We've been providing inbound marketing as a service for two years now, and we've learned a few things along the way. We've looked at many possible software solutions and we continue to evaluate new ones as they come out. Here are our top 5 recommendations for deciding which package or group of apps to use to build your brand and capture sales leads using inbound marketing.
Which inbound marketing functions are included, and are they tightly integrated? At a minimum, you will need a website (preferably with a CMS); blogging engine; SEO tools; social media promotion, engagement and monitoring; landing page creation and analysis; lead nurturing; e-mail marketing; traffic analysis tools and salesforce automation tools or CRM. Ideally, all of these functions are integrated so that you don't need to move data back and forth or develop custom API integration. A hidden cost is how much time and money you will need to spend to make these functions work together to provide you with real-time updates and vital analysis.
There is always a learning curve to any software application. The more pieces to the puzzle, the more apps you will need to learn. If something breaks, who will respond and how quickly? How much direct interaction can you get from customer service, and how helpful are they in solving your problems?
If you are launching your own inbound marketing, how familiar is your team with each of the disciplines, such as blogging, SEO and social media? Do they each have their own favorite software, and if so, how can you get these "silos" to work together to attract and close new sales leads? If you have lots of experts but little collaboration, how can you create and execute an effective marketing strategy?
Do you go with an established vendor or get in on the ground floor with a startup? Clearly, you want to know that your chosen solution will still be viable in 5 years or more, but you also want to stay current with the latest technology and inbound marketing strategy. Can your preferred software vendor provide both? Ask them. Have them show you their software development roadmap and take a look at their financials. This is crucial.
None of the other factors will count if you can't get your team to embrace the new software solutions. They won't use it, and they will complain early and often. Involve your team in the evaluation process, and make them responsible for coming up with key criteria for a decision. Have your team perform a trial of the software and prepare a report for your review. Once a decision is made, they will be ready to hit the ground running.
As of this writing, there aren't many full blown inbound marketing software packages. For starters, Google "inbound marketing software" and "marketing automation software". The leaders have done their SEO homework, so they are listed first.
Good luck, and let us know what you find. We are always interested in hearing your opinions on inbound marketing software and solutions.
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