Modern companies are getting many different types of results out of marketing software packages that work in various ways to help enhance marketing processes. There is a very diverse spectrum of software products for this field, and even more on the way. A recent press release by Reportlinker projects that the marketing automation industry will grow over 9% CAGR from 2017-2025.
Here’s a guide to some of the most common and fundamental types of marketing software that today’s businesses are using to compete in a digital and connected world.
E-mail marketing tools help to improve and automate the process of sending e-mails to target audiences. They work in many different ways to streamline the use of e-mail as a marketing medium, and build specific campaigns that target individuals and particular groups of people.
E-mail marketing software can help with different kinds of e-mail initiatives. Some software products use existing mailing lists and categorize e-mail messages to be sent out to persons on those lists. Others send out newsletters, issue surveys to target audiences, or send invitation e-mails to some set of customers or prospective customers for some particular reason. Coupons can be a part of e-mail marketing — so can other kinds of special offers.
Other e-mail campaigns are transactional — think of the single-click payment technologies built into some e-mail messages. These make it easier to boost conversion rates for a business. Other e-mail marketing tools are known as ‘lead nurturing’ tools — they move people along on a path toward conversion.
Some of the best types of e-mail software supporting marketing campaigns work on the basis of assigning recipients to a particular level response level, and messaging appropriately.
For example, a software product may split e-mail recipients into certain classes, for example: cold or uninvolved in a business relationship, prepped by a visit to a landing page or other resource, interested as demonstrated through an indication online, ready to purchase, or existing customers with a history of purchases from the business. Then custom e-mail campaigns can message to each class of recipient, making these e-mail efforts ultimately more effective.
Sophisticated e-mail software can also use autoresponders and other tools like mailing list handlers to take some of the human labor out of the e-mail marketing process. These tools can be integrated with Customer Relationship Management tools such as Salesforce for even more streamlining and automation. They can offer key analytics for business leaders as well. The integration of these types of resources into a greater business environment helps managers to do more with e-mail marketing.
Businesses have to look at cost and value for e-mail marketing tools. Many new software products offered through a cloud or Software as a Service (SaaS) model may have easy subscription pricing and flexible licensing in place to attract client businesses.
Another major value and focus of marketing software is oriented toward social media.
Social media marketing software can help with all sorts of social media platforms, for instance, professionally oriented platforms like LinkedIn, casual user platforms like Pinterest, or a short form or specialized platform like Twitter, Instagram or FourSquare.
However, any social media marketing software product has to focus on the biggest and most predominant social media platform — Facebook. The lion’s share of social media efforts for most businesses are focused on the Facebook platform, where social media marketing has evolved past the posting of content and subsequent interactions with other users. As early as 2015, TechCrunch reported Facebook ownership of 77 percent of all social media logins, and how the company had started to outflank Google. There’s also the reality that Facebook is much more marketing-friendly and easy to message to customers on than many of the other top platforms.
As Facebook became such a major attention-getter for the average consumer, as smart phones brought Facebook ubiquity to larger and larger audiences, the platform itself began to offer much more sophisticated tools, not just for transactional purposes, but for the gathering of business intelligence and the use of this information toward marketing goals. That entwined marketers even more with the Facebook platform, to the extent that many forward-thinking companies stopped exploring other various digital marketing paths and put more spend into Facebook-related efforts.
You can see this type of idea borne out in features like Facebook Pixel, a type of beacon or tracker existing on the platform to track user behavior as it relates to business. Marketing software vendors have not been slow to recognize the opportunities and benefits here, and have built a lot of analytical and automation content into their products to help businesses do more with Facebook.
Search Engine Optimization
Another marketing aspect supported by marketing software tools is search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization or SEO is essentially about increasing visibility for the business by conforming to changing algorithms on Google and other search engines.
In the past few years, SEO has undergone an enormous shift in a major transformation away from the use of keywords in text and metadata, and toward other more sophisticated models. With that in mind, some marketers or executives who understand the prior world of SEO, the world of inserting keywords strategically in text, may not really understand the role of search engine optimization software.
Search engine optimization software may indeed help with the keyword strategies that remain relevant to Google. However, it will typically lead businesses further toward phenomena such as backlinking, the handling of business intelligence through reports and analysis, and again, the linking of web projects to other channels, such as social media. Today’s search engine optimization software companies bill themselves as analytical giants, skilled at handling the types of information that are vital for getting the best out of a particular web footprint.
Many of these tools also advertise themselves toward companies that are managing larger web projects. Where a company or business may have upwards of 10 or 20 domains, or a larger web infrastructure, the use of search engine optimization tools to keep content is much more important.
Specific marketing automation software sets use many of the above channels, providing less labor-intensive or more automated results to marketers.
Different marketing automation packages use different channels — such as e-mail, social media, web-form-based interactions, etc. Some of them handle extras, like managing customer feedback and reviews online.
Doing critical demographic work and providing analytics results, marketing automation software packages might provide features like dynamic segmentation, or help with landing page design or customer experiences online.
Many of the features that vendors use to sell these marketing automation packages are geared toward the human marketers who will be using them. Some vendors tout items like a drag-and-drop interface or a visual dashboard that will help make marketing automation efforts more transparent.
Another role of marketing automation products may be to combine some of the above channels — for example, to merge e-mail management with social media marketing efforts. Here, marketers may also apply other specific marketing automation tools to items like the shopping cart experience — either to make the web response for customers more sophisticated, or to gather more new types of information about customers to use for the purposes of future marketing campaigns.
Another feature of marketing automation software contemplates the use of the above channels to send and receive information, according to whether particular users will want to interact with the business or not.
Sometimes colloquially known as “subscribe/unsubscribe” features, this type of software product looks at how to manage large numbers of responding users, to keep track of whether or not they should receive messages in the future.
Different types of in-message transactions can also be built into these tools, for instance, where SMS messaging can allow a smart phone holder to buy a digital game or send money to Haiti relief efforts. However, at the core of many of these systems is an elaborate setup to either subscribe or unsubscribe a person to or from the digital mailing lists, and all that that entails. Customers need accessible tools to deny a transaction or unsubscribe and stop being bothered by texts, e-mails or messages from other channels. In a sense, many of these features are customer service tools, although they can also be vital for industry compliance purposes.
Another key segment of marketing software addresses the need for responsive design and mobile-first engineering.
The share of e-commerce going on over smart phones has skyrocketed within the last few years. As a result, companies are renovating their IT systems to focus more and more on mobile technology. One of the first priorities is to make existing websites responsive to mobile devices. However, beyond that, there is the need to move transactional tools onto a mobile platform, to enable single-click or other easy purchasing processes over a mobile device screen, and to learn more about customers who are using mobile devices frequently or almost exclusively.
Mobile management has become a significant priority of marketing software, and one that links into all of the other segments, making things like e-mail and social media programs mobile-friendly, and enhancing what companies can do through a cellular or wireless connection to a mobile device.
Pay Per Click Management
Along with search engine optimization tools or those that focus on organic traffic, marketing software vendors also offer modern tools for Pay Per Click or PPC management.
Paid search is still a significant part of the pie, and these vendor products reflect that reality.
Pay Per Click management tools may analyze both AdWords and organic search results, using keyword metrics to analyze strategy, and monitor the businesses interactions on global search platforms.
These tools can work on the basis of a PPC budget, or utilize keyword editing processes to streamline results. Tools can look at bid management, and some proprietary search engine tools can also show businesses how they’re getting ROI from a particular PPC marketing campaign.
Marketing Resource Management
This additional category of marketing software could perhaps best be described as having an “auditing role” or forming an “introspective” part of the marketing software architecture.
While the other types of marketing software do particular things for the purposes of a marketing campaign, MRM tools focus on looking at whether those activities provide the right results, whether marketing campaigns are calibrated well, and how they serve a client business that has invested good money in automation and next-generation marketing tools. Besides just ROI and cost, these tools might also reveal key things about a company’s org structure, how departments work together, or other types of useful business intelligence.
Integrated into ERP
Many of these marketing software tools have to fit into a comprehensive IT architecture. Through APIs and other tools, professionals can cobble together an overarching enterprise model made of many standalone parts.
Other major aspects of the ERP “umbrella” may include things like customer relationship management tools, product development and process tools, inventory management tools and supply chain handling tools. Companies will typically blend a focus on core products and services with a focus on target audiences, as well as the full range of marketing technologies.
That means companies need to know about how marketing software vendors work. How will data flow from one part of the architecture to another? Will vendors play fair with data in their own systems, and support their products well, or will clients end up in vendor lock-in or with their data in some way held hostage? Are the vendors transparent on fees, and what’s in a service level agreement to confirm the scope of the project as well as what sorts of operations will be supported, and how consistently?
All of these are additional key points for evaluating marketing software, no matter what its utility or what categories of marketing it promises to support. Business buyers need to look carefully at how vendor relationships will work, how troubleshooting and support will happen, and how different marketing software tools will play key roles within a greater ERP context.
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