5 Essential Differences Between Marketing Software and a CRM

The era of marketing automation has brought new and powerful tools to the hands of sales and marketing teams. Our arsenal today includes a means to collect customer and prospect data (we never use the term “spying” *wink*), personalization of offers and even the all-important ROI analysis.

But there may be some confusion or overlap in the minds of marketers about the differences between various kinds of software tools. You may wonder, “How do I compare apples to apples? Or am I lumping in grapefruits?

Compare CRM to marketing software tools for sales funnel
CRM software and marketing software are meant for different stages
of the sales and marketing funnel.

The comparison may get even more complicated when you consider that some marketing automation tools, such as HubSpot, may seem to overlap with tools such customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In fact, HubSpot recently added a CRM directly into its marketing software system. So where do you draw the line?

What is a CRM?

First of all, it’s important to consider that definitions of these tools can be highly subjective depending on who is using them. In fact, a CRM (typically considered a sales or customer support tool) could even be considered marketing software, because the marketing team uses it.

That being said, it might make sense to create a broad definition of what each of these tools are:

  • A CRM – is a repository (database) of information for managing customer relationships
  • Marketing software (and in particular, marketing automation software) – is used to take actions toward customers and leads

To make the distinction more clear-cut, we’ve outline five essential differences between CRMs and marketing software.

Five essential differences

  1. What it’s used for: Database vs. control center.

    A CRM is a repository of customer history and information such as addresses and phone numbers, while marketing automation software is used to perform specific actions. A marketing automation tool allows you to create workflows and send emails or offers to particular customers at a particular time, based on the information they have asked (opted-in) to receive.

  2. How it’s used: Sales interactions vs. website tracking.

    A CRM is useful for tracking sales and customer support interactions with a customer by logging individual email contact and phone calls. It keeps track of all customer purchases and preferences. A marketing system, however, will track a broader set of data about prospects BEFORE they become customers, such as web pages they have viewed, social media sites they have interacted with and ads they have viewed.

  3. Who uses it: Sales vs marketing.

    Again, there can be some overlap here, but a CRM records every instance of contact with a particular customer into one aggregated dataset. (Every sales, customer service, and marketing touch can be recorded). Marketing software is a tool designed to measure and collect information about marketing campaigns: which emails generate leads and clicks, which ads pull in the most website visitors, which blog posts get the most readership and conversion on offers, which social media posts or Tweets got responses and views.

  4. When it’s used: After conversion vs before.

    A CRM primarily collects information after a lead is known and helps identify the best customers. Marketing automation software aggregates information about the customer that begins before the person has any sales contact by using website forms and online analytics to gather data.

  5. Why it’s used: Customer maintenance vs lead nurturing.

    A CRM is used to foster and maintain customer relationships while a marketing automation system is primarily used to nurture leads at the top of the funnel in order to convert them to customers. Marketing software provides personalized content to the prospect in order to CONVERT the prospect to a lead, which is why it is primarily used by the marketing department.

As we mentioned, many of the tools in both a CRM and marketing automation system can overlap. And in fact, often both Sales and Marketing departments have access to and may use both sets of tools. The difference will be the kinds of information and actions they want to get from the systems.

Marketing will be more focused on using the tool to generate leads at the top of the funnel, and Sales will be more concerned with the activities that happen to convert the leads into customers –and what happens with the customers after the sale.

Marketing systems may increasingly be useful in the later part as well, because they can manage email campaigns and content that help upsell customers, support re-engagement or get customers to share information with their own friends and contacts.

Want know more?

Want to know more about how a marketing automation system could help you? Download this inbound marketing presentation.

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The Anatomy of a Successful Facebook Post

When it comes to using Facebook for business, many people wonder what the secret for success is. What kinds of posts get the best results, and how can you increase engagement? Are there things you should be doing that you’re not?

While there is no one single right way of creating a perfect post, there are some best practices you can follow to help make your posts more successful. We’ve dissected the key elements of successful Facebook posts so you can properly optimize yours.

blog-post-image-captions

But be warned, it’s not all kittens and dancing babies here. You’re going to have to think a little harder about what your business audience needs.

The top six things that make up a truly valuable Facebook post…

1) Has a Clear Goal

The key to a successful Facebook post is to start with a clear objective. What do you want this post to do? Drive traffic to your website? Encourage comments that build community? Get people to share it? Spark a debate? If your post has a specific objective it will be much more effective. And that objective should be obvious.

If you want someone to click on a link and read your blog post, use an enticing headline. If you are introducing a new product, offer a special deal or limited time offer to encourage clicking. Here is an example:

City Brands Group Linked IN

2) Asks for Engagement

A successful Facebook post has a clear call to action. It asks people to follow through in a specific way using words such as “subscribe now,” “share your ideas,” or “tell us what you think.”

Use specific language but be realistic: you can’t expect people to write an essay about how great your product is. Ask them for personal experiences, or opinions on specific situations. Remember, the goal of engagement on Facebook is primarily to build a community and create an interactive outlet of trust and sharing.

Several tried-and-true types of posts to generate engagement on Facebook are:

  • Asking a question. It can be relevant to your product, your audience’s profession or their lifestyle (such as “Blue/black or white/gold?)
  • Fill-in-the-blank statements. Posting a statement asking for a specific response (such as, “The one thing I can’t live without at work is ________.”)
  • Photo caption. Posting a photo (or video) and asking for a funny (or relevant) caption is a great way to get user engagement. (#captionthis #photocaption)
  • A, B, or C options. Posting a statement or photo and asking people which option they agree with. (“If your coworker misses a deadline that affects your delivery, would you rather: A) pick up the slack B) call him out on it C) tell your mom).

Be careful about requesting or requiring people to post something to a friend’s page. Facebook frowns on that sort of activity, which crosses a line to spamming. You may ask people to share something, but never require them to post on another person’s Wall (aka Timeline).

In the example below, the company asks for comments about a new product. The engagement level was high with more than 250 comments and 40 shares.

Example Facebook Post Community Coffee

In this example from Walmart, the company uses the #CaptionThis approach. (OK, I lied — kitten photos get attention.)

Kitten walmart caption this post

3) Includes a Photo and a Link

While photos are typically superior to text-only posts in generating interaction, Facebook reports that link posts outperform photo posts (with links) in generating clicks. Just be sure that when you share a link on Facebook, the page you’re sharing has an image that will appear in the News Feed (a large picture will appear below your post along with a headline and some text when you paste in the URL.)

If not, you might be better off creating a photo post instead with a short link. To do that, click on the photo icon in the status area, and upload a photo. Be sure to add your text and a shortened URL (use a URL shortener such as bitly or owl.ly into the photo description area. Here is an example of a photo post with shortened URL.

Example link post Facebook Tips

URL links in photos (above) may be less effective than linked posts (below) in generating clicks on Facebook. But the photo is very compelling and generated more than 190 shares, as well as over 6,000 likes. The example below is a linked post with a compelling photo.

Example hashtag post facebook tips

4) Is Brief, but Uses Compelling Language

Some studies (such as this one by TrackSocial) have shown that posts with fewer characters (ranging from 40 to 70) get the best results.

Use compelling yet concise language, but avoid “click-bait” phrasing. Click bait refers to using vague or misleading language such as “You’ll never believe the five things this guy said…” to generate clicks, without fulfilling the promise made by the statement. Facebook is working to penalize this practice, and it’s not a good long-term strategy for driving user engagement or lead generation. If people feel misled by your posts, they won’t come back for more.

Example short post facebook tips

5) Isn’t Always Promotional

Be careful not to let your Facebook Page turn into a stream of advertising. Occasional promotions and offers are expected and effective, but you need to balance getting with giving by offering useful content to your audience and being mindful about building a sense of community.

Your posts should be a near 30/70 mixture of promotional content (with links back to your website) and value-added content, in which you share relevant information that your target audience would find useful or interesting or develop the community.

Occasional humor, as long as it’s not offensive and is appropriate for a business audience, is appreciated and can be very effective. You really have to know and understand your audience to make this successful (build your personas!).

The post below from HubSpot is an example of offering valuable educational content to your audience. This post is not promotional, and not even related to HubSpot’s offering, but it has a very high level of sharing among readers (1,000 shares). People appreciate it when you share what you know—without asking anything in return.

Hubspot Excel Blog post

6) Is Provocative (or Inspirational)

Posts that subtly (or not so subtly) tug at your audience’s inner sense of self-worth, or touch on viewpoints with which they can strongly identify, can generate a good response. Be cautious to avoid political, controversial or negative topics (unless that is the underlying goal of your Page). Positive memes and quotes that people can identify with help create a strong connection to your audience for your brand. Make sure the sentiments you post are authentic.

Photos with inspirational thoughts typed into the image (as memes) are a highly effective way of getting shares.

In the example below, Cisco promotes involvement with a women’s tech movement.

Cisco Relevant Post Facebook Tips

The brand-focused meme below from Burt’s Bees is both positive and shareable.

Burt's bees shareable mem

Keep it Real, and Relevant

In conclusion, it’s important that your posts provide an authentic representation of your brand and engage your audience in a way that shows you understand them and their needs. Be clear and direct, use photos and videos, include a call to action, and link back to your website when relevant. It’s the same advice you’ll hear from any good inbound marketer.

So next time you write a Facebook post, follow these 6 guidelines to be as effective as possible.

Need a better way to keep track of your social media posts?

Get a social media planning template here.

5 common website design mistakes that kill your SEO

The trifecta of powerful website design today is one that attracts the right audience, generates leads, and accurately represents your brand and tone of voice. While it’s not an easy task to create a site that successfully does all three things, it’s not impossible either.

Website Design Avoid Common SEO Mistakes

For brand managers and website designers, the key focus is often on the site design – how it looks and whether or not it presents an appropriate brand image. This may lead to a tug of war between form and function. But you must not overlook the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) in attracting the right audience and delivering leads. After all, your website isn’t just a pretty face, it needs to work for you as well.

Don’t let any of these five common design mistakes destroy your website SEO.

Common website design mistakes

1. Splash pages.

Starting a website with an intro screen and little relevant content is a sure-fire SEO killer. Creating entry pages (such as those with a huge graphic and only one link like “click here”), tell Google (and other search engines) that your page is nothing but a large advertisement. Quality websites have content on every page, including the home page. Make sure your home page showcases the best of you have to offer and includes copy that is frequently updated.

Splash page SEO Design Mistakes

2. Lack of compelling content.

Websites that put all the emphasis on design and have very little content are doomed to end up at the bottom of SERPs (search engine results pages). A successful website uses design to help showcase the important content and direct the readers to what matters. The easier it is for them to find what they are looking for, the longer they will stay on your site. (And perhaps come back again or tell others about it by “sharing” your content).

Readers “vote” for your site with their eyeballs and visit duration. The longer they stay on a page (because they are reading relevant content), the more search engines will reward your site with higher rankings. But it’s also important that your content is relevant not only to your target audience but also relevant to the keywords for which you’ve optimized your page. (You did optimize your page for keywords, right?)

Adding focused content to each page, so that each page is about a particular “topic” will help your website attain better SEO. Write your pages using the language and keywords your potential customers would use when searching for your products or services or for solutions that meet their needs.

3. Too many images, too little text.

A website that is made up primarily of images or worse Flash (no one is still doing that in 2015 right?), has very little meaty content for search engines to index. A picture may be worth a 1,000 words, but 1,000 words will do more for your website SEO.

Example Flash Page Bad SEO Design Example

Flash may be OK for Jim Carrey (he doesn’t need SEO) but if you want people to find your content, don’t create your entire site out of Flash, even if it is very creative, fun and beautiful.

Here again, what you need is a careful balance between what is appealing to your audience graphically, and content that will improve your website’s SEO. Finding the ideal balance between text and images is essential if you’re relying on website traffic to deliver leads. If you don’t care about people finding you on search engines, then by all means design that eye-popping flash site that showcases your design brilliance.

4. Slow page loading.

A poorly designed site, such as one with bad coding or too many large, heavy graphics, will load slowly. This is a kiss of death to your website SEO. Speedy page load times are essential to an optimized website.

Google has stated that page load times factor into site rankings. The assumption here is that faster loading makes happy visitors, and happy visitors are what Google is after, as well you should be.

5. Ineffective page, title and image naming.

Failing to name your images (the “alt” text that appears on image hovers), page meta titles (which appear in browser windows), and URLs with your keywords is a common mistake, but these are among the important elements for good on-page SEO.

Don’t leave the name of your pages, images and URLs up to your developer or the person entering your content. Create a focused program that addresses your website keywords and matches your page content. The titles, URLs and alt tags for each page should be unique and reflect the content of that page. What matters is relevance. Describe and name your content in a way that is meaningful to your audience. That’s not so hard right?

5 Essential Differences Between Marketing Software and a CRM

The era of marketing automation has brought new and powerful tools to the hands of sales and marketing teams. Our arsenal today includes a means to collect customer and prospect data (we never use the term “spying” *wink*), personalization of offers and even the all-important ROI analysis.

But there may be some confusion or overlap in the minds of marketers about the differences between various kinds of software tools. You may wonder, “How do I compare apples to apples? Or am I lumping in grapefruits?

Compare CRM to marketing software tools for sales funnel
CRM software and marketing software are meant for different stages
of the sales and marketing funnel.

The comparison may get even more complicated when you consider that some marketing automation tools, such as HubSpot, may seem to overlap with tools such customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In fact, HubSpot recently added a CRM directly into its marketing software system. So where do you draw the line?

What is a CRM?

First of all, it’s important to consider that definitions of these tools can be highly subjective depending on who is using them. In fact, a CRM (typically considered a sales or customer support tool) could even be considered marketing software, because the marketing team uses it.

That being said, it might make sense to create a broad definition of what each of these tools are:

  • A CRM – is a repository (database) of information for managing customer relationships
  • Marketing software (and in particular, marketing automation software) – is used to take actions toward customers and leads

To make the distinction more clear-cut, we’ve outline five essential differences between CRMs and marketing software.

Five essential differences

  1. What it’s used for: Database vs. control center.

    A CRM is a repository of customer history and information such as addresses and phone numbers, while marketing automation software is used to perform specific actions. A marketing automation tool allows you to create workflows and send emails or offers to particular customers at a particular time, based on the information they have asked (opted-in) to receive.

  2. How it’s used: Sales interactions vs. website tracking.

    A CRM is useful for tracking sales and customer support interactions with a customer by logging individual email contact and phone calls. It keeps track of all customer purchases and preferences. A marketing system, however, will track a broader set of data about prospects BEFORE they become customers, such as web pages they have viewed, social media sites they have interacted with and ads they have viewed.

  3. Who uses it: Sales vs marketing.

    Again, there can be some overlap here, but a CRM records every instance of contact with a particular customer into one aggregated dataset. (Every sales, customer service, and marketing touch can be recorded). Marketing software is a tool designed to measure and collect information about marketing campaigns: which emails generate leads and clicks, which ads pull in the most website visitors, which blog posts get the most readership and conversion on offers, which social media posts or Tweets got responses and views.

  4. When it’s used: After conversion vs before.

    A CRM primarily collects information after a lead is known and helps identify the best customers. Marketing automation software aggregates information about the customer that begins before the person has any sales contact by using website forms and online analytics to gather data.

  5. Why it’s used: Customer maintenance vs lead nurturing.

    A CRM is used to foster and maintain customer relationships while a marketing automation system is primarily used to nurture leads at the top of the funnel in order to convert them to customers. Marketing software provides personalized content to the prospect in order to CONVERT the prospect to a lead, which is why it is primarily used by the marketing department.

As we mentioned, many of the tools in both a CRM and marketing automation system can overlap. And in fact, often both Sales and Marketing departments have access to and may use both sets of tools. The difference will be the kinds of information and actions they want to get from the systems.

Marketing will be more focused on using the tool to generate leads at the top of the funnel, and Sales will be more concerned with the activities that happen to convert the leads into customers –and what happens with the customers after the sale.

Marketing systems may increasingly be useful in the later part as well, because they can manage email campaigns and content that help upsell customers, support re-engagement or get customers to share information with their own friends and contacts.

Tips and ideas for better visual storytelling

If you read my first post on Eight reasons your brand needs to use visual storytelling, you may be wondering if I have any advice about how to make visual storytelling work for you?

I do. Here are some tips and ideas for putting visual storytelling to work in B2B.

Stay on brand.

You’ll get two times the level of engagement with visuals on Facebook. But they need to be relevant and recognizable. Create a visual standard so people know it’s your image (this could mean using a certain camera angle, type of cropping, logo treatment, color filter, etc).

Use images with text overlays. (Memes).

Creating a graphic out of an elegant saying or useful bit of advice to your customers may resonate with them. Pick a saying or tip that they’ll want to share and remember. Then make it share-worthy by turning it into a graphic. (Like the example below).

c1f59557922d725e3940308f638f79df

Be consistent.

Your visuals need to tell an overall story. Make them original, but also follow a standard format for timing, style, message and objectives.

Create infographics.

Publishers who use infographs grow traffic an average of 12%. Select some interesting quotes or statistics, facts or tips to create something visual to spread your brand story further.

Infographic for Gemalto Netsize

Use Pinterest.

Pinterest drives traffic (for B2B too). For example, 25% of retail traffic from Sephora comes from Pinterest and the brand found that Pinterest followers spend 15% on their products more than Facebook followers. Pinterest is not just for consumer brands. Even medical device brands (like Thermo Fisher Scientific) have found that their product and user graphics on Pinterest have generated thousands of followers. Find the content that appeals to your audience and post it.

Add value.

Pull images and graphics from your other marketing materials such as ebooks, webinars, presentations or tradeshow posters. Give useful ideas and information away for free. It will build your brand following.

Entertain.

Don’t be afraid to show a humorous side. Even in straight-laced business areas such as life science and healthcare, content with an entertainment value is appreciated. The key here is to know your audience – well. What will they find entertaining? Never be off color or offensive, but poking fun at yourself (or your market area) can be appreciated.

Customize for every platform.

Every network is different. Don’t use the same images across all media. For example Tumblr is very .gif focused (Animation). Pinterest is great for infographics. Post video links on Facebook.

Use video effectively.

Video is a highly consumable format, and is a very underutilized tool. Video doesn’t always have to be film, but can be created as animations from stills as well. Use animation in a creative way. Tell a story using words and pictures.

Consider a video response (or parody).

Video “responses” to the viral sensation for Gangam Style grabbed attention and even brands were able to get in on the buzz. News clips or popular ads in your area can be inspiration. Consider this video response created by IKEA parodying the Apple ads.

Share your presentations.

Slideshare is a go-to network for business info and education. Be creative and to do your best to give audiences what they are looking for. The value of this channel is lead generation, because it can so effectively drive traffic to your website. Post not only sales and company presentations, but also useful “how to” and “step by step” slides.

Use cartoons.

You can boost your newsletter open rates with cartoons. Walter says that Intel’s newsletter open rates went up to 45% (from 5%) when they started using cartoons. Just ask Hugh MacLeod (Gaping Void) or Stu Heinecke. (Literally, ask them, they offer customized and syndicated cartoons).

Hugh MacLeod Gaping Void cartoons
Gaping Void by Hugh MacLeod offers customized cartoons.

 

Activate your passionate advocates.

Create a way to let them get involved, share their comments or stories. Ideas: have a Fan of week contest, let customers submit photos, or have them post their video tips and messages about using your product.

Be inspiring.

Don’t just create marketing campaigns. Build tribes. Inspire movements. Visual content inspires audiences.

Images stand out

Keep in mind, every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003, according to Eric Schmidt (as reported by TechCrunch). Visual storytelling is the way to stand out from noise.

 

Have any more ideas? Leave a comment below.

Eight reasons to your brand needs to use visual storytelling

At INBOUND14, Ekaterina Walter, an innovator who has led companies like Intel and Accenture to success with social media, discussed why visual storytelling should be an essential element to any brand story, and certainly any story that hopes to make an impact on social media.

Why? Because, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And when you have only 140 characters (such as on Twitter) to make your point, then linking to a photo is a better use of space trying to squeeze in 1,000 words.

And that’s just one reason. Here are seven more.

1. Images get shared.

Using images to help tell a story not only does it more effectively, but also with more viral impact. It’sproven.

People are much more likely to share posts with images (photos or videos) than without. And in social media, sharing is the name of the game.

Content is King- Visual Storytelling

Overall, on Facebook, for example, photos make up 87% of all shared posts, according to eMarketer.

Photos can also boost retweets by 35% (according a report by Media Blog).

social media facebook posts

2. Images catch attention.

According to KISSMetrics, photos get 53% more likes than and 84% more click-throughs than posts without images. When you’re scanning your social feeds or a web page, what do you stop to look at?

 

3. Images appeal to emotions.

Videos and images are also more likely to appeal to emotions…and as any good marketer will tell you, the key to engagement and action in marketing is getting to the emotion.

 

4. Images transcend cultures and boundaries.

You can tell a story with a single picture. Images make subtle connections that can be lost in translation. If you have a international audience, images (pictographs and drawings) can be useful and easily understood. Consider the universal sign for the men and women’s room.

Male Female universal pictograph restroom

 

5. Images make the point quickly.

A single image (or an infographic) can make a point much more quickly that a long post. On social media where attention spans are measured in fractions of a second, quick is good!

(Image Source: Charity Water)

 

6. Images get priority space.

On Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and many website home pages, images are given more physical space than similar text messages. This may seem counter-intuitive to the part about “getting the point across more quickly” but the fact is that social media sites (and other websites) allocate premium space to images. If you want to stand out in a crowded space, you need an image.

Tweets on Twitter

Tweets on Twitter images get more space

 

7. Pictures are memorable.

It’s easy to forget facts you’ve read, even when you’re interested in a topic. But visual images stay with you for a long time.

 

Not just babies and kittens

It’s important to realize that visual storytelling isn’t just about about cute pictures of kids and animals. It’s about telling B2B stories as well.

To use Intel as an example, one of the most shared images Intel ever experienced, was a post that internal marketing managers initially thought was a bad move. Turned out it wasn’t. The post was an image of a messy desk, showing an actual behind-the-scenes look at what happens at an Intel development center. The caption was “Inside Intel”. It received more views and shares that any single post they’d ever place on Twitter up until that point (according to eKaterina Walter).

More facts

Here are some other interesting facts about images (from INBOUND14):

  • Pages with images get 94% more total views than those without
  • Sharing goes up 30-40% on pages with images
  • Press releases are viewed 50 percent more often with image or video attached
  • Viewers spend 100% more time on webs pages with videos
  • Publishers using infographics grow their traffic 12%

 

Visual storytelling is the way to stand out from the noise.

 

 

Features of the new HubSpot CRM

HubSpot announced a new native CRM at INBOUND14. The new system was built from the ground-up to integrate with the HubSpot suite of inbound marketing tools and make it easier than ever for sales and marketing to guide potential customers through the sales funnel.

Using an Inbound approach to marketing means offering content that pulls people into the website based on what they want to know and when they want to know it, rather than pushing advertising messages out to them using “interruption methods.”

HubSpot CRM Overview

The HubSpot CRM takes care of all the little details – logging emails, recording calls, and managing your data – freeing up valuable selling time in the process.

HubSpot says the new CRM:

  • Is easy to use. The simplicity of HubSpot’s CRM makes it easy for people to start using it right away with very little setup or training. Your team can focus on selling instead of learning a new system.
  • Reduces extra work. HubSpot’s new CRM works in the background recording every interaction between you and your contacts so you don’t end up with a list of notes to input at the end of each day.
  • Reaches across channels. HubSpot CRM automatically tracks and records your customer interactions across dozens of touch points ranging from your website to social media to phone calls.

 

HubSpot CRM capture notes
HubSpot CRM captures notes.

HubSpot CRM Features

The features of the news system include:

Database – Collect and store data on contacts, companies, deals, and tasks with a reliable, easy to use database that is built to scale with your data. It automatically creates company records, links up existing contacts, de-duplicates leads, and manages many other details to provide quality data.

Timeline – The timeline shows you all the touch points with your customer, including every email, call, note and website visit. It gives you a complete overview on one simple screen.

Email – You can send emails right from any contact record. The HubSpot CRM also connects to Gmail, Outlook, and Apple Mail, logging emails with your contacts easily and automatically.

Phone Integration (additional cost) – You can make calls with one click from the CRM system. Easily and automatically log notes and recordings of your calls. (Recording optional.)

Google Calendar Integration – You can connect your Google Calendar to HubSpot CRM to view scheduled meetings and create new meetings in seconds without ever leaving your CRM.

Data Enrichment – HubSpot automatically adds valuable information, such as company background, key employees and social data, to your contact records.