4 Mandatory Technologies for Inbound Marketing Success

by Dustin J. Hall

inbound-marketing-technologyWe've reached that point in the digital marketing world where certain technologies have become mandatory...but there's one BIG problem.

The problem is that the level of product knowledge among business owners and professional marketers is still very low -- yet the number of marketing technology (Martech) companies entering the market is skyrocketing. This makes it nearly impossible for the uninitiated to craft any sort of successful digital strategy using these tools.

This article aims to solve this problem and uncover the four mandatory pieces of marketing technology that every single business (yes, yours too) should have in their arsenal. Without any of them, you will at some point or another, be outpaced by your more agile, tech-savvy competition.

First, let's have a quick look at today's daunting Martech landscape...

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How to Conquer the Martech Overload

To exacerbate the educational gap among marketers/business owners, the number of marketing technology (Martech) products is exploding rapidly, and with them comes even more confusing terms, capabilities, integrations and SaaS subscription plans. In fact, according to Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec, the number of marketing technology companies has virtually doubled since 2014 with a whopping 2,000+ companies now clawing for your attention (see ChiefMartec's infographic below for a blinding list of vendors).

inbound-marketing-technologyThe trick in navigating this craziness lies in the marketer or CMO's ability to simultaneously live in two worlds, marketing and technology.

Sounds tough, eh? Well, it is...but the results pay off in spades.

A seasoned inbound marketing agency or tech-savvy CMO/CIOs can help organizations understand the following:

  • Which technologies fit best with intended marketing and sales strategies.
  • Which technologies fit best with current resources and budgets.
  • Which technologies stand to drive the greatest ROI once implemented.
  • Which technologies integrate well with other tools and which do not.

All this to say that when you're trying to generate more demand and revenue online, it's best to have someone knowledgeable on your team. Without them, implementing these 4 mandatory technologies below will come with a very, very expensive learning curve.

Related: 10 Free Tools to Peep on Your Competitors Inbound Marketing Efforts

Content Management System (CMS)

inbound-marketing-cmsYour website: It's where the action starts as it's the central hub for a vast majority of your online lead conversions. This means it requires constant maintenance, updating and optimizing in order to accommodate the rapid changes in buyer behavior, campaign direction and best practices.

A content management system (CMS) is what allows you to do all of this in an agile fashion, preferably without the assitance of developers. A few of the more common CMS platforms include WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Sitecore and a ton of others.

The leading CMS systems give you the ability to...

  • easily store documents, images and videos
  • quickly create and publish new web pages, landing pages, blogs, etc
  • create personalized website experiences for visitors/customers
  • have a responsive, mobile-friendly design without a separate mobile website
  • scale effectively and effortlessly

Over the past several years, newer, more marketer-friendly CMS systems have been baked into digital marketing technologies (see #2 below) granting even more content features, design flexibility and performance.

Why a CMS is Mandatory

Since buyers have access to any information they want online, they also control OVER 90% of the buying process. They get their info from multiple sources, digest it as they see fit and have needs that can change at the drop of a hat. Successful companies make it their mission to adapt to their buyer's behavior which requires on-the-fly changes to campaigns and more personalized content to nurture relationships. A good CMS allows marketers to make this a reality. Without a CMS, you lack the ability to keep up with your buyer's interests and demands, stifling your ability to form a meaningful relationship with them...ultimately causing them to migrate towards more savvy competitors.

Marketing Automation

marketing-automation-platformsThe use of automation is commonplace most industries. Seeking greater margins and productivity, manufacturers were the first to automate various tasks and processes once handled by manual labor employees - which was a huge success. With the advent of the Internet, it was only a matter of time that automation capabilities inundated the world of digital and inbound marketing in an effort to realize those same cost-saving/productivity benefits.

Popular marketing automation platforms include HubSpot, Marketo, InfusionSoft, Eloqua (Oracle Marketing Cloud) and many others. Over the years, the features have increased, integrations have improved and pricing has comes become more accessible resulting in an industry that has exploded into a $2 billion powerhouse.

Most automation platforms are purchased as a subscription fee and include the following capabilities:

  • automation of email and lead nurturing programs
  • automation of contact list segmentation and lead scoring methods
  • automation of entire marketing campaigns
  • easy access to ROI and performance metrics

Why Marketing Automation is Mandatory

As mentioned in #1 above, today's buyers are educated, diverse and come with increasingly high expectations. For marketers and sales reps to physically try and develop relationships with each buyer on an individual basis is a fool's errand. When properly implemented, marketing automation allows you to nurture each individual relationship without all of the manual labor involved. It also allows for more accurate buyer data, ROI reporting and campaign targeting. Without it, you're doomed to be eternally caught in the weeds.

Note: Some of the more progressive automation tools (like HubSpot) actually integrate all 4 of the mandatory technologies I discuss in this article.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

inbound-marketing-crmAll this marketing tech is great, but what about sales? Customer relationship management (CRM) software is the perfect compliment to marketing automation software. This is because it allows sales professionals to engage with and update the exact same contact data that marketing is using.

Common CRM solutions include SalesForce, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Netsuite and several others. Given the popularity of many of these CRM solutions, it's pretty easy to find other marketing technologies that integrate well with them.

CRM software often grants sales reps access to the following capabilities:

  • Management and segmentation of contacts (leads, prospects and customers)
  • Management of sales related tasks associated with each contact (like follow up calls, emails, etc.)
  • Management of deals and sales pipeline to guide future activity and expected revenue

Why a CRM is Mandatory

Tracking your sales performance and activity is absolutely critical if you plan on growing your business. If you're thinking that you've been growing revenue just fine without a CRM up until now, you're missing the point. Closing a bunch of deals is one thing, gaining accurate insight into what's working and what isn't within your sales process is another. It's that latter group of data that business leaders use to grow smarter and faster than the competition.

Also, while marketing performance is also critical, it is still reliant on sales data to "close the loop." When a CRM and marketing automation platform are integrated and working as one, it allows you to see the entire lifecycle of each contact within their shared database -- giving you granular insight into which marketing activities and sources drive the best (or worst) ROI.

Inbound Marketing Analytics

inbound-marketing-analyticsAll of these great technologies we've discussed would be lost if we didn't have the ability to gauge their effectiveness. Analytics give us this data, along with a whole host of other data.

As far as common marketing analytics tools go, that list can depend on which marketing function or asset you're looking to analyze. Most all of us are familiar with Google Analytics for basic website metrics, but there are more niche software products out there that also incorporate things like big data and predictive modeling.

Either way, you'll find that many analytics software tools are included as a feature of the other technologies you use (like the ones listed above). The depth of data you gather is entirely up to you and should be gathered based upon your business or campaign goals, not simply for the sake of gather data.

Related: How to Use Google's Automated Insights to Improve Your Inbound Marketing Strategy

Why Marketing Analytics Software is Mandatory

There is a great phrase coined by the team at Pragmatic Marketing (@pragmaticmkting) that has stuck with me over the years: "Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant." It's a reminder that what we think works is very rarely associated with what actually works. Marketing analytics software provides empirical clarity in the traditionally ambiguous world of marketing. It provides the answers to our questions surrounding how well a campaign performs, what the ROI actually is and what we should be doing more/less of to ensure greater future success.

4 Marketing Technologies = 1 Huge Win

While each of these 4 marketing technologies is unique and brings with them their own inherent value, do not lose sight of the fact that they must all be used together. Leaving out one of them is guaranteed to make the others more expensive and less effective. However, use all 4 of them together and you'll ensure your relevance within your market and dramatically improve the growth you see from your inbound marketing efforts.

As mentioned before, HubSpot combines all 4 of these technologies into one streamlined platform and is the driving force behind our own inbound marketing services as well as that of our clients. We highly recommend it.

Related: How Company Culture Directly Impacts Inbound Marketing Performance