Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marketo Buys Crowd Factory, Silverpop Buys CoreMotives, and Other News from Pardot, Neolane, Act-On and OfficeAutoPilot

With its usual fanfare, Marketo today announced the acquisition of social marketing campaign company Crowd Factory.

Crowd Factory is a certified cool product, which is probably reason enough for Marketo to buy them.  But what I find intriguing is how little the two businesses overlap.  Marketo is primarily focused on business marketing, and in particular lead generation, nurturing and analytics. Crowd Factory has some B2B clients but is clearly aimed at large-scale consumer marketing. Campaign types listed on its Web site include refer a friend, social sweepstakes, polls and voting, flash deals, group offers, and intelligent share buttons. Few would be considered relevant for most B2B campaigns.

Indeed, Marketo already had a reasonable set of B2B social marketing features. Here’s the chart I built last December in a post comparing social marketing features across the industry.

The yellow boxes represent capabilities added by Crowd Factory (although actual integration of the two products will probably take some time). As you see, Crowd Factory doesn’t fill many gaps. Rather, it adds B2C features that might will enable Marketo to penetrate a new set of accounts.

But it’s not fair to let Marketo get all the attention. Other vendors have also extended their products recently. These include:

Silverpop announced it had purchased CoreMotives, which adds marketing automation capabilities within Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  The company also announced plans to integrate Silverpop’s flagship Engage system with Dynamics CRM. The CoreMotives acquisition is quite interesting, since CoreMotives creates a merger of CRM and marketing automation (which I’ve long predicted) rather than the now-standard model of separate systems for each. The deal might be seen bet-hedging by Silverpop, although I suspect it’s more a way to penetrate accounts too small to buy a separate, sophisticated marketing automation or email product.

Pardot added features for search marketing.  These are keyword monitoring, which tracks the user’s site rank in Google and Bing, and competitor monitoring, which captures metrics such as Google PageRank, inbound links, and indexed pages. Data comes from several sources. This is an important enhancement and part of larger trend for marketing automation vendors to move beyond email and landing pages.

Neolane announced new features to identify anonymous Web visitors based on prior email interactions and to use external catalog data in dynamic offers.  Not as sexy as a social marketing acquisition but useful nevertheless. 

Act-On Software added dynamic content, progressive profiling, new survey components, search engine optimization meta-tags and source tracking, and performance reports. These are mostly catch-up features but the search engine optimization piece again shows the industry’s movement in that direction.

OfficeAutoPilot expanded its professional services offerings – another industry trend – and improved its tools for building forms and creating emails. They also announced the ability to purchase sky banners – you know, those things towed by airplanes – but that was just an April Fool’s joke. Pity.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

B2B Email Benchmarks: Answers Vary Widely

One of the things I’m enjoying about my new role as head of analytics at Left Brain DGA is being closer to hands-on marketing than I was as a consultant. This leads to different questions than I used to get, including the ever-popular “what’s a reasonable response rate for our emails?” That one came up last week and led me to review my files on industry benchmarks. Without giving away any deep secrets, I thought I’d share the results.

I found five relevant studies dating back to 2009. Taking the oldest first:

Silverpop International Email Marketing Benchmark Study, 2009

This one doesn’t break out results by mailer type, so it’s probably dominated by business-to- consumer marketers. But it does distinguish gross opens from unique opens, which are significantly different. It also shows median as well as average results, in addition to top and bottom quartiles.  This is a good reminder that there's a very substantial range of variation in different marketers' performance.  The difference between the medians and averages is also something to bear in mind when looking at the other surveys, which only report averages.

Silverpop is also the only study to give both bounce and unsubscribe rates – the others give one or the other.

Here is the U.S. data from the Silverpop report.

MailerMailer Email Marketing Metrics Report, 2011

I just discovered this one and am impressed.  It goes beyond simple reporting to analyze the impact of delivery day and time, number of links, subject line length, and personalization (some surprises here). The repoort breaks out results for several categories, of which the most relevant are probably Computer, Consulting, Large Business and Small Business. (I’ve added a simple average to use later.)

In general, this study shows substantially lower open rates than other studies, somewhat higher click rates, and higher bounce rates. I’ve calculated the click-to-open rate, which isn’t necessarily the result you’d get if you looked at the actual average. But it’s worth having as a point of reference.

Here’s some detail from the study itself (you'll have to click on this to make it legible).  The business categories account for two of the four highest open rates and are all in top half of the click rates. 

Eloqua Marketing Metrics Outlook 2011

You’d expect Eloqua to put out a good study on this topic, and they deliver. The best-in-class, average, and laggard classifications illustrate the huge gap between even average performers and best-in-class. They also reinforce the point, illustrated in the Silverpop data, that medians are significantly below averages because of high-end outliers.  Not to go all stat-geeky on you, but that really matters if you're looking for a benchmark that reflects "typical" performance.

Arguably all Eloqua clients would be relevant to marketing automation users, but the most relevant for true B2B would include Manufacturing, High Tech, and Business Services:

Across all categories, Manufacturing has the highest open rate and is tied for second highest click-through, but the two other "true" B2B categories rank at the bottom.  The combined averages for the three are just slightly below the average for all categories.

Epsilon Email Trends and Benchmarks Q42011

Epsilon is another industry stalwart, publishing regular quarterly reports. But they only provide one category for B2B Products and Services, plus another for Business Publishing. The open rate for that category seems pretty high compared with other studies, although the click rate is largely in line.

Comparing Business Products with other categories, both the open rate and click rate are in the middle of the pack, each ranking sixth highest of 13 categories.

Epsilon also provides an intriguing breakdown within each industry of results by email type (acquisition, editorial, marketing, research, and other).  The figures for marketing emails in the Business Products category (19.2% open rate, 2.7% click rate)  are considerably lower than the category total (27% and 4.4%), but I can’t make sense of the numbers: marketing accounts for 88% of the industry volume, so they just shouldn't be that far apart.  (More formally: if you combine the message type figures in a weighted average, the result does not equal the category total.)  I’ll assume the group totals are more reliable than the detail. The UK Email Marketing Benchmark Report 2012

Finally, we have a study from in the UK. I’d question its relevance to the U.S. market, but the 2009 Silverpop study showed similar figures for both. It includes figures for B2B Sales, B2B Service, Industrial/Manufacturing, and IT. These vary pretty widely, especially for open rates.

Compared with other categories, the business emails get somewhat above-average response:

What Does It All Mean?

Within each report, open and click rates B2B categories tend to be in the middle or  above average.  But the over-all ranges vary substantially from one report to another: at the extremes, MailerMailer open rates range from 7.1% to 17.6%, while Epsilon ranges from 14.2% to 35.6%.  Without understanding the reasons for these variations, it's hard to select a single reference point as a benchmark.  The best I can suggest is to throw out the outliers, which would leave Eloqua and  I'd also tend to favor the Eloqua figures because they are based on the "average" performers, and therefore are closer to a median rate.  (You'll remember that averages tend to be higher than medians, because a handful of very high performers distort the results).

That said, the table below shows the average figures for each survey (which, you'll remember, themselves hide significant variations within each report). I’ve calculated an average of averages, excluding Silverpop since it didn’t break out B2B from B2C. As it happens, the averages fall somewhere between the and Eloqua figures.  So, if you forced me to propose benchmarks for B2B email performance, I'd say those numbers are as good as any.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Infusionsoft Revamps Its Interface, Adds New Campaign Builder, Web Analytics and Lead Scoring

Infusionsoft introduced its latest release earlier this month. This included a full revamp of its customer interface, a new campaign builder and shopping cart, and new capabilities for Web analytics, lead scoring, and lead source reporting.

Stated so plainly, this doesn’t sound like much. But Infusionsoft says it’s the biggest release in company history and I've no reason to doubt.  A new interface and campaign builder are big projects.

Both represent significant improvements over previous Infusionsoft editions. The interface is cleaner, organized around tasks rather than data objects, and lets users customize their menu of top-level functions. The campaign builder now supports branching flows, timers, and multi-step sequences with a smooth drag-and-drop interface. The shopping cart is also significantly more powerful. Lead scoring (nicely executed), Web analytics, and lead source reporting all fill major gaps in the product.

That said, this is still an evolutionary release for Infusionsoft. In part, this is because the company is careful not to overwhelm clients with too many changes. More fundamentally, it reflects Infusionsoft's steady focus on solving the same problem for the same customers: helping businesses with under 25 employees run their marketing, sales and e-commerce more efficiently.  This lets Infusionsoft understand its customers' needs deeply and build systems that meet them.  The company conducted more than 500 interviews in preparing the new release.        

Infusionsoft still has a ways to go.  The new release adds some missing marketing features but doesn’t incorporate social media, blogging, or Web site management. These are common needs for small businesses, so I’d consider them gaps in the product. The system also lacks dynamic content, custom data tables, and sophisticated user rights management – but those are more relevant to larger firms than Infusionsoft’s target customers.  Split testing is also missing – and even though few small businesses do it, I'd argue it belongs in the product, because they should.

Infusionsoft also reported that it continues to grow nicely.  The company now has 8,500 customers, 30,000 users, and expected revenue of $40 million in 2012, up 50% over $26 million in 2011. It is expanding its service offerings, app marketplace, and network of consulting partners – a critical resource for small businesses that often have little in-house marketing talent.  Pricing on the new release remains unchanged, with full-featured versions starting at $299 per month.