Saturday, January 29, 2011

B2B Marketing Automation Report Is Now Available Online. Thanks, OfficeAutoPilot

Thanks to the heroic efforts of my friends at OfficeAutoPilot, the new B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool (VEST) is finally available for online sales. You can click here to access the new landing page and order forms.

There's a long story behind this, with many lessons that reinforce and illuminate the basic premise behind marketing automation: that is, marketers need a system that makes it easy to do their jobs. I don't have the energy to write that at the moment, however. But I will point you to the animated video on the OfficeAutoPilot home page, which is laugh-out-loud funny (to me, at least) and makes the fundamental case quite clearly.

I'll qualify this a bit by pointing out that OfficeAutoPilot is one of the systems aimed at small businesses, which means it includes the CRM and e-commerce components you don't find in products aimed at larger organizations. This is what made it perfect for Raab Associates' own needs, since the specific roadblock to selling the VEST on the existing Raab Guide Web site was that the e-commerce bit wasn't working.

Even more important, OfficeAutoPilot (again like other small business specialists) has recognized that its clients need a great deal of help in setting up their systems and has organized accordingly. The OfficeAutoPilot staff spent nearly two full days working to get me running, drawing on best practices to create a much more sophisticated process than I would have started with by myself. More to the point, they did this without charging a penny -- which I'm pretty sure is what they do for all their clients, not just industry analysts like me. In fact, although OfficeAutoPilot owner Landon Ray did give me a free subscription to the system (full disclosure), the staff who worked on my project didn't seem to have any particular sense of what I do.

This gets to the heart of the marketing automation deployment challenge, which is helping marketers get real value from their systems from the start. Industry gurus, myself included, rant about this endlessly. So I wasn't particularly surprised to find myself living it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that OfficeAutoPilot really works to solve it in the most direct way possible: by just doing the stuff for clients who need help. I fully recognize that life isn't so simple at bigger organizations, but it's still an important example to hold up as one type of ideal.

Ok, I guess I wrote a little more about this than I had planned--it's my way of winding down after an intense several weeks of first getting the VEST created and then finally putting it into the market. The job isn't really done: I need to toss the old Joomla-based Raab Guide site and create a new one in WordPress that I can maintain personally. And at some point I still need to do a more detailed review of OfficeAutoPilot itself, which I'll say in general I'm finding quite satisfactory. But for now the real story is just to say thanks to the folks at OfficeAutoPilot who took such good care of me, and I am quite certain will continue to do so in the future.


dkuperman said...

David, that video from OfficeAutoPilot is indeed too funny! What a great way to tell a story.

Now, two days of implementation for a one-person shop like you seem excessive, no? Well, some things can't be automated I guess!

Keep up the good work.

David Raab said...

It was indeed a lot of work. Much was unique to my particular circumstances (e.g. rehosting the Web site, a malware attack) but I suspect most people have some quirk or other. What was really amazing and great was that the OfficeAutoPilot support staff stuck with me and handled all the problems, despite chewing up many unbillable hours.

I won't say that OfficeAutoPilot is the only company that would do this (I also got good GoDaddy support during this period), although I certainly consider them outstanding. The real point is small businesses need that sort of partner to make things happen.

Sadly, service is really tough to assess in advance of selecting a vendor. But that doesn't change the fact that it's of paramount importance.

waggachef said...

Hey David Rabb

I have had similar experiences with you when it came to OAP. I have spent a week in the trenches learning their system inside out and asking their staff at least over 500 questions to make sure I had it right.

Now any person that asks me about autoresponders I can easily set one up in either OAP or sendpepper and my clients love it and I love it too.

The best part of OAP though is it is only getting better and better. What made you switch over to them David?

David Raab said...

I didn't actually "switch" to OAP, since I wasn't using a similar tool before. I had a Joomla Web site with a shopping cart and separate list management program, which made it hard to do any sort of frequent communication with registrants. Plus the Joomla site wasn't working well for me, so I wanted to replace it with WordPress. OfficeAutoPilot fit my needs very nicely, since they had just launched their WordPress plug-in and already had a shopping cart. In addition, they had long ago offered me a free installation and I have a friendly relationship with company owner Landon Ray, so it seemed the logical choice.