April 12, 2013 4:07 pm

What Makes Great Marketing Software?

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Someone made the point to us recently that all marketing software is essentially the same and that they perform the same fundamental tasks with the same end-goals in mind. “How could it be otherwise” they said, “marketing software is just trying to automate the work of marketers in the digital world and as the process of marketing has never changed how would the software be any different?”. At first we were skeptical but on examination we found it to be pretty much completely true and thought it would make for an interesting blog post.

Obviously there are exceptions but when you examine exactly what marketing software is doing you will find that there are three features which continually and consistently appear. These three features, as we see them, are as follows –

1. The access to, or ability to build, a large database or audience of target customers.
2. The ability to segment & profile that audience based on demographics, location or previous behaviour.
3. The ability to target that audience with a marketing message using an effective delivery mechanism.

To test the hypothesis that these three features appear in pretty much all marketing software, we picked out the single most well known (well, well known to us anyway) marketing software companies from each of the traditional big four digital marketing arenas, and examined them for the presence of the features mentioned above. From the Search Engine Marketing world we took Google, from Social Media Marketing we took Facebook, from Content Marketing we took Hubspot and from Email Marketing we went with Mailchimp.

People don’t normally think of Google as being software but essentially that is what it is. Certainly that’s what Google Adwords is, it’s a software as a service which allows you place ads on the Google display network or on their SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Similarly people often don’t think of Facebook as marketing software but far away from the Facebook wall, news feed and photo sharing front end lies a powerful back-end which again is essentially a software as a service that allows marketers to place ads and promote posts. Hubspot and Mailchimp are very obviously marketing software so no real need for explanation there. So now that we have defined our criteria and test candidates lets go through them one by one.

1. The access to, or ability to build, a large database or audience of target customers.

Google – Absolutely. In fact it gives you access to the largest audience ever assembled on the internet in the history of http technology.
Facebook – Pretty clearly a resounding Yes. Over 1 billion of a user base at last count, which roughly translates to about 15% of humankind.
Hubspot – Yes, however a piece of software like Hubspot is different to Google or Facebook in that instead of giving a marketer access to an already existing audience it allows you to build up that audience yourself through content creation and inbound marketing.
Mailchimp – Again a resounding Yes, but in the ‘allows you to build’ sense, as opposed to the ‘gives you access to’ sense. Mailchimp allows you to store existing databases of email addresses and also gives you tools to gather new email addresses.

No.2 – The ability to segment & profile that audience based on demographics, location or previous behaviour.

Google – Obviously yes. Targeting by what a consumer is searching for is a highly effective way of profiling an audience.
Facebook – Again obviously yes. Targeting a user by ‘Likes’ allows for highly targeted profiling.
Hubspot – Again Yes. Hubspot allows you to profile your audience by the type of content that they have consumed as well as more general profiling such as what company the person works for and what part of the world they are in.
Mailchimp – Yes. Mailchimp allows you to cut and slice your database in a myriad of ways such as based on what was opened in the past, what list the target came from and basically any piece of data you have been able to accumulate on that target.

3. The ability to target that audience with a marketing message using an effective delivery mechanism.

Google – A huge YES and with possibly the most effective delivery method ever devised. Google allows a marketer to target the consumer at the very point that the consumer is telling Google that they are looking for a product or service through the SERPs.
Facebook – Again yes. Right then and there as you think you are interacting and sharing with your friends you are being targeted with ads based on your previous use of the platform. Facebook’s version of the highly effective delivery mechanism is the Facebook news-feed and interface.
Hubspot – Hubspot’s delivery mechanism is both online through their landing pages and content downloads as well as offline where it can help you decide who requires physical contact by a sales team. Again a highly effective delivery mechanism.
Mailchimp – These guys use the now decades old delivery mechanism of e-mail. E-mail has it’s limitations but in many circumstances it can still be a very effective delivery mechanism for a marketer or business owners message.

So….. Q.E.D.? Well yes we certainly think so but with the obvious caveat that we are talking in generalisations. We shouldn’t however be all that surprised though because as stated above, the principals of marketing have never really changed even with the advent of digital and the world wide web. TV allowed advertisers and marketers access to a large audience (their viewership), allowed them to segment and profile that audience (what program they were watching at what time of the day in what part of the country) and finally gave them a highly effective delivery mechanism for their message – the advert! Radio advertising works in the exact same way (listenership – segmentation – audio advert) as does advertising and marketing on print (readership-segmentation-print ad).

Of all the digital marketing arenas the one we at Zinmobi are clearly most interested in is mobile marketing. As you might have guessed though all the most powerful and effective pieces of mobile marketing software work in just the same way. It should give you access to, or ability to build a large audience in the form of a database. It should allow you to segment and profile that audience by location, demographics and previous purchase behavior. Finally it should give you a highly effective delivery mechanism for your marketing message, be that by way of mobile adverts, SMS, mobile webpages or mobile coupons.

The next time you are evaluating a current or potential piece of marketing software we would suggest that you consider it in the light of what is outlined above.

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