Tuesday, August 06, 2013

How RightWave Solves the Marketing Automation Skill Shortage

One of the main reasons that marketing automation has not been adopted more quickly is that too few marketers know how to fully use it. For example, a recent Gleanster report found that 73% of top performers listed lack of skilled staff as one of the top challenges to success. Marketing automation vendors have adopted different strategies to deal with their problem, including making their systems easier to use, offering extensive training, and providing services to run the systems for their clients.

RightWave has taken that final option to an extreme: it doesn’t even give clients the option of running the system for themselves. Instead, RightWave offers what it calls “marketing automation as a service,” gives each client access to staff members who will set up and execute campaigns for them.  There’s nothing especially new about marketing service providers offering this type of service, but  RightWave does it at a price point – starting as low as $60,000 per year – that is comparable to what a good-sized company would pay for most marketing automation systems alone. Because RightWave charges are based on staff resources -- $5,000 per month buys one-half a full time equivalent person, and $8,000 buyers one full time equivalent, fees don't rise for bigger databases or higher message volume.  This means it could actually be cheaper than a self-service system for big companies.

It’s a little hard to review software that isn’t used by its buyers.  Still, the vendor comparison in our VEST report shows that RightWave’s core functionality – for lead generation, campaign management, scoring and distribution, and reporting – is on par with mid-tier leaders Pardot and Marketo.  Where it loses are usability and pricing, but only because it doesn't fit the scoring model: usability suffers from lack of training services which RightWave clients don’t need, and pricing is penalized by the high starting cost which doesn't take into account the lower cost at high volumes.

In other words, RightWave has the features to support pretty much any program marketers might want. More important, RightWave clients are more likely to actually run sophisticated programs because the RightWave staff will build them without the clients needing to learn how. RightWave staff also helps with data quality and analytics, two other areas where many marketing departments lack expertise.

RightWave actually does let marketers import files, create segmentations, and build emails, although few clients do these for themselves.  What clients do use are extensive reporting tools that show marketing calendars, campaign results, customer profiles, Web tracking reports, funnel analysis, return on investment, and other information. The system also gives sales users reports on new leads, activities of existing leads, and visits from target accounts.  Most of the sales information is presented within the Salesforce.com interface, although users can drill down into details held with RightWave.

The details of RightWave functionality are less important than the appeal of its fundamental business model. After seven years of development, the company has about twenty clients.  This sounds considerably short of setting the world on fire, but it really reflects intentionally slow growth as the product matured. Company founder Anurag Khemka, who also started an earlier generation B2C marketing automation system MarketFirst in 1996, said he’s found it relatively easy to sell the system to senior managers, but sometimes run into resistance from lower level staff who want to gain hands-on experience. The company is now starting to ramp up its sales efforts, so the true scope of its appeal will soon be clear. I’ll be watching with great interest.

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