Monday, September 22, 2014

All-In-One Sales and Marketing Platforms Attract Small Business

by Dan Freeman 
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When Stacy Isemann and her husband Todd realized their company’s revenues were flat while costs were rising, they knew he had to do something. With a marketing staff of just one (that would be Stacy), they knew they had to be very selective in what they chose to do.

The couple started STL Rent A Box in 2012, a company that rents out reusable storage boxes for homeowners and companies moving locations.

They had tried their hand at email marketing previously—they’d used MailChimp but found that the purely self-help aspect of the service was not for them. After spending a good amount of time importing data, they sent out about three emails campaigns, then dropped off after lack of activity.

Stacy met Jonathan Herrick, Head of Sales & Marketing at Hatchbuck, at a local networking meeting in St. Louis—home to both companies. After discussing their marketing issues, Stacy decided to try Hatchbuck’s marketing automation software—something she hadn’t heard of before.

Hatchbuck is one of a new breed of marketing automation vendors geared to the small business market. Most marketing automation platforms were designed for the Enterprise market, where CRM systems are dominant and ingrained in the organization. These marketing automation systems must integrate with CRM, multiplying the complexity of implementation, and of day-to-day usage.

Hatchbuck, like Infusionsoft, Ontraport, and others incorporates CRM functionality into the marketing platform, so there’s no need to integrate. The all-in-one sales and marketing platform is an appealing and intuitive concept for a small business owner. As much as vendors claim to have seamless integration between systems, anyone who’s had to push and pull data between systems knows that integration is not simple.

Rent A Box didn’t even have a CRM system—they kept their contacts in Gmail.

Enterprise marketing automation systems also have extensive marketing bells and whistles which are simply not used by small businesses. But more than that, these features can clutter and complicate the user experience.

After some initial hand holding, Stacy was up and running with Hatchbuck in about two weeks and now considers herself proficient. She Skypes with Hatchbuck support whenever she has a question or needs help.

Rent A Box has a list size of about 6,000, the majority of which are real estate companies. They do a monthly email campaign and make frequent use of the system’s segmentation capabilities.

Stacy also gets much usage out of the CRM feature in Hatchbuck. After each client is done with their move, Stacey sends a thank you, and also asks for testimonials.

Business is going really well for Rent A Box. In fact, customers are doubling almost every month and they recently had to invest in new inventory.

As for Hatchbuck, they are growing nicely as well, tapping into the small business market that’s looking for simple yet powerful solutions to help facilitate both the marketing and sales activities.  According to Herrick, “The number of small business opportunities we bring into our sales funnel each month has increased by 250% and our customer base has grown 130% since the beginning of the year as small businesses realize the need for an all in one sales and marketing automation platform.”

For more information about marketing automation including profiles of 12 vendors, see this marketing automation industry overview.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Who’s Winning and Losing in Marketing Automation? Fall 2014 Round-up

by Dan Freeman 
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One of the most important metrics in evaluating the ultimate value of any cloud software product is the customer retention rate, a number that encapsulates the value obtained versus client expectations. Retention rate takes into account usability, support, expectations set, and impact on marketing and/or revenue goals. Companies that receive value in excess of expectations generally renew; those that don’t opt out.

Download a Just Revised Marketing Automation Industry Report Covering Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot Act-On, Infusionsoft, Salesfusion and many others.

Though a valuable indicator for customers considering an investment in marketing automation, don’t expect marketing automation vendors to divulge much about retention. They sometimes publish the number and growth rate of their customer base but not a single one lets on to retention rate, or its inverse—churn.

Not to worry. Another class of marketing technology companies can shed light on the magic retention metric.

Software tracking company Datanyze scans over 18 million of the world’s most-trafficked websites, hunting for JavaScript embeds and web tags that indicate the presence of hosted software—in this case a marketing automation platform. The chart below shows the total number of websites using selected marketing automation platforms as of 9/1/14.

Note that websites do not equate with customers as a single customer may use marketing automation software on dozens or even hundreds of websites. Nevertheless, website count is a good indicator of success.

But not so fast...

It’s not just absolute website count but rather the changes—the additions and loses over time—that are the strongest indication of platform success in the marketplace.

I analyzed the top 20 firms for which we have data—and which fall roughly into the marketing automation space—and calculated the percent change in websites using their software since January 1, 2014.

Change happens quickly in dynamic markets. Demand for marketing automation software is growing overall but aggregates mask marketplace turbulence. According to the data, only two of the 20 firms—Pardot and Act-On—have increased their website count by more than ten percent since the beginning of 2014. Seven of the 20 platforms have actually lost websites, a few by over 20 percent.

The data also implies that churn is higher than many would believe. For the 20 marketing automation platforms, the aggregate ratio of websites adds to drops for the first eight months of 2014 was 1.08, meaning that for every 100 websites that added a marketing automation platform, 92 websites dropped one.

Note that the Datanyze metrics are an indication only only and are by no means a definitive measure of software presence. A few caveats of this data are in order and can be found here.

Great marketing can generate a steady stream of new customers in a growing market, but only positive customer experiences will result in high retention rates. Caveats aside, one thing is clear; rapid change is ahead in the marketing automation sector.

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Marketing Growth Strategies LLC has been engaged in research, analysis, lead generation, and client implementation in the Marketing Automation sector since 2009 and has recently revised its highly successful 2014 Marketing Automation eBook.

Considering implementing marketing automation? Download the 2014 Marketing Automation eBook