Wednesday, August 18, 2010

LeadForce1 Adds Mind Reading to Marketing Automation

Summary: LeadForce1 infers Web visitors' intent and sales stage from the contents they read. It combines this with standard B2B marketing automation features to provide better-qualified leads to sales people.

The B2B marketing automation industry has reached the stage where product features are similar and companies compete primarily on business and marketing savvy. This intrigues me in its own way although it's not as much fun as looking at cool new technologies. Of course, if you’re a vendor offering a cool new technology, the stakes are higher.

Such is my take on LeadForce1. The company’s product touches the standard marketing automation bases: outbound email, landing pages and forms, lead nurturing, scoring and integration with It adds some less typical features for telephone lead qualification, which makes sense for reasons we’ll get to later. But its most intriguing claim is that it supplements the usual Web behavior tracking with reports on visitors’ intent and sales stages.

LeadForce1 does this by capturing the text that visitors hover over, click on, highlight or copy, and comparing it with keywords that indicate intent and sales stage. The system starts with a standard list of keywords which clients can modify to match their business. “Intent” is usually related to customer interests, such as a particular problem or product line. “Sales stage” uses a standard progression of research, consideration, trial and purchase, which clients can change if they wish. Because B2B purchases are often made by a team of specialists, the system assigns interests separately to each individual but assigns a single sales stage to everyone from the same company.

Intent and sales stage reporting are not merely random cool features. They help rank leads and send alerts as part of a larger focus on delivering qualified names to sales people. Related capabilities include reverse IP lookup of the company of anonymous visitors, connections to Jigsaw to provide contact names of those companies, and the aforementioned telephone lead qualification. In fact, LeadForce1 is targeted in part at Web publishers who collect leads and resell them to other businesses. Its ability to enhance these leads with intent and sales stage makes them more targeted and, thus, more valuable. This is why LeadForce1 sometimes refers to itself as being in the “lead exchange” business, although it currently seems to prefer the label “marketing automation 2.0”.

Sales people would certainly benefit from knowing the intent and sales stage of their leads. Of course, you do have to wonder about the accuracy of the information. LeadForce1 currently does some response tracking but mostly relies on clients to decide for themselves which keywords are effective. It does plan to add more rigorous analysis using the data it already collects. The same data will also be used to measure the impact of marketing contacts on changes in intent and sales stage and to forecast movement of leads from one stage to the next. The results will be interesting and, assuming the system proves reasonably accurate, should be quite valuable.

LeadForce1 was launched about two years ago and currently has 224 customers. Pricing is based on the modules purchased, number of users and number of leads. Monthly cost can be as low as $500 although a typical clients spends about $3,000 per month.

With so many customers, and growing quickly, LeadForce1 may survive the marketing automation industry consolidation as an independent firm. If not, its technology is useful enough that there's a good chance it will find its way into other systems.

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