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Automation, the small business marketer’s friend

Marketing AutomationFrom a business standpoint, a lot of small business have some pretty distinct advantages over much larger organizations.

Not always, but in some cases, they can be more flexible, offer personalized options, provide faster/better service, and involve senior experienced level people in implementation.

From a marketing standpoint, I do see small organizations get out sizzled from the sheer wake of bodies and moving parts that a larger organization can throw at a sales pipeline.

This is a place where technology, and the automation it can afford, can come to the rescue.

Technology exists all around us today that allows any small business or one woman band to create robust, multi-part, segmented and personalized campaigns that rival those of the fully staffed marketing departments.

Lots of CRM software makers talk a about automation, but for most small businesses it’s just overkill. The key is to find the right suite of tools that allow you to create the engine to automate contacts, sales follow-up, tasks, email, marketing materials distribution, orders, upsells, referrals and campaigns. It’s about marketing automation, not customer relationship management.

When you take the time to design your lead generation, nurturing, and conversion processes like the big guys, and then hook the system together with the right moving parts, you can compete with any size organization.

And now for some tools to check out!

  • SwiftPage – email lead tracking and scoring that helps identify hot prospects
  • Infusion Software – the best all in one solution for contacts, sales, orders and email marketing
  • Vtrenz – automation for direct marketers
  • Get Friday – outsourcing that is automated
  • Wufoo – creates forms of all type on the fly
  • GotVMail – automates phone messaging, extensions and message deliverability
  • Jott – lets you post to Google Calender, post to blogs, Twitter and send email to yourself or groups from a phone.
  • TripIt – forward air, hotel and car reservations to an email address and get an online trip page with local info and maps added
  • TextExpander – automatically insert any amount of text into an email or document with a phrase – great for commonly written email responses
  • Basecamp and Backpack – automate collaboration with teams, vendors and partners
  • Create Space – on demand CD and DVD publishing and fulfillment
  • Amazing Mail – send pre-designed post cards to 1 or 100 contacts in 24 hours

What are some of your favorite marketing automation tools?

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  • http://www.j-dee.com Koka

    nice thoughtful post with some useful links to automation tools. thanks

  • http://www,armortechfloors.com Troy Bengford

    We use OfficeAutopilot for tracking who’s on our website and integrating email, direct mail, and phone follow up systems. It’s incredible what you can do with this system.. and we checked around.

    We looked at Vtrenz which is similar, but complicated and much more expensive. The other option was Infusion, but we werent excited about the $5k license fee. And OfficeAutopilot.com does the same and more (though without shopping card integration, which we didn’t care about).

    It’s also integrated with Outlook, which our salespeople love.

    We also use and love Basecamp for project management.

    Thanks for the great blog,

    Troy

  • http://www.pardot.com Adam Blitzer

    That is definitely a great list of apps that help small businesses market and sell more effectively. At Pardot we use Basecamp for project management with our clients and have gotten a great response. 27Signals did a great job of not over-engineering the product and produced a lightweight web app that has essentially no learning curve.

    We also make heavy use of our own system (Prospect Insight) for marketing automation but there are plenty of great options available. It is definitely an exciting time for the SMB.

  • Donny

    Jott has been a great tool for our Company. Being able to “jott” someone a quick note or to remind yourself of something with a quick Jott has been a tremendous asset.

    Thanks John.

    Donny Vaughn
    1429Creative.com
    Solutions Director

  • http://trainingtools.wordpress.com/ Duane Davis

    John,

    Great resources. I use and recommend Basecamp, in fact I endorse the whole suite of resources from the 37Signals team. TextExpander is also a great tools for all disciplines.

    Two thirds of the list I’d never heard of until now.

    Thanks

  • http://www.leadsexplorer.com Andrew Wyatt

    Know the companies, who are visiting our website and what they are looking for.
    Getting leads from our website by identifying the company name and follow up in the CRM. The CRM is being fed with the data from the website visits, generating interest with sales. Giving a ongoing monitoring of the lead qualification.
    LEADSExplorer

  • http://www.situationalmarketing.com Jim Durbin

    John,

    I noticed you didn’t have mobile marketing on that list.

    If I may add it – I’m working with a client that allows self-service automation of your mobile marketing program. You can run your own texting and mobile messaging, manage your opt-in list, and it’s a monthly fee to do as much as you want.

    http://store.blastmarketing.com

  • JMoss

    Great post…I linked it to our Chattanooga Business blog and posted some of our favs as well.

    http://www.businesschatt.com

  • http://automatedlinkbuilding.com Daniel McGonagle @ http://danielmcgonagle

    Hey, great list there…

    I wasn’t aware of some of those resources, thanks.

    Another one you might want to include is http://automatedlinkbuilding.com since it’s automated and is definitely a service needed by all web site owners that want traffic.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  • http://www.AfterTheLaunch.com Shama Hyder

    I also really like http://www.WinWeb.com. Free accounting software for small businesses.

  • http://insidesmb.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    OfficeAutopilot sounds good. We’re looking for an budget-friendly contact/email list aggregator. Would love to know if something exists that can track sales numbers, too.

    I give Basecamp a 6 out of 10. There were some frustrating elements of that product. We are trying eSupport right now.

    http://insidesmb.blogspot.com/

  • http://infusionsoft.com Jeff Mask

    ahhh – marketing automation. just the sound of that gives me goosebumps. THAT is the key to small business success

  • http://salesby5.typepad.com Nan Palmero

    Great list, thank you! Another option outside of textexpander is to add items to your autocorrect, be it Outlook, Word, Entourage, etc. So you enter a short cut, such as YW and it changes it to you’re welcome. Also, Google Sites provides the opportunity to EASILY build company intranets, work together on projects and use different Google apps throughout their company. Check it out here: http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/users/sites.html

  • http://www.smallbusinessdeathsentence.com Alex B. Worth

    You know when talking about the Small Business Automation, one of the things I’ve recently discovered is having a virtual Assistant. Like having your own virtual staff, I got some amazing tips about it from David Ledoux’s interview with Frank Kern’s Virtual Assistant on his blog at:

    Alex

  • http://www.mymustangsite.com Donny

    automation/outsourcing is definitely worth it if you can afford to do it. thanks for the link list you provided, i have not come across some of those sites and will check them out!

  • http://www.softvu.com Jason Kort

    For companies that have already made the investment in a CRM like Salesforce.com, Netsuite, etc. I recommend checking out the SoftVu marketing automation platform. SoftVu integrates with existing on demand CRMs and provides more enhanced features like the ability to trigger rich media communications with real time view notifications.

  • http://www.marketingtwins.com Randy Vaughn

    Hey my other Marketing Twin, Donny, said the same thing I sware I was going to say (that’s a twin thing). But I have now become addicted to JOTT. I have a thousand brainstorms or action items or “oughta-look-into-that!” ideas pop into my head all day long. So now, I can simply type in 55 on my speed dial on my Cell wherever I’m at and then JOTT myself the idea. JOTT sends me an email with that idea transcribed from my voice. It’s great to get the idea out of my idea, but now I don’t have to keep up with scrap pieces of paper with all these notes. I love it.
    Randy Vaughn
    Marketing Coach & Creative Director, http://www.1429creative.com
    http://www.MarketingTwins.com

  • http://www.ocstandard.com ocstandard

    Godaddy has a nice email blast tool for beginners. It has alot of useful functions. You can creat pretty nice emails and moniter them from the dashboard.

  • http://www.thedatabasediva.com/swiftpage Lori Feldman

    I’ve used Swiftpage for 4 years and love it. Last year one of my email newsletters resulted in a 6-figure sale from an EXISTING client who didn’t know I “did that.” Of course, I didn’t know he “needed that.” Relevant, targeted E-marketing really works, and I’m thrilled that Swiftpage Email is about to release an AUTOMATED drip marketing program. I believe it will be the first time in marketing history that automating the critical business function of sales follow up will be within reach for any size business, no matter what their budget. (Full disclosure: I not only use Swiftpage, I’m one of their resellers. But I believe in “eating my own dogfood” so the rave is warranted.)