The recent Oscar-nominated film "Her" looks at a man who develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system with a female voice and personality. Programmers have yet to develop such a computer in the real world, so until they do, we'll have to settle for other areas in which computers can make our lives easier. Take marketing software platforms.
As we all know, marketing is complex stuff. From prospect identification to the "close," each step of the process is riddled with a host of manual and automated inputs. The more data you have, the greater the risk for error, redundancies and excessive costs. Again, this isn't exactly rocket science: all small businesses are already running some sort of marketing software platform, whether it is in the form of a spreadsheet or an off-the-shelf product. The challenge is to maximize the value of your investment.
How can marketing software streamline the function to make it more efficient?
To answer this question we must first look at how the role of marketing has changed in the last decade. The traditional "outbound" marketing approach, predicated on cold calls, site visits and sales brochures is being superseded by "inbound" marketing techniques that introduce your brand to prospects via blogs, social media channels, content offers, etc.
Therefore, a best-in-class marketing platform - Hubspot's All-in-One Inbound Marketing Software specifically comes to mind - that's attuned to the demands of "inbound" marketing should include the following functionality:
An integrated toolkit. "Outbound" marketing tools operate independently in their own silos. An integrated solution ties these tools together under one interface.
All-in-one analytics. In a similar vein, "outbound" marketing platforms measure results within their respective silos. A report culled from a CRM system here, Web analytics there, social media over there, etc. An integrated analytical platform has all these reports in one place. Furthermore, they’re generally very specific.
Customized content. Since analytical data is trapped in their respective "silos," traditional outbound marketing platforms are ill-equipped to let marketers quickly and effectively create content for targeted demographics. An integrated system that pulls related analytics can help markets roll out customized content faster and more effectively.
By now, the benefits of adopting a more integrated marketing platform should be somewhat evident: marketers save time in identifying prospects and leads. By pulling data from a single source, they're less likely to duplicate effort or access inaccurate data. They can more efficiently roll out appropriate content based on analytical findings. In short, they become a leaner, meaner and more cost-efficient marketing machine.
All that said, unlike the operating system in "Her," a leaner, meaner marketing machine won't listen to your romantic troubles and you most certainly won't fall in love with it. And that's probably good thing.