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Con: Some areas of the tool feel outdated, such as the email builder, when compared to alternatives available.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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Top 5 CRM Systems of 2017

Starting to use a CRM system for your hotel, bar, restaurant or venue, could be a decision that completely changes your business. A CRM system when correctly implemented, can help with business transparencyefficiencyorganisation, custom retention and importantly, it can help you to close more sales.

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Needless to say there are many CRM systems in the marketplace today, so in this blog post I’m going to give an overview of LeadDigital’s Top 5 recommended CRM systems of 2017.

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Salesforce

The World’s #1 CRM”

Founded in 1999 by Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff and Frank Dominguez, Salesforce is now the most used CRM Worldwide.

With around 4 million users and over 10,000 employees globally, Salesforce has the infrastructure to support hospitality businesses of any size. Salesforce is constantly being improved, with around $150m research & development budget per year. See our recent ‘Is SalesForce Right For You?’ article for more information.

Pros: Salesforce will support any company size. Their ‘AppExchange’ marketplace boasts thousands of add-on applications which cover a variety of different niches; everything from Event Management to Booking Engines and Surveys.

Cons: The basic versions can be very restrictive if you wish to do any customisation, such as to workflows or custom coding.

Cost: All versions are billed annually, per user. SalesforceIQ (small business CRM solution) starts at £20/user/month for the starter package, up to £240/user/month for unlimited with all features.

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HubSpot CRM

“Grow and manage your pipeline for free”

HubSpot’s CRM solution is relatively new when compared to Salesforce, as the latest addition to HubSpot’s existing collection of inbound marketing services, which they’ve been developing since 2006!

By adding a CRM to the existing tools that HubSpot offers, users can capture the whole lifecycle of a lead, from the inbound marketing source, through into the CRM. Users can then track all results gathered, entirely within one system.

Pros: Free for up to 1 million contacts. Able to track the whole lifecycle of a lead from capture to completion, when using other HubSpot products, such as HubSpot Marketing.

Cons: Very limited when compared to a complete CRM, such as Salesforce or Zoho. Small list of third party applications, when compared to other platforms.

Cost: Free – however, you will need other modules such as HubSpot Marketing & Sales, which are at an additional cost.

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Zoho CRM

“Get ready to sell Smarter, Better, Faster.”

Zoho CRM was one of the first products in the ‘Zoho Suite’, introduced in 2005. Since then Zoho has grown in size, with 25 million [1] users across its whole product range in 2017.

Zoho have recently introduced AI into their CRM, in the form of ‘Zia’. The AI is able to learn how each person uses the CRM, and can master data intelligence to interpret how your business works, analyse what you’re trying to achieve and predict unexpected incidents before they even happen!

Pros: Long list of integrations and excellent customer support. Very competitive pricing for an enterprise CRM, highly customisable Cloud-based platform.

Cons: Zoho CRM can be very complex to customise and the user interface is not quite as intuitive as other platforms.

Cost: When billed annually, the standard package is $10/user/month, Professional $20/user/month, Enterprise, $35/user/month and Ultimate is $100/user/month.

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Microsoft Dynamics

“Drive your digital transformation with Dynamics 365”

Microsoft Dynamics is part of the Microsoft Business Solutions platform, which covers ERP and CRM. Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be run on-premise or online, via Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Microsoft Dynamics focusses on the industries of retail, service, manufacturing, financial services, and the public sector, but it can be adapted to work in any industry including hospitality, and for any size of company.

Microsoft Dynamics is a modular system, which means it’s possible to only use the modules required, which can make it very cost effective.

Pros: Microsoft Dynamics has the potential to be the only system you need, as it can be configured to cover CRM and ERP. Very configurable, with lots of integrations available. A ‘light’ version is offered for smaller teams.

Cons: The pricing structure is quite complicated, with lots of options on modules.

Cost: The most popular plan, is £86.70/user/month. Light edition starts at £7.50/user/month.

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Pipedrive

“Pipedrive gets your sales organised”

Pipedrive was founded in 2010 and has around 240 employees Worldwide. As of 2017, Pipedrive has around 50,000 customers [2] all around the world, with a focus on small to medium size businesses.

Pipedrive was built by sales people, for sales people, and aims to simplify the sales process and provide an intuitive user interface to do so.

Pros: Pipedrives ‘Pipeline’ view is perfect to see all the current opportunity deals and their progress. The intuitive user interface is great and simple to use.

Cons: As Pipedrive is aimed at small companies, it can be overly simple. The list of integrations is short compared to other platforms.

Cost: Pipedrive offer annual and monthly costs. When billed annually, the Silver package is $10/user/month, Gold $21/user/month and Platinum, $63/user/month.

In Summary

There is a huge range of CRM systems to choose from in 2017 and this list only scratches the surface, with other services like ‘Insightly’, ‘Nutshell’, ‘Freshsales’, ‘Freshdesk’ etc… equally deserving of mention.

So how do you choose? Think about these questions; what problems can a CRM system solve and what issues can it improve?

The right software is vital, but so is installing it for the right reasons. Moving to a CRM system will take time, so thought needs to be put into the process.

At this point you should talk to us at LeadDigital. We have over 20 years experience in Martech and have successfully implemented CRM systems for various UK hospitality businesses, which have proved vital and in turn have increased revenues!

 

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References

[1] https://www.zoho.com/aboutus.html
[2] https://blog.pipedrive.com/2017/03/50000-customers-taught-us-sales/

Is Salesforce Right For You?

Introducing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution into your hospitality business is a massive decision. If implemented correctly, it can create huge efficiencies within your hotel, restaurant, bar or event venue business. Not only from an employee perspective, but for the entire business. So, why choose Salesforce as your CRM provider?

Salesforce-Hospitality-CRM

Why Salesforce?

A Brief History of Salesforce

Salesforce were founded in 1999 and went public in 2004. They currently have over 4 million users and revenue last year was over $8billion. Salesforce is the most used CRM, worldwide.

Salesforce have been around for 18 years and in that time have built a reputation as the leading CRM system worldwide, catering for many restaurants, bars, event venues and hotels in that time. They have invested billions into the Salesforce brand, which allows them to push the boundaries of what a CRM can do. Their annual R&D budget is currently in excess of $150M.

Salesforce currently have over 10,000 employees worldwide. The Salesforce Success Community has 2.5 million members, who are part of an online portal where you can collaborate with partners, developers, product specialists and other customers.

The Salesforce family is growing on a daily basis.

The Infrastructure

Salesforce owns the servers that are used to power the CRM software. This means that they have control over a huge number of aspects involved with running a multi-billion dollar software package and why it is always Lightning fast.

Whether you are in New York, Japan or London, your Salesforce installation will be powered by servers closest to your location, delivering a truly global solution.

Utilising cloud infrastructure removes the need for onsite servers and administration, along with complex security implications associated with the running of virtual private networks (VPN).

The Ecosystem

The third party Salesforce ecosystem is powered by the AppExchange. It’s true that Salesforce can’t accommodate every single niche market perfectly, but you can bet that there is a Salesforce Partner who can.

Salesforce AppExchange makes it possible to find extensions to many aspects of Salesforce, from modifying the calendar to integrating with Mailchimp. Many major software companies have built integrations for Salesforce, which really shows off the power and flexibility of the ecosystem.

The open architecture of the Salesforce platform has allowed Salesforce Partners to create software that acts as a “connector”. This allows Salesforce to communicate with hundreds of other software platforms, from accounts packages and booking systems to email. A recommended solution is Workato (https://www.workato.com/). This allows for hundreds of software solutions to effectively talk to each other, not just Salesforce.

It’s perhaps this ecosystem of partners that provides salesforce with its main competitive advantage. Similar to what Apple has been able to do with the App Store, Salesforce has been able to capture the largest share of the CRM market by enabling it’s software to talk to the widest number of external systems. This not only increases the capability of the software, it future proofs your overall business systems by allowing for replacement or upgrade of various elements over time. E.g changing or upgrading your booking systems, accounting software, email marketing, ecommerce systems, etc etc.

The Mobility

Salesforce realised the growth in the mobile market, so developed their own mobile application, called Salesforce1, available on iOS and Android. It allows you to have the benefit of Salesforce, but on the go.

Salesforce1 is built using the Lightning platform, which was developed inhouse by Salesforce, using their own proprietary code. It has over 11,000 reviews on the Google Play App Store, with an average rating of 4/5. The Apple App Store has over 3,000 reviews, with an average 4.3/5.

This shows how Salesforce innovates and can use its dominant position in the market to be able to develop the core platform as well as the mobile variant simultaneously!

The Innovation

Salesforce is a premium CRM system. That premium enables extensive development of the software at no additional cost to your business. As a Salesforce client, you will receive three major updates a year, which includes a host of upgrades and improvements, new features and integration possibilities.

Salesforce were the first company to offer an iPhone CRM app, called Salesforce Touch, back in 2013. They also pioneered App marketplaces, with the AppExchange in 2005, in comparison, Apple’s App Store didn’t surface until 2008.

The speed of change within the digital landscape coupled with the central role your CRM system plays in all business operations means that stability and investment from your chosen vendor is secure. No other CRM system has invested or continues to invest at the scale in which Salesforce continues to do.

The Scalability

One of the great aspects of Salesforce for hospitality is that it’s suitable for businesses of all sizes. Not only will it support small hotels, bars, restaurants and venues, its already supporting complex hospitality businesses, such as Caesars Palace, Quintessentially and Opentable.

This provides great comfort, in the fact that, it is possible to grow Salesforce with your hospitality company and provide Lightning speed, no matter how many users or customer accounts you control.

With the Salesforce API (Application Programming Interface), there are hundreds of possible integrations, so no matter if you move to another accounting system or change your ecommerce systems, there will be a solution to integrate Salesforce within that ecosystem.

The Affordability

Salesforce can start as low as £20/month per user, which is perfect for small hospitality businesses and start-ups. You get access to many of the features mentioned here including the huge community and resources that Salesforce provide and three free upgrades a year.

If more users are required or you have a more complicated booking and sales process, Lighting Professional and Lighting Enterprise allow for more bespoke customisation and open up more features of the Salesforce platform. Prices for the upgrades range from £65 to £120 per user, per month.

The Support

Ongoing support with a system as critical as CRM is an important consideration. As more and more systems become integrated together, so the overall solution increases in complexity.

Although other CRM systems exist with similar core Salesforce integrations, no other solution offers the range of vendors to provide ongoing support and development.

Salesforce as a system is constantly growing and evolving, with new features added every year. Because of this, the solution will need ongoing support and development, so Salesforce have many Salesforce Partners, who can support and maintain any implementation at an additional cost.

To put the scale of their partner network into perspective, Salesforce host a yearly event, called Dreamforce. Dreamforce ’16 was attended by over 171,000 people, from 83 countries. Over 15 million people participated online, and for the first time, 125 viewing parties were hosted, globally.

Conclusion

The Salesforce platform will allow you to grow every part of your hospitality company within an integrated suite of business applications. Monitor and manage everything from bookings and sales leads to customer support, and from digital marketing to website analytics — all from any desktop or device.

 

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CRM and the Hospitality Industry

What is CRM?

CRM, Customer Relationship Management.

It’s not a new concept, especially not for the Hospitality Industry. It is exactly what it says on the tin. It is all about building relationships with your customers, from their first interaction with your brand right through to customer service and beyond.

Hotel Lobby Guest Check-In and CRM Database

The practice existed long before the development of the computer. But, computers, the world wide web and all the applications these technology developments brought with them, have changed the way we manage and utilise these relationships. With it, came the birth of the acronym CRM and the systems it represents.

The days of guest books in hotel lobby’s, large filing cabinets and spreadsheets filled out by hand with all your enquiry and customer information are long gone, and only a small percentage of you will recall those days. But, the practice still remains the same. Today, rather than a guest book, the smart money would be investing in a tablet kiosk (or similar), which is connected to a CRM system that stores the data entered by guests to their customer profile. This is the bread and butter of a CRM system; storing collected customer data and providing easily referenceable metrics. They support your marketing and sales teams through every step of your customer’s journey and ultimately enable you to increase sales and customer retention.

The goal of implementing a CRM is to create a system that your sales and marketing teams can use and automatically supports them, to more efficiently and effectively interact with existing and potential customers or clients.

SIZE doesn’t matter

CRM systems are not just useful to large hospitality companies, they are essential to Hotels, Restaurants and Event companies of all sizes. Christopher Ratcliff provides a perfect analogy that is equally poignant as it is long in his article on Econsultancy.com, under the sub-heading CRM explained.

The argument being, if you only have a handful of customers, you may feel a spreadsheet and some simple rules between colleagues can get you by. But, what if (god forbid) your business hits its targets and you double or quadruple your customer base, let alone the additional prospects and visitors to your website… this could get a bit messy and end up costing you resources and time.

CRM systems aren’t closed off personal accounts, they track every interaction visitors, prospects and customers have with your company and make the information available to your entire team. So if Katherine, suddenly comes down with the flu and is off work at a key stage in a customer’s transaction, a colleague can review the interactions by searching for that customer on the CRM tool and pick up where Katherine left off.

So, how do your teams use CRM?

Marketers will often use a CRM to ensure that they’re passing the right leads to their sales team, which is a key aspect of developing a strong relationship with the sales team. They also use the tracking data available today through smart CRM systems to assess the success of certain types of content and distribution channels.

Salespeople utilise CRM in a different way. They use it to source prospective customers, communicate with them, and track their interactions over time. Having the entire prospect history in one place increases their efficiency and improves their productivity. For instance, salespeople using a CRM won’t have to hunt through their email to remember where a conversation left off.

CRM can also have a huge impact on improving your customer experience.

What does this mean for you?

According to Hubspot; 75% of sales managers say that using a CRM helps to drive and increase sales, also stating that CRM systems improve customer retention by 27%.

You can’t argue with those numbers.

“I think the acquisition of consumers might be on the verge of being mapped. The battlefield is going to be retention and lifetime value.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, via TechCrunch.

 

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Further Reading: See why Salesforce CRM is a great fit for you.