How to Get the Full Value from your MAP Software in 2015

A marketing automation platform (MAP) is a significant investment, yet few marketers get the full value. They limp through the year with a barely used MAP, and are then hard-pressed to justify the expense during the next year’s budget review.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Try a New Feature Every Week

Most marketing automation platforms come with a powerful suite of marketing automation tools. Unfortunately, not all marketers make use of the entire collection. In fact, many just stick to a familiar few and don’t even try out the rest. How do you know if a tool will be effective if you don’t try it out? The feature you’re ignoring could be the one to take your marketing to the next level.

But don’t just toy around with a feature for an hour and drop it. Make a commitment to try one new feature for a week every week. And ”trying” doesn’t just mean clicking a few buttons and opening a couple of menus. Spend the week learning about the feature. Examine use cases. Do trial runs and (if possible) create an actual scenario. You’ll learn more if you see it running in real life.

Then, at the end of the week, you’ll have a much more informed and realistic assessment of whether or not that particular feature works for you.

Expand Your Strategy to Match

Of course, using tools just for the sake of using them isn’t recommended. You need to first understand the features and capabilities and see how it can play into your current marketing strategy. If possible, you then expand your strategy in a way that you can make use of these tools. For instance, you have great content, but it just sits on your website. Using the MAP’s nurturing tools allows you to expand your content marketing strategy and push information out to customers in a timely manner. 

Also, good MAPs have tools that are meant to work together, not piecemeal. Using a collection of complementary MAP features will get you much more value than using them separately. Explore how the features connect, and you may get powerful results.

Include Others in the Loop

Marketing departments shouldn’t operate in a vacuum, and neither should your MAP. Marketing automation platforms can benefit teams across the entire organization, not just your own. For instance, the best MAPs include an option to integrate with CRMs to allow both the marketing and sales departments to share leads. Some MAPs also offer tools like surveys to collect customer feedback, which would be valuable to share with product development teams.

If you can incorporate more MAP features into your workflow, create supporting strategies, and integrate with more internal teams, you’ll be able to increase your marketing department’s value dramatically. Do it intelligently and consistently, and your marketing automation platform’s ROI will be measured in months, not years.

How to Nurture Customers Without Doing a Thing

Nurturing campaigns are an excellent way to build a relationship with your prospect, without the “hard sell” tactics that may turn off a prospect. In it, you guide the prospect through the discovery process, feeding them whatever information that might interest them and being there when it’s time to close the deal.

Nurturing campaigns are tricky, because you need to be able to maintain a delicate touch, while being a constant presence, over a period of time. And when you have multiple prospects on a nurturing campaign, things can get complicated pretty fast.

That’s why automated nurture campaigns are the way to go. Many marketing automation platforms (MAPs) have features that take the pain out of nurturing campaigns and increase their effectiveness. They do this by:  

Collecting Prospect Behavioral Data

Most MAPs can tell plenty about a prospect’s behavior from a single email. Not only can you tell who opened an email, you can also see what particular links were clicked and how long they spent at that web page. Form submissions and responses can give insight on what a prospect finds important, and what the next step in the nurturing campaign should be.  

Guiding Prospects Intelligently

Armed with the information above, marketers can now set rules on the MAP to determine which nurturing email should be sent next. If the prospect expressed interest in saving money, then Email A should be sent next. If the prospect values convenience, then Email B would cater to that message. 

It’s a complex chain of branching reactions, but once it’s set up the marketer doesn’t need to do anything at all. The MAP system automatically guides the prospect down the path. 

Alerting the Right People

Automating the nurturing process means you can instantly notify the right people at the right stage in the process. When the prospect reaches a certain step, like downloading a whitepaper, you can instantly notify the right sales rep. That sales rep will then contact the prospect while the whitepaper is fresh in their minds. 

Nurturing campaigns result in more engaged and higher quality leads. And the better you are at helping them move down the funnel, the higher chance you have of getting them to commit to a purchase. Marketing automation platforms can help you execute nurturing campaigns that are timely, consistent, and effective, and can drastically improve your conversion rate. 

Going Further With Your Nurturing

It can be hard to go from blasting email to identifying the ways your buyers engage, what stages they go through, and how to effectively prepare them to talk to a salesperson with nurturing campaigns. Even after doing this up front work, many marketers have a hard time executing because it can take an enormous effort to create the content necessary to fuel nurturing. It can take months to identify and create content that triggers off of popular downloads, demo offers, specific sections of your website or events common to your marketing mix. 

It is important not to stop here, however. You can easily get bogged down in optimizing nurturing paths once you have them created vs. leveraging nurturing concepts in other areas of your company. Nurturing concepts, along with technology used to execute nurturing campaigns, can be applied to critical processes within your company—ultimately expanding the value that a marketing team can provide.

Here are two brief examples of using nurturing concepts in departments outside marketing:

Sales Initiated Nurturing

Salespeople hold on to a lot of knowledge. They also send a lot of nurturing email you don’t know about. The most successful salespeople get good at having prepared messages they reuse at specific stages in the buying process. Many will use tasks or reminders within their CRM system to let them know when to send these messages. 

Here’s the bad part that hits your company’s bottom line: When that salesperson leaves your company, so does the knowledge of what nurturing works.

There are spots in the post-marketing buying process where things typically stall out or where the buyer exits because of a specific reason (budget, authority, timing as examples). What types of communication are your best salespeople using to re-engage people? Meet with your sales teams often. You’ll discover some content that makes you understand the buying process much better.  There could also be some that makes you cringe. If you can create re-engagement communication that uses the tactics and content from your best salespeople, you can begin to replicate results across your sales team.

To automate this and send the right message at the right time, you have to make it easy for salespeople. That means giving them a place within their CRM system to initiate the timed nurturing communication based on their personal evaluation of the buyer. This is a lot easier than it sounds. You can integrate your CRM and marketing automation systems today in a way that puts nurturing paths at salespeople’s fingertips in custom fields. Once they choose the nurturing path and save the lead record, the right communication is launched via your marketing automation system—giving you the ability as a marketer to monitor its effectiveness, refine as needed in collaboration with salespeople and send them down a completely different nurturing path if you see new behavior.

Customer Onboarding

For many organizations, customer onboarding can be an involved process. The interesting part is that those responsible for this within your organization likely do the same thing salespeople do—create communication that supports the buyer going through a process. While the type of communication often changes from persuasive to being more task oriented, the concept is the same. There is no reason you can’t create and refine onboarding communication for the different stages a buyer goes through to use your product successfully.  If you can't find those within your organization that help your buyers do this better than others, then replicate and automate the general process. You can use this as a starting point to increase customer satisfaction.

If those responsible for onboarding new customers use your CRM system, this typically means creating nurturing paths using the contact or account status as a trigger. If they don’t, your marketing automation system should have robust enough APIs to let you queue off of a change in any system to launch the nurturing.

There are very few walls today when it comes to integrating system across your internal teams and leveraging the technology you have in place. Start experimenting with creating nurturing that touches buyers throughout all areas of their interaction with your company. Does this give you some ideas? What groups within your company could use automated nurturing and how could that change your potential for revenue?

Content Marketing: Why It Should Be A Marketing Priority

Many of today’s marketers are focused on their outbound campaigns or events and grossly underestimate the power of content marketing. This needs to be a new priority for marketers.

The idea of content marketing is to get to prospects earlier in the buying cycle by providing them relevant content they can use to help them learn more about your category of product and how to be successful with it. Early in the buying cycle, prospects tend to be in information gathering mode. They are doing research, and in many cases are just trying to get a better understanding of the category in general. If you look at most company websites, you will find that the majority of documents are geared toward much later stages in the buying cycle. Items like datasheets and competitive guides typically get viewed much later in the buying process than items like white papers.

Consider recent DemandGen Report research that indicates a mere 22% of respondents still follow the traditional RFP path. The remaining 78% now narrow the field long before the RFP process (DemandGen Report, 2010). This means that nearly 8 out of 10 buyers are searching the web long before they get to you. The earlier you get to them in the buying process, the more likely you will be to participate in the end (i.e. make a sale).

The best content marketing programs I have seen leverage this knowledge to their advantage.  Here are some strategies they have in common.

  • Generate relevant content
  • Syndicate content
  • Track content usage
  • Track and measure related behavior
  • Behave responsibly

Generate Relevant Content

The first component of content marketing is the content itself. It has to be meaningful, helpful and geared toward the early stages of the buying cycle. In some of the best executions I have seen in this area, companies actually have a content plan for each stage in the buying process. For the rest of us mortals, I recommend starting at the beginning—you likely have content for the end stages in the process already.

Syndicate

The most obvious syndication vehicle is your website. There are, however, many others. Some important ones are industry-specific sections of social networks like LinkedIn, where groups of like-minded individuals in your industry are already gathered and where it is easy to post content. There are also many industry websites and blogs that accept content if you just ask. Also consider newly emerging services like the Ventana New Media Engine. (Full disclaimer: Ventana is a partner and we are a customer of theirs). Finding the right content outlets and doing content syndication yourself can be a time consuming task. Their offering is part service and part software that can syndicate your content through many relevant outlets very quickly. 

Track Content Usage

Essentially, many demand generation/marketing automation systems, including TreeHouse Interactive’s, can help you track who is downloading your content. This is critical to being able to provide follow-on nurturing and marketing automation that develops an initial content download into a lead. One word of advice: some marketing automation systems will require a form to be placed in front of each piece of content (for the record, TreeHouse Interactive’s does not). My rule is that the number of questions you ask on such a form is inversely proportionate to the number of leads you get. Therefore, keep the content gate to a minimum.

Track and Measure Related Behavior (anonymous website visitor tracking)

Tracking your anonymous visits correctly can help turn them into incremental revenue. If you choose not to gate your content (or even if you do) you can track the companies that come to your website and determine who they are and what content they are both downloading and viewing online. There are many tools that do this today. You can then take that information and use a service like Data.com or ZoomInfo to purchase contacts at those companies that match your likely buyer profile. This enables you to begin nurturing the right contacts at companies that have displayed interest or even directly reach out to them. In addition to the content downloaded, sophisticated companies are tracking individual web visits, anonymous company web visits, page views, email opens, link clicks and more. The complete behavioral picture on a company and individual level helps you nurture potential buyers more effectively. 

Behave Responsibly

We all want to react quickly to leads generated by marketing efforts. Sometimes, however, you need to be judicious in how and when you take action. Most of the top marketing automation systems can alert a sales person when one of their leads returns to the website. Before calling that lead, it makes sense to look at their contact history with you and determine if they are ready first. There is a company that calls me every time I hit their website. I have never asked for a call nor have I ever filled out a form on their website that would indicate I am open to one. The salesperson typically opens with something like, “Hey, I see you’ve been on our site today.” This has really turned me off to the company’s products and makes me sorry I ever downloaded anything from their website. So, be judicious in your approach and how you use the information you are gaining from content marketing efforts.

In summary, if you execute an effective content marketing strategy, you will get to buyers earlier in the buying cycle. You will increase your leads and web traffic, and ultimately increase your revenue as a result if you use both information and automation responsibly.

The New Partner Marketing Enablement

Marketing assistance is one of the most requested benefits that partners ask for from the companies they represent. CRN’s Annual Report Card found that resellers value “channel enablement” more than anything else. This is echoed by Everything Channel’s recent recognition of “Channel Champions,” all of which have implemented partner marketing enablement in their programs.

So what new trends are there in partner marketing enablement? How can you best help partners that are typically sales focused, have small marketing staffs and limited technical or financial resources? Here are some things partner programs are beginning to offer to stand out:

Automated Co-Branding of Collateral

With automated co-branding, partners log into your partner portal and specify what collateral they need. It gives them a preview of where their logo and information will appear in the document and allows them to download and print it on demand. If you have a cumbersome co-branding process now, this is definitely an eco-friendly change you can make that leads to more partner promotion of your products, increased loyalty and time/resource savings on your end.

Full Service Co-branded Campaign Execution

In much the same way as collateral, partners log into your partner portal and pick the pre-approved co-branded campaign they want to run. It can be anything from a single email to a complex campaign with landing pages, nurturing tracks and automation for lead alerts. The partner simply specifies their call to action and uploads both their logo and list of prospects (which you never have to see). The campaign is executed with push reporting sent to the partner automatically.

Partner Micro-sites

You create end user content that is packaged into a micro-site. This is augmented by lead capture and lead routing technology. Partners simply place a line of HTML code on their site to syndicate your content and receive leads from it as a result. As you make updates to the content, they are automatically pushed out to hundreds or thousands of partners at a time.

If you would like to learn more about these new partner marketing enablement methods and see them in action, download TreeHouse Interactive’s Partner Marketing Enablement webinar.

Download Webinar »

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TreeHouse Extending Technology Lead in Partner Relationship Management and Marketing Automation

TreeHouse Interactive continues to extend its lead in partner relationship management (PRM) and marketing automation this month at the Dreamforce trade show in San Francisco, CA on August 30.

New technology will be released for the Marketing View™ marketing automation solution. The new features include ground-breaking capabilities related to company level behavioral tracking. 

TreeHouse will also add revolutionary new partner marketing enablement to its Reseller View™ PRM solution, which is already the most comprehensive PRM system available and the only one on the Salesforce.com Appexchange. 

Set up a time to see Marketing View and Reseller View in action at booth 219 at the Dreamforce trade show in San Francisco, CA August 30th - September 2nd or any time after via an online demonstration.

In the Weeds – Landing Page Tips

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Looking at the big picture is a good thing. It’s what helps marketers make sense of the work in front of them, their results and what they want to do from a strategic standpoint. But if you aren’t willing and able to roll up your sleeves, take out the scythe and cut through some weeds every once in a while, no birds-eye view will actually get you to your destination. This post is deep in the weeds… It’s about helping you improve campaign landing pages.

You may create landing pages for a lot of different things—email campaigns, pay-per-click campaigns, events, etc. They all involve the basic notion of capturing prospect data. Some marketers do it a lot better than others. Recently, I’ve seen a large technology company convert less than 1% of pay-per-click traffic to a landing page. This is far from ideal because you always pay for traffic to landing pages, whether directly or indirectly.

Below are some tips for improving landing page conversion. They are not exhaustive, but cover what I consider to be most important in conversion after you have solidified a good reason for people to fill out your form.

Tip 1: Affinity

Here I’m talking about the inherent resemblance between all your campaign elements. If the pay-per-click words you are bidding on aren’t in your ad copy, and that ad isn’t reinforced in the landing page that follows, you have issues. The copy, branding and promise you make are all part of campaign affinity. This means the tone, look and what prospects are getting should not change as they travel between campaign elements. If they do, you will lose them. This may seem simple, but I’ve seen marketer after marketer have 300+ keywords that are tied to an unrelated ad, that leads to a landing page, which has nothing to do with what they just clicked on.

Why does this happen? Simple: Marketers get lazy. Make sure the 1-to-1 relationships work between all your campaign elements—from email or ad, to landing page, to thank you page, to follow-up. If the relationships aren’t there, don’t cut corners. Your results and how prospects perceive your company are at stake.

Tip 2: Perspective

Okay, this is a brief, but important point. Marketing is not your English class. Copy from first and third person perspectives have their place, but my belief is you are much better off addressing the prospect directly (2nd person) if you want them to convert. Why? In marketing you have a small amount of time to capture attention and make your offer relevant. “What’s-in-it-for-me” is a concept you should embrace in your campaigns for relevancy and if you want more leads. The fastest way to do this on a copy level without sounding cheesy or downright boring is to quickly change from authoritative 3rd person to 2nd person. See the first paragraph of this post. Did it work? Do your benefit bullets on your landing pages look more like a laundry list of features? You have to connect with people, and you can’t do that if you separate yourself from them with language.

Tip 3: Layout and Graphics

Typical B2B landing pages have a headline, intro copy, bullet points of benefits, a hero image, form, and call to action. You may have more or less depending on what you are marketing. Because this is an area where content differs greatly, I’ll give some general tips:

Try placing the hero or main image of what the prospect is getting in a more prominent position—further up the page and possibly in the header. You always want it “above the fold” or visible without having to scroll down the page. Images with people in them engage and draw prospects in, your dull white paper cover on its own likely will not.

Placement for your call to action, which includes a button, is important too. And whatever you do, this should not be a “submit” or “register” button if you can help it. Make it related to your promise. For example: “Download Whitepaper” or “Reserve Your Spot.” Experiment with different colors, shapes and sizes for the button too.

Use different background colors and graphic treatments behind bullet lists and forms to make them pop. Bullet lists on landing pages should include the value proposition for downloading/registering and should stand out.

Use fewer fields. You can’t expect someone to give you that much information unless you’re literally paying them. If the gate is perceived as being locked, your prospect will find somewhere else to go. Once in your database, you should be progressively profiling them as you move them from campaign to campaign. You don’t need their blood type up front. 

Links can be a huge issue. If there are links to webpages or content from your landing page that are not directly related to the conversion, remove them. You are bleeding traffic. On the other hand, you should be adding social media sharing links. Make it easy for prospects to connect you with other prospects.

Tip 4: Technology

The biggest obstacle for marketers in creating good landing pages is time. They’re usually an afterthought. That’s why I’d suggest building landing pages first and emails second. You should also be automating landing page creation. This means using form creation technology that is tied into email capabilities and a centralized marketing database. Demand generation systems are very good at this and offer a lot of extras that help you create more sophisticated campaigns. If you are stuck going through an IT department for creating forms or hand coding these forms with limited resources, you will never execute fast enough. Demand generation technology helps you create the forms quickly, set behaviors like how long the form will be active, and then automates what happens with the information that’s submitted (alerts, leads sent to a CRM system, nurturing communication launched, etc.).

Tip 5: Follow-up

Follow-up is the bane of many a marketer’s existence. This should include both testing and evaluation. Ideally, if you automate, you can test creative landing page treatments to random subsets of your larger audience. Play with the size of the call-to-action button, change that headline, swap out the hero image, change the copy. If it is an important campaign that will have any kind of shelf life, you should be testing. Technology can make this very easy, as well as evaluation. Constantly monitor traffic, conversion percentages, referral sources and the breakdown of how prospects are answering questions. This will help you modify the next campaign and target the right people.

Those are just a few ideas on how to improve conversion on your landing pages. What have you seen that works?

Things That Shouldn’t Happen With your Marketing Automation System

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Some experts estimate that marketing automation and lead management system usage is still in its infancy (link). I’ve seen estimates as low as 5% penetration and as high as 20%. But I would venture to say that many of the companies that step up to use these systems don’t really know how to use them effectively or have the wrong one in place for their company’s needs. 

And that’s not the marketer’s fault necessarily. The demand generation and marketing automation space is very, very crowded. There is also a lot of what I would call “pie in the sky” ideas around marketing automation principles and much less in the way of practical advice. 

Focusing more on the practical, here are some things I’ve found shouldn’t happen with a new marketing automation system, but often do because marketers overlook them or don’t think to ask the right questions when shopping around:

Getting Leads to Sales Teams Too Slowly

Demand generation and marketing automation systems integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce CRM and Oracle CRM On Demand differently. What many marketers don’t realize when researching is that some send leads over immediately while others send them in batches or not at all if the integration isn’t built. It doesn’t do any good to qualify leads if you can’t get them into salespeople’s hands at the right time.

In a study by Leads360 of 20 million Internet-generated leads, they found that those called within 60 seconds had a 391% better conversion rate. These conversion rates dropped to just 17% above average at the 24-hour mark. Most of the conventional wisdom in this area suggests that leads go cold after 15 minutes. Thus, you should be able to pass leads in real-time to your salespeople regardless of the CRM system you use. This goes for passing leads to partners in a timely manner as well.

People and Data Living in Silos

A lot of marketing teams have the attitude that once they hand leads to their sales team, they’re done. They provide the obligatory fields for contact and expect sales to take care of them once they hit the CRM system. For sales teams, providing marketing feedback on campaigns is low on the priority list.  For some, these attitudes are born out of habit and not recognizing that technology has changed—and so too should processes.  Today’s best-in-class marketing automation allows for real-time communication between sales and marketing teams.  

Here’s an example: When a lead is distributed to a salesperson or CRM system, the CRM system should allow for automated feedback on the quality of that lead.  Moreover, your marketing automation and demand generation technology should automatically tag the lead to the right campaign so you get return on investment (ROI) reporting. This enables salespeople to focus on the sale. News flash: Sales executives are NOT going to associate their closed business to the right campaign manually, even if it ultimately benefits them in the end to do so.  

In terms of focusing on the sale, salespeople should also be able to see a complete history of marketing interaction within the lead record in their CRM system. This includes behavioral things like email opens, link clicks, webinars attended, downloads off your website, etc. This gives a sales executive the context they need to make the best call they can make with a given prospect.  

Finally, you should be able to support nurturing within the sales process regardless of whether it’s based on sales qualification or explicit nurturing that salespeople kick off from the CRM system (but is executed out of the marketing automation system). It’s about supporting the sales process and revenue goals, not just lead numbers.

Insufficient Ability to Target 

Many marketers are used to sending blanket emails to a prospect base. They often continue that practice in marketing automation and demand generation systems unless it can accommodate additional data collection. You shouldn’t have to call your vendor to add a field to email or pay-per-click landing pages, event registrations, surveys, etc. Non-programmers should be able to set up the collection of any data, be able to associate it to contact records automatically as it comes into the database and then turnaround and target based on that information. The same goes for importing lists with additional columns of data outside normal contact fields.

The point here is that demand generation and marketing automation systems should be a central place for targeting data. Without that, you might as well be using a standard email blaster. You want to be able to collect any pertinent prospect information and then use it to target when sending one-off emails or entire nurturing campaigns. Incidentally, if you have your CRM system and marketing automation system talking, all standard and custom fields in your lead and contact records within your CRM system should be available for targeting. You should not be manually exporting lists from your CRM systems and importing them to your marketing automation or demand generation system. This is a complete waste of time I’ve unfortunately seen many marketers go through because they either have the wrong system or don’t have their current system set up correctly.

Spend five minutes on the Marketing Sherpa site and you will find case after case of improved open rates, numbers of leads, and conversions for micro-targeted campaigns. Ultimately, the ability to bring detailed prospect information into your marketing database is what allows this to happen. 

Outsourcing Everything

One of the most ironic things I’ve seen when marketers adopt a marketing automation system is that they begin outsourcing all their campaigns. Many times this is an unfortunate byproduct of implementing a system that only a consultant knows how to use. It can be an unexpected and frustrating consequence of not doing enough research. Understanding the basics of setting up and sending an email, creating a landing page, and producing automated actions shouldn’t take more than a day. If training is a several week process or the vendor/consultant won’t get their hands dirty to help you launch the first couple, then there’s a real issue. Marketing automation and demand generation should empower marketing teams regardless of size and level of experience if you’ve done the work to educate yourself. 

Isn’t the point of implementing a marketing automation system to improve internal processes and capabilities, as well as ramp up marketing execution? Depending on an external team for all campaign execution is a sure way to slow productivity to a crawl. While I think you have to prepare yourself by learning all you can about lead nurturing and demand generation before you implement a system, the technology shouldn’t get in the way of execution.

Because the marketing automation and demand generation space is so crowded, I’d suggest you focus on how your sales and marketing teams operate now, where you want to take them, and how whatever system you choose will provide real value. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. The points above are by no means exhaustive—they are just a starting point. 

What things have you found in your research that are important when looking for a marketing automation solution? What do you wish you would have known before signing on with a vendor?

Oracle Acquires Assets of Market2Lead - Lessons Learned

Oracle Acquires Assets of Market2Lead

First, viewing this move as anything other than assets picked up at a fire sale would be a mistake. If this acquisition were strategic, it would have to have obvious benefits for Oracle. It would have also warranted more than a 4-sentence press release with no press follow-up: http://www.oracle.com/market2lead/index.html. 

Second, Market2Lead (M2L) is not integrated with CRM On Demand (SFDC Competitor) or any other Oracle platform out of the box. There are several leading MAP (marketing automation platform) vendors that already are.

Third, as far as I am aware, M2L never had its own email facility (my sources say they used Exact Target), so any issues with this facility in Siebel Marketing, which has been described as not “matching up” against the leaders in this space (http://blog.siriusdecisions.com/Blog/bid/42636/Oracle-Purchases-Market2Lead), will remain or they have to pay Exact Target to fix them.

Fourth, M2L is widely regarded as very difficult to use. As they bled cash in the waning hours of their existence, how many of the good engineers stuck around? Without them, the work that will need to be done to address this issue and the integration of with Oracle offerings will take longer. Thus, there is likely a long wait for Oracle users or current M2L customers to see improvement in this area.

Finally, it is obvious this purchase wasn’t executed for sales. If M2L was competitive, profitable or had a top-notch customer list, this would have been a purchase, not an asset sale. Thus, no help on this front either.

This is a good example of what over investing has done to the MAP market. The top companies in this space (revenue wise, not features) have taken obscene amounts of cash and not made a profit or made very little. Thus, to acquire one, it is going to take a lot of money to satisfy initial investors. In the end, however, a potential purchaser of an over funded start up is essentially buying a cost burden that has proven it cannot scale profitably. So the only prudent thing about Oracle’s approach is the fact that they didn’t over pay. They likely bought garbage, but they paid what it was worth by buying the assets at a fire sale rather than buying the company. There ultimately could be a nugget of code that makes this purchase worthwhile at a bargain basement price, but that is the extent of it.

The folks that really get stuck here are the customers, and I think there is a lesson to be learned: Don’t confuse revenue and funding with success. Now these customers have the expense and pain of having to switch platforms or stay with a dying one. The time and money to acquire new technology will be significant. Moreover, contact histories, nurturing actions and other critical marketing data will be lost forever in the process.

Selecting a demand generation, marketing automation, CRM or other vendor for any key piece of business infrastructure can be daunting. Unfortunately, buyers are neglecting to ask about the stability of the company during this process. Profitability and sustainability matter. Revenue without profit equals an unsustainable business model, especially for companies that have been around a while. Make sure the vendor you choose can demonstrate to you that they aren’t only as stable as their next funding round and that they have profit to sustain them in addition to reference accounts and analyst opinions. The acquisition of M2L assets by Oracle is a good example of what can happen when this important step is skipped.

Marketing Challenges in 2010

Guest post by Chris Frank, TreeHouse Interactive Director of Marketing

Marketing CMOs and VPs have some very unique challenges in 2010. The marketing processes and tools for influencing the buying cycle have changed rapidly and will continue to change. This necessitates being educated not only in new marketing methods, but staying up to date with new marketing automation technology. The end goal really, for any CMO or marketing VP, is to provide real, measurable results. I would argue that these results are becoming less about up front metrics like open rates and number of leads to being more about revenue contribution. To address this you really need to look at the buying cycle and adjust how you communicate in the awareness, consideration and decision buying phases, as well as examine how you’re enabling all resources in your organization to better close business.

The Rise of Inbound Marketing

The concept of using social media, search engine optimization and blogs together in driving early awareness stage traffic is still a fairly new one. Marketers over 2010 will get much savvier about doing this, however. Beyond the basic tactics for using each tool, there are going to be innovations in marketing automation that will help marketers better manage their efforts, measure results and target prospects.

On an execution level, we will see marketing automation vendors including ways to manage downloadable content that powers meaningful inbound marketing efforts. This includes the ability to control the “gate” or absence thereof for accessing content and then measuring interaction on an aggregate and individual level. This, when combined with other behavioral insights, will drive better targeting and lead nurturing, which leads to more revenue.

These behavioral insights will not necessarily be tied to those that have interacted with you in the past either. There is reverse IP lookup, normalization and contact query technology that will help identify more inbound traffic on a non-personal level and give marketers in their marketing automation systems new ways to expand their database and increase the number of people in their pipeline.

Cohesive Communication

Of the marketers that I talk to in the industry that are not on the consultant side, many are still struggling to escape from being reactionary to being more proactive. It is a huge shift for marketing teams to make, but a very important one to use marketing automation technology correctly. I see teams that make the shift being better able to compete on a campaign-by-campaign level, better satisfy sales team needs and ultimately being able to drive more pipeline opportunities. A funny thing happens when you start planning out communication—it actually happens, it addresses buying cycle gaps and it becomes more effective because it’s cohesive.

To this end we will see marketing automation solutions continue to become better at incorporating communication methods beyond standard email. Here I’m talking primarily about social media and mobile. In marketing automation solutions we will see new ways to monitor these channels, as well as new ways to support or even have it be the primary communication method. We will also see continued convergence here. Landing page and email sharing on social media sites with URL shortening is an example of this. We will see this and other integrations refined in 2010. The upshot of all this is that you will be better able to connect with people via their chosen method of communication with the type of content they need at their particular spot in the buying cycle… So consistent, but progressive messages delivered through your marketing automation system that address individual needs.

Getting Along

One of the biggest benefits of using a marketing automation solution is that it has the potential to put sales and marketing teams on the same page. The ability to define what a lead really is and then use your marketing automation system to qualify, nurture and pass along those leads is a basic benefit. In 2010 there will be many integrations between marketing automation and CRM systems that will change how teams work together to close business.

One thing that we’ve seen already is some intelligence passed on marketing history both on an aggregate and detail level. This information, put at the salesperson’s fingertips, can make a consistent difference in the depth and types of conversations that happen. Knowing what emails a lead has opened, what links they’ve clicked on and what upcoming nurturing they have scheduled can be very powerful. This type of lead intelligence will increase over 2010. On the flip side, we will see information flowing from other systems to the marketing automation system too. This will improve the marketer’s ability to automatically calculate campaign ROI regardless of sales model—combining the information in a dashboard that includes all campaign metrics.

More importantly, we will see some bi-directional integration between CRM and marketing automation systems that extends a company’s ability to address individual nurturing needs and smooth internal processes. So whether a marketing team needs to know if a lead is accepted, a company needs to automate communication based on contact qualities or sales teams need to initiate nurturing for leads that have fallen out of the buying process, new technology will address this. We should also see enough flexibility here that sales and marketing teams can define these points together and use marketing automation system logic to plug the holes in both internal operations and sales processes.

To get tips on setting up marketing automation and demand generation processes for your company, download the "6 Steps to Building a Successful Demand Generation Program" quick guide.