Thursday, October 22, 2009

SalesFusion Combines Online and Offline Marketing with CRM

Summary: SalesFusion combines all channels within marketing, and merges marketing automation with CRM as well. This one-stop-shopping will be most attractive to small and mid-size companies, although I expect that larger firms will eventually want it too.

Look, I know online marketing is important. But let’s not forget that offline channels still account for nearly 90% of total advertising expenditures. Business marketers probably spend more online, but, once you add in the cost of salespeople, I’d guess that online spending still accounts for less than 10% of the combined total.

My point here – have you met my pet, Peeve? – is that nobody needs a comprehensive online marketing suite. They need a comprehensive marketing suite, period, that includes both online and offline activities. And, while we’re on the subject, they need REALLY TIGHT integration between marketing and sales automation, if not one shared system.

This brings us, somewhat abruptly, to SalesFusion360, a B2B marketing automation system that does merge online, offline and sales channels. This breadth isn’t accompanied by tremendous depth: SalesFusion’s campaign management and built-in CRM tools are a bit limited. But the system does offer a comprehensive solution for smaller firms and, at least on the CRM side, can integrate with more powerful solutions including, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Siebel CRM On Demand.

Let’s start with SalesFusion’s strongest point, which is the scope of marketing channels supported. Beyond the usual outbound email and Web forms, the system provides:

- Web analytics to support search engine optimization and Web advertising,
- API-level integration with Google AdWords to support paid keyword campaigns,
- IP-address lookup to identify the company and location of anonymous Web visitors (and send rule-based alerts to salespeople),
- personalized URLs (PURLs) to tie in responses from offline campaigns.
- online chat and
- telemarketing support through the CRM component.

Results from all these channels are managed through a unified campaign structure, which creates a hierarchy of campaigns and subcampaigns to allow channel-level rollups. Campaign data includes budgets, actual costs, and revenues imported from sales opportunities.

The email features cover all the basic requirements: template-driven personalized messages, universal and campaign-level exclusion rules, and both static and dynamic list definitions. Campaigns can be executed manually by the user or triggered by selected events including completion of a form, selecting a specific answer within a form, completing a step in a multi-step marketing campaign, or reaching a score threshold.

The main weakness is that multi-step campaigns can only send messages in a fixed sequence (i.e., no branching based on prospect behavior) at fixed intervals. A skilled user could implement some branching by using step-level inclusion and exclusion rules to send different messages to different people and by using Web forms to send leads to new campaigns. But these are awkward solutions. SalesFusion promises a more flexible, visual campaign builder and dynamic content generation for delivery early next year.

The system’s features for lead scoring and routing are more impressive. Users can build separate scoring rules for different marketing campaigns, regions, products or other entities. These scoring rules can be active for specified date ranges and can post scores at contact or account levels.

Users can define value ranges (hot, warm, cold, etc.) for each score, and can set up routing rules triggered by entry into each range. These rules trigger an email campaign, send an alert, create a log entry, or add a lead, task or opportunity record in the CRM system. Multiple scores are particularly important at large companies where contacts need to be treated differently for different products, regions and other variables.

Each scoring rule can incorporate Web activity, campaign events, form responses and static data. Score calculations can ignore events before a specified period, but do not make interim reductions as events reach this limit. The system can cap the number of points earned by any one type of event, although this takes some configuration by the vendor. Users can specify whether scores are recalculated on daily, weekly or monthly.

The integrated CRM system provides most of the features needed by small and mid-size companies, and is used by about half of SalesFusion's current clients. The company plans to enhance the CRM system to be more competitive with enterprise-class systems by early next year. The CRM and marketing automation components of the system already work on a shared data structure. Clients who use a separate CRM system can synchronize data via regular updates.

Reporting includes prebuilt dashboards and an ad hoc report writer that lets users query system tables directly. The latter is an unusual feature for Software-as-a-Service systems like SalesFusion, since most vendors are concerned that ad hoc queries could harm system performance.

SalesFusion starts at $250 per month for a light version with limited features, under 1,000 names in the database, five users, and 10,000 emails per month. The lowest-priced full version costs $1,500 per month and includes up to 25,000 names, 75 users, and 125,000 monthly emails. CRM is currently included at no extra cost, although the vendor plans to start charging around $10 per user per month when the enhanced version is released.

The first version of SalesFusion was released in 2003, when the company was named FirstReef. It merged in 2007 with online forms vendor AxiomFire and assumed its current name in January 2009. The system has about 50 current installations, many sold by resellers including some major accounts in Australia and South America. SalesFusion is now expanding its direct sales efforts.

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