Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Manticore Technology Sees Expertise as Key to Success as a Demand Generation Vendor

Summary: Manticore Technology released some modest enhancements to its demand generation platform today. The company takes a conservative approach to marketing automation, stressing the importance of process over flashy software. I’m not sure this will be enough to thrive as the market develops, but customers will benefit regardless.

Manticore Technology today released the latest version of its marketing automation system. Changes include a drag-and-drop design tool (similar to Microsoft Powerpoint); integration of opportunities and custom objects from; better reporting on Web site visitors; and, real time sales alerts on Web activity.

Each of these makes Manticore a bit more useful but none breaks new ground for the industry. So rather than review them in depth (you can read Manticore’s press release for details), I’ll look at Manticore’s broader business approach as outlined by Marketing Vice President Christopher Doran.

First some background. Manticore launched its B2B marketing automation system in 2003, making it one of the older vendors in the industry. With a $2,000 per month starting price and a solid mix of features, it sits squarely in the middle of the market. The firm has grown steadily but slowly, reaching just under 125 active clients. These include a few very large firms but mostly mid-size businesses and divisions of larger companies. Unlike faster-growing competitors, Manticore has been largely self-funded.

In a stable industry, this would be a comfortably conservative position. But the marketing automation space is changing rapidly. A mid-tier company which is neither growing quickly nor dominating a particular niche could easily be left behind. At least, that's my opinion.

Manticore doesn’t see it this way. According to Doran, the company has found that the real key to success is guiding clients through successful execution of demand generation programs. Manticore wants clients to understand that demand generation is a business process. It positions itself as a "trusted advisor" that sells based on its expertise, not on technology.

Part of this approach is to give clients a methodology. Manticore offers a straightforward one: define the stages in your marketing funnel; benchmark performance at each stage and identify bottlenecks; create transitional content to move prospects into new stages; define nurture programs to reduce bottlenecks; execute the programs; measure the results and compare them with your goals. The product supports this methodology but does not insist on it.

Doran sees Manticore's customer support group as playing a key role in delivering its expertise. Support staff are trained to help clients address their business issues. This fills a key gap between buying the software and hiring an actual marketing consultant. Manticore relies on business partners for such consulting services.

Of course, Manticore recognizes that it cannot succeed unless the product itself remains competitive. As the latest round of enhancements illustrates, Manticore remains focused on the core demand generation features of email, landing pages, lead nurturing and sales integration. The company is avoiding extensive investments in “inbound marketing” technologies such as search engine optimization and paid search advertising. Nor will it expand into marketing resource management features for planning and budgeting. Doran did say he expected to add some social media features and deeper reporting. And the company will continue to stress its traditional message of ease of use – although at this point, most other demand generation vendors make a similar claim.

I remain skeptical about Manticore's approach. It's true that process is more important than technology and that services to new users were the key to success in earlier marketing automation generations. But today there are plenty of consultants and agencies to provide that support, so it's probably not necessary for vendors to do it themselves. As a practical matter, I think most buyers will prefer systems with a broader scope, flashier presentation and more aggressive marketing. But so long as Manticore and similar firms remain financially sound, they can sell to the minority of buyers who understand the value of expert service. Perhaps that's all Manticore really needs.


DemandGenGuy said...

Manticore was the first Marketing Automation company to have a drag and drop interface and all others have started to follow suit. They have always had a great interface and their drip makreting builder is still the best. I think the point is that regardless of interface and ease of use - without process you have nothing. Manticore has been in this space as long as anyone.

Tewks said...


I have to concur with your thoughts. I've long been a fan of the Manticore offering, and still am, but find some of this outlook concerning. I totally concur with Chris that marketers need a methodology and leadership to make these tools work for them. I'd question, however, as a software player there is available bandwidth and resources to take this on. To me, I'd say this is taking the eye off the ball.

Also, in terms of the lack of inbound capabilities... the only rational I can think of is trying to focus on being a pure play for M&A activity. Maybe with Hubspot themselves? Now... that would be an interesting combination!

- Tewks