Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Marqui Combines Content Management and Demand Generation

Summary: Marqui started as a Web content management system and then added basic demand generation. It’s a good choice for organizations that need both and don’t have very sophisticated marketing requirements.

Marqui is one of the oldest demand generation vendors, founded in 2000. But that date is a bit misleading because the company’s original product was a Web content management system (CMS). It added demand generation features later in response to client requests. Today, content management and campaign management can be purchased separately although they are tightly integrated.

The entry of CMS vendors into the demand generation market is a bit of a mini-trend right now: others following the same path include Sitecore and Lyris-owned Hot Banana. Among conventional demand generation systems, Pardot is a spin-off from CMS vendor Hannon Hill and Marketbright includes extensive CMS features. Since the CMS marketplace is now almost totally commoditized, in particular by open source products like Joomla and Drupal, it makes sense for vendors to look for an adjacent field with greater profit potential.

Whether demand generation is the right refuge is another question. Marqui’s VP Marketing Richard Sharp defines “marketing automation” as the combination of Web content management and campaign management. In this view, content management is responsible for attracting, engaging and capturing leads, while campaign management captures, nutures, and sends leads to sales. That makes a nice diagram but it ignores the reality that content management systems are generally purchased and run by IT while demand generation systems belong to marketing.

This poses a serious sales challenge. Marketing and IT have different priorities, different cultures, and are likely to be buying systems at different times. In practice, Sharp said, most of Marqui’s new clients start with CMS and add campaign management later as the need becomes more evident. He said about one-third do purchase both modules at once.

Sharp also said he is finding that control of the company Web site is generally slipping away from IT departments, especially at smaller organizations. That sounds both true (as in “factually correct”) and right (as in “the way it should be”). As the Web site becomes a more prominent source of information for prospects, it’s increasingly important for marketers to watch and optimize its operations.

Still, the technical chores of managing the Web infrastructure will always remain with IT, so there’s an on-going question of who will be responsible for what. Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine that IT won’t have the dominant voice in selecting the CMS. This will leave marketing to either use the demand generation features embedded within the chosen CMS system or to integrate a separate demand generation product.

Encroachment by CMS systems poses another strategic threat to stand-alone demand generation vendors, who (at least in my opinion) are already in danger of being absorbed into CRM suites because of the need for closer integration between sales and marketing. I see demand generation as a tasty little fish swimming among some much larger sharks. This leads to an elaborate metaphor about hiding in coral reefs, but I'll restrain myself.

Marqui has the features you’d expect given its background: strong content management and basic demand generation. To accentuate the positive, the system provides hierarchical folders for marketing assets, version tracking, expiration dates, advanced templates, and fine-grained user rights management.

It also does a good job with Web forms, allowing users to specify whether responses update the main lead profile or are stored separately. The system can send notification messages to the person who completes the form and to someone else (e.g., a marketing or sales manager). It can also direct visitors who complete a form to another Web page.

One particularly nice feature is tight integration of Marqui-generated pages with Google Website Optimizer. This makes it much easier than usual to test alternative components within landing pages and elsewhere on the site. I can’t immediately recall any other demand generation vendor offering this integration, but haven’t checked carefully.

The outbound marketing features are not as advanced but should be adequate for simple programs. Users create subscriber groups (i.e., lists) by building rules; these can incorporate behaviors, such as email responses and Web page visits, as well as attributes and form responses. Behavior definitions can be include relative time (e.g., the past three days), which is important and not always the case with other products. However, the rules cannot reference membership in other groups, which makes some things harder. Groups can be dynamic (reselected each time they are used) or static (selected once and frozen) – a common but important capability.

Emails are defined as activities within a campaign and assigned an execution schedule, email template, and target group. Campaign activities can also be Web behaviors such as clicking on a banner ad. Each activity can be assigned several Web pages to track as goals, allowing reports to show leads moving through a conversion funnel. This feature is a somewhat unusual among demand generation systems but pretty common in Web analytics.

Users can also enter the cost of each activity and combine this with expected and actual revenues for Return on Investment reports. The revenues are based on opportunity records imported from the CRM system. This is probably adequate for most uses and more than some other demand generation products offer. But Marqui doesn’t capture cost details and can only link campaigns to opportunities when opportunity is "owned" by a lead from the demand generation system. Such links are often missing, and more advanced demand generation vendors offer alternative attribution methods to compensate.

Marqui’s features for lead scoring, multi-step campaigns and CRM synchronization are similarly basic. Lead scoring is associated with individual Web forms, a somewhat unusual approach. The scoring formulas can look at a broad range of data, including activities, attributes and form replies, but cannot cap the value from a single element or automatically reduce scores over time.

Multi-step campaigns are probably the weakest of all these features. Multiple activities can be assigned to the same campaign, but are not directly linked in a sequential flow. Nor is there any visualization of the entire campaign. A new interface is planned for later this summer.

The system can exchange data with, NetSuite and Microsoft CRM Dynamics, but does not allow field-by-field update rules.

Pricing also leans toward the lower end, starting around $1,000 per month for campaign management and under $2,000 per month for campaign management and CMS combined. There are some additional charges based on email volume and for template creation.

Marqui's customers tend to be smaller organizations, and are not as concentrated in technology as clients of most demand generation vendors. This also reflects its base in content management software. Companies with basic demand generation needs that also want a tightly integrated CMS will find it worth a look.

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