Sunday, January 31, 2010

Aprimo Marketing Studio Supports Sophisticated Business Marketers

Summary: Aprimo Marketing Studio offers powerful features in an on-demand system for sophisticated business and consumer marketers. You know who you are.

When I wrote about Aprimo Marketing Studio in a post last August, I was impressed by the scope of the product but reserved judgment because it hadn’t yet been launched. I took a look at the actual product last week. Bottom line: Aprimo delivered what they promised.

Like Aprimo itself, Marketing Studio is a bit of an oddity because it serves both business and consumer marketers. The needs of these two groups don’t necessarily conflict, but they do diverge. This means that a system for both will include several features needed by only one group or the other. Placing them all in the same product adds cost and complexity, which are not a software developer’s friends.

Aprimo has not found a magical solution to this dilemma. Rather, it has conceded the lower tiers of business marketing to simpler systems and aimed Marketing Studio at marketers who need greater sophistication and will accept higher cost and complexity to get it. (For more on vendor classifications, see my list of demand generation vendors from last November.)

In other words, Marketing Studio competes with high-end demand generation systems like Eloqua, Market2Lead and Neolane. Neolane may be the most similar, since it also straddles the business and consumer marketing worlds.

(Small digression: most business marketing systems are designed around data from a sales automation system such as Salesforce.com. But consumer marketers also need inputs from transaction systems. Marketing Studio and Neolane don't have a problem because they can support any data structure. Eloqua and Market2Lead are based on sales automation data, but can incorporate external tables. Other business marketing systems generally cannot.)

As I mentioned earlier, what originally most impressed me about Aprimo Marketing Studio was its scope. This starts with the core functions of any business marketing system: outbound and multi-step email campaigns, landing pages, Web behavior tracking , lead scoring, Salesforce.com integration, reporting and content management.

The system then draws on Aprimo’s heritage in marketing management to add detailed cost tracking, project management, asset workflow including annotation and commenting on PDFs, and a flexible campaign calendar. These are handled crudely, or not at all, in many business marketing products. In Marketing Studio, they are well-implemented with advanced features and an attractive, intuitive interface.

Project management is especially powerful. Project plans include specific tasks assigned to individuals and linked with dependencies. Plans can automatically modify themselves in response to events: for example, if a piece of copy is rejected, the system can add a new set of review and revision steps. This is done by creating the project as a branching flow chart, with rules to determine what takes place at junction. These rules can insert a predefined subflow, such as the review and revision process, which itself is shared across multiple projects. Good stuff.

System scope also extends to inbound marketing. Marketing Studio offers a blog engine tailored to corporate needs: managers can review and approve posts; the system can automatically notify Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook of new post; and each blog topic is assigned a different URL, which helps with search engine rank. Another module lets marketers create Adobe Flash-based Web ads, while an offer manager module tracks the user of offers across promotions. Paid search campaigns are supported through integration with Omniture SearchCenter.

Of course, the bells and whistles wouldn’t matter if the core features were poor. But Marketing Studio handles these quite nicely as well.

Email campaigns can execute as batch projects or trigger dialogs. The system treats these separately, although they are built with the same drag-and-drop flowchart interface. Batch campaigns include powerful segmentation supported by a sophisticated query builder, splits and merges. Batch flows can also update data attributes, calculate lead scores, create personalized URLs, add and remove names from groups, send email and generate output lists for other media.

Trigger dialogs have most of the same capabilities except for the advanced segmentation. In addition, they support wait periods and can send leads and alerts to the sales system. Unlike many demand generation products, Marketing Studio supports circular and merging flows, which can simplify design of complicated programs.

People enter a campaign by being added to a group. This can happen when a list is imported from an external file or the sales automation system, when people submit a Web form or click on an email or page link, or as a step within a campaign flow. External systems can also add names through the Marketing Studio API. Because either type of campaign flow can itself add a name to a group, the possibilities for controlling campaign entry and movement across campaigns are basically unlimited. Trigger campaigns execute immediately when a new lead is added to their group, allowing real-time interactions.

Other core features are similarly powerful. Users can build HTML emails, Web pages and multi-page microsites. Emails and Web pages can dynamically select content blocks based on rules that read the attributes of each recipient. Web forms and surveys are also content blocks, so the same rule-based selections can manage branching surveys and progressive profiling (i.e., asking different questions based on what is already known about an individual). The same rule-building interface is used for content selection rules, segmentation queries, and lead scoring. This reduces the amount of user training.

Lead scoring supports multiple scores per person, which is typical in high-end demand generation systems. More impressively, Marketing Studio can also apply multiple rule-sets to the same score calculation. For example, it could use different rules for leads from different geographic regions.

The system can capture Web visitor behavior directly or integrate with Omniture SiteCatalyst. One advantage of using Aprimo’s own Web tracking is that results are available in immediately, compared to nightly with Omniture. Marketing Studio can identify the company of anonymous visitors based on their IP address and retain the history of anonymous visitors when they identify themselves by filling out a form.

Salespeole working with Salesforce.com can see a list of their leads with priority ratings. They can then click on a name to see a digital activity profile (emails sent, links clicked, forms completed, Web site visits). This profile can include activity captured within Marketing Studio or imported to the Marketing Studio database from other systems. Users can drill further into each profile to see the underlying details of each activity. Still within the Salesforce.com interface, salespeople can send an email through Marketing Studio, add a lead to a Marketing Studio campaign, and edit, convert, clone, dedupe or remove the lead record. If the administrator chooses, Salesforce.com users can also open a Marketing Studio portal to see the marketing calendar, assets, lead lists, activity requests, content reviews, project tasks and reports.

Speaking of reports: the system includes 150 standard reports, which users can customize or supplement by creating their own with a basic report writer.

Pricing of Marketing Studio is competitive with other high-end business marketing systems. Fees are based on a combination of database size, email activity, number of users and modules deployed. The starting level is about $4,000 per month, which includes the core marketing features for ten users and up to 100,000 contacts or 250,000 emails. Fees including hosting and email execution. The marketing operations module adds $2,500 per month and other modules such as social media, banner ads, Web analytics and Web alerts add $1,500 each.

Aprimo was founded in 1998 and has more than 200 clients on its original marketing system, which offers modules for marketing automation and marketing resource management. Marketing Studio was launched in September 2009 and at this writing has 22 clients, including a mix of business and consumer marketers.

7 comments:

marketinginsightguy said...

Very interested in your review of Aprimo Studio David. What is your assessment in the overall usability of the system? My past experience of the full Aprimo campaign management application (and which ultimately contributed to the failure of that particular implementation) was a incredibly steep learning curve that defeated most ordinary marketing staff.

David Raab said...

I rate Marketing Studio quite highly on usability. It's substantially easier to use than the original Aprimo application, and competitive with other high-end b2b systems like Eloqua and Neolane. Lower-level systems like Pardot and Marketo are certainly easier, but they do less.

Kristian said...

I've heard that Aprimo relies on 3-year contracts to lock in the customer, have you seen anything like that? I'm curious as to how that would affect the pricing.

David Raab said...

I think a one year contract is standard with them. Never heard anything about a three year commitment.

SaaSn Cloud said...

I have been work with Aprimo on Demand for about 2 years and find it quite poorly designed and inefficient. The system is not intuitive and scalable. For the most basic changes and defect fixes, the product management makes the customer wait for minimum 4-6 months.
The system and functionality offered appears very old and clumsy when compared to other cloud offering in the marketing domain. I do not recommend this application let alone getting stuck with a 3 yr contract.

Dilruk Perera said...

Is there a "Marketing Studio API" available as mentioned above. If so could you point me there since i can't really find it.

David Raab said...

You'd have to contact the vendor. Since this post was written, Aprimo was purchased by Teradata and there have been quite a few changes in how the product is packaged.