Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Entiera Offers Consumer Marketing Automation Software as a Service

Summary: Entiera is a sophisticated consumer marketing automation system, offered as a service and at a lower price than conventional competitors.

Entiera Insight is a marketing automation system primarily for companies that sell to consumers. I’m highlighting this because most of my recent posts have been about B2B marketing automation (demand generation) systems, and the two types of systems are quite different. This means I apply different standards to evaluate them.

My template for demand generation systems includes outbound email, landing pages, lead scoring, nurturing campaigns, and CRM integration, while my template for (consumer) marketing automation has planning, project management, content management, execution, and analysis. There is certainly some overlap: “execution” in marketing automation typically includes nearly all the demand generation functions except for landing pages and Web content management. But consumer marketing automation systems generally have more advanced database, segmentation, planning, project management and analytics. (See the paper Demand Generation vs. Marketing Automation in the Resources section of the Raab Guide site for more on this topic.)

Back to Entiera. Although their Web site is tagged as “on demand marketing automation”, they have in-house staff to build, run and analyze client databases, plus compiled consumer and business files that can provide prospect lists or enhance customer records. This makes them sound more like a “hosted” vendor than “Software-as-a-Service” (SaaS), per the distinction in my July 25 post. But I ultimately classify them as SaaS because they offer self-service versions of their data loading and analysis tools. This is unusual among consumer marketing automation vendors.

Entiera Insight includes modules for campaign management, predictive modeling, marketing planning, reporting, and database management. Content management and project management are handled within the campaign module. Thus, Entiera offers all five elements of my consumer marketing automation template.

Like most consumer marketing automation products, Enteria is primarily focused on outbound campaigns. Users construct each campaign from components including filters (list selections), paths (segment definitions), channels (messages), suppressions and deduplication rules. These are laid out in a half-tabular, half-graphical format based on columns that each contain a single type of component.

For example, the first column in a typical campaign would contain a filter to select a universe; the next column might contain several path definitions that divide the universe into segments; and the third column could contain several channel definitions, each linked to one previous path. A multi-step campaign would contain several columns of channels, with each channel linked to a channel in a previous column. The terminology and interface are unusual, but should work well after some practice.

Filters and suppressions are constructed with powerful query builder that supports multiple statements, calculated values, and different types of samples (fixed quantity or percentage of universe; random, ranked or Nth selects). Records selected in one filter are automatically excluded from subsequent filters in the same column. This is a standard approach in consumer marketing systems, but often missing in demand generation products. Users can save standard queries and reuse them across multiple campaigns – another feature that’s more common in consumer than B2B systems. Entiera is rolling out a new Adobe Flex-based interface that will have similar functionality but with a more flexible, drag-and-drop style.

The channel (message) objects are assigned channel types, start dates and end dates. These dates are separate from the start and end dates of the parent campaign, although the channel dates must fall within the campaign’s date range. Channel objects can either be triggered by a specific event or execute after a specified waiting period. Although one channel object cannot be shared across campaigns, the objects are built with offers and marketing contents (such as a specific email template) that are themselves reusable. The system captures detailed information about offers, including target audience, limits on how many times they can be used and accepted, effective dates, unit cost, and retail value. This is an impressive set of features.

Campaigns are executed outside the system, either through transferring files or by sending messages to an external API. Entiera currently uses Exact Target as its email partner, although it could work with others. Users can build and reuse standard execution templates for specific destinations. They can also manage seed lists and control groups. Each campaign can execute once or on a regular schedule. The system is designed to support real-time interactions, although no client has yet deployed it that way.

Planning in Entiera is largely at the campaign level. Campaigns can be assigned start and end dates and tagged by type, objective, category and products. This lets users analyze their plans and results across different dimensions—an important need in complex marketing programs. Users can also enter actual and estimated figures for costs, revenues, audience count, responses and conversions. They can define fixed and variable costs for a campaign and have the system calculate the total costs based on volume.

Although the vendor is working on an expanded planning system, this is already more features that many marketing automation systems provide. Project management is less impressive, currently limited to campaign-level task lists. Tasks cannot be assigned to specific individuals, although this should be added by the end of 2009.

Reporting is available through a mix of standard and custom reports. Standard reports track performance by campaign, type, and channel, including responses, conversions, revenue, costs, and return on investment. Users can also see results for different offers and creative types, as well as responder profiles based on demographic information appended from the vendor’s compiled files. Custom reports are built in Jaspersoft open source software. Users can access different views of the underlying database, allowing them to work with data that is organized and named in ways that suit their individual needs. Custom reports can be saved, shared, combined into dashboards, and distributed by email on a regular schedule.

Entiera also supports advanced analytics and database management. A graphical interface lets clients create complex data flows to import and combine multiple sources. It can do name/address matching for customer data integration and can easily incorporate the company’s compiled lists. Kxen statistical software is integrated for end-user predictive modeling and scoring.

I trust it’s clear by now that Entiera is designed to support complex marketing operations. Security is also enterprise-grade, allowing different users to access different functions, data sets and campaigns. The interface supports different languages for different users within the same installation, a subtle feature which identifies enterprise systems. Entiera also supports portals (with message boards, document repositories, Wikis, etc.) that can be open to everyone or limited to a particular group.

The cost for all this is not cheap, but still considerably below a traditional enterprise marketing automation system. Part of the difference is that Entiera includes database management, reporting, analytics, hardware and other costs that would be purchased separately with traditional marketing automation software. In addition, fees for Enteria are just not that high: a mid-size consumer marketer might pay $20,000 to $40,000 per month, which is about half the cost of a traditional on-premise system.

Entiera was founded in 2005 and released the first version of Insight in 2006. The company has about a dozen Insight clients, and many more using its other services.

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