Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My List of Demand Generation Vendors and Their Target Customers

[Note: I update this post periodically to keep the information reasonably current.]

Demand generation features often sound similar, but the different vendors do aim at different types of clients. If you're looking for a system, try to find a vendor who will match your company.

One of the audience members at the B2B Marketing University in Boston asked about demand generation systems for small businesses, and how to distinguish among the vendors in general. My brief answer was that the biggest difference was less functionality than the target markets the different vendors pursue. This has more to do with the degree of personal selling (and after-sale service) than anything else. I also promised a blog post on the topic. Here it is.

(Incidentally, there's one more B2BU session left this year, in Seattle on December 1. I'll be flying cross country to attend, so you could too.)

The table below presents a reasonably comprehensive list of demand generation (a.k.a. B2b marketing automation) vendors, with links to my reviews where I've written one. The vendors are divided into four categories based on my understanding of their target customers. I'm sure some of the vendors will tell me they're in the wrong place -- and since this ranking is based on their own perception of their target markets, I'll make adjustments when they do. (Clever of me to write this while they're all distracted by DreamForce, don't you think?)

- Micro Business: these products are aimed at companies where the owner does their own marketing, or perhaps one employee who does marketing along with other functions. The systems have very low starting prices tailored to low volumes. Most offer a CRM option (typically priced at $10 to $20 per seat per month) for companies who don't want to pay for The feature/function lists of these products are often comparable to systems aimed at larger companies, although there are certainly differences when you look at the details. (Note: I've put NurtureHQ into this category based on their price and what I can tell from the Web site. I haven't had a chance to review it personally.)

- Small Business: these products are sold to small businesses, often with just one or two people in the marketing department. Vendors keep costs to a minimum by selling largely online or over the phone, and through self-service approaches such as free trials and pay-by-month arrangements without contracts. Prices are a little lower than products in the Small/Mid Size category, but the difference isn't usually that large. Similarly, functionality is generally comparable although they may be less sophisticated at some tasks such as dynamic content generation (automatically altering an email or Web page based on lead characteristics) and branching campaign flows.

- Small/Mid Size: these firms sell to small and mid-size companies, and occasionally to divisions of the giants. Every vendor cites a different revenue range for its "sweet spot" but $50 million to $500 million might be typical. Starting prices are all over the map; I've assigned vendors to this category based on a combination of pricing, features and my personal sense of their business. Functionally, these are pretty sophisticated products, although they don't usually meet all the needs of very large marketing organizations, such as fine-grained security and advanced content management. (See the Vendor Usability Study on the Raab Guide site for a discussion of these features.)

- Mid/Large: these vendors have the features needed to serve large companies and large marketing departments. They also tend to have a broader range of supplemental capabilities, such as support for telephone call centers. Pricing tends to be higher and more complicated, allowing buyers to pay for specific components as needed. These vendors have geared their sales process to selling to large firms, with the in-person demonstrations, technical reviews, formal proposals and contract negotiations that implies. Of course, these companies will sell to mid-size firms as well.

Final Thoughts: I know it's a cliche, but you really do need to select a vendor that matches your own company needs. Considerations extend beyond feature checklists to include sales and support models, pricing structures, training requirements, consulting partners, and usability. This list should aim you at the right neighborhood to begin your search -- but don't be afraid to look elsewhere if you find a product that seems appropriate.

vendorlink to my reviewCRM option availablepublished price liststarting price

Micro Business

Infusionsoft*blog yesyes$199/month for 10,000 names, 25,000 emails
MakesBridge*blogyesyes$150 / month for 50,000 names, 5,000 emails,

yes $295 / month for 5,000 names
$597 / month for 50,000 names, 100,000 emails

Small Business


$500 / month for 10,000 visitors (email not included)
Act-On Softwareblogyes
$500 / month for 5,000 active names

$750 / month for 10,000 names and 25,000 emails
Beanstalk Datablogyes
yes$599 / month for 10 users, unlimited leads, up to 50,000 emails / month
- other versions from $199 / month
yes$1,000/month for 10,000 names
- other versions from $200/month
yes$350 / month for 10,000 names, unlimited email and pageviews
- free version up to 2,500 names, 5,000 email / month

$350 - $400 / month for 30,000 page views, 10,000 emails, 2 hours of support
yes $1,000 / month for 30,000 emails
$1,500 / month for 25,000 names, 125,000 emails
True Influenceblog
yes $1,500 for 10,000 names



$1,000 / month for 10,000 names (unlimited email, page views, users)*blog

$1,100 / month
- free version up to 3,000 names, 10,000 emails / month
LeadFormix  (was LeadForce1)*bloglimited
$500 / month
Lead Genesys

yes$995 / month for 10,000 names, 20,000 emails, 25,000 page views

$500 / month for 1,500 emails; $1,395 / month for 25,000 emails
Manticore Technology*blog

$2,000 / month up for 10,000 names
yes$1,500 / month up to 10,000 names (lite);
$2,400 / month up to 25,000 names (full)

$1,000 / month
Right On Interactive*blog

$1,700 / month 
Treehouse Interactive*blogyes
$599 / month for 5,000 contacts


Aprimo Marketing Studio*blog

$4,000 per month for the base version with up to 10 users and 250,000 emails
yestypically starts above $2,500/ month
(out of business)

$1,600 / month
Oracle CRM On Demand Marketing*blog

$2,000 - $4,000 per month

$5,000 / month
Silverpop Engage8*blog

(not available)

* also in Raab Guide

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Aberdeen Predicts Web Content Systems Will Add Marketing Automation: I Agree, But...

Summary: a new Aberdeen Group report argues that Web content management systems should add customer management features and will ultimately compete with traditional marketing automation products. I agree with one reservation: I doubt large companies will use a single system to manage all customer touchpoints.

I’ve been convinced for some time that Web content management systems (CMS) will become important platforms for marketing automation. The logic is that Web sites are increasingly the primary method of interaction between a company and its customers, and that Web analytics, testing and personalized treatments are better executed within the content management system rather than by external products. See my July 14 post on CMS vendor SiteCore for a more detailed explanation, and the admission that I borrowed much of this thinking from SiteCore VP Marketing Darren Guarnaccia.

(Opposing viewpoint: marketing automation vendors tell me they don’t see CMS systems as competitors, largely because the systems are sold to IT rather than marketing departments. But this could change.)

Aberdeen Group’s report Next Generation Web Content Management makes a convincing case for a similar position. In fact, the study contains any number of pithy summaries of what I see as the fundamental trends driving the industry:

“Supporting prospects throughout the buying cycle requires a dialogue between a company and the prospect, and this dialogue should be highly relevant, timely and personalized to maximize marketing effectiveness and grow top-line revenue.”

“The new paradigm in customer engagement assumes consumers have control over the buying process, not marketers. Marketers now have to embrace the customer centric shift and deliver relevant, timely content when and where the buyer wants to receive it. This demands multi-channel engagement and automated personalized content delivery.”

“By incorporating some of the most valuable components of today’s marketing technologies (like lead scoring, dynamic content, analytics, profiling, and integration), the next generation of WCM [Web content management] tools have the potential to deliver highly personalized online experiences with little or no effort from marketers.”


Author Ian Michiels has been evangelizing integrated marketing platforms for the past year or longer. One section of the paper specifically describes the “battle for the integrated platform.” Michiels writes:

“Niche technology providers are increasingly starting to realize consolidation and integration will be inevitable for marketing technologies. The question is: Which technology will emerge as foundation for integrated capabilities?”

He then offers email marketing, web analytics, web content management and customer relationship management as contenders.

I agree with one major reservation. If I read Michiels correctly, he believes that one integrated system will execute the interactions across all channels. Certainly this is the fond hope of the marketing automation vendors, but I don’t believe that large companies will use the same system for all touchpoints. There are just too many channels, and new options appear too quickly, for any one vendor to satisfy everyone in a large enterprise. It’s more likely that companies will employ multiple touchpoint systems and use a central marketing platform to coordinate them.

More specifically, I see the integrated marketing platform as an underlying technology with three main roles:

- gather data from multiple sources, including touchpoint systems. This will happen in both batch and real time.

- apply analytics and decision rules to select treatments for each customer.

- push the treatment decisions back to the touchpoints for execution.

Products to do this already exist. Major contenders include Chordiant, thinkAnalytics and Infor’s CRM Interaction Advisor.

How important is the distinction having one system execute all interactions and having one system coordinate interactions that are executed by separate systems? Michiels would probably argue it’s a big difference (and I'm wrong) because he sees the difficulty of integrating multiple systems as a major barrier to coordinated treatments, and therefore a primary reason companies will be forced to adopt a single system.

But I feel the main barriers to cross-channel coordination are organizational, not technical. In my view, getting a company to replace all its existing touchpoints with a single central system faces greater organizational and financial barriers than getting it to coordinate its existing separate systems.

Let’s assume I’m right that most companies will deploy a central decision engine with multiple touchpoint systems. Doesn't this contradict my prediction that touchpoints like Web content management and CRM will expand their marketing automation functions, threatening the current marketing automation vendors?

I don’t think so. Even though I expect touchpoint systems to ultimately become delivery channels for central decisions, I doubt the touchpoint vendors will accept this role without a fight. Rather, they will expand their ability to manage interactions, thereby positioning themselves to provide the central decisioning platform itself.

Indeed, there’s a good case for having one touchpoint system make decisions for itself and other touchpoints. This avoids integration hassles between the central decision platform and one execution system, while still allowing coordination across all interactions. The logical candidate for this joint role is a company’s primary touchpoint system, which these days is probably either the Web site or CRM. Hence my prediction.

In fact, if I had to bet, I’d wager that the hybrid model will be the most successful. Financially and organizationally, it's easier to expand a major execution system than to integrate a separate decision engine. Even though an independent decision system may be technically more elegant, the organizational and financial issues are likely to be decisive.

At this point, the “hybrid model” and “one big system” may be sounding pretty similar. After all, both involve central decisions made within a major touchpoint system. But there’s a fundamental difference: “one big system” is designed to avoid integration issues by doing everything internally, while the “hybrid model” uses a primary system designed with external integration in mind. These imply very different technical approaches. Vendors building these systems, and companies looking to buy them, need to choose which philosophy they favor and act accordingly.

Friday, November 06, 2009

B2B Marketing University Part 2: Marketing Content Has to Work Harder

Summary: As marketers add more content to meet needs throughout the purchase cycle, they must work harder to ensure prospects actually read it.

One of the emergent themes at Tuesday’s session of the B2B Marketing University was the growing importance of marketing “content”. The general logic was that marketers increasingly interact with prospects throughout different stages of the sales cycle, and each stage needs different materials. The materials also need to be tailored to different types of buyers – or “personas” if you want to get fancy – so you need even more variety.

Of course, buying stages and buyer types have always existed. But much of the information now delivered through Web interactions was previously delivered in person by salespeople, who could just talk or write an email. Since Web interactions require formally prepared “content”, the need for content has grown.

There’s no arguing with that, and as someone who is paid to write the occasional white paper, I'm glad to hear it. But, still, as I listened to people talking about needing to build more and more content, this little voice in my head kept reminding me of another grand theme of the conference, which is the increasing range of information that prospects already have available. Odd, my little voice said: We’re being told to generate more content even though buyers have less time to read it.

This isn’t really a contradiction. The greater competition for buyers’ attention actually means we have to build content they find more useful than anyone else’s. Creating a wide variety of items does this by letting us offer buyers something that precisely matches their needs of the moment.

The little voice went away after that. (It helped that the bar had opened.) But this perspective also offers some additional guidance. Recognizing that buyers are extremely time-constrained, marketers should:

- create small, bite-sized pieces of content rather than huge chunks of it. (Yes, this implies fewer, shorter white papers. **sigh** But there are still situations where old-style, long white papers are appropriate.) The good news here is this should help to keep content creation costs down.

- put additional energy into mechanisms that make it easier for prospects to find the content they want. This means bulking up on-site search engines and carefully monitoring the queries people submit. It also means better navigation tools to expose what’s available so people can find it quickly. As a side benefit, letting people specify exactly what they want to know also lets you store that information and use it to better target your future treatments.

- ruthlessly evaluate the utilization of the content we do provide, to ensure we don’t create more than necessary and to identify topics that may need additional coverage.

- incorporate feedback mechanisms so that prospects can rate the content we’ve sent them, again to foster continuous improvement.

- make the content easily available to salespeople so they can use it themselves. This saves them the time spent crafting emails that convey pretty much the same information.

In sum, as marketers increase their investment in content, they also need to manage that investment more carefully. This may mean shifting funds from content creation to content distribution and evaluation. Bad news for marketing creators, perhaps, but good news for marketing performance.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

B2B Marketing University: For Now, Marketing Automation and CRM Are Still Separate

Summary: Marketing automation and CRM systems may eventually converge, but for now marketers need help explaining why they need a system of their own.

I hugely enjoyed yesterday’s Boston session of the Silverpop-sponsored B2B Marketing University. (You can catch another session in Atlanta next week and in Seattle on December 1.) I won’t try to recap four hours of insights from Adam Needles from Silverpop, Carlos Hidalgo of Annuitas Group and Joe Moloney of Conselltants (no Web site, it seems), as well as Yours Truly. But there were a couple of topics that caught my fancy:

1. People still don’t understand the difference between marketing automation vs. CRM.

I really thought the distinction was pretty clear by now, but the question came up more than once. My own answer boiled down to a perhaps-not-convincing “trust me, they’re really different”, although I’ve addressed the question in depth in the resources section of the Raab Guide Web site.

Joe Moloney gave a more detailed answer about limits in in particular, including lack of CAN-SPAM compliance and limits on mass emails. Someone (I think it was end-of-day panelist Meg Heuer of Sirius Decisions) also pointed out that CRM data is often very dirty, which isn't a problem for salespeople working with one record at a time, but making it hard to use for marketing.

The immediate take-away here is that the industry still needs to educate prospective buyers on why marketers need a separate system. Vendors take note.

2. Will Marketing automation and CRM remain separate?

The discussion also segued into whether marketing automation and CRM will merge in the long run. I still suspect they will, driven by the need for ever-closer cooperation between marketing and sales teams in managing prospect relationships. But the other presenters disagreed, largely arguing that the separate groups have distinct needs. (See Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf? Is a threat to vendors of marketing automation solutions? by Market2Lead CMO Kevin Joyce for a good statement of the separatist position.)

Part of the reason I expect convergence to happen is that it’s already taking place. (The past is so much easier to predict than the future.) The movement is coming mostly from the marketing automation side, presumably because there is more money to gain by moving into sales from marketing systems than vice versa:

- marketing automation systems for small businesses (Infusionsoft, Office Autopilot, Net-Results, etc.) typically include a CRM option for clients who don’t want to pay for a separate or other license.

- firms aimed at larger installations (Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot,, Active Conversion) are providing widgets that give sales people direct access to marketing automation information.

3. Technology may impede Software-as-a-Service sales automation vendors from adding marketing automation.

As Joe Moloney was listing the limits that places on mass access to client data, I recalled that these are in place fundamentally to avoid large analytical queries that could slow down response for all other users of the shared systems. This isn’t an inherent problem with Software-as-a-Service itself: remember, the B2B marketing automation vendors themselves all operate on a SaaS model, and there is a growing number of SaaS business intelligence systems too.

But even though modern database technology allows one system to handle both CRM transactions and analytical marketing queries, this does take an appropriate design. I strongly suspect that existing SaaS CRM vendors like would need to fundamentally rearchitect their systems to support serious marketing automation processing, especially for clients with millions of contact records. This may impede them from adding marketing automation capabilities, although newer SaaS CRM systems could emerge that are designed from the start to do both.

From this perspective, another reason combined marketing automation/CRM systems are first being offered to small companies may be that it’s easier to provide good performance for both applications when volumes are small.

Yesterday also triggered another set of thoughts regarding the importance of marketing content. But since one of these was the need to keep materials short, I’ll put them into a separate post.