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How Small Business Can Benefit From Marketing Automation

Written by Jeremy Jensen

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Running a small business can be compared to a very delicate and complex form of art. Our time has become increasingly more valuable, and maintaining a successful company requires implementing diverse and complicated marketing strategies.

While it’s beneficial having access to an array of varying platforms to reach our audiences, it can also be time consumptive and difficult to keep up. It’s no wonder the largest demographic seeking the benefits of marketing automation are small to mid sized businesses.

Can your company use some extra time? Let’s find out.


First things first. What is Marketing Automation?

Considered one of the fastest growing solutions for sales and marketing professionals, marketing automation refers to technologies and certain software platforms designed for businesses to more effectively market online through multiple channels and automate recurring posts.

These services seek to optimize visitor/customer retention, improve conversions, cut marketing costs and perhaps most importantly revamp sales operations.

Marketing processes that would have otherwise been done manually, can now be streamlined to make new processes possible and make old task more efficient.


Taking a look at common product features

Marketing automation is still a relatively new tactic to most businesses, and for that reason it’s important to know which features will best serve your immediate and long-terms sales problems. Below are the most common found in the leading software:


  • Lead Management – Leads are the lifeblood of a business; therefore, it’s easy to see why this is considered the greatest challenge and number one goal of marketing pros.
    • Lead Nurturing- Increases the upsell-rate by retaining customer engagement, while also automating the qualifying leads process.
    • Lead Scoring - Applying metrics to leads and prospects
  • Web Analytics - Using quality analytic data will allow you to pursue leads based on their web browsing tendencies.

  • Email Marketing – This is all about sending the right e-mail at the right time through the use of email scheduling. Schedule email blasts to disperse at the optimal time and save time by setting up autoresponder emails.

  • CRM Integration - Otherwise known as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), this feature is an application that is designed to assist you and your business by organizing all the data that you have on your customers. CRM Integration then is building your website to function seamlessly with your CRM.


The Benefits

As a small business, this is probably the section you were waiting for. When used correctly, marketing automation allows a staff with limited resources the ability to run successful marketing campaigns in a highly personalized fashion that may have otherwise been difficult to do manually. The major benefits include:

  • Huge Time Saver – We all have days with less going on and marketing automation allows you to make use of that extra time to create an entire month’s social media posts in one day, so when deadlines are approaching you won’t need to worry about posting content manually.
  • Maintain Consistency – Chances are you’re trying to maintain multiple platforms for social media posting, and for good reasons. The spread of our customer demographics have different preferences for social media use and if you’re forgetting to maintain one of them it may be a sign to your followers that your business cannot manage its customer communication or doesn’t care to.
  • Easy For Everyone – A large concern for anyone looking to adopt a new technology is, “will it be user friendly?” And the answer is yes. Marketing automation is simple even for those who aren’t technically inclined. Most applications are equipped with easy to use editors, templates, and helpful guiding interfaces.
  • Detailed Reports – Automated solutions will keep track of every social media post. Text, email and provide detailed graphs, statistics and other useful data to help you optimize future campaigns.


Selecting A Marketing Automation Platform

Before selecting a provider, here are several questions to consider:

  • How Long is the minimum license period?
    – Many ask that you sign up for 1 year, though you may want to look into monthly installments.
  • What is offered in the minimum license fee?
    – Certain platforms cap once you reach a certain amount of contacts in your database, this detail is very important as you expand networks.
  • Is there a training manual and customer support?
    – Nowadays the number one do not in licensing subscriptions is getting involved with a company/platform that doesn’t offer customer guidance.


There is no software or automation tool that can replace good planning and strategy; however, once you learn how to define goals marketing automation can take on the repetive and analytical taks for you in order to achieve a sustainable marketing plan.


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Are Your Website And Business Actually In Alignment?

Written by Kevin Wood

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Are Your Website And Business In Alignment

If you’ve ever landed on a website only to feel overwhelmed and confused, then there’s a good chance that website wasn’t in alignment with their business. Often we have expectations when we visit a website, and if those expectations aren’t met then we’re probably hitting the back button.

If your business and website aren’t speaking the same language, or if your website is undefined and ambiguous you could be missing out on potential subscribers, business leads, and sales. We’re going to dive into the power of alignment, what it means for your business, and a few steps to get you going in the right direction.


To Whom Is Your Website Calling Out?

Whether you’re building your own website, or working with a web designer, it can be easy to build a website that’s catered to your needs. After all, building a website is an incredibly fun process and it can be easy to get caught up in the beauty of it, as opposed to focusing on making it functional and efficient.

It’s not the most beautiful website’s that are the most successful, but the website that serves its customer’s needs the best. Throughout the design process it’s easy to get wrapped up in adding all kinds of widgets, interactive elements, and fun features. But, if these elements exist solely for your own entertainment, then you’re just contributing to the noise that already exists on the web and are distracting your users.

Your website needs to be aimed at a single person. This single person will be your ideal customer. Although, no single customer will have all of these traits, there will be enough overlap so your website speaks to your core group of customers. When designing, or even writing for that matter it can be useful to hone in on a single person, as opposed to an entire group of people.

Know this person from the inside out, and create the perfect website for this single soul.


Time To Run A Compatibility Check

Are your business and website one in the same? You see this a lot with small businesses who have storefronts and are just beginning to dive into the online space. Often, you’ll find their website online, browse around for a bit, and finally make the decision to visit their storefront.

When you get to their store the vibe is entirely different and their branding doesn’t match up. Usually, you won’t turn around and run out of the store, but it might leave you feeling a little confused.

On the other hand, let’s look at Apple. Their website and storefront are virtual matches of each other, and they both perfectly embody the principles of their brand. You can go from one to the other and the brand is very consistent. You may even experience the same feelings on their website that you do when visiting their storefront.

Your website needs to be seen as an extension of your brand. If you do business solely in the online space this is important as well. As the way you conduct business, what you’re selling, and what makes you unique will influence how your website and business reflect each other.


How To Align Your Business And Website

If your website is confusing and doesn’t align with what your selling, or doesn’t feel like an extension of your storefront (if applicable), then it’s time to tweak and adjust what you currently have up:

1. Define and Refine
Once again, you need to know to whom you’re selling. If you just randomly created your website last time without this person in mind, then it’s time to go back and define. Once you can imagine what this person looks like and how they act, then you’re ready to move forward.
2. Upgrade Your Existing Site
Once you’ve taken the time to “get to know” your ideal customer it’s time to build them a website. This can either be implementing simple website tweaks, or building a new site from the group up. Also, make sure you upgrade your existing copy to suit the needs of your ideal buyer.
3. Seek Wise Counsel
Once you’ve updated your site so it’s better in alignment it can be very helpful get a second pair of eyes on your site. This can help to buff out anything confusing or unclear that remains. Obviously, the closer this person is to your ideal customer the better.

Making sure your website and business are on the same page can be a little time consuming, but it will have a positive impact on your relationship with your customers, as you’ll be providing them with a better experience. In the end, it’s all about service.

SSL Certificates And Visitors Confidence

Written by Natalie Lehrer

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

4 visitors welcome sign

Confidence is so important on the Internet. Any site that acquires a reputation for unreliability, insecurity or dishonesty can expect to see traffic dwindle to zero. On the other hand, a site that can prove it takes security seriously can attract more visitors. And that can be good, whether your hosted web site is for a community, a membership service, or e-commerce. Surfers and online shoppers also increasingly recognize the on-screen presence of a small padlock icon or a website address that begins with “https://…” as signs that they can trust the site they’re connecting to. That’s SSL or ‘secure sockets layer’ in action. So how does SSL help you gain visitors’ trust?


Protecting Information As It’s Transmitted

SSL operates between a visitor’s browser and your site or application. It’s an industry-standard mechanism that ensures the encryption of data being passed backwards and forwards, so that no unauthorized person can spy on the information and hack it. It also prevents cyber criminals from diverting visitor traffic to their own site using their own encryption, and gaining access to your data that way. All major web browsers have SSL capability built in. But for a website to have SSL capability means acquiring a specific SSL certificate.


How Do You Get an SSL Certificate?

You have to apply to an authorized issuer of SSL certificates and be vetted. Such an authorized entity is known as a Certificate Authority (CA). Browser companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and so on trust the CA to only issue CCL certificates to other trustworthy companies. The CA has its own Root Certificate (so there aren’t many of these in the world!), which it uses to generate individual SSL certificates. It also checks that you have the right to use the domain name under which your website operates and may also make checks on your company identity (depending on the ‘strength’ of the SSL certificate you want.). SSL certificates are then installed on the web servers concerned as data files.


What Does SSL Do For You?

Lots of things! It makes your site or system look more professional. SSL certificates have to be earned. It helps clinch a decision by a visitor to sign up as a member or to make payment through your site. If you sell online and you use a reputable online payment partner, that partner will have SSL implemented. However, there are additional reasons for having your own SSL, such as protecting visitors’ personal details – and also protecting any confidential information that you may send back to them (access to a private server, administrator privileges, cash voucher numbers, etc.)


What Does SSL NOT Do For You?

Again – lots of things, because SSL is designed to exclusively protect the integrity of data while it’s in transit between one system and another. If the information happens to contain a virus, SSL will faithfully transmit that virus. If it contains an attempt to gain illicit access to your web site or database files, SSL will transmit that as well. In other words, while SSL is excellent for protecting data on the move in a network link, both browser users and web site owners must still take all required precautions to prevent any malware from circulating or any undesirable actions within the systems themselves. So add good system security (or find a web hosting provider who can guarantee it) to SSL and you’ll be a step ahead all round in enhancing your website experience and visitors’ confidence.



Author Bio:
Natalie Lehrer is a senior contributor for CloudWedge. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys exploring all things cloud and is a music enthusiast. Follow Natalie’s daily posts on Google Plus, Twitter @Cloudwedge, or on Facebook.

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Check Your Tech-nology

Written by Brandi Bennett

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Technology today is moving faster than the speed of light (quite literally: NASA recently released specs for a ship with a warp drive), and it’s often hard to keep up. It’s easy for a business to start to wonder whether or not the technology that they are utilizing in their daily lives is antiquated, out of date… or on a slightly pettier note, whether or not their stuff is better than the competition’s stuff.

Through a look at some of the most commonly used pieces of technology in the business world, it’s possible to give you that piece of mind, because let’s face it; that which is shown on television and in the movies isn’t what the average business has, nor is it quite as easy as the movies make out to sneak in and spy on the competition.



Desktops have not gone out of style. In fact, many companies are still utilizing Windows XP, in spite of the fact that Microsoft is no longer putting out updates for vulnerabilities that are found. Heck, some people have even found ways around this, working to remove vulnerabilities anyway, allowing their companies to continue to use the OS that they are most comfortable with, one that doesn’t require costly upgrades or a learning curve regarding its use.

Generally speaking, and with exception given to certain industries, most businesses don’t use Macs.

The more tech oriented the business, the more likely you are to find them running a Linux system.

Most companies still utilize separate monitors and separate desktops, as opposed to the “all-in-one” options that many of the computer manufacturers are releasing today.

We live in an age of “good enough” computing, where businesses have finally realized that upgrading every time something new comes out is not necessary; if something works, there’s no reason to fix it. There are better ways to invest in the business.



Most companies are utilizing VoIP phones these days; it just makes everything easier to do so, when all the current options are weighed. It’s a safe bet that there are not many old-school, rotary phones being utilized in businesses today… but you never know.


Cell Phones

Yes, many owners, and even many employees, utilize their own personal phones within a business context. Most people have gone over to smart phones. No more flip phones for the masses! (Ran into a huge issue the other day because of this one – the receptionist with a “unique” personality at the doctor’s office refused to look up my pharmacy and told me to do it on my phone. She refused to believe this was not possible on a flip phone; I refuse to upgrade to a smart phone for a host of reasons. We were at an impasse for quite some time).



Though many businesses are attempting to move away from paper records, the majority of businesses are still utilizing paper as a means of completing various business activities; the amount has lessened over the years, but we have not created a paperless environment as of yet… perhaps because playing games with the copy machine is still a lot of fun!


Your Business

If some of these sound like you and some do not, that’s quite alright. Remember, it’s all about what works best for you. Don’t upgrade if you don’t want to, don’t upgrade if you don’t need to, and always do your best to ensure that you stay within your means!


Image source: Deccan Chronicle. (1996). Mission Impossible. Retrieved from