Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dell To Resell Pardot Marketing Automation

Dell announced today that it has added  Pardot  marketing automation to its list of Dell Cloud Business Software applications.  Other products in the suite include for sales automation and customer service, Adobe EchoSign for e-signatures, AppExtremes Conga Composer for proposal creation, Dell’s own Boomi for application integration, and a Dell-built analytics platform.  That is some pretty good company to keep.

Beyond the Pardot system itself, the Dell offering includes pre-built integration with the other Dell products and with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and fixed-price implementation packages (from free to $5,000) including training, campaign development, site search setup, CRM integration, and Google AdWords integration.  The Pardot system costs from $1,000 to $3,000 per month depending on the email volume, file size, and numbers of forms, landing pages, programs, and automation rules.  This is the same as Pardot’s direct-sold prices.  Dell also offers a 30 day free trial of Pardot.

The details of the deal are probably less important than its potential for market penetration.  Dell hasn’t been on my list of potential entrants into the marketing automation space, but it certainly has a huge presence among small and mid-size businesses.  This gives it the capability to add thousands of clients to Pardot’s existing base, which has just recently passed 1,000.  Like Intuit’s acquisition last month of local marketing vendor Demandforce,  a well-executed rollout could quickly establish a firm whose market share dwarfs existing competitors.  In some ways, the Dell/Pardot deal is even more interesting than Intuit/Demandforce, because it touches the small to mid-size businesses that form the core of the B2B marketing automation client base.  Intuit/Demandforce will serve many micro-businesses, while other recent deals (FICO/Entiera and Experian/Conversen) are aimed at larger, business-to-consumer marketers.

This doesn't mean an effective Dell/Pardot rollout is guaranteed.  These sorts of relationships often fizzle quickly, typically because the larger company’s sales force can’t be bothered to sell the new partner’s product.  That seems a bit less likely to happen in this case, since Dell’s cloud business group offers just a handful of applications and Dell has traditionally been a very effective marketer – although its recent performance has been spotty.

Whatever the result of this particular deal, it is more evidence that the B2B marketing automation industry is rapidly approaching consolidation.  As deep-pocketed outside companies become active, they battle each other on a grand scale and little firms get crushed almost accidentally.  It may be some time before a single victor emerges – if ever – but it’s hard to imagine many of today’s small companies remaining successful as elephants stampede all around them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

3 Ways to Connect Marketing Activity to Revenue

Discussions of revenue attribution often remind me of the famous recipe* that begins “First, catch your hare”.  Specifically, they assume that marketers know which marketing-generated lead is associated with each bit of revenue, and then go on like medieval theologians to debate how credit should be shared among promotions to that lead.  The missing hare is that marketers often can’t link leads to revenue in the first place.

The issues will be painfully familiar to anyone who’s ever tried this. For those who haven’t, let’s start with the mechanics.  In most configurations, leads are created in marketing automation and later transferred to Sales, which creates an opportunity that eventually becomes a closed sale with revenue attached.  If all goes smoothly, the original marketing campaign and marketing-generated lead are named on the opportunity to provide the lead-to-revenue connection. 

But – spoiler alert! – things don’t always go smoothly.  When Sales creates the opportunity, it often links it to a contact record other than the original marketing lead.  Perhaps the salesperson was already working with someone else, perhaps the marketing lead wasn’t the real decision maker, or perhaps Sales just doesn’t want to give acknowledge Marketing’s contribution.  The original marketing campaign is often lost for similar reasons.

All those beautiful attribution recipes are moot if you don’t know which lead is linked to which revenue.  So let’s put down the cooking pots and go hare hunting.

The first approach is simply to get Sales to retain the marketing information when it creates the opportunity.  Let’s not dismiss this out of hand – yes, salespeople can be uncooperative, but appropriate training and management support can convince them it’s important to retain the information.  So it’s worth a try.

But let’s say you don’t have time to wait for better data or can’t get Sales to do what you need.  Now you’ll need to work a bit harder with the data on hand. 

One approach is to look for matches at the account level: build a list of marketing-generated leads, find the accounts associated with them, find the revenues associated with those accounts, and assume there’s a connection.  This could hugely overstate marketing-related revenue, since it potentially takes credit for sales that had nothing to do with marketing activity.  So you’ll probably want to put some parameters on the matches such as only including accounts with no pre-existing contacts, leads that Sales followed up on, and opportunities created soon after the marketing lead was submitted.  Setting these rules may take some serious discussion between Sales and Marketing, but that’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that Sales will retain the leads sent by marketing or attach them to the correct accounts.  Nor is it certain that the companies listed in the marketing automation system will match the accounts listed by Sales.  In this case, you may need to build an even looser relationship, looking at company names in both systems – or even ignoring the Sales system altogether and taking data from accounting records.  Because the same company may be listed differently in different systems, this sort of matching requires either knowledgeable people or comprehensive reference databases that can make the non-obvious connections.  Fortunately, this is a well understood problem and plenty of resources are available to help.

Company-to-company matching casts an even wider net than lead-to-account matching, so it’s correspondingly harder to give marketing credit for every connection.  But you can rate how likely it was that marketing played a role in a given opportunity by looking at factors like timing, pre-existing relationships, and amount of marketing activity.  This could translate into allocating a fraction of the revenue to marketing, ultimately a more realistic, if less satisfying, approach than taking full credit for some deals and no credit for others. 

If fractional allocation strikes you as too complicated, you can also start with a much simpler question: did companies that interacted with marketing programs show more sales than similar companies that didn’t interact with marketing programs?  You won’t be able to prove that any particular contact generated any particular deal, but a strong correlation between marketing programs and revenue growth is good evidence that marketing had an impact.  Once you’ve captured that hare, you can think about the details of how you’ll cook it.


*Jugged Hare in Hannah Grasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, although it apparently  doesn’t include the “catch your hare” part.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012 and Oracle Buy Social Marketing Systems: Not the End of Marketing As We Know It yesterday announced agreement to buy social media publishing vendor Buddy Media for $689 million, thereby adding another big fluffy piece to its “marketing cloud”. Oracle followed suit this morning  with an acquisition of social media monitoring and semantic analysis vendor Collective Intellect. This followed Oracle’s $300 million acquisition last month  of social publishing system Vitrue. Just for symmetry, it’s worth pointing out that acquired its own social monitoring system, Radian6, in March 2011.

What are marketers to make of all this activity, not to mention Marketo’s acquisition in April  of social marketing vendor Cloud Factory? Is this the death of marketing as we know it?

In a word, no. Social media are certainly a new way to hear what buyers are saying and send them marketing messages. But only the most besotted booster would argue that it will replace, rather than supplement, traditional methods. Every serious marketer already recognizes this, so I’m not even being boldly contrarian by saying it out loud.

The more interesting question is whether social media can be the foundation of a company’s marketing infrastructure. Both Marketo and Oracle already offer robust marketing platforms, so they presumably see social media as a supplement rather than a replacement. (It’s possible that Marketo hopes to reinvent itself as a social media specialist, which is surely more attractive to investors than marketing automation. The key positions taken by Cloud Factory executives might even support the theory.  But Marketo hasn’t hinted at this approach.) is another story.  They’ve always avoided traditional marketing automation, so perhaps they feel a complete “marketing cloud” can be built without it.

The gaps in this approach are obvious to anyone familiar with standard marketing automation systems: no Web behavior tracking, no multi-step nurture campaigns, no marketing resource management. But could close those gaps by gradually extending its existing products. This might actually be easier than acquiring a separate marketing automation system and shoe horning it into other components.

One thing I don’t see is social media systems themselves expanding to be marketing automation platforms. So far as I know, the data structures within the social media systems are simple contact profiles – little more than flat files – which can’t easily be extended to store and analyze detailed activity histories across multiple channels. Nor does a standard social media publishing or monitoring platform have the multi-step, branching campaign flows that are the heart of marketing automation. It’s probably easier to add social marketing functions to a marketing automation platform than the other way around. Indeed, many marketing automation vendors have already started.

So, back to the original question: what do these acquisitions mean? I’d say they’re good news for marketers, who will increasingly find social marketing functions available within core marketing platforms, ending the need to integrate separate products. The acquisitions are more problematic for marketing automation vendors, who now need to build, buy, or connect with social marketing systems to remain competitive. This will make it still harder for smaller vendors to compete, hastening the industry consolidation we all know is coming anyway. Nothing boldly contrarian about that prediction either, but it’s still worth bearing in mind.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Social and Mobile Features Head the List of New Marketing Automation Capabilities

I’m getting ready for the next edition of the B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool (VEST). This is based on nearly 200 questions to vendors, mostly about product features. The first step in the process is to update the list of questions. This is based on a review of recent vendor announcements plus my own feeling for what’s important. What emerges is an interesting portrait of industry trends in product development.

You won’t be surprised to learn that most of the changes involve social and mobile marketing, today's two hottest areas in marketing in general. We’ll get back to those in a bit. But first, I’d argue the single most important result is just how few changes there really were. B2B marketing automation is far from mature in terms of market penetration, but the mix of product features is pretty well set. Most of vendor announcements I reviewed were about common features that particular vendors had been lacking or were enhancing.  Social and mobile are the exceptions, but both are still very small contributors to most B2B marketing programs. I saw much more activity around features that were new last year, such as dynamic content and integration with Webinar systems and with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

So exactly what new social and mobile features are now on my list? The previous report already included basic social capabilities including sharing marketing content to social media, tracking responses generated from social media, and monitoring social media activity. The new VEST expands that list to include:

- track social media influence: individual-level tracking mechanism that can identify the number of times a recipient has shared a promotion to social media and the number of responses generated the shared promotions. This information is part of the contact profile of the individual.

- create social media posts: deliver messages through social media, such as Twitter posts and Facebook updates. These messages can be created and then scheduled for future delivery.

- create social forms: create forms that are delivered within a third-party social media system such as Facebook.

- create social promotions: create social promotions such as contests, polls, ratings, etc.

- social sign-on and data capture: recipients can register using third-party social credentials, such as their Facebook ID. This gives access to information stored within the third-party social media system and allows communication through that system.

- build social profile: capture information about a specified individual by searching public information across multiple social media systems. This information includes social media handles and social activity such as posts, comments, and questions answered. The information is added to the individual profile and activity history.

The broad range of these features represents both a maturation of B2B social marketing and uncertainty about what will ultimately prove useful. We can expect more social features in the near future, although I suspect some will later be abandoned when it turns out they’re not especially effective in a B2B context.

On to mobile.  My previous list of mobile features was limited to text messaging. I’ve expanded that to add:

- mobile formats: generate Web and email versions in formats tailored to delivery on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

- mobile CRM: salespeople can access the system on mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets.

- mobile reporting: users can access reports on mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets.

- mobile administration: users can set up campaigns and create content on mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets.

Only the first of these, mobile formats, is about delivering marketing messages. The others are all about marketers and salespeople accessing the system on their own mobile devices. That’s clearly the current focus on mobile marketing automation, although it’s safe to expect more mobile marketing in the future – such as location-based promotions, which are notably absent so far.

I also added three entries in other categories. These were:

- app marketplace: the vendor has a formal app marketplace that lets third party applications connect to its product without custom integration.

- real time recommendations: rules and/or predictive models can recommend the best treatment for a customer as an interaction takes place within system-managed content such as a Web page.

- real time interactions: rules and/or predictive models can recommend the best treatment for a customer as an interaction takes place within an external platform such as a call center or Web site. This requires features to collect information about the interaction from the external platform, to match this information against the system's own database of contacts profiles and history, to make recommendation using the available information, and to deliver the recommendation to the external platform. .

These features all expand the scope of B2B marketing automation, mostly be connecting it with other systems. In one sense that's the opposite of the previous new entries, which were about adding features to marketing automation itself.  But both approaches aim to place marketing automation at the center of a company’s customer management infrastructure. Since other products, including CRM and Web sites, are also reaching for that position, we’ll see how widely these features get adopted. My sense is they’ll be more successful at small companies, where the labor savings of a unified system are most important because technology resources are most constrained.

None of the features I’ve added are currently available in more than a handful of systems.  Some may not yet be present in any. Few marketers this year will choose a system primarily because these particular features are present.  But we'll find over time which are really important.