Friday, July 17, 2009

Right On Interactive's 5Buckets Simplifies Multi-Channel Messaging

Summary: Right On Interactive's 5Buckets connects lists from external customer management systems with many types of output vendors (email, print, fax, text message, automated voice). It's a low-cost, easy-to-use alternative to more powerful marketing automation systems for companies who don't need other marketing automation features.

Last Wednesday’s revised ranking of demand generation vendors by Web traffic reminded me that I never published notes from a conversation I had several months ago with Right On Interactive, developer of the 5Buckets marketing automation software. Now is a good time to remedy that.

5Buckets isn’t actually a demand generation system, at least according to my usual definition. Rather, it matches the functions of a traditional campaign manager: accept inputs from external sources (CRM, Web sites, surveys, transactions), create lists from those sources, and send the lists to external systems for delivery. It can also combine its inputs into a persistent marketing database, but that's optional. Most clients just select directly from the external systems instead.

This is a much narrower scope than conventional demand generation systems: no email blasts, no landing pages (although the system does generate online forms), no content management, no lead scoring, and limited CRM integration. There's no query builder or "fuzzy matching" to identify records in different systems that relate to the same customer. The system does maintain a cross reference table to link records where different keys from different systems are known to refer to the same individual. The company plans to expand some of these database-related features by the end of this year.

On the other hand, unlike traditional demand generation systems, 5Buckets includes promotions to existing customers as well as sales prospects. By my definitions (see Demand Generation vs Marketing Automation on the Raab Guide Web site), this makes 5Buckets a type of marketing automation system.

Of course, the labels matter less than what the system does. The core feature of 5Buckets is its ability to run campaigns that direct output to different media. Campaigns can be triggered manually or run automatically on a regular schedule. They pull data from external lists and can execute actions including: send a message (email, voice mail, print, fax, post cards, mobile text); update (create a task, send an email through, update bounce history); or get a record count.

A scheduled campaign can contain multiple steps, each with its own list (or “bucket”) and action. The lists are created in the source systems, independently of 5Buckets, and then imported. Existing integrations are available for, Exact Target, Avectra netForum (association membership), and RealPage (property management). The system can also execute SQL queries. Although the lists are defined using the source system's own selection tools, 5Buckets’ itself does let users include or exclude one bucket from another. This makes it easier for records in a campaign to flow from one bucket to the next. But time intervals between steps must still be built into the external selection rules. Additional selection capabilities are also planned by year-end.

5Buckets hasn't made list selection a priority because it assumes that source systems can already do it. Instead, it has focused on making it simple to send messages in any channel. The vendor has standard connectors for ExactTarget, and Delivra email; Vontoo voice messaging; PremiereGlobal fax and fax mailmerge; XpressMessages postcards and sales letters; MessageBuzz text messaging and ConnectiveMobile voice and text messages. Most marketers would find it very difficult to run on-going campaigns through so many channels without 5Buckets or the equivalent.

Pricing is also intended to make things simple. 5Buckets costs $6,000 to $12,000 per year depending on the number of schedules and connections. This is much less than conventional marketing automation systems like Unica or Neolane. Although some demand generation systems are in a similar range (see my ever-popular post Low Cost Systems for Demand Generation ), they don’t have 5Buckets’ prebuilt connectors.

Indeed, Right On Interactive VP Marketing Richard Cunningham says he considers 5Buckets to be complementary rather than competitive with traditional marketing automation systems. I’m not so sure, but do suspect 5Buckets will be attractive to marketers who want to automate multi-channel campaigns without other marketing automation functions. Since 5Buckets itself will probably expand its features over time, automated campaigns are a good place to start.

5Buckets was introduced in early 2008 and currently has about 30 implementations shared by about 300 organizations. (The difference is that several implementations are used by multiple entities, such as franchisees and business association members.) Right On Interactive is a marketing services agency but is shifting its focus towards software: of the 5Buckets implementations, only five to ten also use unrelated Right On marketing services.

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