Thursday, January 20, 2011

B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Comparisons: New Report Next Week and The Coolest Sample Yet

I suspect you may be getting tired of reading about the features in my new report comparing B2B marketing automation vendors, and want some actual information. Soon, I promise: the final data is all ready and only some light editing stands between you and a completed report. Well, that and the fact that the e-commerce features of the Website need some work. Either way, the report will come out next week -- even if I have to take credit card orders by phone.

But I finished the final interactive component of the report yesterday and I think it's exciting enough to be worth sharing. It lets you do what I think most buyers really want, which is to compare selected vendors side by side on their specific features. You can also compare their scores, which, since you can change the weights applied to different inputs, means you can get your very own, custom comparative ranking. If that's not fun, what is?

But there's more: you get to see the results in colorful graphs. Here's a screenshot:

You can also download an interactive sample. (This is scrambled data and vendor names are replaced by sports teams. Beware that the document uses Adobe Flash; Mac users in particular may need to use Adobe Reader rather than their usual viewer. And, alas, it won't work on your iPad.)

As you can see, the screen lets you pick up three vendors, a weight set (small, mid-size or large), and the type of data to view: a summary or the individual items within each category. For each item, you see the actual input values (2, 1 or 0 depending on whether the vendor complies fully, partly, or not at all) and the scores calculated once the weights are applied. You can change the category weights (by adjusting the figures in the little gray boxes at the right) and watch the scores themselves change as the individual weights are adjusted proportionately. The graphs also adjust immediately as you make changes.

My purpose in all this is to help buyers look beneath the scores themselves to understand where the scores came from. This lets them judge whether they really care about the factors that are driving the relative rankings. Similarly, making it easy to change the weights raises the question of which weights really are appropriate. Thinking about this should lead buyers to a better decision.

The screenshot above illustrates the importance of the weights. Look at Technology: there are pretty big differences between the different "vendors", but the category as a whole has such a low weight that these make little difference in the final rankings. This reflects a judgment on my part that small business buyers don't really care much about technology and that their technology needs are pretty simple.

If you squint hard enough, you'll also notice that the middle vendor has the highest total input value for Technology, but the lowest weighted score. That's pretty common because the weights do vary substantially from one item to the next. In this instance, the main reason is that small business scores apply negative weights to many advanced features, on the theory that they detract from value by adding complexity. You'll recall that I wrote about that in an earlier post.

The downloadable sample only has descriptions under all the other tabs, but everything else is actually ready. I'll make a formal announcement next week about price and availability of the new report.

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