Wednesday, November 17, 2010

LoopFuse Captures More Web Traffic Data

Summary: LoopFuse has extended its system to capture more Web traffic data, which lays the foundation for future analytics.

LoopFuse recently released its latest enhancements, which it somewhat grandiosely labels as making it “the First and Only Marketing Automation Solution with Inbound Marketing”. In fact, as the subhead to their press release states, what they’ve really done is somewhat more modest: add “real-time Web traffic intelligence” by providing features to capture search terms, referring sites and page views, and link these to individual visitors.

The new release also adds real-time social media monitoring (directly for Twitter and Facebook, and through Collecta for blogs, YouTube and other sources).

These features are certainly useful. But my idea of "inbound marketing" is more along the lines of HubSpot, which provides search engine optimization, paid search campaign management, social media monitoring and posting, blogging, and Web content management. Although LoopFuse might eventually add those functions, it hasn't yet and isn’t necessarily moving in that direction.

Accepting their labels for the moment, let’s look at what LoopFuse has added:

- “content marketing” is a set of reports that tracks Web traffic related to different assets. Users get a list of the assets ranked by number of page views. They can then drill into each item to see a graph of traffic over time and to see details such as the number of visitors, views per visitor, and referring domains and pages. Because the views are tied to individual visitors, users can also click on the referring domain to see what other pages people from that domain visited. This is essentially the same information as provided by...

- “inbound marketing”, which shows visitor sources by category (direct links, paid search ads, organic search) and details within each category (specific messages, ads or keywords). As just noted, users can drill down to see which Web pages were viewed by visitors from each source.

- “social monitoring” provides real-time monitoring of user-selected terms on the various social Web sites. Unlike the other Web traffic data, this information isn’t stored within the LoopFuse database and isn't tied to specific individuals. LoopFuse plans to provide some trending reports in the future. Of course, the real trick would be linking social media comments to lead profiles.

All of these are valuable reports. Having them within a single system is particularly helpful for the small businesses targeted by LoopFuse, where all channels are likely to be handled by a small department and possibly the same individual. Otherwise, the users would need switch among several systems to do their job. In larger firms, where different people would be responsible for different channels, each channel can be managed by a separate system without requiring anyone to use multiple products.

Saving effort is nice, but the real value of a unified marketing database is being able to coordinate marketing messages and relate all marketing contacts to sales results. LoopFuse hasn’t publicly revealed its approach to marketing performance measurement but definitely has something in the works. I’m particularly hoping they'll use the detailed behavior information to relate outcomes to specific marketing messages, rather than just looking at movement through purchase stages. Although stage data by itself can project future revenues, it must be tied to specific marketing programs to measure those programs’ value.

In case you’re wondering, LoopFuse is storing the new Web traffic data in denormalized tables that are separate from the operational marketing database. This enables much quicker response to ad hoc queries and, should eventually support the time-based views needed for trends and stage analytics.

For those of you keeping score at home, LoopFuse’s Roy Russo also told me that the company stores each client’s data in a separate database instance. Russo said this has proven more scalable and cheaper than the textbook Software-as-a-Service approach of commingling several clients’ data in a single instance. So far as I know, most (but not all) marketing automation vendors use same approach as LoopFuse.

Russo also said that all data in the system is accessible via standard API calls, something that’s also not always possible with competitive products. In fact, Russo said LoopFuse’s entire interface is built on using the published API, which means that technically competent clients could build alternative interfaces to embed LoopFuse data and functions within other systems. If nothing else, this gets them Geek Style Points.

Of course, no discussion of LoopFuse is complete without mentioning its freemium offer, launched last June amid considerable controversy. The company says that nearly 1,000 accounts have now signed up for this, which is impressive by any standard. No news yet on how many have converted to paid.

One side effect that I hadn't anticipated – although LoopFuse apparently did – is that agencies and consultants use the freemium to service new clients, who convert to paid when their volumes grow. This gives LoopFuse an edge in the competition for channel partners. The value of that edge is a bit uncertain, though, since an increasing number of service firms – including Pedowitz Group, Annuitas and LeftBrain Marketing – are now working with multiple marketing automation vendors.


Roy Russo said...

Hi David,

Thanks for another excellent write-up. I've always appreciated your even-handed and candid assessment of the market and where the LoopFuse offering fits in.

This last inbound marketing release provides an enormous amount of data, but also removes the swivel-chair management problem faced by marketers using other web analytics packages. As Marten Mickos once said, people will trade convenience for dollars, and we're proving that every day. We will have a follow-up release before EOY that ties the inbound marketing data to other parts of the system.

As part of the partner program, we offer agencies a completely FREE account. Although the product is competitive with others in the space, our affordable pricing allows partners to earn significant margins - which I would cite as one of the main causes of our explosive partner and direct sales growth.

David Raab said...

Thanks Roy. Now, if only you guys would back up the "explosive growth" comment with some actual client counts...

Roy Russo said...

Where's the upside to that? In my view, only analysts and competitors care about our numbers.

Unlike others in the space, our sole focus is to serve customers and partners. They care about is implementing/using a marketing automation system that works ootb as promised and is affordable - not about customer #s, or cap tables.