Friday, December 26, 2014

LeadLiaison Helps Marketing Automation Users Break the Content Bottleneck

You may have noticed that there are many B2B marketing automation systems available. So it’s not surprising that LeadLiaison prefers to be called something else – in their case, “revenue generation software”. I’m not sure exactly why they chose that term, apart from the fact that everybody likes revenue. But they do go far enough beyond standard marketing automation to justify a different label.

In particular, LeadLiaison helps marketers create content, a critical bottleneck that is not addressed by most marketing automation systems.  The most impressive feature is an outsourced content creation service, which lets marketers build an online creative brief for a particular item and then send it to a network of writers who agree to produce it for a fixed price in a few days. Identities are hidden in both directions, so the parties can’t easily circumvent the service to work together directly in the future. But prices are either reasonable (if you’re a buyer) or ridiculously low (if, like me, you're a sometime content creator), starting around $50 for a blog post. There are several third-party networks that offer this sort of service, but I’m not aware of any other marketing automation vendor that has developed their own.

LeadLiaison takes good advantage of this feature by closely integrating the resulting content into other operations. The outsourced content can be loaded directly into the marketer’s content library with access controls based on date range, number of downloads, or whether the requestor provides an email address.  There is also an option to request an email address but then grant access even if it's not provided. Content can be linked to a social media publishing process that can release it immediately, schedule it for the future, or add it to a “buffer” of materials that are released at predefined intervals. The system warns users when the buffer inventory is dangerously low, so they have time to replenish. Content is served through short URLs to track consumption and sharing. The system also tracks consumption by individuals using cookies and by companies based on IP address.

Marketers who want to build their own content are also covered.  They get powerful tools for email, landing page, Web form, and survey creation, including templates with drag-and-drop editing for different types of components.  The system can also extract the HTML of an existing Web page, insert new content such as a Web form or survey, and deploy the modified page in place of the original. That's a big deal: it means marketers can add their content into existing Web pages and forms without recreating them from scratch.

Forms can generate an alert or take another action after they are submitted. They can also include progressive profiling rules to avoid asking people questions they have already answered. LeadLiaison is adding a marketing content map that will help planning by showing the inventory of available content by buyer type of purchase stage.

Although content creation is probably LeadLiaison's most unusual set of features, the system also does an above-average job at the standard marketing automation functions: email, multi-step workflows, behavior tracking, lead scoring, CRM integration, and analytics. To look at each of these in turn:

  • workflows support multiple steps, event-based triggers, wait stages, and a wide variety of actions including lead scoring, lead distribution, list management, alerts, and calls to external Web hooks. 
  • behavior tracking captures email responses, Web site visits, form completions, downloads, and video viewing through Wistia. Users can define “buy signals” based on combinations of behaviors, which in turn can be trigger actions in workflows.
  • lead scoring assigns separate scores for “fit” against a target buyer profile (which LeadLiaison calls “grading”), for recency, total activity, buying signals, and specific actions the user has assigned points. Users can prioritize leads by combining these elements in a single aggregate score according to user-assigned weights.  
  • CRM integration includes native connectors for all editions of (not just the Professional edition, as with most marketing automation products), soon to be supplemented by Microsoft Dynamics and Sugar CRM. A Zapier connector supports integration with other systems. Salespeople can receive alerts, hot lead reports, and detailed information about Web site visitors. The system can use IP address to identify the company of anonymous visitors and will look up possible contact names at those firms from external sources including and LinkedIn. There is also an integrated phone dialer.

  • analytics tracks content usage, conversions, lead distribution, email results, Web visitors on internal and external pages, and return on investment. Enhancements for more advanced reporting are also planned for 2015.

In short, this is a very mature marketing automation system for a company that launched in 2013. My take is that they learned from the experience of older products. Pricing starts at $500 per month, up to 5,000, which makes the system affordable for small companies even though the features are robust enough for the mid-market and perhaps higher. A stand-alone visitor tracking product starts at $200 per month.

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