This sponsored post is produced by Mike Smith, vice president of marketing, GetResponse

Yes, email marketing works. It’s a much more effective way of finding prospective customers than display ads or social media, according to many experts.

But only 22 percent of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates, notes Econsultancy.  This is particularly true for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) without the large staffs, deep pockets, and squadron of consultants and marketing agencies of larger firms. So what’s the problem?

Two words: landing pages.  Or rather, inadequate landing pages that aren’t eye-catching or specific or designed as part of an integrated campaign that produces promising leads. In the SMB arena, high-powered, finely researched, direct-response campaigns purchased from large marketing automation technology providers aren’t in the budget.  But creating homegrown landing pages that work well on all devices is notoriously challenging in a world where HTML expertise is in short supply.

Landing page design aside, online marketing campaigns can be more effective by avoiding some common mistakes. An easily rectified error is sending prospects to a homepage rather than a specific landing page. Another frequent blunder is too few landing pages.

Companies with 40-plus landing pages get 12 times more leads than those with five or less, according to Hubspot, which noted that companies with 30-plus landing pages get seven times more leads than those with 10 or less. Meanwhile, an easy approach overlooked by 84 percent of marketer is to avoid navigation bars on landing pages, which only send prospects elsewhere before conversion.

Taking these simple steps will help, but what about creating those vexing landing pages themselves?  And how can these landing pages be integrated into the disparate marketing mix used by many SMB marketers, comprised of separate email platforms, A/B testing tools and the like?

Fortunately, while many SMB companies were focused on their all-consuming campaigns, new marketing tools have appeared that take the agony out of landing-page creation and integration into powerful campaigns that get results.  Given the software now available, SMB marketers should use this checklist to make sure they select the new tools that will give them the biggest leg up in efficiently, inexpensively building compelling landing pages and marketing campaigns.

Look for these characteristics:

Easy-to-use landing-page design tools

Knowing HTML is a thing of the past for the latest landing-page creation apps. Look for tools with drag-and-drop editors, a rich selection of landing page templates with matching thank-you pages, a large library of images for pages, and potential added videos, and automatic optimization features.

The best tools should make it possible to create impressive landing pages in 10 minutes or less, based on a solid offer selected by the user.  Some vendors will also host the pages with a dedicated URL and integrate them with a company’s e-commerce and social media platforms.

Autoresponders for campaigns

Potent email campaigns need more than great landing pages. Today’s best tools will enable the fast creation of autoresponders like follow-up cycles, birthday emails, one-to-one communications, customized offers, and more.

Using simple, time-based and action-based messages, these missives help refine an offer’s relevancy, timing, and accuracy.  Like the landing pages, these messages will look perfect on all devices whether mobile or desktop.

Design tools for emails, web forms, & newsletters

Utilizing the same easy-to-use editors, templates, and image libraries as the landing-page tools, today’s best apps enable the creation of responsive emails from scratch, as well as quick web forms and newsletters in minutes.  Frequent “touches” can change prospects into customers and these campaign elements help SMB companies look professional and compelling.

The best tools will make it possible to dynamically build custom personalized messages based on information imported from customer databases, such as gender, age, place of residence, or individual identification number in the client system.

Advanced email analytics

The easiest way to track the effectiveness of campaigns is to use built-in analytics that sometimes come with these email marketing design tools rather than relying on separate analytics not integrated into the solution.  The best built-in analytics will display data in real time using clear graphs and numerical tables.

These apps give marketers the ability to quickly view how many people are opening messages, the number of clicks per link, the number of customers who bought the product and subscribers who decided to cancel their subscription.

A/B testing tools

According to Marketing Sherpa, 64 percent of marketers say that landing pages are the easiest way of testing value propositions.  Remarkably, however, fewer companies are testing landing pages — just 57 percent , according to Ascend2.

Today’s best email marketing tools will enable easy creation of up to 10 versions of a landing page, with the ability to analyze the subject line, CTA, “from” field, best time and day to send email, and more. Top campaigns should know which offer is most effective with an audience.

According to a 2014 McKinsey & Company survey, customized landing pages can increase conversion rates by more than 25 percent, so SMB marketers worth their salt should start hunting for the latest tools to make this task faster and easier. As noted by the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing generates a return on investment of 4,362 percent (every $1 invested generates $43.62 in sales). Thus it’s imperative that everything from that first email click, to the landing pages, to the follow-up information that happens throughout the customer’s decision journey has been optimized for maximum effectiveness.

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