Shopping for Marketing Automation

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This is my first post about my life at work. Here is some insight on my day.

We are currently on a frantic mission for marketing automation software. We have a number of goals to improve efficiency and ROI, most importantly, getting a better handle on what our website traffic is doing. so over the past few weeks, we have been looking closely at solutions for web content management, lead nurturing and marketing automation.

We had what we thought was a short list. Then we realized the short list might have been too short. So I have been doing additional research to do my due diligence.

Here is my current list of contenders (for the bulk of my department goals)

(Update 6/12/2008: I picked a winner! Carry on!)


With every project of this type, it is unclear how to choose a winner: price, features, vision, implementation time, UI, team responsiveness or rapport. Right now, I’m not sure and I’m still asking questions and gathering proposals. I’ll post here more on what we choose.

For all of you shoppers out there, I have learned there is absolutely no easy way to find these solutions. Everyone categorizes themselves slightly differently, and each of my web searches turned up a completely different list of vendors. The solutions above are the most complete for most of my goals: web analytics, PPC campaign integration, landing pages, lead management, drip marketing, integration with our CRM system.

Here are the categories that turned up some of these applications:

  • landing pages
  • marketing automation
  • drip marketing
  • Eloqua
  • Marketing Analytics
  • lead nurturing

Here are a few other options, I thought were good, but not perfect for my goals.

  • Valtira

What I have learned?

  • There is no common feature set to marketing automation.
  • Some appexchange partners are quicker to respond to requests than others.
  • Lots of vendors have very similar roadmaps and timelines.
  • Self-categorization may not match you up with the right peers, it is important to know what words your customers are searching for (Hubspot is really great for this — picking weird terms is a good plan)
  • Even great automation systems can miss qualified leads, the best response time comes from calling in

I’ll post more on this topic as I understand more. Stay tuned.

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17 thoughts on “Shopping for Marketing Automation

  1. I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Sue.

  2. I’m so glad you have good things to say about HubSpot!

    I will leave the sales pitch for Pete. 🙂 As a Marketer, I guess I would have a couple things to say about marketing overall and where I think things are headed.

    In my opinion, “marketing automation” is typically trying to solve the wrong problem. Most marketing automation systems are trying to make it easier to run your existing marketing programs. I really believe that the way we should do marketing has changed. Email marketing response rates have been declining. Telemarketing response rates are declining. Direct mail response rates are declining. Why? People are better at blocking out these distractions and interruptions. Email is being replaced by RSS, and most people have a spam blocker on their email. People use caller ID to screen calls. Most junk mail is thrown out (or hopefully recycled). I’ve even stopped watching TV ads since I record everything on my DVR.

    Then… How do you connect with prospects in your market? Marketers like us need to evolve our tools to match how prospects are already acting. Every day there are thousands of people looking for what your sell in search engines, blogs and in social media networks. These are “in-market” customers who are ready to buy. They have higher close rates and shorter sales cycles. They are the kind of leads that salespeople love. They call you back and want to see a demo. They have already identified a need and pain. So, what can you do to make sure that you are getting these inbound, high-quality leads (and your competition is not getting them as often as you are)?

    To me, the key is to use inbound marketing techniques. Make sure you get found by prospects in search engines, blogs and social media. Measure how you rank in search engines and your overall Internet presence. Publish lots of interesting content to attract prospects. Start a blog. Engage in social media. Get lots of people to link to your website to signal to search engines that you are important. Measure, optimize and repeat.

    Overall, I guess I believe that marketing needs to change, and the tools you use need to help you embrace this change rather than help you do a better job with marketing programs that are becoming less effective. You are so right that there is no “perfect” tool out there. Good luck with your evaluation process. I know it is not fun or easy. I have been there before.

    Thanks,

    Mike Volpe
    VP Marketing
    HubSpot, aka “the dark horse” 
    HubSpot Internet Marketing Blog

  3. Hi Mike. Thanks for commenting!

    I agree, we are in transition in B2B marketing. What is happening in my space is that the turning point hasn’t happened. Storage buyers are still conservative and a bit more traditional. A lot of them are reading the analyst reports, magazine reviews, white papers, trade press and so on. A lot of the newer administrators are getting more social on the message boards and blogs and so on. So it is so tricky to find the right balance. In our case, the goals for the automation is to point people to the stuff they probably want, while decreasing our people overhead in the running campaigns. A lot of landing pages are out there to collect role, budget and timeline info and are asking the questions like: what do you care about. Over the next 12 months, I think we’ll see a lot of B2B marketer moving to a multi-format content to drive demand generation, whether the format is a PDF, blog post, video or podcast. It’s going to be interesting to see how things progress over the next 12-24 months.

    In my case, I hope we can evolve our web presence to create something more interactive and more reader focused.

  4. Hi Jamie,

    I have a bit of a different take on things than Mike, so I thought I’d add my two (or three or four) cents…

    His toolset, HubSpot, seems really cool – he gave me a demo some time back – but it’s mainly focused on SEO and marketing with content (Mike – correct me if I’m wrong!). Of course, this is extremely valuable, but I’d think his ‘dark horse’ tools would be used along with any of the other players you’ve listed there, not in place of them.

    And, frankly, I have to disagree with the overall pitch.

    It may be true that response rates are dropping across media, but the effectiveness of direct response marketing done well is as real as ever.

    The ROI of email marketing, according to the DMA, was something like 40:1 in 2007 (that’s from my memory, which is iffy, I’ll admit).

    There’s also a reason that direct mail volume is on the rise again: because it works to generate business. To ignore outbound marketing as a legacy of the past is sort of absurd, in my (humble) opinion.

    But more importantly, my experience is much different than Mike’s when it comes to the quality of leads generated via marketing vs. SEO.

    Volpe’s right that people out searching for a solution are typically later in the buying cycle. But for most companies, that’s not a benefit. Here’s why:

    When you’re looking for a new widget, what do you do? You go to Google, search for it, and if you’re like me, you hold the ctrl key down and click every ad and serp listing that looks relevant. Then you go shopping.

    You compare features against features, and price against price. You call one, get a demo, then call the next. You start working one vendor against the other, putting them in direct competition.

    Because you have no pre-existing relationship with any vendor, you’ve only got a few data points to work with – price being the most obvious.

    As a vendor, I MUCH prefer finding companies earlier in the buying cycle. Sure, they don’t close in a day… but the advantages are many.

    For example, I have TIME to create a relationship with prospects. By educating folks – not just about our product, but about the how and why of marketing automation – we’re able to prove, slowly over time, that we’re good people with a wealth of knowledge and experience that would bring serious value to the table far above and beyond the feature set of our product.

    With the advantage of time, companies can position themselves, in the minds of their prospect, as the obvious choice… despite, maybe, a difference in price.

    Really, this IS the ‘why’ of marketing automation. The fact of the matter is that this is how you have to think and act now.

    Trying to cherry-pick the very few ready-to-buy prospects in your market is a frustrating, expensive, time-wasting experience. Learning to ‘farm’ a market is much, much more effective over time.

    But managing relationships with a BIG group of prospects, many of which are further out in the buying cycle, requires new tools.. the tools that marketing automation vendors (like ourselves) provide.

    None of this is to say that HubSpot is unnecessary. I think SEO, blogging, and social marketing all present enormous opportunities that can’t be ignored.

    But a thoughtful and disciplined direct marketing effort – given a good product and smart execution – can be explosively effective. Definitely, it’s unwise to dismiss a century of profitable experience as a relic just because there are new options available.

    Cheers,

    Landon Ray
    OfficeAutopilot

  5. As a HubSpot Internet Marketing Advisor, I’ve totally drunk the “inbound marketing” kool aid. Since I’m on the phone calling people who have “expressed interest” in talking to someone at HubSpot, I know that it works. Many of our prospects are ready to buy because they have engaged with us on their own terms through our newsletter, blog, free tools, white papers and webinars.

    However, I think it’s very good feedback from Landon.

    I like the analogy of the “farming”. I think it’s very relevant whether you’re using email, direct mail, blogging, webinars, podcasts, linkedin or whatever. If you can build a database of “suspects” through SEO, PPC, buying leads, social media and other traditional advertising and marketing methods and use various online direct media (blogging, newsletters, webinars) to educate and engage them in a conversation, suspects will become leads, leads will become prospects and prospects will become buyers.

  6. There are great comments here. I think that each marketer needs to understand their audience. Check out my sales 2.0 post for more on my customers Shopping for software to improve internal process is different than infrastructure software. Right now I am getting a better idea of the direction I need to head in order to meet my goals of converting more web leads, and engaging prospects more frequently.

    Inbound marketing is great but I can’t focus all of my efforts on inbound marketing. To date, about 25% of our leads come from the web as the point of first interaction. (Many are unattributable, and the rest come from other sources.) I think moving forward that may increase to 35-40%, but I still need to mange the other 60% of programs. Right now my goal is to understand what role the web plays in our interactions, whether the prospect originates on the web or from another program.

    I am so amazed there are so many comments on this topic Hopefully a few other people chime in.

  7. Pingback: Anonymous
  8. Jame,

    Have you had a chance to look at Eloqua? Seems to me that your listed requirements for a marketing automation vendor are in line with Eloqua’s service offering. Eloqua are considered by the analysts as the market leader in the on-demand space including: lead management, campaign management, predictive marketing and marketing automation.

    Have a look..

  9. Hi Jame,

    Good post. I found this after you had already selected a vendor, but wanted to mention our company, http://www.ActiveConversion.com , for others that using your post for guidance in their search for marketing automation.

    We are one of the first pure-play vendors in this category, and have been nominated by Deloitte Consulting for 2 years running as a Fast 50 Tech Company-to-Watch.

    For us, marketing, and therefore marketing automation is a mix. Offline, direct marketing, search, email, and online ads all have to be able to deliver results, and our product was designed to accommodate this and be able convert leads from all these sources. And do this with minimal work and getting up to speed time.

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