Wednesday, February 25, 2009

First Look: Adds Nurturing Campaigns to MarketingGenius

Yesterday’s chance to write the first review (I think) of Marketo’s 3.0 release seems to have awakened a long-dormant journalism gene. I spoke today with, whose new nurture marketing system, Genius Enterprise, will officially launch next week. Knowing I’ll have another scoop if I write about it at once, I find I can’t resist. itself has been around since 2006, when it launched SalesGenius. This gave salespeople a desktop “Tracker” that instantly alerted them when prospects responded to their emails, and showed which pages the prospects visited on their company Web site. What made SalesGenius special was doing this without installing tracking scripts on the company Web pages. Instead, links embedded in a Genius-generated email point to a proxy server that relays the visitor to company Web pages but keeps a record of the interactions as they pass through. This allows instant deployment without any involvement of the company’s Web or IT team.

(Note: in addition to the original proxy server technology, Genius also now offers a tracking solution based on inserting conventional tags into Web pages. This allows it to track all site visits, not only those routed to the proxy server by a Genius-generated link.)

The product was soon extended to integrate with and to let the proxy server add Genius-generated popups that display personalized messages or offer an online chat. Later, the company added MarketingGenius, which lets marketers send email on behalf of salespeople and can react to workflow rules. The two products are now offered in combination as Genius Pro.

Genius Enterprise expands the company’s beachhead in marketing by adding automated lead nurturing and lead scoring. This makes it more of a competitor to traditional demand generation systems, although Genius Enterprise still lacks landing pages and surveys. plans to add those fairly soon, but in the meantime feels its easy deployment and real-time sales alerts are already reason enough for marketing and sales users to buy its product.

As to the landing pages and forms themselves, companies can build their own, have professional services staff build them, or use Web to Lead pages created in The pages would need to be added to the company’s own Web site, since will not host them. Data captured by the forms will be loaded first into and then copied into during the regular synchronization process. Setting up the synchronization is fully automated and updates are shared between the systems in real time. Although real-time synchronization is not unique to, the company sees it as essential to frictionless coordination between sales and marketing, ensuring immediate reactions to prospect behaviors.’s term for this is “dynamic engagement”.

So much for the theory. In practice, Genius Enterprise delivers a cleanly designed lead nurturing and scoring tool that meets basic needs quite nicely.

The system is organized around campaigns, called workflows, which are laid out as a sequence of steps. Each step has three components: a trigger with rules to select leads; actions to apply to those leads; and directions for what to do next.

The triggers can be based on profile data from, the end of a waiting period, or activities including opening an email, leaving a message, visiting a specific Web page, and starting or ending a Web site visit or chat session. Leads enter a campaign when a data change qualifies them for its initial trigger, so there is no explicit campaign schedule. This is part of the system’s real-time approach. Users can build a static list and attach it to a campaign, to send a conventional outbound mass email.

The list of available actions is small but captures the essentials: send an alert to sales, where it will appear on the salesperson’s real-time “tracker”; change a lead score; send the lead an email; or set a data value. Changing the data value is a key ability, since it could trigger another campaign or system action. Possible directions include moving to the next step in the sequence, removing the lead from the campaign, or watching for the same trigger again. Again, that’s a minimal set of choices but does what’s necessary.

The simplest possible step contains one rule, one action, and one next direction. But users can also build multiple rule sets, and then assign multiple actions and different directions to each set. This gives the system considerable power. The interface seemed quite intuitive to me: users drag triggers onto the screen to add a step to the sequence (there is no branching, but a new step could be inserted between existing ones). They then open up the step to specify the rules, actions and directions. Rules and directions are defined by filling in blanks and picking from lists; actions are dragged in from a box on the side.

Genius Enterprise does not send leads directly from one campaign to another. Rather, leads are added to independently to each campaign whenever they qualify for its selection rules. This is a somewhat unusual approach but avoids complicated flow charts. Lead scoring can be handled by a dedicated campaign that operates separately from the other campaigns. Most vendors take a similar approach. Users do have the option of modifying scores within individual campaigns.

The system’s approach to sending leads to sales is more distinctive. In addition to the primary workflow, each campaign has a “conversion event” with its own trigger rules and actions. Outcomes can either convert the lead to sales and remove it from the campaign, or to keep it in place. This technique has two advantages: no need to build a separate conversion rule into each step, and no delay while waiting for any pauses built into the main workflow. It’s a pretty good solution, although I’m not sure whether leads are removed from all campaigns or only the one the conversion event is attached to.

Genius Enterprise includes the email builder from earlier Genius systems, which seems perfectly serviceable. It provides the usual features: Word-style editing, personalization, send emails on behalf of the assigned sales rep, previews, list definition and immediate or deferred delivery. In addition, users can set up the popup messages I mentioned earlier and specify whether the email should be included in the “Tracker”. There’s also plug-in to send Genius-trackable emails from Microsoft Outlook.

I didn’t explore whether Genius includes more sophisticated demand generation features, such as split testing, rule-driven content selection, and profitability analysis. Probably not. But if all you need are basic email nurturing and lead scoring, and can live for the moment without landing pages, it’s a solid, easy-to-use package at a reasonable price (starting around $1,500 per month).

Yet evaluating Genius Enterprise like conventional demand generation system is largely missing the point. What sets Genius apart is its proxy-based technology, Web site popups, real-time alerts to sales, and tight integration with Companies attracted by those features—which probably means companies where sales and marketing are working closely, or plan to—are the ones who should consider it most carefully.

No comments: