As you manage your brand, you’ve probably noticed just how many moving parts there are. You need to consistently offer customers and leads opportunities to engage with your brand and gather information, whether that’s through social media, email, search engines or by directly reaching out to your sales and support team. With so many communication channels to monitor, how can you be sure that you’re using each one to its full potential?Leveraging a sales and marketing platform can help you fuel your business growth and improve the customer experience you’re offering. Plus, having a single platform for all of your efforts can enhance cross-team collaboration to improve brand unity and reduce employee turnover.

But what exactly does a sales and marketing platform do and how do you know which one is right for your business?

What is a sales and marketing platform?

A sales and marketing platform is a software that combines marketing, sales, business development, and automation tools into a single hub. A sales and marketing platform may include a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, email automation, interactive forms, social media scheduling, analytics, community management and content management system (CMS) capabilities to publish blogs, landing pages and other digital content.

A true sales and marketing platform will unify your efforts across teams and give you everything you need to generate, qualify and nurture leads in one place. It takes your marketing efforts and makes them personal, individual and genuinely valuable to your customers in order to gain brand trust. Without a centralized tool, your inbound marketing efforts can be time-consuming and expensive.

How does a sales and marketing platform benefit a business overall?

As the old saying goes, time is money. When you’re working more efficiently, your business is saving valuable hours that can be spent on revenue-generating work. Automating your lead generation and top-of-funnel nurture data allows you to gather all the information you need about a prospective buyer before your team gets involved to answer outstanding questions and convert your prospects to customers.

Additionally, a centralized sales and marketing platform allows you to hone your inbound marketing and strengthen this philosophy among your teams. The core idea behind inbound marketing is to provide genuinely valuable content to interested buyers on multiple channels and allow them to make a purchase decision on their own terms. With all the data about customer interactions in one place, you’ll be able to further enhance the content you serve to each prospect based on their interests and needs.

Most importantly, an all-in-one sales and marketing platform can help small and medium businesses save money not only on efficiency, but also in the number of tools required for the most effective sales and marketing tactics. With everything in one place, your team can reduce costs spent on various sales and marketing tools, standardize processes and improve collaboration.

Features and Capabilities of All-in-One Sales & Marketing Platforms

A robust sales and marketing platform will have a range of features to support your cross-channel efforts. In order to identify a truly comprehensive approach to sales and marketing, you need a platform that acts as the central hub of all your efforts and allows you to maximize your efforts. Here are some features you should be looking for in a truly all-in-one sales and marketing platform.

CRM

A robust, powerful CRM is the cornerstone of sales and marketing. Your customer data informs both your marketing strategy and sales conversations, so you need to be able to keep accurate track of your various touchpoints and conversations. A sales and marketing platform will unify all of your lead generation efforts, marketing interactions and sales conversations in one place. An effective CRM will enable you to track and manage your site visitors, your social media audiences and your sales and marketing qualified leads and to translate these into sales.

CRM Benefits Your Business In Five Ways

  1. Better preparation for your sales team because they see the full history of your lead results — from pages visited to phone calls and form fill outs. Customize messaging to them and gain insight from past interactions.
  2. Faster and more relevant responses to new and existing leads so you can send exactly the right content at exactly the right time. Instantly respond with automated follow-ups to new leads in your system, while sending relevant messages to your current leads. You can set alerts so your sales team can be notified by text or email when a lead becomes hot or performs a specific action on your site.
  3. Set criteria to target opportunities with lead scoring and nurturing. Lead scoring allows you to target the most sales-ready leads. This enables your sales team to dedicate efforts to leads that are most likely to convert. For those leads that are not quite ready to convert, you can use a nurturing campaign to send regular, informative and relevant communication to turn them into prospects.
  4. Confirm End-to-End ROI – track any sales back to the exact campaign that they came in on. Integrating call tracking with your CRM software will enable you to accurately attribute all leads by phone or form. In this way, you can accurately determine which tactics are performing the most effectively so that you can allocate more effort and money into those campaigns.
  5. Reduce repetitive tasks. Automate workflows and marketing emails for some of the most common actions on your site. Craft helpful and informative emails that can be sent out automatically when you’re in the process of nurturing a lead and use them in addition to personalized emails.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels in your arsenal. In fact, email marketing has an ROI of $32 for every dollar spent. Both sales and marketing teams can benefit from effective email marketing, and your sales and marketing platform should centralize communication and ensure that your prospects and customers are receiving the right email messages at the right time.

Use an email marketing automation platform to create messages that will look good wherever they’re seen.

You can design stunning messages that feed into one another and support your marketing messages, all while offering detailed insights about email performance directly within the platform. Customers are reading your emails in different modes: on desktops, mobiles, with Apple Mail, Android or Outlook on tablets and with screen readers.

With email analytics, you can track email success all the way to bottom-line ROI. Optimize your messaging by following stats like clicks, opens, bounces and deliveries. Find out which links in your emails are working and which are not. See how different email templates and messages perform and track your email marketing efforts over time.

Besides saving time and effort, email marketing when combined with the insight from your sales and marketing platform can help in boosting growth.

For example, when analyzing your sales data you notice that a large majority of your customers on the East Coast slowed down their purchases of product B last month. Try to figure out why. You may discover that a competitor is running a special deal on product B on the East Coast. You can then decide on an email marketing campaign to boost sales.

Using information extracted from your sales and marketing platform, you can work out your potential customer list and then set up follow-up calls for your salespeople to try to win business back. Customize these emails to send to contacts to convert prospects into customers, and customers into brand loyalists and advocates.

Forms & Landing Pages

To gather new leads as part of your marketing campaigns, you need to be able to gather information and integrate it into your sales and marketing efforts. By leveraging a sales and marketing platform with the direct ability to create and publish landing pages and interactive forms, you’ll always know that the information you’re gathering is going to the right place. A truly powerful sales and marketing platform will allow you to gather visitor data on your landing pages even if they don’t fill out a form, and you will be able to create dynamic, intelligent forms that recall data from previous users.

Automation

Sales and marketing automation enables you and your team to ensure consistent contact to your prospects and customers. According to emailmonday.com, about half of the companies use marketing automation technology with 58% of B2B companies planning to adopt it in the near future. In 2018, the $5.1B market was projected to grow at 20% annually.

The beauty of automation is that it allows you to personalize your touchpoints and serve specific content based on user actions.

Marketing automation brings three benefits for your business:

  1. Drive More Leads
  2. Convert Those Leads into Sales
  3. Maximize Marketing Spend

Marketing automation brings value to marketers. In fact, according to a report by VB Insight, 80% of marketing automation users saw their amount of leads increase and 77% saw their number of conversions increase. Furthermore, companies using marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates from initial response-to-MQL (marketing qualified lead) and a revenue growth rate that is 3.1% higher than non-users.

By investing time upfront to build automation nurture flows, your sales and marketing teams can focus on converting your lower-funnel leads to sales while your automation flows serve valuable educational and awareness content to your upper funnel leads.

Blogging

The cornerstone of inbound marketing is providing valuable content to your prospects. Blogging regularly is an excellent way to ensure that your brand is consistently producing content that helps establish expertise. In your sales and marketing platform, you should be able to design your ideal blog, schedule posts and share them with the channels your prospects are using. Create an RSS feed to let users subscribe to your blog, and integrate your blog CTAs directly into the rest of your marketing.

Social Media Management

Social media offers a unique perspective into your audience and how they engage with your brand. Within your sales and marketing platform, you can schedule your posts, monitor engagement, and monitor performance on every channel. Your sales and marketing platform should also enable you to conduct social listening to monitor engagement and conversations on your posts, your competitors’ posts and keywords related to your products and services.

Analytics & Reporting

Your sales and marketing don’t exist in a vacuum — in order to keep your efforts working over time, you need performance data to ensure that your efforts are paying off. A true sales and marketing platform will offer integrated, cross-channel reports that compare your performance on various channels, allowing you to identify opportunities, analyze your audience and forecast future goals. With effective reporting, you can also allocate leads and customers to members of your sales team, set individual and team goals, and monitor the performance and collaboration of each of your team members across sales and marketing.

Testing & Optimization

With effective performance data and analytics in hand, you can make changes to optimize your campaigns, automated workflows and published content. By centralizing your sales and marketing in a single platform, you can simultaneously see your marketing efforts from a high-level view and make tactical adjustments on the micro-level. If you are implementing a new campaign or making adjustments, you should also be able to conduct A/B testing to determine the best possible approach and get great results.

Multi-Platform Integrations

If your sales and marketing platform doesn’t have the capabilities to perform all of the functions you need it to, you may have to employ additional third-party tools. Your platform should easily integrate with the tools you need to keep your strategy running smoothly. The ability to centralize information from multiple sources — including third-party tools — is one of the defining characteristics of a great sales and marketing platform.

The Best Sales and Marketing Platforms for Small Business

There are hundreds of options on the market for sales and marketing platforms. When it comes to selecting the one that’s right for your business, be sure to consider multiple factors:

Ease of Use

It’s simple. Your business tools should be easy to use. Especially for small businesses, you need to be able to quickly set up and maintain your sales and marketing platform to improve utilization and enhance buy-in across your team.

Scalability

Collaboration should continue across your team as your business grows. Whether you add new members to your team, expand your customer base or launch additional campaigns or channels, your sales and marketing platform should be able to grow alongside your goals.

Extendable

Integration is key to keeping your business running smoothly. If your sales and marketing platform isn’t meeting your needs, it should be able to integrate with other leading tools that support your business needs.

Support

With some sales and marketing platforms, getting implementation and tactical support for your questions can be costly. Be sure to read the fine print about costs for support and assistance to keep your sales and marketing platform running smoothly.

Cost

All-in-one sales and marketing platforms can be extremely costly. Even tools that start out as free might have essential features behind paywalls or added fees. Make sure that your subscription fee covers everything you need to fuel your business success.

SharpSpring’s Sales & Marketing Platform Can Help

SharpSpring started because we saw a serious gap in the sales and marketing automation space. Small- and medium-sized businesses have unique needs, as do agencies that support brand growth. We’ve developed a powerful platform with users in mind, and a commitment to offer everything our customers need to fuel their businesses in one place — no paywalls, no hidden fees, just a supportive partnership with the expertise to fuel business success for our partners.

SharpSpring helps thousands of marketing agencies and small- and medium-sized businesses in more than 50 countries. We’re committed to helping our customers — real people working to grow their companies — achieve success.

AUTHOR
Jamie Embree
Jamie Embree

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