’ ‘coupon,’ ‘offer’ and ‘discount’ had positive results.

The study also found that the length of the wall post had a big effect on how likely readers were bound to click the ad. The smallest posts – between one and 40 characters – saw an increase of 86 percent above average engagement in their posts. Unfortunately, only about five percent of the retail brands had posts that were this length.

This study also tells us something else that is very important: Facebook is not the place for math. The phrase ‘% off’ faired the second worst in the study so the next time you’re offering a deal, use dollar amounts rather than percents.

While this study looked at wall posts, it stands to reason that these same principles could be used for ad as well.

With all these great statistics, it’s obvious that Salesforce and Facebook must be onto something. By combining these two great digital marketing tools, you too can see your conversion rates rise and your email subscriber lists grow.

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24 Apr

12 Ways to Grow Your Agency or Consulting Service Using Marketing Automation

Through running Venture Harbour, I’ve experienced many of the challenges that come with running a consulting agency.

Whether your biggest challenge is generating new leads, converting them, managing clients, or retaining them, there are plenty of ways that marketing automation software can take some of the weight off of your shoulders.


In this post I want to share twelve specific ways that you can use marketing automation to streamline your consulting service. First of all, though, you need to have the right tools for the job.

Which tool is best for agencies & consultants?

While most marketing automation tool vendors claim to serve all types of businesses, the reality is that some tools are better suited to certain types of businesses than others.

As an agency or consultant, you’ll want to be particularly mindful of:

  • How much will the software cost for your current number of contacts, and the number of contacts you expect to have in one, two, and three years time.
  • Will the software integrate with your existing CRM, accounting, and project management software?
  • Will you have the ability to create sub-accounts for clients?

While our free tool finder can help you narrow down the right tool for your business, there are likely to be three options worth considering:

  • Ontraport – By far the most affordable and scalable marketing automation tool. With no setup fees, and the ability to have 100,000’s of contacts for a fraction of what other tools would charge, Ontraport’s one of the most popular choices for consultants.
  • Infusionsoft – With over 15,000 clients and 50,000 users, Infusionsoft are the most popular marketing automation provider for small businesses. Their platform is beautifully designed and has better integration with third-party tools than Ontraport. With similar pricing to Ontraport, they’re also a very affordable option for agencies and consultants.
  • Hubspot – Hubspot are perhaps the best-known vendor in the small business automation space. While their product is very well-designed, I find it rather expensive compared to the two options above. While their entry package costs $200/month, this is only for a maximum of 100 contacts. To put it into comparison, Hubspot charge $2,400/month for 10,000 contacts, while Ontraport charge $297/month for 25,000 contacts.

With an idea of which software might be best for your agency, let’s move on to how automation can help you scale and grow your consulting services.

I’ve divided the following twelve tips into four sections: attracting clients, converting clients, managing clients, and retaining clients.

Attracting Clients

Marketing automation software is no silver bullet for opening the floodgates on client leads, but it can free up a lot of time by automating parts of your lead generation strategy.

1. Automate your content marketing strategy

Most agencies and consultants plug away by sporadically posting blog posts and the occasional white paper, in the hope that potential clients will stumble across them and get in contact.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but imagine the following scenario:

  • A potential lead reads a blog post on your site on how to generate press coverage.
  • They leave a comment, providing you with their name & email address.
  • An automated (personalized) email is sent to them about your PR services.
  • They explain that they’re not ready to become a client for another 3-4 months.
  • The automation software puts them into a ‘nurturing sequence’ that sends bi-weekly emails educating them on the benefits of an external PR service, what to consider, and other tips on generating PR coverage.
  • After 3 months, an automated follow-up email is sent asking if they’d be ready to arrange a call to discuss your PR services.

If you also offered social media marketing, content marketing, and SEO services you could create custom nurturing sequences for each service. Whether you had 5, 50, or 500 leads in the pipeline, they would all be dealt with in this way.

This laser-targeted approach means that content is re-purposed in an intelligent way to increase the likelihood of leads converting with you.

2. Automate social media posting

One of the easiest and most obviously automatable aspect of your online marketing strategy is your social media posting strategy.

I won’t go into whether social media should or shouldn’t be automated here, as that’s an article for another day. Assuming that you are open to the idea of at least automating certain aspects of your social strategy, how can it be done?

Social automation tools

One option is to use a combination of tools like IFTTT, Buffer, and Feedly to automatically gather potential blog posts to share and schedule them. You could even throw Snip.ly into the mix to add a call-to-action from any articles you share, driving traffic back to your site.

Certain marketing automation tools offer a more elegant approach, whereby you can set up automatic alerts for things you might want to share, and then automatically share / schedule them through your various accounts.

3. Make your blog content dynamic

Last week, James Scherer from Wishpond.com wrote a great post about how Wishpond.com use marketing automation software to display dynamic blog content to their visitors based on each user’s previous history on the site.

For example, when a visitor downloads a whitepaper on the Wishpond website they have to fill out which sector they’re in. If someone mentions that they’re in the real estate sector, a cookie will be dropped onto their computer, which ensures that when they revisit the Wishpond site they will see content related to real estate marketing.

Wishpond blog flow

Needless to say, this increase in relevancy results in an increase in leads.

For an agency with several different services, you could replicate this strategy by only showing content relevant to what a visitor is interested in, or for where they are in the buying cycle.

Converting Clients

Having a constant stream of leads is not always as good as it seems. If your leads are low quality, you can end up wasting valuable time trying to qualify them.

One of them most valuable aspects of automation software for agencies, in my opinion, is in automating your lead qualification process, as it enables you to remove human error and time wasted on low-qualify leads.

4. Automate drip campaigns for lead nurturing

What do you do when you receive a lead that isn’t sales-ready, but could be in several months? You put them into a drip campaign.

Drip campaign

As the name suggests, drip campaigns work by sending your leads a pre-built sequence of emails over a certain time, with the aim of nurturing them to become sales-ready.

5. Reduce your response times

A study from Harvard found that companies are seven times more likely to qualify a lead when they respond to enquiries within an hour, compared to those that responded even an hour later — and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Response times

Despite this, most companies are unintentionally slow to respond. This is another instance where automation can make human error obsolete, by creating sequences that respond to all leads that match certain criteria within an hour of receiving an enquiry.

6. Don’t waste time qualifying leads

Most leads are, sadly, a waste of time. The difficulty is in knowing which ones are wasteful and which ones aren’t.

Using lead scoring, you can pre-qualify all of your leads to ensure that your team only spend time on the leads with the highest value or likelihood to convert.

Lead scoring

Managing Clients

In this section, we’ll walk through some of the ways that marketing automation can help with the day-to-day operations of running an agency and managing clients.

7. Automate client payments & late paying follow-ups

Where possible, you should aim for prevention over cure with late payments.

One of the best preventative measures for this is to simply use a recurring billing service that sets up an automated direct debit agreement with your client’s bank or credit card.


Recurly is a great service, and integrates with most marketing automation providers.

If, on the other hand, you’re invoicing your clients manually using a service like Freshbooks or Xero, you can create automated email sequences that automatically follows up with clients if invoices are still unpaid after certain time intervals.

8. Automating the client on-boarding process

When a new client comes on board, you’ll likely need a number of things from them to get up and running.

Whether it’s Google Analytics access, brand guidelines, or details of your point of contact, these things can eat into time that you could be using to get some early momentum. So, how can we automate the on-boarding process?

After speaking with a friend who runs a large digital agency in London, I discovered the client on-boarding survey.

Using SurveyMonkey, this agency would send every new client a survey that asked for all of the important information the agency needed, along with a checklist containing points such as ‘Have you granted Google Analytics access to the following email addresses’.

Client survey

By asking each client to complete the survey as soon as they signed the contract, they were able to reduce client onboarding time significantly, while also eliminating the need to send tens of project kick-off emails back and forth in the early stages of the project.

Thanks to SurveyMonkey’s API integration, they were also able to automatically store all of the survey data for each client into their CRM. It would be very easy to then use this data to set up automation sequences designed to educate and nurture clients.

9. Automate regular contact

It’s important to check-in with clients once in a while to ask if there are any events coming up that would be useful knowing about, or even just to see how happy they are with your services.

Sending these ‘check-in emails’ is easy with three or four clients, but what about when you get to 10, 20, or 50 clients? Once again, automation is the answer.

Retaining Clients

If you ask any agency or consultant what the number one reason for losing clients is, they tend to say the same thing: poor communication. Below are some of the ways that you can use marketing automation to reduce losing clients due to communication issues.

10. Automate NPS / Survey Data Collection

Several weeks ago I came across an interesting case study by Mention.com, explaining how they reduced user churn by 50% using an automated sequence that gathered Net Promoter Score (NPS) feedback after a free trial ended:

NPS email

Then, based on the user’s feedback, they triggered another set of automated emails depending on the user’s answer.

NPS automation

What I like about this case study is how it makes NPS feedback actionable. Many companies send NPS surveys to find out how satisfied their customers are, but too often this survey data is not acted upon.

For agencies and consultants, you could easily recreate a similar process to identify which clients are happier than others, and what actions need to be taken to nurture unhappy / neutral clients.

11. Automate contract renewal

When it comes to improving client retention, the best long-term strategy is to deliver more value and ROI to clients. That said, it helps to have contracts in place that are built with retention in mind.

Contract clause

While auto-renewing contracts aren’t particularly revolutionary, they are important. Where you can get a little bit creative is in using automation to set up internal reminders about upcoming contract renewals.

When a client is reaching a contract renewal point, you’ll want to make sure you have project plans and results to hand to convince clients to stick around.

12. Automate the personal touches

I want to wrap this post up with something quite controversial and counter-intuitive; automating the personal touches. Let me explain with an example.

Isn’t it nice when you receive a handwritten letter or note with something you ordered online?

What if you could automate handwritten notes?

A company called MailLift, who integrate with all major marketing automation tools, offer this exact service – with every letter being handwritten by a real person on beautiful cotton paper.


What about automatically sending client’s a gift on their birthday? At Venture Harbour, we experimented with this by adding a ‘birth date’ field in our client on-boarding survey, which automatically updated our CRM and sent alerts two weeks prior a client’s birthday.

While it may seem contradictory to automate these things, the reality is that if we don’t create nudges to ensure that they happen consistently, human error gets in the way. As your schedule gets busier, where do you think sending your clients birthday gifts will fall on your to-do list?

Eliminating human error in consulting

In Peter Drucker’s famous book ‘The Effective Executive’, he says that companies should embrace technology that makes existing processes more efficient.

Marketing automation has the potential to distract you with fancy features, or help you grow your business by eliminating human error, improving consistency, and increasing the amount of communication with leads and clients – without the need for extra staff.

I hope this post has helped you identify how marketing automation might be able to help you grow your agency or consulting service. As always, if you have any questions feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.

Image Credit: Philippe Lewicki

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22 Apr

The Rise of Marketing Automation (Infographic)

Over the past few months, we’ve uncovered a lot of data and insights on the marketing automation industry, which we’ve shared in posts like this one.

After noticing quite a few of the charts and diagrams from these posts were generating a lot of interest, I decided to turn these insights into the following infographic on The Rise of Marketing Automation.

The Rise of Marketing Automation Infographic

Feel free to share this infographic on your website or blog. All we ask is that you credit us by linking to Marketing Automation Insider in the article. For your convenience, you can copy and paste the following embed code into your website.

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21 Apr

8 Best Marketing Automation Blogs to Follow

When I was first introduced to marketing automation several years ago, I was surprised by the lack of blogs and communities dedicated to sharing marketing automation campaign ideas and helping marketers learn from one another.

This was the primary reason we decided to create Marketing Automation Insider. Fortunately, there are now many great blogs on marketing automation – mostly run by the vendors. Below are eight of the best blogs, in my opinion, to learn about marketing automation.

#1 Infusionsoft’s Blog

While Infusionsoft’s content is relatively basic and aimed at entry-level marketers, they do feature a lot of interesting case studies written by Infusionsoft users and consultants. On top of their (almost) daily educational content, they also feature a campaign of the month which tends to be quite insightful.

Infusionsoft Blog

One thing that I do quite like about the Infusionsoft blog is that their content is categorised into four categories; attract, sell, wow, and success mindset. This makes it easy to get inspiration and ideas on the areas that you need the most help with.

Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

#2 Customer Experience Matrix by David Raab

While David’s website may look like a relic from 1995, his content certainly makes up for the garish design. David Raab is the author of the popular B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool (VEST) report, which publishes interesting data on the industry each year.


Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

#3 OntraBlog

Ontraport’s blog is another great one for small business owners to subscribe to. While similar in style to Infusionsoft’s content, I generally find Ontraport’s blog posts a little bit more insightful and advanced.


They have a good balance on content related to their software, and general content, so whether you’re a customer or not you’ll find plenty of interesting articles on their site.

Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

#4 Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog

Given Eloqua’s dominance in the enterprise marketing automation market, it should come as no surprise that their blog (now called the Oracle Modern Marketing Blog), is one of the best sources of information on enterprise marketing automation.

Eloqua blog

With a wide range of articles covering everything from data management, to marketing automation and cross-channel marketing automation, the Eloqua blog is a great place to keep up to date with the developments in online marketing for large corporations.

Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

#5 Act-On’s Blog

The Act-On blog has a wide variety of posts that are ideal for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs. They share a lot of insights specifically on the Act-On Software, but the advice is generally objective enough to be useful to most small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Act-On blog

With content ranging from productivity tips, to specific marketing automation sequences, their blog has a good balance of articles aimed around growing your business.

Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

#6 Silverpop Blog

With a dozen or so contributors, the Silverpop blog has a good variation of content around marketing automation and digital marketing in general. Their content is generally aimed towards marketing managers in medium-large businesses.

Silverpop Blog

Silverpop generally post a few times per week, with the occasional guest expert interview. You can learn more about their blog using the links below.

Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

#7 Marketo’s Blog

Marketo have one of the most popular blogs in the marketing automation industry. With over 250,000 followers across their social media profiles, you can be sure that their content is well-received.

Marketo blog

Marketo’s content writers are great at taking larger and more complex marketing concepts and break them down in easily understandable posts.

Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

#8 Pardot’s Blog

With daily content from the Salesforce team, Pardot’s blog is another great source of marketing automation insights with a strong bias towards increasing sales efficiency and effectiveness.

Pardot blog

Go to the blogGet the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

Finally… Marketing Automation Insider

I’m a little bit biased here, but with lots of fantastic insights from experts in the marketing automation field, to case studies by companies using marketing automation software, Marketing Automation Insider is becoming an interesting collection of insights on marketing automation.

As one of the only independent (non-vendor) blogs solely dedicated to marketing automation, we promise to keep you updated on the best tips and tricks for getting the most out of your software.

If you’d like, you can subscribe to our blog using one of the following:
Get the RSS feed | Follow on Twitter

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20 Apr

The History and Timeline of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation first came into existence in 1992. Yet, it was until the late 2000’s when the marketing automation industry began to grow exponentially from a $225 million industry to a $1.65 billion industry in just five years.

It was in those five years that the industry saw over $5.5 billion worth of acquisitions being made by the likes of Salesforce, IBM, Adobe, and Microsoft.

While the early systems were primarily revolved around email alone, the marketing automation tools of today have become significantly more powerful. American Express, Intel, LinkedIn and many others now use marketing automation to send tens of millions of personalized emails, text messages, direct mail, and social adverts to their users based on their actions.

You might be wondering, how did this industry grow up, and when did it take its first steps? In this post, we’ll look at the evolution and history of the marketing automation trend.

The First Marketing Automation Vendors

Most feel that marketing automation first burst into the scene when Unica was founded in 1992. However, this was merely scratching the surface; most businesses were not present online and the Internet was still in relative infancy.

Marketing automation vendors timeline

All of this changed in 1999 with the establishment of Eloqua. Over the next seven years, Eloqua’s success inspired a number of competitors to enter the market. These included companies such as Pardot, Infusionsoft and Marketo.

The success of these companies was compounded by several simultaneous trends that emerged throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Not least of all was the increasing speeds at which the Internet could be accessed. Another was the ability for computers to handle such software.

With the increasing penetration of Broadband Internet between 2004 and 2009, more marketing automation tools began to be built or migrated to the cloud. So, we likewise saw the birth of many cloud-based tools such as Ontraport (2006), Hubspot (2006) and Act-On (2008).

Becoming All-in-One Sales & Marketing Software

The rise of social media caused marketing automation vendors to think beyond email marketing. With the number of social media users rising to just under one billion in 2010, it comes as no surprise in hindsight that companies such as Hubspot and Infusionsoft jumped onto this opportunity to integrate social marketing software into their systems.

At roughly the same time, other trends such as mobile commerce, cloud-based A/B testing, cloud-based landing page development, and webinars increased in popularity. With all of these different marketing tools and channels increasing in popularity, many marketing automation tools developed, integrated, and acquired their way to becoming all-in-one marketing and sales services.

The Acquisition Years (2010 – 2014)

In the four years between 2010 and 2014, there was over $5.5 billion worth of acquisitions made in the marketing automation industry. The largest of which was Salesforce’s ‘Russian doll’ acquisition of ExactTarget for $2.5 billion, after ExactTarget acquired Pardot for $95 million.

Marketing automation acquisitions

This market consolidation has led to the enterprise market being dominated by a small number of parent companies, such as Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, and Adobe.

Meanwhile the small business market has yet to see any major consolidation. While both Infusionsoft and Hubspot have made a few acquisitions, most of these appear to have been featured-led acquisitions, rather than to acquire market share.

This makes sense given the vastness of the small business market, and the fact that both companies are probably wiser focusing their efforts on expanding the size of the overall market, rather than increasing their share of what currently exists.

2015 & Beyond For Marketing Automation

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve reached a point where mass-penetration of marketing automation software is no longer a probable event, but an absolute given.

Over the next few years, I think we’ll see a few things happen. First of all, and most likely, the cost of marketing automation software will drop to a point where it’s highly accessible to all businesses.

Declining cost of marketing automation software

This will be due to the increased competition, in particular from the email marketing service providers edging into the market. While I’m limited in what I can say without breaking NDAs, I’ll leave it at this: the next big wave of change in marketing automation is very likely to come from the ESP market.

Secondly, I think tool vendors will increasingly target niches within niches. Currently, there are two broad categories of marketing automation tools: small business tools, and enterprise tools. As more competitors have entered the space, we’ve started to see more targeted tools aimed at specific sectors within the small business market.

With the exception of a few leaders, like Infusionsoft, Hubspot, and Eloqua, many tools will have to pick their corner of the market and become extremely good at it.

Finally, we’ll see more and more tools tackling the trends that are emerging in the wider digital landscape. Whether that’s predictive analytics, mobile commerce, or wearable device marketing, the best prepared vendors will be those with active partner marketplaces. as the development partners will rise to the opportunity presented by building integrations and extensions.

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17 Apr

5 Best Low-Cost Marketing Automation Tools for Small Businesses

If you’re running a small business, the idea of automating your sales and marketing is compelling.

To do this while shortening your sales cycle, improving your lead qualification, and freeing up time to focus on more creative work makes it virtually a no brainer.

That is, until you look at the price tag.

Comparing marketing automation software

Marketing automation tools are notoriously expensive, as most vendors base their pricing on the approximate value that the software will add to your business. After all, what’s $10,000 per year if it’ll grow your business by an extra $250,000 per year?

With that said, it’d be foolish to not mitigate your risk by choosing the tool that’s most affordable and best suited to your business.

In this post, I’ll share five of the best low-cost marketing automation tools for small businesses. To narrow down your options between them, I’d recommend reading our post on ‘7 considerations when choosing small business automation software‘, or by using our free tool finder.

1. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign are one of the best kept secrets in the small business marketing & sales world. For years very few people knew about their platform, which is among one of the best marketing automation tools out there – despite being 20-30X less expensive than many of the other tools in this post.

We used them here at Marketing Automation Insider and have done for almost three years now. So what’s so great about ActiveCampaign? For a start, their visual interface makes it extremely easy to build powerful marketing automation workflows.


They also have a built-in CRM system, which makes it easy to keep everything managed in one place. Having personally tried to use Salesforce, PipeDrive, Zoho and many CRMs over the years, this is the only one that I’ve enjoyed using.


If you want to learn more you can create a free ActiveCampaign trial here.

2. Infusionsoft

Clate Mask and brothers Eric and Scott Martineau co-founded eNovaSys in Arizona in 2001, with the dream of revolutionising the way that small businesses grow through sales and marketing automation.

The company later evolved into Infusionsoft, which is now used by over 15,000 small businesses. Mask is the current CEO of Infusionsoft and has written articles on entrepreneurship for such publications as VentureBeat, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. Clate Mask and Scott Martineau also co-authored Conquer the Chaos, a New York Times best-selling book.


Infusionsoft is one of the only sales and marketing software built exclusively for small business and promises that you’ll spend less time chasing dead ends and more time building relationships by automating the repetitive tasks in sales and marketing process.

Their cloud-based software will allow you to centralise all customer interactions and daily activities in one place, while their email marketing capabilities will capture new leads, automate follow-up and turn them into customers.

The lead scoring feature identifies the hottest leads so you can close sales faster, while custom segmentation allows you to create lists based on demographics, lead score, and behaviours like email clicks, purchases and payment history.

E-commerce shopping carts allow you to sell more online and collect payment with one centralised system. To further customise your experience, Infusionsoft Extras are additional Infusionsoft-created products and tools that plug in seamlessly to their software. An example of this is Infusionsoft Sync, which allows access to Infusionsoft’s sales and marketing features while working in gMail or Outlook.

Infusionsoft’s 4-tier pricing structure starts from $199 per month for the Essentials package, designed for companies with basic marketing automation needs. This includes 3 users and 2,500 contacts, compared to 5 users and 10,000 contacts for the most expensive package, Complete, which costs $379 per month and is suited for companies with a sales team and online store. Kickstart Services, at an additional one-off cost of $1,999, are required for all new Infusionsoft customers and include one-on-one consulting and training resources.

ICON is Infusionsoft’s annual marketing automation conference for their community of customers, small business owners and industry experts who gather for three days of product training, education and inspiration. In 2016’s conference in Arizona, attendees can expect six inspiring keynote presentations, over 39 educational sessions, personal consultations with industry experts, and networking events.

You can read our full review of Infusionsoft here.

3. Ontraport

Serial entrepreneur Landon Ray founded Ontraport in Santa Barbara, California in 2006 and currently serves as CEO. Ray has taken his exhaustive research and personal experience and created a family of products and related services that reflect his passion for educating and supporting entrepreneurs.


Ontraport is an award-winning all-in-one marketing and business automation platform designed to help entrepreneurs start, systemise, and scale their small and mid-sized businesses. The Dashboard feature allows you to create a personalised heads-up display of all your vital business stats on one easy-to-use screen, with an interface that allows you to add fully customisable metrics, set the reporting period, and stay up to date with your analytics.

In addition to the CRM that allows you to track customer interactions, manage tasks automatically and score leads, you can set triggers to perform various actions, such as sending an email, direct-mail postcard, SMS message, scheduling a rep to make a phone call or another automated action.

Their open, secure API allows developers to securely access, add, delete or edit most account information automatically, making it possible to integrate virtually any other software tool you use in your business.

The Pro package is $297 per month for two users and up to 25,000 contacts while the Team package is $597 per month for ten users and 100,000 contacts. Both packages include access to all the same features, as well as two complimentary, one-hour meetings with a Client Success Specialist where they’ll begin setting up your account. Packages are easily scaled to your business by paying extra to add more contacts, users or messages.

Now in its 4th year, Ontraport’s annual Ontrapalooza conference for 2015 will take place in Santa Barbara. Over the two days, the 600 entrepreneurs and small business owners in attendance can expect four exceptional keynotes, 24 hands-on workshops and networking opportunities. The cost is $599 with pre-sale and early bird pricing available.

You can read our full review of Ontraport here.

4. Act-On

Oregon-based Act-On was founded in 2008 and CEO Raghu Raghavan is the product visionary and driving force behind it. A seasoned entrepreneur, Raghu led the initial design of the Act-On service and the development of its core technology and infrastructure.

Act On

Act-On provides a cloud-based integrated marketing automation platform that enables small and medium-sized marketing teams to effectively acquire customers, build loyalty and expand their relationships with them through inbound, outbound, and advanced marketing automation capabilities.

Functionality includes email creation and delivery, social media campaign creation and management, webinar/event communications and management, website visitor tracking, advanced SEO for websites and marketing content, integration of SEO with blogs and CMS, Google AdWords integration, lead management, lead scoring and nurturing, out-of-box CRM integration, API access for third party integration, and reporting.

All tiers include the same features but prices range from $600 per month to $8,750 per month, based on the number of active contacts and whether billing is monthly or annually. Fees for implementation and training are not included and are an additional $500 to $2,500.

iHeartMarketing is Act-On’s regional user conference and will be in the form of a Road Show for 2015. This complimentary, half-day marketing workshop will be visiting Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Boston. Attendees can expect a hands-on workshop with strategies for getting the most out of Act-On solutions, a look at the latest Act-On product roadmap, a sneak peek of some upcoming features, and networking opportunities with other Act-On users and success managers.

5. Marketo

Phil Fernandez, Chairman and CEO, co-founded Marketo in San Mateo, California in 2006 and has led the company’s product vision and unique marketing and sales strategy to help them become an acknowledged leader in digital marketing technology.

Phil is a Silicon Valley veteran with more than 30 years of experience building and leading breakout technology companies. He is a well-known writer and speaker on topics related to digital marketing, marketing automation, big data, and entrepreneurialism, and is the author of Revenue Disruption (Wiley, 2012), which delivers bold new strategies for any company to transform its sales and marketing to accelerate revenue growth.


Marketo profess that their Engagement Marketing Platform has been built from the ground up and provides everything marketers need to succeed in this new era of engagement marketing. Capabilities include: targeted campaigns with lead-scoring, lead-nurturing and advanced workflow automation; cross channel engagement, including email, web, mobile, events, direct mail, and social media; integrated social marketing; a unified marketing calendar that fuses campaign planning and execution in one place; and more.

For small companies and beginners, the Spark package offers fast and easy B2B marketing automation for $895 per month for up to 10,000 contacts. The Standard package has more advanced features and is the most popular package for B2B marketing automation at a cost of $1,795 per month for up to 10,000 contacts. The Select package offers an advanced B2B marketing solution with full insight into your revenue funnel at a cost of $3,195 per month for up to 10,000 contacts.

Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit 2015 will bring together over 6,000 of your peers, colleagues and thought leaders to San Francisco, California to celebrate Innovation in the Nation over two and a half days. The registration fee is $1,295, with early bird rates available.

You can read our full review of Marketo here.

Extra: HubSpot

Still headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hubspot was founded out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006 by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, now CEO and CTO, respectively. Since then, it has grown to have 11,500 customers in more than 70 countries. Shah also founded OnStartup.com, an online resource for and about software startups, and is a frequent speaker and writer on the topics of startups and inbound marketing.


HubSpot recognised the mismatch between how organisations are marketing and selling their offerings and the way that people actually want to shop and buy. They focus on pulling people in rather than just broadcasting information in the traditional way. HubSpot also differentiate themselves by building workflows around your marketing goals.

The Basic package, an entry tool for those new to inbound marketing, is $200 per month and includes up to three users and 100 contacts. The Pro package, an integrated solution for professional marketers, is $800 per month for unlimited users and up to 1,000 contacts. The Enterprise package, an advanced platform for marketing teams, is $2,400 per month for unlimited users and 10,000 contacts.

This can be scaled to suit your business by purchasing extra contacts in increments of 1,000 for an additional fee. Onboarding services are required for new customers and cost a one-time fee of $600, $3,000 or $5,000, depending on the package purchased.

Hubspot’s 4-day Inbound Conference in Boston includes six inspiring keynotes, over 170 educational sessions, networking and over 10,000 attendees. The cost varies between $499 and $1,998, with early bird rates available.

You can read our full review of Hubspot here.

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16 Apr

5 Best Marketing Automation Conferences to Put in the Calendar

Despite the fact that many of the most popular marketing automation tools have been around for almost 15 years, it’s only in the past few years that a large community has formed around the marketing automation industry.

Given the complexity and opportunity of what can be done with marketing automation, it’s incredibly valuable to learn from other marketers, and see what tactics you can apply to your business.

Needless to say, conferences are one of the best places to sharpen your axe, meet like-minded individuals, and hear about the latest innovations. If you’re wondering which conferences you should you try to attend, here’s our list of five of the best marketing automation conferences coming up in 2015 and 2016.


Ontrapalooza rightfully deserves to be on any list of marketing automation conferences. Hosted by Ontraport in a gorgeous old theatre in Santa Barbara, it’s an event that brings together small businesses from a number of varied business sectors to learn about marketing automation.


With 24 fantastic speakers lined up, this year’s event is set to take place from the 21st until the 23rd of October in Santa Barbara, California.

There are dedicated rooms demo’ing basic and advanced automation features and there is even the ability to have one-on-one training sessions. If you’re a small business looking to get more out of marketing automation, this conference is not to be missed.

Infusionsoft ICON

Given Infusionsoft’s prominence in the marketing automation industry, it’s no surprise that their annual ICON conference is one of the most important dates of the year for anyone involved in marketing automation.

Infusionsoft ICON

With keynotes from best-selling authors, business leaders, and their CEO Clate Mask, the quality of information at ICON is second to none for small business owners.

On top of ICON, Infusionsoft hosts a number of other eventss, ranging from PartnerCon (their annual event for Infusionsoft partners) to smaller conferences and training sessions designed to help you get the most out of their software.

All are hosted by qualified instructors from Infusionsoft University, so they’re an excellent place to ask questions and learn how to implement specific marketing automation techniques for your business.

Inbound by Hubspot

Hubspot are one of the most respected names within the online marketing community and their Inbound conference is certainly not to be passed up if you have the chance to attend.

Inbound conference

With speakers including the likes of Seth Godin, Dan Pink, and Malcolm Gladwell, you know that you’ll be learning from some of the brightest marketers on the planet. While not specifically about marketing automation, Inbound covers all of the various disciplines that are important for creating effective automation sequences.

The Inbound conference takes place on September 8th – 11th in Boston, Massachusetts.

Silverpop Amplify

Hosted by IBM, Amplify is a conference taking place between 11 and 13 May at the San Diego Convention Center. This event is primarily focused upon the role of client engagement within the B2B world. One of the most impressive aspects of this event is its sheer size.

IBM Amplify

It is expected that more than 2,800 industry leaders, professionals and executives will be attending. Attendees will also be able to experience some of the latest marketing innovations envisioned by IBM. In total, there are more than 200 different sessions and workshops, including new approaches to e-commerce, customer analytics, marketing and merchandising.

In terms of marketing automation, their curriculum will include mobile engagement, email marketing, enhancing the client experience and omni-channel marketing. These will all be presented by some of the most respected names in the industry.


Hosted by Moz, this conference takes place between the 13th and 15th of July in Seattle, Washington. MozCon is one of the best US conferences to sharpen your skills in social media, marketing automation and the changing world of SEO.


Some of the keynote speakers will include Courtney Seiter (Buffer), Dana DiTomaso (Kickpoint), Dave Mihm (Moz) and Adam Singer (Google). There are also dozens of other respected speakers who will be giving seminars throughout the conference.

The Three day event will cover multiple marketing-oriented topics. These include data-driven sales, CRO, marketing analytics, the increasing role of m-commerce and much more.

These five conferences are some of the best events to keep up with the fast-moving marketing automation industry. All are hosted by extremely respected organisations. For anyone who is looking to keep abreast of all of the latest developments in a changing world, these conferences are certainly not to be missed.

Did we miss any off? Let us know which marketing automation events you’re attending this year in the comments below.

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15 Apr

Crushing Bad Data: How to Improve Your Lead Quality & Reduce Duplicate CRM Entries with Amanda Nelson

Data cleansing may not be the sexiest of topics when it comes to optimising your marketing automation and CRM, but as we shall see, it’s an important one.

In today’s article, we interview data quality expert Amanda Nelson, Director of Marketing at Ringlead, on the best tactics and strategies for improving CRM data quality.

Amanda Nelson

Q: From your perspective, why should businesses care about data cleansing? What are tangible benefits that come as a result of cleaner data?

Amanda: There’s an old saying about data and data quality: Garbage in and garbage out. It still holds true, as long as there have been databases. Data quality is essential. Nothing can undermine or torpedo user adoption of you database, CRM, or marketing automation platform, than having bad data.

Dirty data has a way of silently infiltrating your organization, creating frustration, inefficiency, and dismal user adoption in the systems themselves. It can affect each department and group of stakeholders in a very different way.

From a marketing perspective, your reports, automated processes, workflows, and drip nurture campaigns are skewed. Bad data affects morale, because it is frustrating and inefficient for many departments. There are literally over 100 negative impacts of bad data, and we even covered that in this post.

Worst of all, bad data costs you money. It could be upwards of $100 per duplicate record, for example, which is quite serious. Many marketing automation platforms charge based on number of records so you’re paying for the same data multiple times.

Clean data enables you to run your business effectively, but it can also earn you money. We found that an organization with clean data can generate up to 70% more revenue than an organization with bad data. If the average SMB has $35 million in revenue (according to the SBA 2013 Census), that’s an additional $24.5 million dollars in revenue from clean data.

Q: Over the years, it’s natural to see a degree of lead deterioration from people moving jobs, re-allocating budgets etc. Are there any effective ways to reduce this sort of gradual lead deterioration?

Amanda: You’re absolutely correct about this issue. Eight million people change jobs each year. 75 phone numbers change every 30 minutes. All of this results in incorrect contact information in your database. Your data is decaying as you read this interview.


Without a data protection strategy, your data will continually decay. Not only do phone numbers, emails and titles change, but as your employees are entering data into your CRM, they are creating duplicates and entering data inconsistently.

It’s important to routinely check your data validity by setting validation rules, as well as establishing constraints and routines from the start. This makes sure there is correct and meaningful data in your system.

There are many great tools and products that can quickly identify a company’s web footprint, searching company web pages, news articles, directories, SEC filings, social networks, and more, to locate fresh and relevant contact data. These tools identify key personnel and their job titles, phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts and much more.

Q: Having clean CRM data has always been important, but would you say it’s more important now that companies and their marketers are integrating marketing automation with their CRM systems? If so, why?

Amanda: We recently conducted a survey on the state of data quality, and we learned that the majority of the respondents were marketers, and they considered themselves the data stewards, or the owners of data, at their organization. As marketers become more entrenched with technology, and truly own it in their organization, they must understand data quality.

Data comes into your organization in many different ways, but the top ways are via a web form, manual entry and list uploads. Marketers can play a role in all of these methods, especially web forms. Marketers get excited when a lead comes in from a website, but not if they’re already in your CRM. Duplicate records from web forms are extremely common — up to 80% of web form submissions may be duplicates. They have to be handled elegantly to ensure they remain unique records without any information loss.

Helpful technology can integrate with your existing marketing automation and CRM platforms, processing all web form submissions, and checking for existing Leads, Contacts and Accounts.

Most marketing automation systems prevent duplicates based on email address only, and that can miss up to 60% of your duplicates. That’s a big reason why that 80% number is so high.

Q: What are your top preventative tips for eliminating duplicate entries and bad data before it becomes a problem?

Amanda: The answer is to never allow bad data into your CRM system in the first place. To do this, there are three core steps to follow when it comes to data quality.

1. Clean your data: Without performing a comprehensive data cleanse, you’re off to a poor start. For example, if a record is imported from a trade show list, it is created manually via a sales user, and created again via a web form submission. Now this user exists in the CRM three times. Cleaning your data ensures a standardized approach to your data entry process. It supports unique, duplicate-free records.

2. Protect your data: Once you clean your CRM data, you have to keep it clean. As we discussed earlier, contact data changes as people change jobs, are hired, fired or promoted. Wrong phone numbers, email addresses and job titles can linger in a database if left unchecked. Protecting your data is about considering your methods of input. For instance, there are a variety of ways for employees to type in job titles, which makes precise database segmentation impossible. For example, there are many ways to write “Director of Marketing” including “Dir. of Marketing”, “Marketing Director”, etc. A CRM does not see this as the same title, in fact, it sees it as three different titles, making it impossible to accurately report, segment data, etc. This goes beyond titles to states (NY vs N.Y. vs New York), countries (United States, USA, U.S.), and more.

Creating a CRM Data Plan (we have an ebook on it here) will help establish data standardization to protect it from duplicates and inconsistent entry.

3. Enhance your data: Without enhancing your existing data, you limit your data potential. Additional information on the record will help to complete the contact’s information, giving you a 360-degree view of the contact. It ensures the data is accurate by verifying the email addresses and saving your salespeople time from sending bad emails. When sales teams, customer success teams and other employees do not have access to a complete record, they waste time looking for that contact information. Over 30% of an employee’s time is wasted on contact research.

You can learn more about Amanda on the Ringlead website here, or follow her on Twitter here.

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