Thursday, August 26, 2010

DataMentors Offers Low-Cost Marketing Database

Summary: DataMentors has launched a low-cost marketing database product with limited functionality. It's an interesting test of what marketers really want.

Marketing database software and service vendor DataMentors last week tossed its hat into the ever-more-crowded ring of marketing automation for small(ish) businesses. The new product, DataPoint, is a limited version of the company’s flagship PinPoint system. Like PinPoint, it combines DataMentor’s DataFuse data cleansing and matching software with a private-label version of SmartFocus campaign management and analysis. The difference is that PinPoint scales to tens of millions of customer records, while DataPoint is limited to 100,000 customers, one million prospects, fifty data fields and quarterly file updates. Pricing is $2,000 per month, probably less than half what most marketing automation vendors charge for a 100,000 name installation.

Wait. Back up. Did I just write quarterly updates? Fifty fields? Warm up the eight track and fluff out my mullet, modern marketing automation products don’t have those types of limits. Nor does DataMentor’s own PinPoint. What's going on here?

Even though DataPoint includes the quite sophisticated campaign management features of SmartFocus, it’s really less a marketing system than a tool for data analysis. Marketers without any access to their customer data will be happy to load their files into DataPoint and do all the cool slicing and dicing that the SmartFocus engine makes easy. They might produce some outbound campaigns as well, but lack of fresh data means these are going to be pretty generic.

It’s tempting to relate this old-school approach to the origins of DataMentors itself: it was co-founded by industry veteran Bob Orf , the “O” is OKRA Marketing, a pioneer marketing database vendor founded in 1987 when small records and infrequent updates were the rule. But DataMentors has kept up with the times: Orf says that most PinPoint systems are updated daily or weekly, and the company even offers real-time, Web service access to its data quality system. And of course DataPoint users can upgrade to a more powerful version if they’re willing to pay.

That being the case, it’s probably more useful to think of DataPoint as part of the market for on-demand business intelligence – competing in some ways with companies like Birst, PivotLink and Oco. Although those systems are more flexible than DataPoint, they share its low deployment cost and focus on analytics rather than marketing execution.

One key advantage DataPoint has over those systems is integration with DataFuse, a highly sophisticated matching engine that was DataMentor’s original product and remains the cornerstone of its business. Another difference is that DataMentors has recently licensed consumer and business databases for its clients to use as prospect lists or to enhance their own files. DataFuse users can access these for an extra $1,000 per month – another highly competitive rate. DataPoint clients will also benefit from the deep expertise of DataMentors staff, particularly in the banking industry.

A configuration like DataPoint is not something I would have expected in today’s market, where continuous updates, flexible data models and near-real-time customer interactions are standard operating procedure. But I have tremendous respect for the DataMentors team and trust them to know their market. It will certainly be interesting to see how well DataPoint works out for them.

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