Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MakesBridge Offers Powerful Features to Small Business Marketers

Summary: MakesBridge offers a full set of marketing automation features with some special strengths that will appeal especially to small companies.

I’ve written quite a bit recently about marketing systems for very small businesses – a category I’ve tentatively labeled “micro-business” and pegged at under $5 million revenue. This group of marketers has different needs from even slightly larger companies. In particular, they want a highly-integrated combination of standard marketing automation (email, landing pages and individual-level Website behavior tracking) with customer relationship management (tracking personal and telephone contacts with individuals). Leaders in the space are Infusionsoft and OfficeAutoPilot, which both also provide integrated shopping carts for e-commerce. HubSpot also has many micro-business clients but is not focused on them exclusively and – probably as a result – has a slightly different feature set: more Web traffic generation and no built-in contact management or shopping cart.

There are plenty of other vendors serving micro-businesses. I’ve previously reviewed Genoo, which supplements the standard marketing automation features with Web hosting and built-in CRM but no shopping cart. Canterris , NurtureHQ , and mKubed all provide email, Web visitor tracking, nurture campaigns, lead scoring, and CRM integration ((Salesforce.com for Canterris and NurtureHQ; its own CRM for mKubed) for under $500 per month. Canterris and mKubed also host Web forms and landing pages but NurtureHQ apparently does not. See my List of Demand Generation Vendors for other options.

MakesBridge is another contender. The company started in 2001 as an email service provider and still offers a $29.95 per month email product. It greatly expanded its features in 2010 and now offers a marketing automation system starting at $500 per month. This includes the full rig: outbound email, multi-step nurture campaigns, landing pages and forms, lead scoring, Web visitor tracking (licensed from VisiStat and quite impressive), and a sales automation module that can work as a stand-alone CRM system or integrate with Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Google Apps, or Capsule CRM, a $12 per month per user system also aimed at small business. There’s no shopping cart or Web site hosting but I don’t yet consider those standard features, even for micro-business systems.

MakesBridge does a particularly good job of taming the mass of Web pages that are critical to reacting to lead behaviors. It does this by letting users write rules that reference sets of Web pages rather than individual pages. This can be done by either assigning a shared label to several pages or by assigning page attributes and selecting on those. This is a helpful middle ground between rules that treat all pages the same (e.g. “visited any Web page”) and those that require users to list a specific page or several individual pages. These rules can be used in segmentation, lead scoring, and sales alerts.

The system also has a solid campaign engine, which breaks campaigns into steps and allows multiple options within each step. Each option has a filter that determines which leads are eligible, in addition to actions and an execution schedule that apply to those leads. Users can view reports on performance for each step and for each option within the step. A “circuit breaker” enforces limits on the total number of emails sent during any time period, alerting the user and limiting the damage from what MakesBridge calls "automation run wild".

MakesBridge also supports automated direct mail production, another feature favored by micro-business marketers. For this, the company has integrated with Cloud2You, a Salesforce.com App Exchange partner that loads selected records directly into templates to produce personalized mailing pieces. Cloud2You handles the actual printing and mailing without any additional effort by the user. Mailings can be triggered by steps within a MakesBridge campaign,

The sales automation module gives salespeople access to detailed information about their leads, including their current campaigns. Salespeople can remove a lead from a campaign, suspend the campaign, or skip a particular message. Although MakesBridge is designed to integrate with external CRM products, some clients use its sales automation module as their primary CRM system.

Pricing of MakesBridge is based on the modules used, number of users, email volume, and number of leads in the database. The system currently has more than 150 clients. Most are small businesses but some are large corporations.

1 comment:

Admin said...

Nice article, David. I've worked with many of these products with my clients and am also very impressed by what I see Makesbridge doing.

Steve Rosenbaum
CRM & Sales Automation Specialist