Top 5 Marketing Automation Tools 2017

Marketing automation platforms are designed to manage and automate repetitive tasks for marketing professionals and organisations. As a hospitality business owner or marketing employee, we know that correctly structured marketing plans require forethought and a long term strategy. Much of this can be planned, scheduled and actioned using a marketing automation software tool.

Common capabilities include management of social media and scheduled posts, email marketing, digital adverts, lead generation tools and insightful analytical reporting systems.

Below are five of LeadDigital’s preferred marketing automation software platforms in 2017:

Pardot by Salesforce | Pardot.com

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Pardot is the popular B2B marketing platform brought to us from the huge CRM provider Salesforce. Pardot focuses on the lead generation side of marketing automation, and is structured towards creating more meaningful conversations with existing and new clients. Going beyond features, if you’re a Salesforce CRM user, this platform is ideal given its air-tight integration with the CRM.

Pro: All the features you could need. Tight integration with Salesforce.

Con: Doesn’t play well with others, few additional integrations. At the higher price end for a marketing automation platform (standard £800/mo).

ActiveCampaign | Activecampaign.com

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ActiveCampaign are a much more affordable marketing automation provider, perfect for small hotels or events venues. They may be less known than some other platforms, but it’s very hard to critique AC. They have a huge feature collection including the ability to create automated workflows and the various integration possibilities.

Pro: Cost effective, from around £15/mo for their basic package. Lots of features and a strong focus on email marketing.

Con: Some areas of the tool feel outdated, such as the email builder, when compared to alternatives available.

Act-On | Act-on.com

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Act-on believe their niche comes in the form of “outstanding experiences for customers“. Much of their marketing automation capabilities are around lead nurturing, and their support for clients is very highly rated. We would like to see some improvements to their reporting features, but otherwise this is a strong, easy to use contender.

Pro: Flexible platform, built for marketing teams not developers/engineers.

Con: Reporting is somewhat limited, some tools can be quite basic.

Marketo | uk.Marketo.com

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If you’re somewhere between the small hotel and enterprise-sized corporate events company, then Marketo could be the right tool for you. It’s not for the faint hearted, but is very intuitive and offers solutions that go much deeper than many of its competitors. We particularly like how current they are, regularly developing new services to match the digital landscape.

Pro: An industry leader, huge range of solutions, always updating services.

Con: In the higher price bracket, considered to have limited reporting & analytics abilities.

HubSpot | Hubspot.com/Marketing

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HubSpot is very features rich. It’s a platform that can do basically everything, and in our opinion, does it all to an incredibly high standard. Although they do offer HubSpot Marketing as a separate platform, when combined with their CRM and Sales tools this software becomes an all-in-one tool for complete business management.

Pro: Easy to use, designed for small businesses, lots of support and educational learning facilities available. Always trying to help clients get the most from the platform.

Con: Expensive compared to alternatives. Some features only available at additional costs, and often there are lower cost software options that provide the same functionality.

Conclusion

Whilst we only name five platforms here, there are various other tools available online today which can serve the same or similar marketing automation tasks. The important thing to consider is what your hospitality business actually needs, what you will actually use, and choosing a platform that fits.

At LeadDigital we have experience working with a wide range of marketing automation software tools for various clients, so understand the best ways to get more from the software.

 

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Inbound or Outbound – Which Marketing Strategy is Best?

The way we market hospitality brands, services and products has changed considerably in the last decade. This has been driven by a change in consumer behaviour, due to the development of internet technologies and how people use them. According to a report on the European Commission website, 87% of internet users in Britain made an online purchase in 2016 and these figures are growing year on year.

With the ever developing digital consumer, we look at whether hospitality companies should be transitioning from an Outbound to an Inbound Marketing strategy.

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Outbound Marketing

Commonly referred to as interruptive marketing, the outbound methodology is focused on actively seeking potential customers. The practice involves pushing a message out far and wide to broad audiences, grabbing the attention of anyone willing or forced to look.

Traditional advertising methods such as billboards, cold-calling, TV and radio ads are identified as Outbound. However, these are becoming less effective and less affordable, with mainly just large corporations paying for the diminishing results as part of a larger ‘top-of-mind’ brand awareness campaign. More affordable, modern, versions of outbound marketing exist, such as internet banner ads, pop-ups and cold-emailing. But, as with traditional advertising, these methods come at a price and they are also becoming less effective.

Technology is not only enabling these marketing methods, but it is also empowering the consumer to block and avoid these interruptive practices. Just as consumers are able to fast-forward adverts on recorded/on-demand TV, they are also using ‘ad blockers’ while browsing the internet. Consumers don’t want to be told what to buy or when to buy it. Instead, they want to research themselves (at a time that suits them) and make informed buying decisions. In-steps Inbound Marketing.

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Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing challenges traditional Outbound marketing techniques, by not fighting for the customers attention. Inbound is defined, by its originators Hubspot, as “an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful”. The focus is on being found by your potential customer, not seeking them out to sell them a dinner for two at your restaurant or tickets to your event.

Inbound traditionally uses social publishing and SEO techniques to promote content, making it visible to the consumer when they are looking for it. This requires skills and resources to create, but unlike outbound, this is the end of your costs. Once you have created, optimised and published your content it continues working for you.

A contentious form of promotion in the world of inbound, is Pay-Per-Click advertising. At LeadDigital, we believe using AdWords to promote your content to the right people, at the right time, forms part of the inbound strategy. Promoting your content at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages enhances the visibility of the content and ensures you are seen above your competitors.

With Inbound, the onus is put on the content to engage your potential customer and answer any questions they may have when making their buying decision. This shouldn’t be a problem, because who knows your potential customers better than you do? You can create Buyer Personas to help you focus content around your potential customer. These personas describe your ideal customer and detail their typical challenges and interests, which you can use to engage the reader.

What content should you be looking to create? Here are some content examples that are applicable to hospitality businesses;

Blog Posts

Market your brand in new and interesting ways. Share the latest developments and provide a relatable character to your business.

FAQs

Answer questions that potential customers may have and point them in the direction of further relevant information and how to purchase your product.

Reviews

Develop trust and turn your existing customers into promoters.

Menus

Potential customers will want to see the options before booking a table at your restaurant or bar.

Checklists

For all they need to make the most of their visit.

Guides

To the surrounding area of your venue or of the different room options at your resort.

Images and Videos

Visual representations showing your products and services.

Infographics

Show the history of your business through an infographic.

Conclusion

In years gone by, print, TV and attention-grabbing online advertising were the cutting-edge and most effective way businesses could influence potential customers. But, with the development of technology, consumer behaviour has changed and the Outbound method of actively searching for potential buyers is becoming ineffective and inefficient. Why try to buy your way in front of consumers, when they aren’t paying attention?

Today, a large proportion of consumers are purchasing through internet connected technologies. They are also using the internet to make informed buying decisions, researching articles online and seeking reviews from their peers before making purchases. Inbound Marketing is the answer to the evolving consumer behaviours and your answer to attracting new bookings and sales for your hospitality business. Better still, it’s cheaper than outbound marketing and is based on tapping into knowledge resources that likely already exists within your company.

 

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What Is Inbound Marketing?

Over the past 5 years the term “Inbound Marketing” has been rapidly growing in popularity.

The term Inbound Marketing is credited to being first coined by Hubspot’s co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan, during the company’s inception back in 2006. Hubspot are the developers of one of the leading content marketing platforms for business of all sizes – a platform we at LeadDigital are committed to using ourselves and one we know to be beneficial to hospitality businesses such as event venues, bars, restaurants and hotels.

Inbound marketing describes the marketing strategy of attracting customers through digital content and interactions to your website. However, you may be more familiar associating this description with the term content marketing. You aren’t wrong! Content marketing is the process of attracting prospects to your website through a variety of content formats, like video, case studies, infographics, etc. However, inbound goes beyond this.

Arguably, content marketing has been incorporated as a part, or subset, of inbound. Content marketing only covers the initial stage of attracting potential customers within the inbound methodology as you can see from the graphic below.

Inbound-Methodology

Inbound Methodology

The above graphic represents Hubspot’s Inbound Methodology. It is made up of four actions, along the top (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight), which companies must take in order to obtain visitors, leads, customers and promoters. Along the bottom are the tools companies use to accomplish these actions. It is important to note these tools are listed under the action where they first come into play. Tools, like email, can play a big role in several stages of the inbound methodology.

The overall practice focuses on turning strangers into customers and customers into evangelists of your brand. Here is a quick summary of each stage of the inbound methodology, with reference to the above graphic;

Attract

Potential customers discover your hospitality brand through content such as blogs, videos and reviews via social media publishing and search engines. This content needs to aim at providing helpful information and answer questions. These are questions you know your potential customers will have when researching and booking a hotel, event venue, or table at your restaurant, for example.

This stage of the practice relies on a strong understanding of search engine optimisation and content creation skills. It also requires a good understanding of your customer base and an ability to pick out characteristics of your ideal customers. See more on how inbound can help your hospitality business increase sales.

Convert

Having successfully attracted potential customers to your site, this is where you make your website work for you. Using a combination of Call To Action buttons, Landing Pages and Forms, you capture the details of your potential customers, turning them into enquiries (leads).

Close

This is where having a good CRM (customer relationship management) system, that keeps a record of all customer interactions, really supports you in turning an enquiry into a customer. Email also plays an important role at this stage as a form of drip marketing, which nurtures your prospective guests and encourages them into becoming customers. An email marketing platform, like Hubspot’s or MailChimp, can automate much of this process while providing a customised experience (see point 5 in Why Your Hospitality Email Marketing isn’t Working!).

Delight

Continually using your CRM system to manage communications with existing customers. You can utilise email and initiate social monitoring to connect with your customer, provide excellent service and keep your brand top-of-mind. It is during this stage where delighting your customer also turns them into an evangelist of your hospitality brand.

Conclusion

Inbound begins with the principles of content marketing and utilises other tools and disciplines, which you may already be familiar with, to generate qualified leads, increase sales and convert customers into promoters.

We at LeadDigital work with hospitality businesses to establish and manage inbound marketing strategies, which deliver high quality enquiries and increase bookings.

If you’d like to attract more guests to your website and increase the volume of repeat business, then click below!

 

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5 Capabilities Your Next Hospitality Marketing Agency Must Possess

Marketing technology (Martech) is constantly evolving and the capabilities of Marketing Agencies must evolve as well if they are wanting to stay at the forefront of their industry. They need to be offering their clients the latest marketing services and executing successful and measurable digital marketing strategies in 2017 and beyond.

Does your marketing agency tick all the boxes when it comes to growing your hospitality business?

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Hospitality Marketing Agency Checklist – Data Analysis, Web Design, Marketing Automation, Content Marketing, SEO and SEM

Below are the top 5 marketing expertise, we believe, any hospitality marketing agency must possess to deliver successful marketing campaigns for their clients.

1. Data Analysis

Arguably the most important aspect of any marketing effort in 2017 and beyond is data analysis.

“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed” Dan Zarrella

Data is everywhere and in everything we do! By now, you should be aware of data and how it can be captured in every digital interaction we make. With the ever growing importance and abundance of customer data (which is only going to increase further with the development of the Internet of Things), every marketing agency must have the capability, knowledge and passion to measure, analyse and interpret data.

Data enables you to;

  • Create more effective and targeted marketing campaigns
  • Create comprehensive customer personas
  • Improve marketing personalisation
  • Reduce bounce rates
  • Improve customer experience
  • Attract more and higher qualified leads
  • Increase customer retention

Ultimately, data is the driving force to increased revenues.

If your marketing agency doesn’t analyse data, how can they decipher what marketing initiatives are working for your resort, restaurant or events venue? If they don’t know what’s working, how can they develop strategies that achieve your marketing goals?

2. Web Design

While “web design” includes the aesthetic design of your website, there is a lot more to it than this. There are too many websites that look visually stunning, but don’t actually work.

Websites MUST work on a technical level, aligning to your business goals and supporting you in achieving them. Website design must include all the backend processes that enable your site to track and generate leads before converting them to customers. This includes but not limited to; data tracking, landing pages, forms, CTAs, and integrating payment processing and booking systems.

Without this capability, your web presence is just for show and is not working for you. If your website isn’t working for you, it’s working against you, generating more demand on resources and if not optimised properly, wasting your resources. A good hospitality marketing agency knows how to deliver your visuals and make them work for you, converting visitors into customers.

3. Marketing Automation Tool Mastery

The marketing platform landscape is vast. Social media alone presents at least 5 major platforms for the Hospitality Industry (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Pinterest) for posting and sharing content.

With the growing network of communication platforms, for various types of content, marketing automation tools such as Hubspot, Mailchimp, Buffer, Salesforce Pardot and Marketo have become a necessity. However, it is important you have an expert in these automation tools, that can guide you on best-practices and efficiency.

Automated emails, social media and content marketing campaigns deliver more and better qualified leads, culminating in more sales. Marketing automation tools allow for more marketing efforts to be achieved in less time, generating better ROI, let alone the opportunity for greater personalisation.

To get the best out of these tools, you need a marketing agency that has tried and tested the tools, learnt how to get the most out of them and only works with the best. They can either manage your in-house marketing team efforts or manage your automated marketing efforts for you.

4. Content Marketing

Content Marketing has evolved in the last decade, largely due to the development of data enabling it to be measurable, and become the foundation to any marketing strategy.

Nobody likes receiving unsolicited emails or advertising pop-ups that fight for your attention over what you’re actually looking for. These are the intrusive tactics of Outbound Marketing. Content Marketing on the other hand, is the foundation of the non-intrusive, Inbound Marketing methodology, first coined by Hubspot.

Inbound Marketing is the practice of creating content that is informative and useful for your target audience – Content that directly answers the questions you know your potential customers will be typing into search engines. By addressing their questions you will attract your potential customers (earlier in the buyer’s journey) directly to your website. It is from here that you use your landing pages as tools for converting visitors into customers.

For example, say you run a Hotel in London. Creating a piece of content on the ‘Top 10 Things to do in London’ answers questions your potential customers are researching before booking their trip. Clicking through to this content will subject them to your brand and you can use this opportunity to convert them from a stranger into a lead – Link them to why your hotel is the perfect choice for a trip to London or place a CTA (Call-To-Action) to the latest offers that are available.

Content has become one of the strongest methods for lead generation. Working with a marketing agency that understands Content Marketing and the Inbound methodology is incredibly important for the success of your marketing strategies moving forward.

5. SEO & SEM

Last but by no means least, Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing. To get your website, content and services in front of your existing and potential customers you need to get them ranking highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Search engines are constantly developing and becoming smarter with their algorithms frequently being updated. It requires an expert with their fingers on the pulse of Google and it’s competitors to keep you appearing at the top of the results pages.

A lot of businesses try to take this in-house, unaware of the skills, knowledge and resources it takes to be successful in this area. It is important to work with a marketing agency that lives and breathes SEO and SEM, advising and optimising your keyword strategies, to ensure you consistently rank highly.

Achieving higher rankings for your website content generates more traffic, which coupled with your content marketing strategy develops better qualified leads and more sales.

Summary

Proficiency in data analysis, marketing automation tools, website development, content marketing and SEO & SEM are the top requisites for your marketing success in 2017 and beyond.

Marketing agencies that boast these services are going to be the ones with the most successful marketing strategies for your hospitality venue. Be sure to review your current marketing agency and check that they offer you all of the above, or risk being surpassed by your competitors in partnerships with those that do.

 

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