Monday, March 30, 2009

OfficeAutoPilot: Simple, Powerful, Low Cost Demand Generation for Small Business

My personal definition of demand generations systems (see Introduction to Demand Generation Systems from the Raab Guide site) explicitly states that they do not incorporate sales automation. The division makes sense in most organizations, since marketing and sales are separate. (See Should Demand Generation and Sales Automation Be Separate Systems? for whether this will change.)

But small businesses are different. Sales and marketing are often handled by the same department, if not the same person, and owners want as few systems as possible to keep costs to a minimum. So it’s pretty common for small-business-oriented systems to support both marketing and sales. Of products I’ve written about recently, Infusionsoft is the best example of this, extending beyond sales and marketing all the way to order processing. (See my Infusionsoft review.)

OfficeAutoPilot from MoonRay LLC is another small-business-oriented product that combines marketing and sales automation. The latest version actually offers integration with as well, making the system more suitable for larger organizations. Indeed, the functionality of OfficeAutoPilot compares favorably with conventional demand generation systems, while the pricing – starting at just under $600 per month for 50,000 contacts and 100,000 monthly emails – is hugely attractive. Business marketers who can’t afford to pay more or want a low-risk way to get started with demand generation will find OfficeAutoPilot an intriguing option.

The basics are certainly there. Users can create personalized emails, landing pages and Web forms with the system’s tools or import externally-created HTML. Emails are sent from the OfficeAutoPilot server while forms can either be hosted by OfficeAutoPilot or externally. Web pages are built by dragging and dropping objects in the way you build a Powerpoint slide. Although most demand generation systems use an interface more like building a Word document, OfficeAutoPilot’s approach is a fairly common alternative and perfectly acceptable. Some marketers may even find it easier.

OfficeAutoPilot actually does a better job at split testing than most demand generation systems. Users can define two versions of an email or Web page when they set it up, and the system will automatically alternate between them during execution. Standard reports compare the performance of the two versions. This is the easiest approach I’ve seen to split testing. The only other demand generation system I’ve seen use it is Marketo.

OfficeAutoPilot takes a straightforward approach to multi-step campaigns. Users lay these out as a series of steps timed relative to a single date. This can be the start of the sequences, a fixed date such as a birthday, or an activity such as the last purchase. Leads can enter a sequence when they fill out a Web form, are manually added by the user, or trigger the conditions specified in a “global rule”. The system checks each lead against all the global rules every time the lead’s data changes, allowing real time response to lead activities.

Each step in a sequence does one thing: send an email, postcard or voice message, add the lead to a fulfillment list, create a sales automation task or execute a user-defined rule that triggers an action if its conditions are met. Available actions include adding or removing the lead from a sequence, adding or removing a tag from the lead profile, changing a data field, sending the lead an email or post card, sending an email to someone else (a sales rep or program administrator), adding or removing the lead from a fulfillment list, and sending the lead to the sales system.

The rules let OfficeAutoPilot react to new behaviors even though the sequence itself is fixed in advance. There is no true branching within a sequence, in the sense of sending different leads down different multi-step paths. But this isn’t necessarily a problem: it’s how linear campaign designs work in most demand generation systems and, as I argued last week, helps to avoid confusion. If anything, OfficeAutoPilot’s combination of steps, rules and actions makes it more flexible than the average demand generation product.

Treatment of tasks illustrates the tight connection between marketing sequences and sales automation. Tasks can be scheduled relative to the date of the step in the sequence, and the system can pause the sequence until the task is complete. Tasks can be assigned to the lead’s salesperson or another owner; the system can notify the owner by email, telephone or adding the task to their to-do list; and the system can notify the owner’s manager if the task is not completed on schedule.

Messaging capabilities are designed to help small businesses whose own resources are limited. MoonRay has negotiated with VoiceShot for outbound recorded voice messages and with a network of printers for low-volume personalized post card printing and mailing. Users design the post cards with the same interface used to build Web pages. Fulfillment lists accumulate names in a queue and then periodically send them to a list for a call center, warehouse, or other destination. The user specifies how often the list is generated, who it will go to, and what data it contains. Emails and postcards can include a personalized URL to help with tracking. The system also provides a pool of telephone 800 numbers that can be assigned to different promotions and will automatically route to a central number.

Lead scoring in OfficeAutoPilot is handled by an independent process similar to the “global rules”. That is, users define point values to different conditions and the scores are recalculated whenever the lead has an activity or data change. There’s even a standard feature to reduce activity-based score values by a specified percentage for each day after the activity occurs. This is more than some conventional demand generation products provide.

Leads can be sent to sales by actions within a sequence or by a global rule triggered by the lead score or other conditions. The system provides standard sales automation features including lead routing (“round robin”, weighted and others), contact management, task scheduling, sales funnels, call notes and disposition tracking. Dispositions can be tied to rules to automate follow-up actions. Since these are the same rules used elsewhere in the system, the actions can encompass any option available to the automated sequences. This is another benefit of running marketing and sales on the same system.

The system also handles user rights like a sales automation system, which is to say, more precisely than imost demand generation products. The system administrator decides which functions are available to which users, and users see only their authorized features. This is an important usability benefit when companies have many different types of users.

OfficeAutoPilot’s sales automation is not as sophisticated as specialized sales automation systems like or even Goldmine. For example, there is no separate account or company level.

MoonRay says about 20% of its clients use its bi-directional synchronization. This shares data between the two systems and can display a history of the lead’s OfficeAutoPilot activities within the screens. Another adapter lets users view and edit contact records from within Microsoft Outlook and will add Outlook emails to the OfficeAutoPilot history. Data from other sources can be posted to the system through a standard SOAP API or by importing structured email messages. This is most typically used to add purchase information. Users can add new fields to the lead profiles as needed.

The system tracks marketing results from the lead source all the way through the sales funnel, and on to revenue if available. A marketing dashboard provides standard reports on Web activity and emails. Users can also drill into the details of each campaign sequence, listing the leads in each stage and drilling further to see the individual messages they received.

Pricing of OfficeAutoPilot is based largely on the number of users, subject to some fairly generous volume constraints. A five-user system with up to 50,000 contacts and 100,000 emails per month costs $597 per month. A dedicated email IP address adds $147 per month for up to 500,000 messages.

MoonRay also offers simpler systems at lower costs, including a new product called SendPepper scheduled to launch today (March 30). SendPepper includes outbound email and postcards, Web forms and landing pages, and simple auto-response sequences. Two versions are available, priced at $29 per month and $79 per month.

The original version of OfficeAutoPilot was introduced in 2003. The system currently has more than 100 active accounts. It is sold directly by MoonRay and through partners.


Landon Ray said...

Hey David,

Thanks for the great review.. it was fun getting GRILLED by such an expert user of these systems.. (are you a user of some system?)

One thing to point out.. we do have a single-user system available for just $297/mo.. so that's actually our starting price.

Otherwise, very detailed and accurate reporting!

Thanks again,


David Raab said...

My understanding is that the $297/month version has a few other limitations, such as no API or integration. That's why I didn't mention it. But some firms might still find it adequate.

Landon Ray said...

Yes, many do. Since we started offering that package a few months ago around half our new clients are starting there.



Landon Ray said...

Oh! Did you mention our Google Gadget or iPhone apps?

Those let you know who's on your site right now, what pages they're viewing, and their contact info.. great for peeping toms on the go.