Tuesday, July 07, 2009

LucidEra's Failure: More Evidence that Marketers Won't Pay for Measurement

I’m just catching up with what happened while I was on vacation these past two weeks. One piece of news is the demise of LucidEra, which this blog profiled almost exactly one year ago. According to SearchDataManagement.com, the company said it shut down because it couldn’t raise new funds or find a buyer.

There has been some learned discussion of the causes of LucidEra’s collapse on Timo Elliot’s BI Questions Blog. Much seems to focus on the apparent operating costs. These must have been substantial, since the company raised $15.6 million in 2007 and, presumably, has since spent it all.

Still, I think the fundamental problem was a lack of customers. When I spoke with LucidEra in June 2008 they said they had about 40 paying clients. When I spoke with them again in October 2008, the number was 50 and it was still at 50 when we spoke in April 2009. In other words, LucidEra was making very few sales or, even worse, was able to make new sales but couldn’t retain its customers. [For more insight based on comments by LucidEra managers, see this post on the Datadoodle blog.]

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, LucidEra’s strategic decision to focus on building sales analysis applications primarily for Salesforce.com was a mistake. Bear in mind that there are about 60,000 Salesforce.com customers – selling to 50 of them is less than 0.1% penetration.

I suspect LucidEra’s price point, around $3,000 per month depending on the details, was too rich for many of its prospective clients. Not that they couldn’t actually afford it – but they didn’t want to spend that much money on sales analysis.

This is not surprising. I reluctantly concluded some time ago that marketers (and presumably sales managers) are not willing to spend money on measurement systems even though they consistently say in surveys that better measurement is a high priority. For recent evidence along these lines, see the 2009 Marketing ROI and Measurements Study published by Lenskold Group and sponsored by MarketSphere, which found that “6 in 10 firms (59%) indicate having an increased demand for marketing measurements, analysis and reporting in 2009 without the budget necessary for those measurement efforts.”

Many analysts and other on-demand business intelligence vendors have been quick to assert that LucidEra’s failure does not reflect a problem with the notion of on-demand BI in general. I agree, since I see the key to LucidEra's demise as its uniquely narrow focus on sales analysis. Indeed, competitors including Birst and GoodData have leapt to offer a new home to orphaned LucidEra clients.

Still, the apparently high costs to sustain a small client base suggests the economics of this business are not as attractive as they seem. LucidEra's Darren Cunningham did tell me that their costs were particularly high because they were not a multi-tenant solution and had to manage the entire BI stack to support a single application. Presumably other on-demand BI vendors can run more cheaply. Still there does seem to be a little more reason for caution in approaching on-demand BI vendors, even though there is not (yet) any cause for alarm.


Timo Elliott said...

Great post! fyi, slight typo, link to the study -- needs an l at the end:

Fred said...

Interesting post and very true in my experience. Marketers (and sales executives) do claim to want to measure, yet do not focus enough time or resources on this.

I also suspect that other products measure 'enough' to satisfy this need, leaving pure measurement vendors out in the cold.

Rasmus said...

youcalc is on-demand analytics aimed at sales and marketing organizations.

We serve several thousand customers across the world from a couple of servers running on the Amazon EC2 cloud.

If the price point is right, sales and marketing users will pay!

Rasmus Madsen

David Raab said...

Thanks Rasmus. I hadn't seen youcalc before. It's an interesting business model -- sharing user-created apps rather than writing your own. One issue may be that it seems each application is limited to a single data source. Some people (usually vendors who combine data from multiple systems) argue this isn't enough.

In any event, I look forward to learning more about your product.

Rasmus said...

Thanks David

youcalc allows you to connect live to any number of data sources, and then slurp and mash data from across those data sources into one analysis.

You will find a number of examples of this in our app gallery, e.g.:
- Mash cost data from AdWords with revenue data from salesforce.com to perform ROI and profit analysis on AdWords campaigns: http://www.youcalc.com/apps/1244122987971
- Mash data from social media (Twitter, Digg, etc.) with data from Salesforce.com to compare social media awareness with lead generation activity: http://www.youcalc.com/apps/1236336973605


David Raab said...

Excellent! Thanks for the clarification. I'll definitely be in touch (please email me your contact info to draab@raabassociates.com)