Internet Marketing: CRM, Marketing Tactics and IT Alignment

Internet marketing and sales strategyInternet marketing continues to evolve, becoming both more viable and more complex. Customer relationship management software (CRM) has become a must due to the complexity. It plays an important role at all stages of the sales funnel. With a solid CRM system in place, your Internet sales and marketing teams can more effectively manage contacts whether they’re in the engage, convert, or nurture stage. Where the sales funnel was once the realm of the sales and marketing team, today’s Internet marketing strategies require a robust CRM solution – and IT involvement.

To add to the complexity of CRM and the Internet sales funnel in general, social media has emerged as a major channel for customer service, tech support, sales, and marketing alike. Integrating social media into your Internet marketing CRM program allows everyone to see the larger picture. For example, is a contact complaining about your service? Is she raving about your products? Has a contact expressed a need that your company can fill? By tapping into these channels, your sales, marketing, customer service, and tech support teams can respond appropriately.

Opinions vary on the best approach to CRM with some Internet marketing experts favoring a single, shared database for both marketing and sales and others preferring separate databases to ensure that leads are managed properly according to where they are in the Internet sales funnel. Other experts advocate using marketing automation software to first clean up the sales funnel data before importing it into CRM software.

Can a single CRM solution handle everything your Internet sales and marketing teams need? The answer varies from company to company. In most cases, sales and marketing need to work with the same data and contacts; however, they tend to interact with that data differently.

Integrated CRM solutions that include marketing automation and email marketing software may be the optimal choice by allowing sales and marketing to access shared data without duplication or conflicts. For example, with an integrated Internet marketing CRM platform, when an email subscriber unsubscribes from an email marketing campaign the contact will be removed from the mailing list and relevant information appended to the contact’s record.

No matter which option makes the most sense for your Internet marketing strategy, one thing is clear: you need IT support. With multiple databases, automation software, and lead sources (such as cold calling, opt-in lists, special events, and social media channels), managing the sales funnel requires software and systems that perform to their fullest potential.

While many Internet marketing platforms are offered as “software as a service” and imply that minimal IT intervention will be required, aligning marketing with IT is essential. While installation, updates, and support tasks may be minimal with cloud-based Internet sales solutions, IT should be involved in selecting the solution to make sure it is compatible with existing systems along with the company’s security and privacy policies. If your CRM solution includes social media information from contacts based in European Union countries, stricter privacy regulations may apply.

By including IT in the Internet sales and CRM conversation, you’ll benefit from a broader perspective that extends beyond the sales funnel and better aligns with the organization’s objectives. In addition, IT professionals tend to have more experience in purchasing software. Thus, they may be better equipped to evaluate the terms and conditions and negotiate the contract.

No matter which CRM solution you use to nurture prospects through the sales funnel, stronger Internet sales require alignment between your Internet marketing, sales, and IT teams.

Video Email Marketing Trends for 2012

Video Email MarketingVideo email marketing continues to evolve, yet few marketers are doing much with the medium in their email campaigns. Part of the problem (the fact that embedding video into actual email messages is impractical and rarely an option) is also video email marketing’s biggest advantage. In most cases, your email marketing message will link to a website video. Isn’t driving your subscribers back to your website one of your primary goals? Below are a few video email marketing trends to keep an eye on for 2012.

  • Creating animated GIFs of a given website video gives subscribers the illusion of motion, and can be an effective teaser that prompts the user to click through and view the video in full screen. If you link the animated GIF to your website video, your video email marketing technique worked like a charm. This technique has its downsides, however. For example, some email clients such as Outlook 2007 display only the first frame.
  • Another option is to grab a screenshot of your website video, insert it into your email marketing newsletter, and then link it to your website video. This is one of the more common video email marketing techniques – and it works. Many marketers have reported remarkable click-through rates using this simple email marketing technique.
  • Using embed codes will also result in a static image complete with the recognizable “play” button superimposed over a screenshot of your website video. Using the embed code is a simple technique, and the resulting image is readily understood by users. They know that when they click the play button, they will activate a website video. While this action doesn’t necessarily take place within the video email marketing message, most users won’t mind be directed to a website to view the video.
  • Another video email marketing trend has less to do with where the user views your video and more to do with how the user interacts with it. Many video players are becoming more sophisticated, offering added features such as player customization, social sharing, interactive transcripts, and calls to action.
  • The more you include video in your email marketing messages, the more important video email marketing analytics become. Depending on which email service provider, video player, and analytics services you use, you can analyze the performance of your video email marketing campaign as well as the video itself.
  • Video heat maps are often included with video players as well as offered as standalone services. These analytical tools can show you where viewership dropped off, which parts of the video were referred to most often, and give you a general idea of the audience’s engagement with your video.
  • HTML 5 makes video, and email in general, a better choice for tablet computers. Expect to see an increased emphasis on HTML 5 in the year ahead.
  • Another trend is to use YouTube’s Post Bulletin feature to update subscribers to your YouTube channel subscribers or uploading your video to Facebook and Twitter. Though technically not official email marketing techniques, these video sharing options can be part of your overall video marketing strategy.

Perhaps one of the biggest video email marketing trends to expect in 2012: more marketers will be experimenting with website video and email marketing. After all, embedding website video in email marketing messages adds value and drives traffic.

Do you have any video email marketing success stories to share? We’d love to hear how your click-through rates have improved or how you’ve solved tricky issues with embedding videos in email messages. Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

Creating an Effective Call to Action on the Web

The Web has become a marketing bonanza with the potential to reach a massive audience. However, you may only have one chance to make an impression with a site visitor, so make sure to take full advantage of it by including an effective call to action. Calls to action are simple prompts that tell the visitor exactly what they need to do next. For example, “Click get started to schedule your free initial consultation” is a call to action. Calls to action can be used in all of your Web marketing efforts including: on webpages; in 60-second promotional Web videos; and in virtual spokesperson Web videos.

Creating Effective Calls to Action
buy buttonIn order to be effective, calls to action must be simple, beneficial, and positive. This is true regardless of where you ultimately place the call to action.

  • Calls to action must tell the user what action you want the user to take. If your webpage has been created to sell a product, then the call to action needs to tell the user to take an action that will lead to a purchase such as “click for a free quote.” If a Web video is informational, a call to action prompting the user to visit your website for a free information report containing additional information may be in order.
  • Calls to action must be simple. No one wants to jump through hoops simply because they watched a Web video or visited a website. Users may be willing to fill out a short survey, comment on your blog, sign up for a newsletter, or order a product, but they may not be willing to write an essay, watch a three-hour presentation, or perform a series of complex tasks just because you say they should. Keep your calls to action simple, and they’ll be more likely to be acted upon. In addition, limit your call to action to just one. Otherwise, if you offer too many calls, your visitors may opt not answer any of them.
  • Calls to action must be beneficial to the user. Few users blindly follow calls to action without knowing what’s in it for them. If you want to collect email addresses for marketing purposes, that’s not good enough for most users. On the other hand, users might respond if they’ll get a free report or access to informative articles. Make sure to tell your users how they will benefit by taking the action.
  • Calls to action must be positive. While chain letters may work focusing on fears and negative consequences, Web marketing generally doesn’t. Use positive language, ideas, and concepts. For example, which of the following two phrases, “Avoid prison by reading this book” or “Become a better citizen by reading this book,” is positive? While avoiding prison is certainly worth doing, it carries with it a negative connotation (that the user is a potential criminal). Becoming a better citizen is positive and applies to everyone, not just criminals. When crafting your text or dialogue, imagine your users nodding along in agreement. Wouldn’t you rather set your users up to say yes rather than no? By using positive language and keeping your calls to action positive, your users will be more likely to agree with you and follow your lead.

Whether you’re creating calls to action for webpages, 60-second promotional Web videos, or for virtual spokesperson Web videos, tell your users what they need to do and how it will benefit them while also keeping the calls to action simple and positive. Use these techniques in all of your Web marketing efforts and you’re sure to see improved conversion rates.

What are your favorite calls to action? What has worked for you? Join the discussion and explore this in greater detail in the comments section below.