04 Jun

5 Email Marketing & Automation Tools That Accept Online Trading, Gambling, Adult, and Pharmaceutical Clients

I was recently helping a Venture Harbour client, a financial tech company, to implement marketing automation software.

After setting up our first campaign, we received an email from the provider saying that our campaign had been blocked due to using words related to FOREX.

After browsing the acceptable use policies of other major automation and email marketing services it became clear that the majority of services do not accept customers from niches that are notoriously associated with spam. As a general rule, the following niches are usually disallowed:

  • Escorts and dating
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Make money on online
  • Online trading, stock market & day trading tips
  • Gambling
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Credit & debt repair
  • Mortgages and loans
  • Nutritional, herbal, and vitamin supplements
  • Adult
  • Multi-level marketing & pyramids
  • Adult
  • List brokers or list rental services


While understandable, this struck me as an unusual way of preventing spam. The pharma and finance industries, after all, are among the fastest industries to adopt marketing automation.

Trying to avoid the prospect of developing a bespoke emailer solution, I managed to find the following tools which are relatively lenient towards accepting customers from the niches listed above.

1. GetResponse

GetResponse is, in my opinion, one of the best email marketing providers. While they’re yet to release their automation offering, their email marketing capabilities are some of the best in the industry. At Venture Harbour, we use GetResponse for the majority of our ventures.


As it happens, GetResponse are one of the only major email marketing tools to not explicitly discriminate companies by their industry. After researching the various options, we ended up using GetResponse for our project.

With good deliverability rates, and a large range of features such as A/B testing, mobile optimization, and well-designed templates, GetResponse is a good option for companies of all sizes.

2. Ontraport

Ontraport are a leading marketing automation provider for small businesses. Unlike similar tools like ActiveCampaign and Infusionsoft, who explicitly deny users from the niches listed above, Ontraport only deny users from the adult industry.

Their acceptable use policy reads:

The client agrees not to use the service for illegal purposes; (3) not to use the service to infringe any third party’s copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret or other proprietary rights or rights of publicity or privacy; (4) that illegal adult oriented websites featuring nudity and acts of a sexual nature are expressly prohibited; and (5) not to transmit through the service, through feedback or otherwise, any unlawful, harassing, libelous, abusive, threatening, harmful, vulgar, obscene or otherwise objectionable material of any kind or nature.

I have personally used Ontraport on a few projects and am a big fan of their platform. While their reporting dashboard and campaign builder could do with a redesign, the overall functionality is extremely good and well-priced.

With Infusionsoft out of the option Ontraport are arguably the best marketing automation provider for companies in the niches above looking to spend less than $500 / month on an automation provider.

3. Marketo

Marketo have built a reputation as one of the most comprehensive marketing automation providers. While their platform doesn’t come cheap, it offers many advanced features that aren’t offered by other providers.

Marketo’s acceptable use policy requires only that you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, and that you provide recipients with the ability to opt out. There is no mention of disallowing users from specific niches.

4. Pure360

Based in Brighton, Pure360 are an enterprise-level email marketing solution who have recently ventured into the marketing automation space.

During my research, I found several gambling and financial marketers recommending Pure360 for large-scale email marketing campaigns for restricted niches.

I was unable to find Pure360’s acceptable use policy on their website. Given that Pure360 typically work with enterprise-level clients, I imagine they review accounts on a case-by-case basis.

5. Hubspot

Hubspot are a popular small business marketing automation tool, popular among agencies and marketing consultants.

While their acceptable use policy goes into great detail over what you can and cannot do on their platform, it is primarily concerned with legal considerations. If you’re a company in a niche like gambling or pharmaceuticals, and your marketing is compliant and legal, you shouldn’t run into any problems.

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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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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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25 Mar

The Difference Between Marketing Automation, CRM, and Email Marketing

Considering that most marketing automation tools have a built-in CRM, email campaign builder, landing page builder, and much more, is there any point to having a separate CRM system or email marketing tool?

First off, let’s clarify what a marketing automation tool is and isn’t, and how it differs to a standalone CRM or email marketing tool.

What is marketing automation software?

Marketing automation is often described as ’email marketing on steroids’ or ‘CRM-driven email marketing’. While good marketing slogans, neither captures the essence or value offered by of automation software.

At the most simple level, marketing automation is the combination of CRM, analytics, and email marketing. In this case, the sum is greater than its parts, as CRM data provides additional insight into email marketing, and vis versa via analytics.

CRM vs. Marketing Automation vs. Email Marketing

As illustrated above, the alignment of CRM data with your marketing channels is surprisingly profound, as it aligns your marketing and sales teams and enables one another to build on each other’s work.

But before we go too deep into the value of marketing automation, what exactly are we automating with this software that we wouldn’t usually automate?

Where automation comes into the equation

Marketing automation provides the ability to automatically trigger emails (or text messages, postcards, voicemails, webinar invitations etc) when a segment of your contact list completes a certain action.

In other words, you can build a set of rules like ‘when a contact does X (downloads an ebook, visits a certain page, buys a product), or is Y (a C-level executive, a repeat customer), do Z (invite them to a webinar, cross-sell a specific product). When this is scaled up, you can have thousands of different emails being sent out to different customers every day – each one beautifully personalized to the recipient’s situation.

Here’s an example of such a sequence in Infusionsoft:
Infusionsoft campaign

The holy grail of marketing is to reach the right person with the right message at the right time. Unfortunately, due to human error and a limit on resources, we sometimes fall short on one or more of these points.

By automating your messaging you can, for example, ensure that every single lead is followed up with within 15 minutes of expressing interest, regardless of whether you receive one lead a day or 10,000.

What’s CRM and how does it differ to marketing automation?

CRM software simply provides a system for managing and organizing interactions with potential and future customers. While most CRMs allow you to communicate with contacts from within the CRM, this level of communication is relatively basic.

Let’s say, for example, your CRM has 10,000 contacts who are all interacting with your business in different ways. A CRM will record those interactions, allow you to prioritise which leads to focus on, and enable you to contact them manually or in one bulk-mail.

A marketing automation tool, on the other hand, allows you to set up pre-built campaigns that are automatically sent to individual leads when they complete certain actions. You can A/B test different methods of communication, and even combine multiple marketing channels (e.g. SMS and email), ultimately leading to a more scalable and efficient sales process.

CRM and marketing automation are not dichotomous. In fact, with CRM companies acquiring and bolting on marketing tools to their software, the line between CRM and marketing automation is becoming increasingly blurred.

So, in what instance would you be better off choosing a CRM instead of marketing automation?

When is it better to choose a CRM system over marketing automation software?

There are several valid reasons for why you might choose a CRM instead of a marketing automation tool:

  1. Cost – If you’re a small business just starting out, then a $10/month CRM may provide you with everything you need. Marketing automation software typically starts at around $200/month plus setup fees. For enterprise-level software, that figure can be anywhere from $1,000/month to unlimited. Ultimately the benefit has to outweigh the investment, which won’t be the case for every business.
  2. Needs – If your company does predominantly all of your sales & marketing ‘in the field’, you probably won’t benefit from automation software. Marketing automation satisfies an additional need, that isn’t necessarily present in every business. For those, a CRM will probably suffice.
  3. Migration & Integration – If your company has been using a CRM like Salesforce for ten years and your whole company is used to it, educating staff on a new piece of software is going to be a significant cost. On top of this, not all automation tools integrate with all CRMs, so implementing marketing automation can be a major time & financial investment, particularly for larger corporations.

In the majority of cases, though, marketing automation is the more powerful alternative as it provides additional insight and marketing capability on top of CRM.

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