What's the best automated marketing platform for me? (ie. Marketing360, SeoSamba, Acquisio, etc)

Dear Marketing Experts, I'm an independent software developer and I'm *nearly* completed a software project that I'll soon be launching from my website. I'm looking at one of these "all-in-one", "automated" marketing software platforms to help me with the PPC marketing and other modes of marketing... because as a one man operation, it's just too much work for me to try to wear all the hats... it would leave me no time for further software development. Anyway, googling around, there seems to be quite a few of them out there - SeoSamba, Marketing360, Marketo, Acquisio, etc. I had a good talk the other day with a rep from Marketing360 and checked out all their videos and literature on their site... the fellow sent me their Pricing Plans as well:

http://www.marketing360.com/plans-and-pricing

It actually looks almost *exactly* what I'm needing - essentially a "right-hand man" that will take care of all the advertising and marketing for my new software - PPC, Display Networks, creating and testing ad copy, optimizing ads, retargeting, etc. I'm no marketing expert by any means, but I know a bit and at least on the surface, am familiar with most of these things. As part of their base package, they even offer some services that I really wouldn't need  :

"Call Tracking"  (I won't be trying to acquire leads/sales over the phone)
"Local Listing Ads"
"Top Rated Local"
"Web Hosting"  (I have my own webhost)

As I plan to sell my software online internationally, I don't have any need for any of those "local" advertising options - I don't think they're applicable to me. I asked the rep if it would be possible to "swap out" some of these items I don't need in lieu of other services but he was totally inflexible and said they are not an "a la carte" service. That was disappointing. Something also I really didn't quite understand under the Marketing360 Pricing Plans, was the concept of the "Fuel" for SEO ($150) and PPC.  Well, for SEO I suppose it is simply their monthly charge to do SEO work for my site, I get that... but the varying amount ($250, $450, $750) for the PPC "Fuel" was a little confusing. Shouldn't I be allowed to decide on what to spend for my own PPC campaigns? Also, the rep said that I would pay them first, then they would buy my PPC credits. I don't feel quite right about that... for a couple of reasons. First, I'd like to be able to have control of my own PPC account and buy my own PPC credits directly. Secondly, would the Marketing360 people be taking my FULL $250 (.. or $450, or $750) and spending that on PPC ads - or do they pocket some of that money as part of their "fees"? I'm leery about that...
   Anyway, I guess the bottom line of what I'm trying to get at is - is the Marketing360 platform a good deal, and suitable for my situation. Or would another option like SeoSamba be better and cheaper (as at this point, my budget is tight)? The thing with SeoSamba is they don't appear to do PPC at all. Should I even be *entertaining* the notion of getting involved with one of these "automated marketing" platforms... or are they not worth it??

Would appreciate any guidance to steer me through this whole big crazy minefield!!

Thanks
    Shawn
shawn857Asked:
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Lucas BishopClick TrackerCommented:
Hi Shawn,

First, I'll give you my take on Marketin360. I personally find it a bit off putting that all of their packages have the exact same feature set, aside from the "fuel". However, I won't go so far as to say it's not a good deal. It appears that using the base package, you're paying $385 a month for their system/management

Beyond that, the "fuel" is credits based. For SEO there is a decent breakout of what the credits translate to. Which @$150 is title tag optimization and keyword research for 10 pages. Now on the PPC side, they don't explain the credit breakdown? Is it a 1-to-1 mapping of dollars to PPC budget? At this point the lack of transparency begins to be more of a concern.

If the PPC Fuel credits map directly to dollars, depending on your target market, a $250 PPC budget could last as little as a few hours, to a month if you're being extremely conservative. On the SEO side of things, paying $150 for title tag optimization and keyword research is a bit steep, but that may be because to me it's one of the easier facets of SEO to dig into.

In any event most dedicated PPC management companies charge around a $1k setup fee and then a percent of total ad spend as their management fee. Most SEO companies will have a similar setup and management cost component.

So overall, I'd say they offer a good budget option to get your feet wet, but I wouldn't expect to get your socks knocked off with any of the results. They could help lay some groundwork that you can learn from.

Alternatively, if you want to do a bit of DIY on the SEO & PPC fronts, I'd consider exploring MOZ for SEO and Wordstream for PPC.
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David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
Have you looked into adwords and priced your keywords lately? if you search for your other projects do they show up on page 1 of the google/bing results?  Your products keywords may be in demand so you have to bid more to get the ad displayed. what are the # of unique visitors to your site/month  You can send invitations to reviewers i.e. @ cnet, zdnet and hope that they publish a review.. you will have to point out what makes your program stand out from the rest of the pack.

Hiring of a marketing company.. if you don't feel comfortable then use your instinct to stay away. Have you determined a marketing budget ?

Note: I don't want any answers to these questions.. just things you need to consider.
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DrDamnitCommented:
The pursuit of an all-in-one marketing solution is going to be a disappointment. Most all-in-one platforms do one thing really well, and then bolt on the other services because there is a demand for it, not because they are good at it. There is no such thing as "buy this software, and customers will beat a path to your door." It just doesn't exist.

So, let's think about what you're trying to do (strategically). You're attempting to buy customers for a price that is less than the lifetime value the present to your company. i.e., if you have built a SaaS service, and will charge $100 / month for it, and the average customer stays with you for 1.5 years, they are worth $1,800 to you. So, as long as you spend less than $1,800 to acquire them, you should be profitable. The problem is: you have a new service, and you don't have good stats on this. So, we're not sure what your budget should / could / would be.

So, my standard advice, it take your target price, cut it in half and assume only a six month retention rate with a 20% return rate (20% stop their 30 day free trial).

$99 * 6 * .8 = $475 lifetime total value of your customer.

Since you're in the software business, you need around 50% margins to be able to pay overhead, yourself, etc... so that means you can spend NO MORE than $237.50 acquiring a single customer.

Now, let's take that and look at it in terms of marketing.

The $380 / month fee = 2 customers / month break even.
The $150 title tage setup = 1/2 customer / month break even.
The fuel SEO = 2-8 customers / month break even.

So, just to pay for all this, you need to acquire around 10 customers / month before you stop losing money.

<rant>
Side rant about SEO: SEO should be a daily or weekly BUSINESS PROCESS not an outsourced expense. Few people realize this, but Google is a privately held software company that afford you the use of their product. It's not a piece of magic in the sky, it's software and a database. They see themselves as the "front door" or "front page" of the internet. They want your website to add valuable content to Google so they can continue to be the heavy hitter in search. Thus, SEO is not a matter of getting your pages just right (simple tactics), but it's a matter of producing valuable content on a regular basis that both Google and your customers will find well written and useful (strategy). Unfortunately for the great unwashed, they don't realize this, so they pay $800 / month for SEO that gets them "front page on Google" for long term keywords that no one in their right mind will search for. As the author of the software and (presumably) the owner of the company, YOU are responsible for generating this content that presents your company well.
</endrant>

Your concern that "I don't have time for all this" is valid and good. You don't.

What you need is not an all-in-one solution. You need to start working on ONE area of client acquisition and perfect it before moving on to the next one. If I were you, I would start looking for someone with whom I could do a joint venture. Someone who already has a list of people very likely to buy your product, and then give that person / company a cut of each sale. The standard is one month's SaaS fee per conversion.

Once you have customer and cash flow, then you can dabble.

I consider the following things as 100% necessary for a startup:
1. An autoresponder (awebber is cheap and good. So is mail chimp).
2. A good website. Spend the bucks to have one created that is modern and responsive (mobile-ready).
3. Blog - this is where you add content about your company and the benefits (not features) of your product.
4. Give each and every visitor a chance to do something and learn more about you while they are at your site. Capture their email address by offering a free report or some other download that teaches them how to be a good customer and teaches them how to get the most out of your software.

Of course, these things all require that you get someone to your website in the first place, so we're back to the problem of traffic.

Traffic is bought. Always. Period. End of story. You only have a choice of what you use to pay for it: time (SEO / article marketing) or money (PPC, Banners, everything else).

If you're going to use money for PPC, then i would highly suggest you start with Bing. Microsoft is greatful for the money you spend with them. Google is the pretty girl at the party that only talks to the hot guy who is spending $1M / month or more on adwords. When you finally do get some of her attention, one day she stops talking to you because she's mad. You ask her why, and she says: "You know what you did." They are crap when you are trying to get any support. Bing, on the other hand, will do hand holding to help you succeed. All you have to do is call in. Cut your teeth with Bing, and when you have ads that work, start working with Google.

I know I told YOU to do it, and that's on purpose. You cannot manage what you don't understand. YOU need to do the basics and start the campaign management. When it starts to produce cash, then you can outsource it (for as little as $18-$20 / hour) at oDesk, Freelancer, eLance, etc... but if you can't manage and guide the people you hire, you'll fail. YOU have to do it in the beginning.

Oh, and one more thing, master "negative keywords".

I am fairly sure this answer isn't what you wanted. You wanted an easy button. "The best all-in-one marketing software" is you and your staff. Right now, you don't have a staff, so you have to concentrate on just a few items that are manageable. The programmer's dream of writing some software and then having a company rise up around them to leave them alone so that they can just write more code or do more geeky things is a pipe dream. That only happens when you have a unicorn. Or, at the very least, a piece of software that is filling an extreme void and vacuum in the market place. The rest of us have to become marketers who manage their time and efforts in a ruthless, draconian way. We pick and choose the paths that are worthy for us to spend our time on them. We ignore the others, and we shun those promising an "easy button".
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Lucas BishopClick TrackerCommented:
Additionally, considering your focus is to market an application, if you do choose a management company, I'd make sure that on the SEO & PPC side of things, they address:

Rich Snippets for Apps for organic search and if you have a mobile app then the app extension feature and App install campaigns for Adwords should also be a higher priority.
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DrDamnitCommented:
OP:

 Did this answer your question or do you need additional help?
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shawn857Author Commented:
Sorry Michael, I've been wrestling with a crashed computer since yesterday. Thanks to all for the input and I will respond soon!

Thanks
    Shawn
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shawn857Author Commented:
Excellent info Gentlemen, thank you. My responses:

Lucas - Most aspects of Marketing360 look good to me, and $385 is not all that bad - better than a 1k startup fee with % of ad spend (at this point for me anyway). It's just that "fuel" that I'm leery about. My software's site will only be actually 5 pages... maybe I can negotiate with them to do additional, different SEO work since I don't have a 10-page site. It doesn't hurt to ask them. As far as the PPC "fuel" goes, I really need to discuss that further with them and get the full lowdown on where every dollar goes. I like your advice to perhaps use Marketing360 to get my feet wet... then when I get a better feel and understand what works for me, maybe move up to your recommended MOZ and WordStream and take things into my own hands more. Good advice. (By the way, my software is stand-alone Windows software... not a mobile app at all).


David - My keywords won't be too expensive, my software is a 'Search & Replace' utility based upon 'regex' (regualr expressions", but from a unique angle with ease of use for the user in mind, while delivering the same power and flexibility. Not for everyone, admittedly, but i hope I can carve out a niche. The keywords should be cheap - it's not a hard fought arena, this one. The site's not live yet as there are a few final kinks to work out, so I don't have an idea of approx # of visitors. Good idea about CNET, ZDNET, etc. I had thought of that too, and I will certainly do it. beginning marketing budget will be small to start: $300-$500/month. Thanks!


Michael - Thanks Michael, but those calculations don't really apply to me as my software is not SaaS, but one-time cost of approx $77 (I'll start at this and adjust up or down based on sales). I'm a one-man home-based operation and I really have practically zero overhead - my only costs of operations are the web hosting for my site, that's about it... so my expenses are pretty low. Anything I make is pure profit really.
   Regarding your comments on SEO, this is something I've wondered about. getting high rankings means constantly updating your website with fresh content, or having a blog, doesn't it? I can't see how this can really apply to my software product. It's not like I can make daily comments on what is happening in the "fast-paced world" of "Search & Replace" utilities or regex  programming. I'll have to give this one some thought... and if I go with marketing360, ask them what they think about it.
  I will look into the "joint venture" angle, good advice, thanks. I already have a good autoresponder and a decent website (I think) prepared. The blog thing as I mentioned, might be an issue for my particular niche. I agree too, with your view on Bing. They have an incentive for new customers for a couple hundred dollars of free PPC credits... I'm going to take advantage of that and do my own PPC with my own keywords. That will be a valuable experience, I agree.


Guys, instead of a company like Marketing360... what about hiring someone on oDesk or eLance who could be my dedicated PPC/marketing expert? There seems to be folks in places like Philippines or India that could be hired exclusively for $800 a month or so. Could that be a viable alternative, or a waste of money?


Thanks All!
   Shawn
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shawn857Author Commented:
Hi guys, thank you for the great advice... would you be able to comment on my responses to that please?

Thanks!
    Shawn
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shawn857Author Commented:
Hi guys, are you still with me...?

Thanks
   Shawn
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shawn857Author Commented:
Hi guys... still there?

Shawn
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Lucas BishopClick TrackerCommented:
Hi Shawn, It doesn't look like you posed the last Q's to me, but I'll give you some advice on them anyway:

Regarding your comments on SEO, this is something I've wondered about. getting high rankings means constantly updating your website with fresh content, or having a blog, doesn't it?
Really having content that keeps visitors engaged on your site for an extended time, is the key. For a product like yours, I'd think you could put together videos/how-tos on different creative ways to use your app. You could build a training/onboarding series, etc.

The one thing you must avoid, is having someone search for "regex utility" or "regex tool" ... click on your link from Google, then immediately bounce back to Google and click a different link. This is the type of low-quality indicator that will slowly drop you out of the running.

If you can figure out how to do that, you'll well be on your way to having a site that has the potential to outrank your competitors who have been around forever and likely have hundreds of links pointing at their sites already.

instead of a company like Marketing360... what about hiring someone on oDesk or eLance who could be my dedicated PPC/marketing expert? There seems to be folks in places like Philippines or India that could be hired exclusively for $800 a month or so. Could that be a viable alternative, or a waste of money?

For SEO, NO. Absolutely not.
For PPC, I would only consider them if they had real verifiable customer references that you could speak with.
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thank you all, for the very very good insight. I really appreciate it.

Cheers!
    Shawn
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