Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Tale of Two Sittings: Best of Times with HubSpot and Teradata

Yes, that title is a pun on Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. Just be glad I don’t review housewares, or this could be about rating knives and forks: A Tale of Two Settings: It Was The Best of Tines, It Was The Worst of Tines.

But I digress. Where was I? Ah yes, in Las Vegas, at ONE: Teradata Marketing Festival, which is Teradata's conference for users of its marketing applications. Despite the location and title, the program did not include jousting.

What the conference did offer was a detailed look at Teradata’s current marketing applications, vision, and product roadmap. These were solid and comprehensive, although Teradata continues to make an unfashionable distinction between “omni-channel” marketing, which is conventional relationship marketing across all channels, and “digital” marketing, which is Web and email marketing. Teradata argues that many digital marketing departments still function independently of relationship marketing groups and therefore want their own tools. That’s probably true, especially at the big enterprises who are Teradata’s primary clients. But the trend is towards closer integration and you’d think Teradata would rather lead than follow. I do suspect that at least part of the reason for the distinction is internal: the omni-channel products are based on Teradata’s original marketing automation products, Aprimo and Teradata Relationship Manager, while the digital products are based on eCircle email the company purchased in 2012. To avoid misunderstanding, let me stress that Teradata does let users integrate the omni-channel and digital products if they want to and that digital includes text messages, mobile apps, social media monitoring and publishing, and Web landing pages as well as email.

Teradata’s marketing applications also extend beyond standard marketing automation to include marketing resource management and analytics. Indeed, there’s a case to be made that the company’s scope is superior to most competitive “marketing clouds”, which are usually pretty light on MRM and analytics and are often barely integrated. On the other hand, Tereadata seems to have something of a blind spot regarding advertising and anonymous customers: I got mixed messages from the various Teradata presentations about whether it considers support for paid media as part of its marketing applications.  The clearest statement I can extract from my notes is that they will store anonymous identifiers such as cookies in their database but not use them until they are linked with an identifiable individual. As readers of this blog know well, I feel all media (owned, earned, paid) and all users (anonymous and known) should be managed together.

Teradata itself sees its primary differentiator as analytics. It presents an appealing vision of “adaptive self-learning marketing automation” that combines historical data, predictive models, and prescriptive models. By “prescriptive”, it means recommending the types of marketing programs to create, as opposed to predicting which existing marketing campaigns are best for an individual customer. This all strikes me as correct, if not downright futuristic.

But down at the practical level, Teradata’s near-term roadmap was considerably less visionary. Maybe that’s the nature of roadmaps. Perhaps inspired by the venue, the Teradata folks did a lot of (metaphorical) kimono opening at the event, detailing their product plans in ways I rarely see in public. What they revealed were mostly incremental enhancements such as improved user interfaces to make marketing activities easier and more nimble. There were some more fundamental promises, including better integration across suite components, more open access by external systems, and a more unified view across campaigns of the customer journey. It’s solid but not flashy, which is a pretty good summary of the Teradata style.

I was barely home from Vegas before I headed up to Boston for HubSpot’s Open House, a small event for primarily for business partners. (HubSpot’s main user conference is the INBOUND show in September. No jousting there, either.) Although the Open House style was low key, there were a couple of substantial announcements: the company’s free CRM system is now generally available (and still free); expansion of its $50/month Sidekick sales productivity tool; and eleven new integration partners including some predictive technologies (BrightInfo and Infer) and paid media retargeting (PerfectAudience). These are interesting extensions beyond the current set of partners, who mostly support operational tasks such as content creation, events management, analytics, and CRM integration. There was also some modest boasting about HubSpot’s continued growth – which actually accelerated slightly to 58% year on year in the most recent quarter – and other achievements including 15,000+ customers, 2,300 partners, 900+ employees, and top satisfaction rating in industry surveys.

HubSpot was less forthcoming than Teradata about future directions, perhaps because they see little change from the current course. Their general intention is to continue serving their existing target market (companies from 10 to 2,000 employees) with marketing and sales tools. There is a bit of redefinition to being a “growth engine” that solves additional marketing and sales problems, but this is an incremental change at most. The company’s announced focus is the improve the existing product with a mantra of faster, lighter, and easier, not to lead major changes in how businesses interact with their customers. Or perhaps HubSpot feels that most companies have virtually no automation in how they market and sell, getting more companies to adopt the existing HubSpot tools and best practices would itself be a major change. Fair enough.

On the other hand, co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah did tell me HubSpot is about a year away from supporting custom objects in its data model, which would open up some major new opportunities for the software. So perhaps there’s a bit more vision than they’re talking about publicly. People in Boston aren’t quite so free about opening their kimonos.

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