Monday, July 20, 2009

Active Conversion Offers Strong Lead Management and Leaves Out the Rest

Summary: Active Conversion helps marketing and sales departments make the best use of leads they’ve generated outside the system. That's fewer functions than traditional demand generation, but if those are the functions you need, who cares?

The classic demand generation cycle starts with an outbound email campaign, captures replies on a landing page, scores the responses, and then sends qualified leads to a sales automation system and keeps the others for more nurturing. These functions, plus supporting features for database management, content management, sales system synchronization, and reporting, form a basic template for measuring demand generation software. (For a more detailed description of this cycle, see Introduction to Demand Generation Systems in the Resources section of the Raab Guide. Registration is no longer required.)

But while this cycle is simple, the actual boundaries of business marketing are not so clearly marked. Leads can enter from channels other than email. Information can come from sources beyond the lead itself. Sales and marketing activities are increasingly intermingled, and sales people increasingly work with directly with marketing systems.

Adding these items to an evaluation template is not especially difficult. But a longer list of options creates more potential combinations. This makes it harder to define any particular combination as “standard”.

That’s just my problem as an analyst. From your perspective as a marketer, having more combinations available makes it more that someone will field a configuration closely tailored to your needs. So, on balance, more options is good news.

For example, take Active Conversion. As an outgrowth of search engine marketing specialist FoundPages, the system naturally incorporates strong features for tracking Google AdWords campaigns, calculating return on investment, and measuring visitors’ Web activities. But it only recently added even simple landing pages and Web forms, and still has limited lead scoring, email and nurturing features. Yet some other features are fairly advanced: Active Conversion can identify anonymous Web site visitors through reverse IP lookup, find contact names for those companies in JigSaw, and either send the data to or let sales people access it withing Active Conversion itself.

This particular constellation of features is far from random. It’s designed to address a specific business need: helping small to mid-size businesses use leads generated by their inbound marketing programs.

Outbound email campaigns are largely irrelevant to this, so ActiveConversion doesn’t even offer email services. Rather, it allows users to email provider VerticalResponse or a different service of their choice. This keeps down the cost of ActiveConversion’s operations and therefore its prices, although of course marketers will have to pay someone else for their emails.

The system does create emails for multi-step lead nurturing campaigns, although these are still sent by the external email serivce. Even here, selections can only be based on a handful of tracked Web behaviors and whatever custom tags the user has set up in Web forms. These tags are needed even for attributes such as company size or buying intentions, since the standard lead database – which cannot be changed – stores only contact name, company, title and email address. ActiveConversion assumes that other attributes will be stored in the external email system or, and any selections using those attributes will be done in those systems.

The nurturing campaigns themselves are also quite simple. Users can define an initial list, either imported from an external system or selected from the Active Conversion database. They then define one or more emails that are scheduled either for a specified date or relative to when a visitor submits a specified Web form. There is no additional campaign logic, so everyone who starts a campaign will receive the entire sequence of messages unless a user manually removes them from the initial list.

Filling out a Web form may also contribute to lead scoring. Scores are based on a handful of Web activities: return Web visits, numbers of pages viewed, clicking on an email, reaching a "goal" Web page (there can be more than one), and making a download. Each of these is assigned a point value. The user then sets the point totals that define three lead ranks (low, medium and high), the minimum rank for a "qualified" lead, and the minimum rank that will send the lead to This is vastly simpler than lead scoring and transmission rules in most demand generation systems, but Active Conversion says its clients don't want anything more.

What clients do care about is helping their sales people: so Active Conversion features in that area are pretty much state-of-the-art. I’ve already mentioned IP-based visitor identification and JigSaw integration. The system can also route new leads to appropriate sales reps based on territory assignments and custom tags; alert the assigned rep when a targeted lead makes a return site visit; let the sales rep view detailed Web activity logs, either within or Active Conversion’s own SalesView application; and let reps assign leads to Active Conversion nurture campaigns. Sales reps can also receive regular reports via email on activities by prospects, qualified leads, and targeted companies.

In short, what we have here is the set of demand generation features that are needed for lead management, and very little else. If that happens to be what you need, Active Conversion is worth a look.

Active Conversion is offered as a service with prices based primarily on Web traffic. Rates start at $250 per month for up to 1,500 unique visitors, and are $500 to $600 for 10,000 to 20,000 visitors. This is considerably lower than most demand generation products, although it doesn’t include email transmission. Integration with and Microsoft Outlook email each add $50 per month, while SalesView costs about $20 per user per month depending on the number of sales reps.

The system was released in 2007 and is currently installed on nearly 200 Web sites, spread among a smaller number of clients.


Unknown said...

David, thought I'd take the opportunity to mention that for those interested we have scheduled product webinar for Wednesday, July 22nd, Noon EST. For a in-depth review of the product you can register for tomorrows webinar here

Terry Sydoryk,
VP Marketing

EddyCormon said...

Please consider LEADSExplorer for both:
- Lead generation
- Customer retention
See all visiting companies or just those that visit multiple pages and/or stay long.

Take a look or sign-up for a 30-day free trial.

Dan MacDonald of Medusa Medical Technologies said...

We've been using AC for a while now and are getting great value for our money.

Not only do we use it with our outbound marketing programs, but we use it for identifying prospects who come calling without being prompted by a marketing program. In fact, we have had a couple of huge opportunities develop because I was able to identify repeat visitors, gauge their interest, and then reach out to them.

Of course all of the tools you mention are also very useful and we do use them as well.