Wednesday, September 28, 2011

List of Mid-Tier Business-to-Consumer Marketing Automation Systems

The world clearly has more B2B marketing automation vendors than it needs – my master list of demand generation products includes two dozen. By contrast, mid-tier consumer marketers often have a hard time finding good options. The major B2C marketing automation vendors -- IBM/Unica, Teradata/Aprimo, and SAS are more attuned to the enterprise market. Here are some others, in rough order of industry familiarity:

Alterian – extends beyond multi-channel campaign management to include Web content management, Web analytics, and social media monitoring.  It offers both hosted and on-premise options and uses a proprietary analytic database engine for key functions. Many marketing service providers manage Alterian systems for their clients.  (Alterian was purchased in December, 2011 by language technology and Web content management vendor SDL.)

Neolane – provides multi-channel campaign management, realtime interactions, and marketing resource management. Clients can choose hosted or on-premise deployment, or a “mid-sourcing” option where the system is run by the client but email is sent by Neolane.

Decision Software Inc.  – offers MarketWide, a very powerful campaign management tool. Can be deployed on-premise or hosted and managed by the vendor.

ExactTarget – originally an email service provider, it now also supports mobile, social, Web pages, and Web analytics. Recently introduced its “Integrated Marketing Hub” which offers more advanced campaign management and can support a more complex marketing database. Only available as a service.

Entiera – a hosted system that offers outbound campaigns and interaction management. Entiera also builds and maintains the client’s marketing database. (Enteria was purchased in May 2012 by credit scoring and analytics vendor FICO.)

MarketingPilot – started as a marketing resource management system and has steadily expanded.  It now offers true campaign management on a real marketing database. Can be hosted or on-premise.  (Acquired by Microsoft in October, 2012.)

ClickSquared – originally a marketing services provider but now repositioning itself as cloud-based campaign management software. Just launching a new version of its system, snappily named “Cross-Channel Marketing Hub”.

Portrait Software – purchased by Pitney Bowes in July 2010 and now part of the Pitney Bowes Business Insight group, along with former MapInfo and Group 1 Software products. Provides outbound campaigns and real time interaction management as well as advanced analytics.  The campaign management portion is based on the Million Handshakes system purchased by Portrait in 2008.

Conversen – a hosted system that offers a mix of campaign management and multi-channel output generation.  Recently enhanced to support complex marketing databases as well as simple lists.  I recently wrote a white paper about their approach.  (Acquired by Experian in May 2012.)

RedPoint – a suite of tools for database building, campaign management, and analytics. Can be hosted by a service provider or run on-premise by the client. Highly scalable and mature – the company has been growing quietly for six years and has some very large clients.

SmartSource Online –  offers hosted email, content management and Web forms, backed by a workflow engine that allows multi-step campaigns and daabase management.  Specializes in custom applications and support for other marketing service providers.  (Acquired by Extraprise in April 2013.)

Selligent –  offers tightly integrated outbound and interactive campaigns, with hosted or on-premise deployment.  Based in Belgium with plans to enter the U.S. market in 2013.  Well-established among European retailers and publishers.  Sold mostly through agencies and marketing service providers.

Final Note: this post also originally listed SmartFocus as an option.  But Emailvision, which purchased SmartFocus in April 2011, is no longer selling it as a stand-alone product.  The SmartFocus interface will survive as a front-end to the Emailvision email system.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Useful Tips from Inbound Marketing Summit and Hubspot User Group

I spent three days last week at the Inbound Marketing Summit and Hubspot User Group in Boston.  These featured a flock of first-rate speakers who presented more useful information than I can jam into a single blog post.  That said, here are highlights from my notes.

Youngme Moon, Harvard Business School

- when all competitors address the same customer problems, their products all seem the same
- to differentiate, embrace your negatives and make them into positives
- her examples:
  - the Mini Cooper highlighted that it was a small car, rather than trying to convince people it wasn’t really that small
  - IKEA reduces selection, service and sturdiness, and convinces people these are simplifying their choice, encouraging self-reliance, and making it easier to refresh your furnishings.  (Sorry Youngme, but I still detest IKEA.  Let's face it: the reason most people buy there is price.)

Web Content Management panel with leaders from Bridgeline, Sitecore, Percussion, and Ektron

- content management systems have evolved to deliver personalized customer experiences across all channles
- I only mention this because it supports my own view that Web content systems are candidates to encompass the marketing automation industry. 

Michael Damphousse, Green Leads

- 30% higher response rate to 3 sentence text email than HTML email
- 10x more likely to reach a lead by telephone if call within first hour of submission
- 15% higher chance of answering a call from a local phone number
- leave a voicemail that says you are sending an email and ask for a reply
- peak answering times are 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.; these yield 20-40% more connections than calling at 10 a.m.
- people are most likely to answer their phone between 5 minutes before the hour and 10 minutes after the hour
- 23% of appointments are rescheduled; try to reschedule if someone asks to cancel

Guy Kawasaki, author, Enchantment

- keys to creating an “enchanting” product are likeability, trustworthiness, and quality
- a product must be complete, meaning it includes service and creates an entire ecosystem
- when launching something new, don’t try to convince people who reject you; instead, find people who agree with you

Dan Zarella, Hubspot

- ideas spread because they’re good at spreading, not because they’re good ideas
- social media success comes when people share your content, not when they engage with comments
- negative comments are shared less often than positive comments
- reaching influential individuals is less important than reaching large numbers of people
- people are more likely to read and share social media content on weekends
- Tweets that include “Please Retweet” are shared three times more often than those that don’t

David Skok, Matrix Partners

- viral marketing growth depends more on cycle time (how quickly people share with others) than the number of shares per person
- to attract influential followers, identify what they write about and write about it yourself
- offer rewards to both the person who shares your content and whomever they share it with, so it doesn’t seem like people are exploiting their friends

Rick Burnes, Hubspot

- be systematic about creating content that attracts the traffic you want
- check your blog analytics daily and use data to drive content decisions
- create blog posts in a mix of categories: how-to (most important, preferably daily); thought leadership, research projects, fun, controversial statements
- posts need to be useful; they don’t need to be great literature
- reuse old content
- have a big message

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review: Adam Needles' Balancing the Demand Equation

Business marketers can find plenty of books on broad strategies and plenty of other books on specific tactics.  But a framework for connecting tactics to strategic goals has been missing.  Adam Needles’ new book Balancing the Demand Equation (available here from and  here from Amazon) closes the gap.

Needles is a well-known industry leader who is Chief Strategy Officer at demand generation agency Leftbrain DGA. His book starts with a review of changes in the B2B buying process and the new demands these place on B2B marketers.   While this is an oft-told story, he summarizes it nicely in two requirements: focusing on the buyer relationship, not on the sales process; and, replacing disconnected push campaigns with an operations mindset of continuous processing. 

The discussion then switches to tactics.  These fall under two major headings of content marketing and lead management.  The book provides practical hints for each topic, such as changing who signs your emails as buyers progress through the purchase cycle.  (Spoiler alert: early emails should come from industry peers, later emails from vendor experts.)  Much of this advice is sourced from other industry leaders – which is to say that it’s useful but not new.

Needles saves his own contribution for last.  This is the concept of “Demand Process Integration”, which he calls a framework to connect content management with lead management so they reinforce each other.  Actually, “framework” doesn’t quite do this justice: what Needles presents is really a step-by-step methodology that includes defining buyer personas, planning the dialog for each persona, mapping the dialog steps to lead stages, defining nurture logic (with separate tracks for active buyers, buyers who need follow-up offers, and inactive buyers), creating lead scores for different personas and stages, and rerouting leads who enter in the middle of the process or should be moved to a different track.  The concepts are illustrated diagrams from Needles’ work at Leftbrain.

The design methodology is followed by advice drawn from operations management theory on process execution, monitoring, and optimization.  Key metrics include process capacity, throughput time, and system balance.  Needles tailors these to demand generation by recommending that marketers check for nurture logic integrity, conversion rates by stage, lead scoring accuracy, and routing errors. 

This may start to sound painfully detailed, but marketers wondering how to connect grand strategic visions with practical execution will find it hugely helpful.  If you want something more inspirational, that’s here too: the book closes with a list of big-picture implications including re-conceptualizing the role of B2B marketers, changing the relationship between marketing and sales, and paying marketers based on results.  As Needles himself puts it:

“Let’s be clear; we’re not talking about a minor course correction here.  This is not a book filled with tactical best practices.  We’re talking about a massive overhaul of how we approach B2B demand generation and a significant re-orientation for B2B marketers.  The stakes are pretty high.”

Indeed they are.  Consider this a guidebook for how to play the game and win.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pardot Stays Focused on Small and Mid-Size Clients

I caught up last week with Pardot  co-founder and Chief Operating Office Adam Blitzer.   It had been over a year since I’d had a serious briefing from Pardot, although we do keep in touch and I have current information on them in my VEST report on industry vendors.  Pardot is funny that way: with nearly 700 clients, they’re arguably the third-largest B2B marketing automation vendor and have a broad industry presence, but their formal marketing is relatively quiet.  For example, their Web site lists eight press releases during 2011, compared with 46 for Eloqua and 30 for Marketo.

The company’s product strategy takes a similarly modest approach, favoring incremental improvements over bold new directions.  The biggest news in its latest release, announced August 31, was using Qwerly to copy public social media profiles into the marketing database.  Nice, but not unique: Eloqua, Net-Results and SalesFusion have similar connectors and there are probably others.  The new release also included sending pre-scheduled social media messages from within the system and tracking social content consumption and resharing at the individual level.  Again, good stuff but not revolutionary.

The previous release, announced last May, also featured a number of small steps, including better tagging of marketing content, more precise control over data synchronization, and a plugin to capture Gmail messages within the Pardot database. 

Pardot can limit itself to small refinements because it already provides all the basic marketing automation features.  This approach also reflects the company’s disciplined focus on small and mid-size businesses, which don’t want the complexity added by advanced features.  Less positively, the modest enhancements may also reflect Pardot’s constrained resources – the company has no outside funding and sells at relatively low prices of $1,000 to $3,000 per month.

This doesn’t mean that Pardot lacks some interesting features.  One is an ability to capture the search terms used by individuals, both when they find the company Web site through search engines like Google and when they search within the company site itself.  In-site search is a powerful indicator of intent and not one I recall seeing in other marketing automation systems.  Pardot also has connectors for SugarCRM, NetSuite, and Microsoft CRM as well as – not unique, but a broader range than most.  The company is adding Webinar integration, starting with Webex and soon to be followed by ReadyTalk.

But features are just part of the equation for marketing automation buyers, especially at small and mid-size businesses.  Ease of use, pricing, and support weigh at least as heavily, and Pardot scores well on all three counts.  Pardot still uses only inside sales people to keep down its selling expenses, which is one way keep down its prices.  Blitzer argues that still lower pricing would require cuts in customer service and support, which he sees as essential to long-term customer success.  Of course, other vendors disagree.  Maybe there’s no single answer because different approaches will suit different clients.  All we can say right now is that Pardot’s approach seems to be working for them.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Dreamforce 2011: Will Leave Marketing Automation Alone. But Revenue Performance Management Might Be Another Story.

I spent most of this week at’s Dreamforce conference. With 45,000 registrants, the company says that Dreamforce is now the largest technology industry gathering. I don’t know whether that’s true (as someone pointed out, the Consumer Electronics Show is much bigger, for starters). But I did notice about two years ago that pretty much everyone in the B2B marketing automation space was more or less assuming I’d attend. Peer pressure worked, and there I was.

If the big question on the mind of the marketing automation industry has been whether Salesforce would launch its own product, the show provided what I consider to be a definitive answer: No (at least for now; never say never). In both public announcements and private conversations, Salesforce leaders made clear their focus is on much bigger game: becoming a strategic enterprise technology supplier on par with IBM or HP. They plan to do this by becoming the platform for the “social enterprise”, which they see as the next major generation of computing.

More precisely, they are almost mechanically mimicking Facebook, which they see as the new center of online life. Their equivalent is Salesforce Chatter, the social network for company workers they see as connecting all company systems. Part of the strategy is to build enterprise applications on Salesforce platforms, and part of it is to access other enterprise applications from within Chatter. The still broader goal is to add customers and suppliers to each firm’s Chatter network, and to incorporate non-human objects such as orders and equipment. For better or worse, this is already happening today: the company demonstrated networks where an automobile can warn you that its tire pressure is low or a network switch can report on its status.

As someone who gets pretty darned annoyed when my printer tells me it wants an expensive new cartridge, I have mixed feelings about letting so many new and completely self-centered voices clamor for my attention. In fact, I’d say most people's biggest computer-related problem today is social media overload: people need better ways to structure and filter their social messages, not ways to get more of them. The Chatter group that Salesforce set up for Dreamforce itself struck me as a perfect example: it was filled with largely irrelevant noise that made it nearly impossible to see the useful information. If Salesforce hadn’t also sent nicely structured emails with schedules and contact information, I wouldn’t have known what to do when I got there.

Of course, any true believer would dismiss me as part of a pre-digital generation, and therefore both obsolete and irrelevant as a human being. Maybe so. I do recall that some (traditional, structured) research has shown that human brains physically adjust when they must process unstructured inputs. But even if people get better at filtering noise, that filtering still takes energy from other, more directly productive purposes. So unless the value of the nuggets captured by that filtering exceeds the effort consumed by the filtering, the result is a net loss.

Oh dear, I do sound pretty crotchety, don’t I? Blame lack of sleep from social networking of the old-fashioned, face-to-face kind. Cranky or not, I came away from Dreamforce very impressed how clearly Salesforce has defined their vision and aligned their actions to execute it. Although I heard some grumbling that there was nothing really new in the show’s announcements, I took that as evidence that Salesforce had previously decided what it wants to do and is now doing it. The specific announcements were all tied directly to the “social enterprise” strategy: things like adding Java support to the Heroku platform (making it easier to deploy applications on the Salesforce infrastructure) and adding presence and external parties to Chatter (making it easier to replace other collaboration systems).

That said, there’s a difference between a clear strategy and a successful strategy. I’d say that Salesforce has a pretty good chance of evolving Chatter into a ubiquitous enterprise social network. But whether that translates to becoming the core platform for all enterprise systems is another question. After all, there are other ubiquitous enterprise systems – for example, the telephone and email – that didn’t end up controlling everything else. But maybe I’m missing the point; perhaps all Salesforce wants or needs from this is continued revenue growth from processing on its platforms. “Social enterprise” offers a nice theme to make this possible by attracting application developers. Although Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff clearly has a more messianic vision than that, fulfilling the grander vision isn’t really necessary from a business standpoint.

All of which brings us back to B2B marketing automation. As a $2.1 billion company, Salesforce is looking where its next $2 billion in revenue will come from. Marketing automation is clearly too small to make a serious contribution to that goal. Existing B2B marketing automation systems already support Salesforce, so it has no particular strategic reason to replace them with its own applications.

On the other hand, Salesforce would probably like marketing automation to run on its own platforms, rather than simply synchronizing with Salesforce data and campaigns. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Salesforce encourage third party developers to build marketing automation systems using Salesforce's and Heroku platforms and database, or to see them encourage existing vendors to migrate to the infrastructure. This is pretty much the notion of “Salesforce add-ons” that I wrote about on August 16 (see "Can CRM Add-Ons Replace Marketing Automation?")

I also still expect that Salesforce will continue to enhance its core Sales application with features that make it better at specific marketing automation functions like complex campaign flows and Web tracking. Between native apps and organic product growth, today’s B2B marketing automation vendors definitely face some serious threats from Salesforce even if it doesn’t target them directly. It’s like sleeping with an elephant: it could roll over and crush you without even noticing.

Speaking of which, one thing you don’t do when sleeping next to an elephant is to poke it awake. There’s an element of that in Revenue Performance Management, which stakes a claim to a much larger territory than marketing automation by itself. I discussed RPM with both Eloqua and Marketo during Dreamforce. Both share a vision of combining marketing automation data with sales data, and ideally with data from other sources. This expanded database is really the core of RPM because it’s what gives the end-to-end view of the revenue cycle.

I agree with the goal, but Salesforce also has its eye on storing all that data. The bigger the pool of data the marketing automation vendors assemble, the more appealing it looks to Salesforce. And if you combine the data with a claim to managing strategic decisions about marketing and sales programs, you’re definitely poaching on their turf. At the moment, it’s a bit of a blind spot because analytics and business intelligence have not been Salesforce strengths. But that could well change – in fact, it must change if Salesforce is to provide a comprehensive alternative to existing enterprise platforms. When it does, they won’t just accidentally crush RPM vendors by rolling over: they’ll take aim with their giant feet and stomp them directly.

Or maybe I'm being naive. Perhaps RPM is a way for marketing automation vendors to attract Salesforce's attention as a potential strategic acquisition. In that case, poking the elephant is exactly the right approach.