Marketing technology can often be seen as a black box for a small business, and while marketing tech has been focused heavily on the enterprise, yet companies with less than 500 employees make up 99% of employers. There are many new techniques and terms to know thanks to the generous marketing community, and marketers are finding themselves consistently more present in every aspect of small businesses, changing the business itself in some cases from the inside. Even old-school marketing techniques are on the rise again. Whatever you do, it's a good idea to start simple, and one of the ways to do so is to revisit exactly where you're spending your marketing dollars, be it on software, ad spend or even content.
Here are the tools that will make that a lot easier to do this year:
If you're starting out on a small budget handling a web-based business, Nimble is the perfect tool. Priced at $22 a month, Nimble features more than you would expect from an average CRM. As well as basic features (syncing with contacts, relationship management), it also includes a powerful task management system, as well as sales intelligence that automatically provides information on each one of your contacts. It also has a robust marketing automation system, such as the power to build email templates quickly and easily and track clickthroughs on the go. It integrates with most third party software packages you might otherwise be using, and is a great choice for frugal companies.
Developed and run out in Colorado by Inc 5000 company Madwire, Marketing360 is an all-in-one marketing suite combining everything a small business marketer needs, uniquely fitting both brick and mortar and online businesses. This includes paid search management (as well as click fraud protection), web design, retargeting, SEO software and CRM, along with tools that can connect actual phone calls in a store to the CRM. The same dashboard reports on (and intelligently advises you) on the success or failure of your marketing, and can let you order organic content like videos and blog content from the in-house Madwire team.
Depending on how you have built your small business' e-commerce website, you may not know if you're losing customers to bad design. You may also have a great idea to sell a new product, or want to cater to a new device. Optimizely's tools let you experiment with different design choices without shutting out every customer, or personalize pages based on someone's location. For example, Optimizely can show a clothing shopper in Alaska a different website to someone living in Florida, making sure that light shirts aren't being evangelized to someone battling below zero temperatures. It also provides one of the easiest to use recommendation engines on the web, letting you play with their algorithms to get more revenue from every customer.
The incredibly popular MailChimp's growth is owed to how incredibly easy and effective it is to use. Though it's the world's largest marketing automation platform, it's perfect for small businesses. On the surface, you can create a customized, branded email marketing campaign for any sized list of customers, with a few lines of code to your website allowing users to subscribe. The more you use it the more powerful it gets, allowing you to surprise new subscribers with specific emails and offers, target long term subscribers with specialized content, or even track those who aren't opening emails regularly to get them interested. MailChimp is unique in that it can be adapted for anyone, from content writers who want to keep their fans informed to e-commerce businesses of any size.
Depending on the type of business you are running, you may not have the need for a huge web presence. Unbounce specializes in providing (as opposed to a Squarespace or Wix) a platform-based approach to creating a business landing page, treating the web address as a destination for the customer to travel to specifically to get information. It does so by using the fast and efficient web development combined with a marketing conversion platform that can A/B test designs, swap out keywords based on what people are searching for on your website, as well as numerous conversion-focused tools to get customers signing up or purchasing. Like many web development platforms, it also automatically creates a mobile version of whatever site you've built.
If you're running a content-focused business, or at least one with a strong content marketing side, CoSchedule is for you. It centers your marketing strategy around one large calendar, letting you schedule social and blog posts based on the highest engagement and traffic points in a day. It also includes the simple yet effective ReQueue system to repost your most popular content without becoming boring. It also integrates with popular platforms like Wordpress to post your content, or even with Google Documents and Evernote to import in information to post.
Where CoSchedule focuses on content and marketing, Sproutsocial adds a layer for consumer engagement and happiness and a total focus on social. The platform includes the expected social and content publishing tools, as well as analytics reports that are built to be presented to your boss, as well as sales-focused social monitoring tools that can sniff out qualified leads. Something useful for small businesses, especially those that live and die by word of mouth, is the customer care center built into what they call a "Smart Inbox." It contextualizes conversations happening with your company, and can create in a few clicks a helpdesk ticket and tasks to get your customer service team on the line with an angry Facebook or Twitter user.