The Art of the Purchase: 5 Steps to Selecting a Marketing Automation Platform

Greg Straface, VP Business Development,. Head of business development at PJA Advertising + Marketing for the last 10 years, a Dad of two wonderful daughters, an avid runner, and the owner of the smartest border collie ever whose name is Scout.

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At the beginning of the year, we decided that PJA needed to invest in a Marketing Automation platform to tie our front-end sales engine together with our overall marketing efforts. Purchasing a Marketing Automation system will help our business development efforts focus on things like identifying new leads and moving existing leads from the top […]

At the beginning of the year, we decided that PJA needed to invest in a Marketing Automation platform to tie our front-end sales engine together with our overall marketing efforts. Purchasing a Marketing Automation system will help our business development efforts focus on things like identifying new leads and moving existing leads from the top of the marketing funnel along a path to become sales-ready. It will also let us score prospects based on their interaction with things like emails, visits to the Web site, and other content. We can then cultivate these prospects by using nurturing efforts through social channels and emails, driving them from initial engagement, through a sales meeting, and hopefully a contract.

Today marketing automation is so much more than just a delivery vehicle for your content. It’s a multi-channel platform that collects vital data from campaigns that allows for greater analysis and reporting, which in turn leads to greater ROI for your company.

As we began our purchase process, we realized that we needed to take into account not only our needs for today, but our needs for tomorrow. We needed to ensure that we could grow with our platform choice, and this is something each of you should take into consideration as you evaluate your own needs.

Here are some steps that you may want to consider for your organization as you review marketing automation platforms:

Step 1: Establish what your goals or objectives are for this purchase. For example:

  • Are you looking to drive better alignment between sales and marketing?
  • Do you need to improve the quality of leads you’re currently getting?
  • Are you looking to drive better conversions and revenue?

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Step 2: Measure your platform requirements:

  • Develop both a technical and non-technical check sheet of requirements to compare the different marketing platforms.
  • Do your homework – read what the analysts, experts and industry influencers have to say about the platforms you’re considering.
  • Narrow your list to a manageable selection based on your requirements and industry feedback.
  • Have each vendor give you a presentation and most definitely get a demo.

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Step 3: Test the platforms against a real-world marketing scenario

  • Develop one or two marketing plays that you execute on each platform. The sales team’s of each vendor will highlight all of their platform’s strengths, but will underplay their weaknesses.  Executing the test plays will quickly allow you to see where each platform has strengths and weaknesses.
  • If there are areas where the platforms are under performing, or lack a specific need or capability, establish if that need will be available in the future.

Step 4:  Develop a short list and ask broader questions

  • Once you’ve completed your real-world scenario and tabulated the results, narrow the choice to your top two or three platforms.
  • Put together a pro and con sheet for each platform.
  • Establish your MUST haves from the pros and cons list.

(Our pros and cons list was fairly challenging as we found that each platform was missing a core technical requirement. By asking questions we learned that some platform vendors were in the process of developing a key feature that we wanted for the next version of their platform which helped keep them in the consideration set.)

Step 5 Final Selection

  • Narrow your choice to two to three platforms.
  • Ask your final questions regarding your requirements.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for features that are only available in a higher priced tier. You’d be surprised what you’ll get once a vendor knows they are in the final round and are close to a sale.
  • Begin the larger question around financials and how their platform can fit your budget.
  • Make your final purchase.

Finding a marketing automation platform that fits everything your organization is looking for can be a challenge. So, be sure to do your research, consult with your team so you’re all aligned, and you’ll be sure to land on a platform that will help achieve the goals your looking to accomplish.

Three Questions About Native Advertising With Taboola’s Founder & CEO Adam Singolda

Graham Spector, Social Activation Manager. Graham is here to make sure our social media efforts for our clients and here at the agency are in tip-top shape. When he's not Tweeting, Instagramming, or "Liking" pages you can likely find him at a concert or BBQ joint nearby.

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Improved SEO, a stronger social following, and overall visibility – the list of reasons why more and more brands are investing in native advertising could go on and on. Just two weeks ago, even the New York Times jumped into the native game. Its a far cry for the platform once regarded as a play […]

Improved SEO, a stronger social following, and overall visibility – the list of reasons why more and more brands are investing in native advertising could go on and on. Just two weeks ago, even the New York Times jumped into the native game. Its a far cry for the platform once regarded as a play for click-hungry blogs and labeled as deceptive for blurring the lines between editorial content and advertising. So it begs the obvious question: What changed? What made brand after respected brand hop on this bandwagon and start distributing their content in a once controversial fashion?

For starters, native advertising has been an essential step for any brand looking to reach the engaged digital user through original content. The format is fairly straightforward: content appears on the owned properties of a credible publisher, in such a manner that makes it nearly indistinguishable from the publisher’s original material. Best of all? Most native platforms allow buyers to serve up their own content, putting the power in the hands of companies both large and small.

One of the largest and fastest-growing native service providers today, Taboola has been around for the last seven years tackling all the majors issues facing this evolving model. Taboola’s Founder and CEO, Adam Singolda, was kind enough to walk us through some of the big questions facing native today.

What impact has advertising on social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn had on services such as Taboola? Has it been a threat, or mutually beneficial?

I think the main difference between Taboola and sponsored social updates [on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook] is the context in which the content is served. When you’re browsing your news feed, you’re in a certain state of mind that is different than the one you have when you’ve finished reading an article on a publisher site about finance, news or technology. We can say the same for search engines, when users are in more of a hunting mode for content rather than a discovery mindset. Looking at the big picture, I think it’s important for companies to become familiar with a variety of different marketing products to see what works, what doesn’t, and when. Many of these formats will be complementary, while others may compete.

 What do you see as a benchmark of success for BtoB content with native advertising? Are there any specific examples of brands or campaigns that you think are strong?

We now index over 5 million pieces of content on our platform including articles, videos and slideshows with a Cost Per Click (CPC), a budget, and targeting goal behind them. BtoB marketers typically track engagement and the quality of the users when consuming the content on their sites, as well as conversion metrics and Cost Per Action (CPA), using tracking codes that Taboola provides. This is a highly accurate benchmark that can be more telling than the traditional Click Through Rate (CTR) metrics. A good example of this is a leading marketing software company that uses educational materials, such as how-to ebooks and templates to generate leads at a highly attractive CPA with Taboola. Imagine growing your customer base without ever introducing a single banner, focusing on storytelling and making your content discoverable.

Another typical use case is a BtoB campaign designed to lift awareness for a new product or market. For example, one of the world’s biggest software vendors used Taboola to drive traffic to a video-intensive website they built to drive awareness. When it comes to brand lift, a good benchmark might be the number of content views (e.g. a video plays longer than X seconds), as well as engagement/earned-media metrics, such as social shares, and post-click activity like purchases.

 Any predictions for native’s integration into mobile for 2014?

We believe native will play a key role in mobile monetization, and we’ve seen a massive increase in mobile content marketing at Taboola over the last 12 months. We believe we’ll continue to see very high growth for three reasons:

  • The natural fit of the business model of paid content discovery. It’s hard to imagine that users will click a mobile banner and buy a product on their mobile device with five minutes to spare in a cab or waiting for a doctor, but it is reasonable to assume they would read an article on a news site like USA Today.
  • The ease of use of smartphones as an amazing device for content consumption. Between apps like Flipboard, Netflix, and Pandora, we’re all accustomed to consuming content on mobile.
  • The increase in mobile usage globally. The mobile consumption trend is only growing, as some publishers already report that 50% of their audience comes from mobile devices. This is true on a global level as well. In India/Asia-Pacific regions, for example, the growth in mobile offers huge opportunities.

We have many partners who use our API to integrate Taboola’s content discovery to create a native discovery experience as part of their application workflow, making for a great user experience, something we’re very excited about.

In conclusion, my conversation with Adam easily confirmed what many of us already suspected: native is poised for quite the year. The model is applicable to almost any content producing industry, and the results are crystal clear for the brand almost instantly. I think native will remain in the “digital toolkit” of many agencies for quite some time, but before it can work itself into the strategies of the more reserved brands, some challenges may lie ahead. There has been a lot of talk about the steps the FTC has taken to regulate and monitor native advertising services, and regulated industries simply won’t be able to participate until some guidelines are set in place. If brands are looking to generate overall awareness and see increased click-rates, there’s simply no better solution. After a promising past year, I honestly can’t wait to see what comes from native advertising in 2014.

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Is it Time to Retire The Creative Department?

Ben Resnikoff, Writer & Associate Creative Director. Ben doesn’t have a novel in the works. Or a screenplay. He likes short-format pieces such as ads, brochures and websites. Oh, and old cars. Don’t get him started on that.

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Lean back. Unclench your teeth. Take a breath. Your job is safe. I’m not suggesting we get rid of copywriters and art directors and replace them with robots or user generated content. That would be shortsighted as I like this job and it supports all of my favorite habits – like eating. I’m actually talking […]

Lean back. Unclench your teeth. Take a breath. Your job is safe. I’m not suggesting we get rid of copywriters and art directors and replace them with robots or user generated content. That would be shortsighted as I like this job and it supports all of my favorite habits – like eating. I’m actually talking about something much more fundamental: losing the title Creative Department.

Really.

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Recently I had the opportunity to help out with a really interesting program PJA created for Red Hat in conjunction with CIO Magazine and Harvard Business Review – it’s called the Enterprisers Project (check it out at enterprisersproject.com).  Specifically, I wrote a post (just one of a series) about how the CIO’s job is changing so radically, the title Chief Information Officer might not be appropriate anymore. That brought into focus something I’ve thought about off-and-on for years, but never really followed through to completion. Calling it a Creative Department – and by extension, writers and art directors “creatives” – actually does harm to the agency and the creative product. By the very nature of the title, it presupposes nobody else in the agency is – or should even try to be – creative. And that’s a huge problem that plays out every day in every agency across the country. Maybe around the world, even, but I don’t know what they call the Creative Department in Uzbekistan.

Creativity is inherent in every agency position and should be pushed and celebrated just as it is in the so-called Creative Department. Let’s break it down by job function:

Account Team – Those who apply their skills to craft a strategy that’s both smart and evocative leads to results that are much better – and you get there much faster. Know what that takes? Creativity.

Planners – Try to prove it doesn’t take creativity to drill down through the fluff most research unearths and reveal the hidden insight that will make the work meaningful. You can’t.

Digital Strategy – Is there anything here that isn’t creative once you get past the name? It’s all about finding new ways to insert brands into conversations that people aren’t sure brands belong in – and make it seem perfectly natural.

Media – If you’ve been paying attention the last few years, you know that placement is just as important as the message (sometimes more). Coming up with a disruptive, meaningful placement that drives the point home takes, you guessed it, creativity.

Production – Budgets keep getting smaller. Printing and shipping keep getting more expensive. Everyone wants a video produced on an iPhone, not realizing all the background elements (and expenses) it takes to make that happen. Finding ways to deliver big ideas on budget takes lateral thinking. Lots of it.

Development – As far as I can tell, anything short of placing an ad on Google’s homepage is possible. But figuring out how to code those ideas is often much harder than coming up with them in the first place. So yeah, there’s a bunch of creativity going in that department, as well.

Finance – There must be more creativity here than in the rest of the agency combined. How else are we going to recoup all those 3-martini and matinee lunches everyone in The Creative Department always seems to be taking?

In closing, I’ll just say I don’t know what the new title should be. So I’m asking you to be creative and come up with some suggestions. Please share them in the comments below.

Thank you.

Why Using Content Marketing to Find New Employees is a Great Idea

Chris Morgan, Assistant Account Executive Chris joined PJA after graduating business school. Before his ad land "calling" he had a lucrative career in sales but the monotony got the best of him. He happily turned this in to be around a more creative and collaborative culture.

Advertising agencies understand that a great way to attract great talent is by showcasing creative work. Little can represent an agency better than the campaigns created for its clients. In addition to the portfolio there is an ace in the deck that adds to the expression of an agency’s skill and identity. That ace is […]

Advertising agencies understand that a great way to attract great talent is by showcasing creative work. Little can represent an agency better than the campaigns created for its clients. In addition to the portfolio there is an ace in the deck that adds to the expression of an agency’s skill and identity. That ace is content marketing.

Besides promoting the agency to prospects, it is a great way to attract new employees. In my case it was extremely persuasive.  Other than a love affair with Adage, Adweek, and Mashable that had tones of a harlequin romance, I did not have a great deal of connections or experience with the advertising scene in Boston. But, I was encouraged to discover more about PJA through the agency’s well done content marketing efforts, such as a radio show, e-books, AdAge articles, and cases studies. These projects, albeit unrelated to the hiring process, had a substantial impact on my path to the agency. In fact, PJA’s “Unconventionals” radio show about leaders in disruptive marketing was what compelled me to apply.

Here are three benefits that content marketing has on the finding the job applicants with the right fit:

  • People who do not naturally gel with what the agency is trying to say are selected out. Demonstrating the firm’s strategic vision and thought process, will help candidates with contrary opinions to “opt out.”
  • The viral effect of sharing agency content with others helps reach more potential applicants. Content marketing efforts start with existing employees and can be shared through their networks – Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. It is also worth considering the psychological “weak tie” effect of Linkedin that increases the attraction of something (an agency) because your friends are advocates of it.
  • During the interview each person can have a more educated conversation about their views and the potential relationship between the two parties.  The agency content provides a common ground.

One result of great content marketing is that a new hire that can confidently hit the ground running. Applicants have seen multiple examples of how this agency approaches strategic challenges, how it feels about the world, and most importantly the opinions of the agency’s leadership. The “voice” has been heard.

 

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    Tweeting Inside the Lines: Social Media in Regulated Environments

    Hugh Kennedy, Partner, EVP Planning, Healthcare Practice Lead. Hugh joined PJA in 1992 and still loves coming to work. He also writes The Secret Life of the Life Scientist, a blog about marketing to those who discover. Hugh has three Swiss Mountain Dogs, two children, and one husband.

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    Regardless of industry, business interest in social media continues to rise. At the same time, the continued expansion of regulations seems to undercut the ability to have a credible or even remotely interesting social media presence if you work in healthcare, financial services, or biopharmaceutical markets. One client I work with still has to send […]

    Regardless of industry, business interest in social media continues to rise. At the same time, the continued expansion of regulations seems to undercut the ability to have a credible or even remotely interesting social media presence if you work in healthcare, financial services, or biopharmaceutical markets. One client I work with still has to send every Tweet through Corporate Marketing for approval. Another’s Twitter page clearly states that it’s open for Tweeting only from 8AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday.

    Yet the surge in demand for social media as a marketing channel finally seems to be thawing the resistance. One pharmaceutical executive who’d recently left Roche told me that the most valuable thing their CRO (contract research organization) had done for them was to provide social media training.

    Training pharmaceutical executives in social media? Wasn’t it only a few years ago that I sat at a healthcare social media conference watching a J&J marketing manager roll her eyes as she recalled receiving the 40-page draft of their legal department’s social media employee guidelines?

    Think about what social media can do in a highly regulated industry and it all starts to make sense:

    •  It can improve company image in a market where leaders often look like the bad guys, even if they create and distribute life-saving therapies
    • It can keep lines of communication open when there is a dearth of new product introductions
    • It can demonstrate transparency, a quality that is essential to any brand’s success today but one that regulated companies never instinctively offer

    So what should a marketer in a highly regulated environment – whether pharma, financial services, or healthcare – do to charge up their social media these days?

    Clearly, you first need the basics in terms of privacy policy, disclaimers, and standards of conduct so that Legal has a roadmap if something gets out of hand. You need to hew to compliance standards like HIPAA or FINRA. And you need to set goals for response and engagement so you know if your efforts are succeeding. Once you set up these goal posts, you can do a lot of things. Here are five:

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    • You can post thought-provoking content that doesn’t put you at risk. Bank of America leveraged the credibility and content development expertise of the Khan Academy to deliver valuable financial education content to younger customers. And they got a lot of people blogging about it.
    • You can do firsthand research. If you’re in financial services, you can gather input to improve your customer service experience or to shape or improve products and services.
    • You can pilot an idea and build it from there. When our agency launched a Twitter/Facebook/YouTube program for Boston Scientific, we started on safe ground, promoting the company’s global support of World Diabetes Day and highlighting how any office or employee could get involved.

    And even if you’re in big pharma, the most highly regulated industry you can imagine, the possibilities are just as broad to educate and inform, be that across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, XING, YouTube or corporate blogs. Just look at how far Roche has come, sharing thoughts about #nerdlove.