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Front End or Back End?
There is a problem with Marketing Automation. Content marketing has won the day. We are all creating enough content to drown in daily. And along comes "Inbound Marketing" or "marketing automation" with a "rub this lamp" promise. No magic genie is jumping out of that lamp. Marketing Automation's Dark Side I have a friend trying to wrestle the marketing automation pig to the ground. What she doesn't know is the day that tool comes in here is a partial list of the demands that are currently at X and will immediately go to 5x:
Email Marketing List maintenance and CANNED SPAM regulations
Landing page design
Landing page optimization
A/B testing Creation of Key Performance Indicators (how you know it is working)
Monitoring and tracking of KPIs
Deep dives when KPIs are out of whack (and they will be) Content marketing principles
Content marketing analysis (what content to create and why)
Creation of personas and segments (to feed the drips)
Developing and testing offers. Offer performance by segment and persona.
Offer profitability short and long term.
Conversion testing (green or red button, here or there, this text or that). Conversion analysis (what is converting and why)
And on and on
No Silver Bullet & No Time Savings
Do NOT purchase a marketing automation tool thinking your workload or demands will go DOWN. That may be true in year 2 or 3, but year one will be HELLISH as you layer on learning a counter-intuitive tool on top of all of those Internet marketing demands outlined above. Where Do You Need The Help? Front or Back
If you already know what content to create and in what cadence and for what segments and personas then you need a back end nurturing tool. Your front in traffic generation is good to go. Now you just need to know how to keep your traffic generation engine tuned to your conversion engine. If, on the other hand, you have NO IDEA what keywords matter, what a persona or a segment is then you need a FRONT END tool. My favorite front-end tool is HubSpot combined with Bronto to manage the email marketing. Bronto is better than ANY inbound marketing email tool, a true easy to drive Ferrari.
My favorite backend tool would be either Marketo or Eloqua. Both are great lead nurturing tools especially if you have Sales Force as your CRM and a WordPress content engine. One Last Thought If you error then error on the side of the front end because you can ALWAYS make money if you add resources to the front end. No front end = no leads to nurture, so bringing in a back end system when you don't have a front end and the new system just STARVES. How do you know if you are good to go on the front end? If you have segments defined with personas and are already firing and testing email marketing THEN you are ready for a back end system. If you don't know your keywords from a hole in the wall then you need a front-end system. REMEMBER - ERROR on the side of the front end because if you are good and become great at front-end content marketing your efforts to improve generate profits.
If you don't have a well mapped front end then no back end tool will help your content marketing (they aren't designed to search keywords, group personas and create segments since most assume those sets are known "inputs" into their systems. Some tools may claim equal facility at front and back end. Don't believe it. Those are very distinct sets of Internet marketing skills and tasks such as: Front End Mapping Keywords to competition and efficiency. Creating personas and segments.
Understanding Unique Value Propositions mapped to personas.
Testing offers (headlines, design, time limit, offer itself).
Testing different kinds of content (video, eBook, white paper, email, newsletters, SlideShare, infographics, personalized email, calls, etc.).
Back End Landing Page optimization.
Lead nurturing (drip campaigns, web visits, etc) and scoring.
Follow up systems (drips, calls, events, conferences).
Connect conversion to front end traffic generation (increase efficiency).
These roles aren't as clean as these list make it sound, but you get the idea. If you have a good sense of your keys and customers then your biggest opportunity is to tune the funnel connecting traffic generation to conversion. If you don't have a robust content engine then start improving your font end.