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There’s an ‘‘app’’ (software application) for everything, it seems. You can download an app for your smart phone that prevents dialling old flames when drunk, another that tracks bowel movements and even one that will advise you how local weather conditions are likely to affect your hairstyle.

There is an app for almost everything these days.

It’s the same in the marketing world. Technology has exploded with all sorts of software applications to make selling your stuff to people easier, faster, better. As the world has become more connected, through their computers, cell phones and even televisions, marketers have an enhanced ability to find and persuade consumers to buy.

A challenge with marketing technology i.e. software products that help market a product, is the myriad of categories and vendors. According to a website dedicated to the field, chiefmartec.com, as of early 2015 there were 1876 vendors selling products across 43 categories of marketing technology.

There are products for every imaginable aspect of finding, securing and looking after customers. From building and managing your website to email marketing to social media campaigns to analysing marketing data.

Research from US consulting company the Winterberry Group, released in January 2015, showed that marketers in North America typically (51 per cent) use five to 10 types of marketing technology, while 9 per cent used more than 31!

What’s your organisation doing in terms of its marketing technology?

It can seem overwhelming. Our firm hired a marketing intern in 2011 who spent most of her six week project analysing all of the technology options available so we could make some judgements about the best tools, and we were still confused with the choices.

What’s critical is to remain focussed on the basics – i.e. what tools will make it easier for the type of customers that inhabit your specific markets to find, evaluate and buy your product. If a technology is not contributing to that, it’s not worth investing in.

The great opportunity with the internet is the ability to make the company website the hub of your marketing approach. Putting information on your website that helps the customer buy your product, and then telling them about it through channels like email, online advertising and social media, can be very effective.

While you need product information to help a customer evaluate your offering, what’s key is also having content that genuinely helps them meet their needs, whether they use your product or not.

Think of the way Edmonds has for over a century helped people bake, and along the way promoted the use of their baking powder and other products.

What mix of tools you apply depends on your market and its challenges, particularly whether you are mainly selling to other businesses or directly to consumers. For the typical firm in the hi-tech sector, a business-to-business exporter, there are three key types of marketing technology product you should focus on as a minimum.

First is building your website using a standard content management system (CMS), such as Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla or Kiwi product Silverstripe (amongst many others). While there are situations where a bespoke website might be required, for many businesses using an industry standard CMS enables your own staff to update it, easily connect it to other tools and technologies, and retain the ability to switch website providers if you need to.

Second, you need tools for attracting people to your website hub and then engaging with them when they get there. That means technology for managing social media channels, email, landing pages and website analytics as a start. You can either grab different tools for each function (many of which are cheap or free), or use a ‘marketing automation’ software product that manages it all in one place (which usually incur licensing fees).

Third, you need somewhere to put all of those thousands of enquiries generated from your clever website. A customer database, often called a customer relationship management (CRM) system, is useful for sorting and managing the leads generated from your online activity.

Combining the three automatically is a powerful way of attracting, converting and selling to customers. As you get the ‘system’ working you can look at the broader set of tools and technologies available and judge whether they will add any more value.

If this is all new, how do you get into this bewildering world of marketing technology? Here are basic questions to ask yourself, or your marketing team: 1. How many people come to our website on a monthly basis, and where do they come from (E.g. from searching on Google, referred from another company’s website etc.)? 2. What do these people do when they get to your website (i.e. what pages do they look at most, what do they spend most time on)? 3. How many of these visitors turn into leads for your sales people to follow up with?

Clarity on these questions will help you work out whether you have any problems, and where to start when applying some new marketing technology. Just remember there’s an app for virtually anything these days, and some of them are even useful.

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