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Archive for the ‘Company Profiles’ Category

My recent blog post on the inbound marketing / marketing content management crowd has gotten me thinking quite a bit about the holistic lifecycle of leads and of the role of marketers in this process.  The rapid ‘death’ of the consultative sale means that marketing organizations increasingly are playing a more-pervasive role in the lifecycle of leads – blurring the traditional lines between marketing and sales organizations.  “Who builds a [target] list, is it a sales person or a marketing person?” posed Rand Schulman, CMO of InsideView, in a meeting with me in his office in San Francisco a little over a week ago.  Good question.  Also, how should this list be built?

The new marketplace reality requires marketing organizations and their technology systems to be more engaged than ever before in all aspects of lead generation and of lead nurturing.  Thus, an emerging key partner for marketing organizations is the growing roster of what I refer to as the ‘online compiled lead sourcing providers.’  The roots of this category are grounded in the world of opt-in target list builders, prospect data miners and syndicated lead directory/database vendors – this traditionally included firms such as Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B), as well as media organizations and the credit bureaus.  This industry has evolved, though, and it increasingly looks more different than it once did, with an explosion of new market entrants and of new techniques for sourcing and aggregating prospect insight.  Today this emerging group includes firms such as Demandbase, idExec, Jigsaw, Lead411, NetProspex, OneSource, SalesGenie, Selectory (a D&B company), Zapdata (also a D&B company) and ZoomInfo.

It’s a pretty exciting time for this segment, but it’s worth tempering the excitement a bit – making sure we’re analyzing these providers in the context of where they fit into the overall marketing mix.  As with any new data or system provider in the world of Marketing 2.0, these providers are not a panacea.  Leads can come from many sources, and it’s important to recognize the trade-offs.

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original); click to enlarge graphic

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original); click to enlarge graphic

The new marketplace reality, thus, also requires marketers to assess all of their lead-generation-oriented marketing programs against a number of alternatives and in the context of the net impact of these programs.  As I was thinking through this, I built this chart to conceptualize the landscape.  On the x-axis I have made a relative assessment of the net credibility various programs bring in the eyes of the prospect – i.e., the degree to which a lead is pre-disposed to being interested in that brand-company and a relative indication of how hard marketing and sales will have to work to nurture a lead.  On the y-axis I have made a relative assessment of the net estimated cost per lead of different types of lead-generation-oriented marketing programs.  In doing so I considered both time and money, as it is critical to look at both.  For example, inbound marketing may have low dollar cost but it is not a no-cost activity; successful content and engagement requires time and energy, which translates into real dollars via salaries, overhead, etc.  This is why I have it at roughly the same cost level as paid sourcing.  What do you think about this matrix and where I’ve placed various types of marketing programs?

I hope this framework helps you better think about where the online compiled lead sourcing providers fit into the mix and provides a frame of reference as you dig into the status of this segment.  I believe it is particularly instructive because it speaks to some of the opportunity for evolution in this segment and is indicative of the segment’s overall trajectory – particularly predicting moves that will help improve the net credibility of leads while maintaining low net cost per lead.

So what’s new with the online compiled lead sourcing crowd, and how do we break down the vendor landscape?  Moreover, how are they innovating to keep pace with the tidal wave of change in integrated marketing management technology?  And what does this mean for marketers?

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This past November I posted a blog piece, titled “Top 20 Cross-channel Marketing Execution Platforms?”  The piece was a call for input on the state of technologies that assist marketers in running complex, cross-channel, integrated marketing communication programs that ultimately are focused on delivering one thing – customer sales.  These technologies are becoming more critical to marketing organizations over time.  Why?  Chaos:  Rapid growth in Internet-based communication mediums has led to a power shift in the buyer-seller dynamic; marketers have never been at a greater disadvantage.  Meanwhile, their roles and campaigns are becoming more complicated.  At the same time, they are being asked for greater, real-time visibility into results and marketing ROI as never before.  “The online world … has refused to stay in a nice, little box,” commented Scott Brinker on his Chief Marketing Technologist blog in October.  “[It] has exploded into millions of microchannels, with few boundaries, in constant motion, with people sloshing freely among them — often under little or no direct control of the marketer.”

Since my first blog piece on this topic, I’ve gotten some great feedback from folks in the industry, have spoken with nearly a dozen technology vendors and have digested quite a few recently-published books on the subject, including Sandy Carter‘s The New Language of Marketing 2.0, David Raab‘s Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems and Steve WoodsDigital Body Language — all great reads.  This process has helped to evolve my earlier thinking – validating some initial observations but also changing others.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

A key revision from my first piece is a re-thinking of my taxonomy for classifying this technology group.  First, it is clear that a centralized, intelligent and automated layer is emerging at the heart of the continuum of marketing systems (see diagram), and this layer serves a critical functional role in integrating high-level strategic management with tactical execution.  I have chosen to refer to this layer as integrated marketing management.  Second, it is clear that there are several existing software ‘camps,’ with different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, that are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer.  These camps include:  demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM).  While each comes at this layer from a different angle, the lines between these systems are blurring and their features and capabilities are increasingly quite similar.  Yet these camps remain important points of distinction and differentiation today because they are how many vendors classify their systems, and they help to understand both the strengths/weaknesses and the capabilities/gaps of these vendors systems.

The result is a complicated decision-making environment for marketers that want to harness the capabilities of integrated marketing management.  “Now everyone is trying to tie it all together, [but] you wind up with a weird gulf in buyer expectations,” commented Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua, in a phone interview.  “Marketers aren’t used to doing this evaluation.”

That is why I’m writing about this topic.  As a marketer, who has taken the time to become more educated about this space, I’d like to help lift the veil off of what is perhaps the Holy Grail of marketing – having IT systems that actually provide leverage to your integrated marketing activities and processes, rather than just drowning you in more data and execution responsibilities.

So what is an integrated marketing management platform, how can it help marketers, and who are the top vendors in this segment?

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This the second in a two-part series of posts.  This past Friday I discussed the five key characteristics (‘pillars’) I believe will mark successful, integrated marketing services agencies in the future, I also cited some current barriers to firms succeeding in this ‘next-generation’ context.  Click here to view the first post, “Next Generation of Marketing Services Agencies 1 of 2: Pillars and Barriers.”

Today’s post will complete the picture by presenting snapshots of several, specific firms I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in the emerging, next-generation marketing services agency world.

  

Are there any firms out there, today, that exemplify the vision of a next-generation marketing services agency?

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

The truth is that no single agency, today, is at the stage of sophistication previously described (i.e., no firms are embracing all five pillars) … yet.  But there are quite a few that are moving in the right direction and that have embraced different combinations of these pillars.  Not surprisingly many are smaller, more-nimble (or at least holding-company-independent) firms that do not have scale investments in the old-school models and that are experimenting with new approaches; thus, it is easier for them to break the mold. 

Who are these firms, and what are they doing differently?

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Over the past few months I’ve checked in with a number of current and past colleagues and acquaintances who work at a variety of marketing services agencies — PR, ad agencies, social-media firms, brand consultancies, etc.  In addition to the usual pleasantries, our discussions could not help but touch on the state of the industry.  I’ve also seen and commented on a growing critical mass of news articles and blog posts on the future of advertising and PR  firms.

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

What has been interesting about all of this dialogue, both online and off, is one consistent theme:  The business environment for ‘traditional’ agencies is changing … radically … and overnight. 

“I hear death is imminent for your business model, in fact I’ve heard the industry itself might be beyond repair,” commented Kyle Flaherty, a former PR agency professional and current tech-industry marketing director (now on the ‘client side’), in a December post on his Engage in PR blog.

What is causing this ‘plague’ of Biblical proportions throughout the agency world, and how can agencies overcome this situation by preparing for the next-generation of client expectations?

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In my recent Marketing Personalization 2.0 blog piece, I spent some time talking about what I referred to as ‘cross-channel marketing execution management platforms.’  This is a technology segment that is of particular interest to me for two reasons.

First, as someone who has run integrated marketing communication campaigns that have included elements as diverse as PR, live events, direct e-mail, salesforce materials and blogs, I recognize that managing a consistent marketing campaign across mediums is tough.  This is particularly the case when it comes to ensuring outbound continuity of brand presentation, while also personalizing content to the customer, and achieving comparable metrics for campaign effectiveness analysis across mediums.  Getting a normalized sense of ROI remains the Holy Grail.  So I think that every marketing leader has a vested interest in the advancement of the ‘state of the art’ in this technology area. 

Cross-channel Marketing Execution ManagementSecond, related to the first point and complicating matters a bit, as marketers we are only being asked to handle and operate across more mediums over time, not less.  Platform provider Eloqua claims on its Web site, “According to industry surveys, 34% of marketers cannot execute a coordinated, integrated, multichannel marketing campaign.”  I hope this isn’t true, because it is a sad state for marketing if it is.  Operating diversified, integrated marketing communication campaigns are a way of life, not an option.  And with the explosion of social media and social networking technologies and platforms, our lives are only more complicated and fragmented.  So we not only have a vested interest in this technology area, it will rapidly become the keystone for execution.

So I wanted to devote some time in this post to:

  1. better identifying the state of this technology segment,
  2. building out a ‘definitive list’ of the major providers, and
  3. presenting insights into their strengths and weaknesses.

But I’m hoping to do this is a collaborative fashion, and this is where I invite your assistance.  Please help review my initial entries on the list and provide suggestions on who else should be included.

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SugarCRM is not a new company.  It’s taken a number of years for them to build to their current level of commercial traction for this open-source CRM platform, but they’ve established a solid position in a market where it can be difficult to differentiate.  (As a separate note, I also believe they focus too much on the open-source aspect of their software and not enough on the benefits to marketers — an opportunity for them to really re-align their marketing programs and, eventually, to reposition their technology brand … but I digress.)

Over the past year, in particular, they’ve done some pretty impressive things with their platform — things that have made it much more valuable to a marketer.

So what caught my attention? 

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I ran across Leximancer doing research on technologies that can help with assessing brand perceptions from the volumes that are written about brands and companies via various communication channels.  Specifically, how do you analyze all of the news stories, blog posts, broadcast transcripts, customer e-mails, etc. that a company is innundated with – what amounts to massive amounts of unstructured data – and figure out what it all means for your brand, its reputation and its key relationships?

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