Being a numbers person, I've always had an affinity towards activities that could be measured. I started my career in marketing, which you could certainly say at the time was going against that natural inclination. There have always been many functions in a business that could be studiously measured and whose measurement made it's management possible - sales, operations, finance, even engineering and product development. But until recently, marketing was always thought of as more of a soft discipline - more to be measured on creativity than on any hard metrics. While there will always be an important role for creativity in marketing, creativity alone won't cut it any more.
Last week we held an event for our VPs of Sales and Marketing. We do this annually and have for the past 5+ years. Our portfolio runs the gamut from companies that sell an online service directly to consumers to companies that sell $100m industrial solutions to a small handful of buyers worldwide. A few years ago when we started holding these events, those companies wouldn't have been able to learn much from each other. Today it's a very different world. As a group, they are much more focused on the lead (for some) or customer (for others) acquisition funnel. It's all about measuring the full breadth of marketing activities you are investing in against your goals of either qualified leads or customers and constantly refining and improving them. There is more of a focus on ROI for marketing spend than I have ever seen before.
Five years ago when we asked "what sales automation solution are you using," most, but not all of them would say Salesforce.com. Today 100% of them are using Salesforce. One of the most informative discussions we had was around the SFDC equivalent systems they are using to measure and manage their marketing activities. While there is nothing that covers all of the activities of the marketers today, it's very clear that there are a number of "must have" tools that the early adopters among them are using to great effect. I would expect when we get together and ask that question again in 5 years, there will be at least a few tools among the set that virtually all of them are using. The tools that had the most wide-spread use among this group, and that I keep hearing about again and again from other companies I meet with are:
- Google Analytics - OK, so this one was the closest to 100% usage in the group. If your "product" is an online service, then make sure you are using Google Analytics throughout your service to help you measure and improve the customer experience as well.
- Marketo - We all have the story of the one that got away, and unfortunately for me, Marketo is one of mine. I LOVE these guys and keep hearing about them again and again both from our existing portfolio and new companies that I am looking at. If you're not using Marketo for lead nurturing, then you should be.
- Wordstream - Simply put, if you're doing SEM and you're NOT using a tool like Wordstream, then you are just throwing money away. This is a no-brainer.
- HubSpot - Or more accurately, Websitegrader (probably all you need). Every single company needs to be doing something for SEO. This is the way you can track your progress.
- DemandBase - If you're trying to capture leads that you're going to follow-up with directly, DemandBase can help you turn raw website traffic into actionable leads.
- oDesk - I can't finish this post without getting in a plug for oDesk. Most of SEO and SEM is repetitive work. The perfect sort of thing to hire a temp or consultant to do and there is no better place to hire that talent than on oDesk.