3 Hot Sales and Marketing Apps Every Business Should Be Using

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(This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post)

My ten-person company sells and implements sales and marketing technologies for our more than 600 clients around the country. Over the past few years, I’ve watched with amazement as the choices for helping small and medium companies market their businesses proliferate as the cloud has grown in popularity. I’m sure that ten years from now, I’ll be doing the same thing, but given the changes that have happened so far, with different tools. But that’s in the future. Today, as we head into 2017, there are some great tools that many of my best clients — business owners, managers and marketers — are using to grow their companies. Full disclosure: my company sells and implements these products, so I’m not unbiased! Here are three.

Customer Relationship Management.

The CRM market has grown at a double-digit pace for years, and I know why: it’s essential to any sales and marketing operation. A good CRM system is nothing more than a shared database — usually cloud-based. The smart people I know who use their systems well are ensuring that customer and prospect data does not fall through the cracks and that all use the system to communicate, collaborate and track every lead and opportunity that comes through the door. For small and medium companies, there are many good CRM options. I like Insightly due to its flexibility, price and ease of use. Products like Insightly integrate with email systems and come equipped with calendaring, reporting, workflow and integration tools that, when used the right way, enable small companies to market like the giants. “We use it to track all of our opportunities and customer interactions every day,” says Annie Reeves, one of the owners of Chintaro Software, an Australia-based service that helps accommodation providers better manage their properties. “Without our CRM system, we would be marketing with one hand behind our back.”

E-Mail Marketing.

No, e-mail is not dead. In fact, just about all reports I read is that e-mail is still the most important tool for communicating in the corporate world, and its use is growing, not declining. Part of that is the popularity of bulk email services that will do mailings to hundreds or thousands of (opt-in) community members at a time. Smart marketers are using e-mail services to ensure that they are “touching” these community members throughout the year with helpful information to run their businesses and improve their lives. There are plenty of great e-mail services today — I like AWeber, a small firm based near us in Pennsylvania that not only provides great e-mail marketing tools but also offers a higher level of personalized service that you don’t normally see in some of the other e-mail marketing giants.

Marketing automation.

Today’s smart marketer knows that using tools ad-hoc can be beneficial, but investing in an all-in-one marketing automation platform brings everything together into a single place to direct both outbound and inbound efforts. Like CRM and e-mail, there are plenty of marketing automation platforms to choose from. Because we focus primarily on small- and medium-sized companies, we usually point our clients to HubSpot. According to Ali Saffari, the marketing director of retail serviceTrusted Shops, HubSpot has helped his company increase traffic to their website by 30% every month and boosted their leads by 200 times. HubSpot provides an integrated platform for blogging, search engine optimization and social media engagement. Customers using HubSpot properly learn how to create special landing pages for their campaigns, track and manage leads, design calls-to-action for every opportunity and then receive daily analytics for all their activities to measure what’s working and what’s not. HubSpot also comes with its own CRM application. In addition, the company offers a large library of blogs, videos and other resources to support marketers.

One thing to remember about all this great technology — it won’t work on its own. The clients I have who make the best use of their marketing technologies have good people using it. They hire experienced marketers and support them with staff to ensure that their data is accurate and that communications are consistent and ongoing. Having a great CRM, e-mail or outbound marketing tool is essential for your business — but it’ll be useless if no one is actually trained to use it the right way.

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