Chapter 1: Tools for Mere Mortals

Riding the range in search of leads...

Content marketing – tailoring stories, blogs, case studies, videos, etc. to move prospects toward a purchase – is exploding as business buyers do more research on-line. But how do the marketing automation (MA) tools that automate this process really work, and can a small – even one-person – marketing department use them effectively? Follow my exploits as I add marketing automation to my core skills of creating marketing collateral for leading IT vendors. This week: Finding an affordable and usable MA platform.

With some spare time over the 2011 holidays, I sent out some emails and used my blog to find a genuinely easy-to-use and low-cost marketing automation platforms. Manticore, ActOn and LoopFuse responded. (Thank you Terry Hew of ActOn for the fast and professional follow-up.) ActOn and LoopFuse both seemed to be good fits, with pricing of $500 or under for several thousand contacts, and the ability to score readers based on their readership histories, at least rudimentary Web traffic analysis, links to CRM systems and the ability to create email marketing campaigns.

Of the two, LoopFuse won me over because their customer list included VMware, ET ETC. – just the type of clients that are a good fit for my more than 20 years experience covering IT vendors and customers. Their plug-ins for WordPress (my current CMS) were a big draw, (no need to rehost my Web site with them, as with HubSpot) and their integration with social media platforms. Besides, they offered a free trial for up to 500 prospects, which gives me the time to do a proof of concept without any financial pressure. While 500 names might be too small for some companies, it fits my high-quality list of PR and marketing pros who have opted in to receive my email newsletter (click here to subscribe).

The on-line tutorials seemed exceptionally well thought-through, and my first support experience was impressive indeed: A phone call 30 minutes after I had Tweeted a question about how to port existing contacts and content from Constant Contact (my incumbent email platform) to LoopFuse. LoopFuse tech support seems to be hanging out on Twitter a lot, and the quality of support for a free version bodes well for their commitment to customers.

The first step in Loop Fuse’s Web-based setup wizard (another nice touch) was to install their “tracking beacon” on my Web site so it could begin tracking visitors. Despite their (again) excellent instructions and video I couldn’t find the right location on my pages to install the code. The WordPress plug-in also failed, possibly because it was incompatible the current version of the theme I’m using. But I finally found, after a Google search, the proper place to install the tracking beacon: In the “footer” section of my WordPress dashboard. (Yet another of the non-intuitive wild goose chases that makes me hate WordPress.)

While LoopFuse wants me to move right into importing contacts and setting up an email campaign, with the holiday lull ending I’m instead diving into the heavy lifting of thinking through a content strategy for selling my own B2B, IT content creation services. With the help of some excellent templates from Barbra Gaga I’m creating personas and identifying which questions each type of buyer asks at each stage in the buying cycle. After that, I’ll do a content audit to map what content I have (and what I still need) to answer those questions.

More on all that next week. In the meantime let me knowwhat challenges I haven’t covered, any short-cuts I’ve missed or how you’re doing if you’re on a similar quest.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

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