Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Raab VEST Report: Testing, Data Quality and Content Management Still Lag in Marketing Automation Products

My last post looked at data from our just-released B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool (VEST) to understand general industry trends and identify the greatest areas of improvement. Today we’ll look at the VEST data to see what’s still hard to find. As before, the charts show three columns: change in feature availability over the past year among core marketing automation vendors; current availability among core vendors; and current availability among enterprise vendors. See the previous post for details on the calculations.

Split Tests: Formal split testing of different content versions or customer treatments is the heart of marketing optimization, but many B2B marketers still don’t have the time or resources to do it. Given the lack of demand, it’s not too surprising that many vendors don’t offer strong testing features.  Still, I feel they have something approaching a moral obligation to provide these features and encourage their use.  Note that splits within lists, the one testing capability that is fairly common, is actually the hardest for marketers to use.  Testing features are much more available among enterprise systems, whose clients are more likely to conduct tests as a matter of course.

Value-Based Selection: This is arguably the next step after dynamic content (see my previous post), since it uses calculated values rather than user-crafted rules to select marketing contents or campaign actions. Like dynamic content, it reduces the complexity of marketing programs while allowing them to be more targeted. It's still much harder to find than dynamic content although it is becoming more available.  Again, enterprise vendors have a substantial lead over the core systems.

Integrate with Direct Mail Printer: This is admittedly a small tactical issue, but it's interesting in its own way.  There’s apparently a resurgence of interest of direct mail generally and post cards in particular as a way to avoid ever-more-cluttered email inboxes and social media channels. This is one of the few features that are more common among micro-business systems than the core group.

Project and Content Management: These features are most important for large marketing departments that need coordinate work of many people. Most core marketing automation systems can track the creation and last change date of an item. But serious administration requires much more detailed control over who makes changes, approvals, and project management. As marketing programs get more complicated at all sizes of companies, these features will become increasingly important.

Data Quality: These are features that give marketers more control over the data that goes into their systems. Like split testing, data quality is widely recognized as important but often ignored. Availability of these features actually went down last year because several new core vendors provided below-average support. Enterprise vendors, with their more sophisticated client base, support these features fully.

Data Management: These features each reflect a certain degree of data management sophistication, although there’s a reasonable case that a separate company table doesn’t matter much in practice. The opportunity table is critical for revenue analysis, and you see here that it’s widely available. Custom tables are needed to extend the marketing database beyond inputs from the CRM system. They used to be fairly rare but are now available in more than half of the core products.   But half full also means half empty, so buyers still need to check carefully to ensure a particular vendor supports their needs.

Reviewing this list of features, only value-based selection is really cutting edge.  The rest have long been standard for consumer marketing automation products and enterprise B2B.  They're missing from core B2B marketing automation systems because most of their clients are smaller, less sophisticated companies who haven't needed them.  This may never change for vendors focused on small marketing departments.  But vendors serving larger companies will add these features as their clients discover they need them.

For more information about the B2B Marketing Automation VEST report, please visit www.raabguide.com/vest.

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