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Archive for July, 2011

Multiple Technology Platforms for an Email Marketing Contact Management System

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

It’s hard to find all inclusive tools.  Some times the features in one system do a certain task well while another technology is better suited for something else.  This is often true in email marketing, especially for small and medium companies.  There’s no inherent problem with using multiple database or list platforms.  However a lack of planning and organization can cause administrative nightmares for running a cohesive email marketing campaign.  Set a contact management system for your email marketing program that ensure data is shared across all your list management technologies.

The first task is to simplify technologies.  Get the number of necessary technologies down to the smallest number possible.  It’s extremely rare that there would be more than two technologies involved:

  • An email marketing specific platform that specializes in templating, some list management, automated sending, and opt-out/opt-in compliance.
  • A database platform with advanced sorting/queries, reporting, and dynamic contact management.

There are add-ons to popular database platforms for email marketing.  If the add-on suits all of your email marketing needs then they can be an ideal solution.  Some are better than others but there is usually a sacrifice in functionality or accessibility with these add-ons which is impractical for certain email marketing campaigns.

I’ve yet to see an email marketing platform that has a robust enough list management system that it can double as a company database.  Email marketing platforms fulfill a niche role and most of them do it well.  Don’t try and hammer it into a function it wasn’t designed for.

Let’s assume that add-ons aren’t available for your database technology or that the add-on doesn’t have all the necessary functionality required.  That leaves two distinct technologies in your contact management system.

The trick to making your contact management effective is a recurring update process.  In some cases that can be automated which is ideal.

Other times automation is too complex or too expensive to implement.  In those situations, a schedule is vital.  Basically, a person or people need to fill the role of automation.  This often is not a daunting task.  Contacts can be held in the database and advanced sorting allows for very specific criteria to be met.  Most database programs make exporting data easy and most email marketing systems make importing data into usable groups simple.  This provides a simple exchange of information so that both technologies are on the same page.

The only time this process becomes problematic is if the schedule is not well planned out or the timing is not followed.  Managing your contacts is critical to all marketing efforts.  Sacrificing functionality is a poor option.  So if you find that you need to have more than one technology in your contact management system, ensure there is a plan to keep them synchronized.

Keep Your Website Current

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

An often overlooked aspect of a website is that it needs to be maintained.  Setting and forgetting is not a great strategy for your site.  The primary reason for this is that things change.  If you don’t keep your site current then it will not have no ability, or a hindered ability, to market your products or services.

Here is a list of things that change and efforts need to be made to keep up with it.

  • Content changes: There’s nothing worse than a website with a lot of information that is outdated.  That’s especially true if contact information is inaccurate.
  • Technology changes: The internet does a pretty good job of supporting older technologies but it doesn’t last forever.  It’s important to check on your site, especially any tools or programming to ensure it’s functioning properly.
  • Layout changes: Technology often breeds change in design.  You don’t have to be a cutting edge site but a critical eye is necessary if your site layout is dated.  Even untrained eyes can pick out dated sites that were clearly designed a decade or more ago.
  • Link changes:  Link internally to your site should be stable but what about links going to other sites?  It’s good to check those links intermittently as they can break at any time.  This is especially true for older blog or article posts that often are neglected.

So how does one keep up with changes?  Many folks don’t have time or a focus on their website to remember everything that might need updated in real time.  The simplest way is to create a maintenance matrix.  This is a schedule of what items need reviewed and when.  Setting a matrix often keeps the workload down because it dedicates certain times to updates.  Critical changes like contact information updates need done immediately but other updates for basic sites might be as infrequent as a yearly review.

Set a schedule to keep your site current.  All it takes is a schedule and some diligence and you will have a site serving visitors content that’s applicable for no, rather than the past.