These days, it seems as if I can't get through a conversation with someone from the high-tech industry without that person referring -- usually in super-reverent tones -- to the vast potential of social media engagement combined with analytics to transform customer relationships.
Certainly, the success of Salesforce.com and its swelling ecosystem of marketing automation partners and platforms underscores the very real transformation going on within a business function notorious for having a hard time showing tangible returns on investment.
These analytics solutions go far beyond basic traffic reports and visitor metrics to offer very real feedback on the success of campaigns. But they can also reach far deeper, helping companies sense when a customer might defect or when a prospect might most easily be turned into a paying client.
Yes, it's kind of Big Brother-ish, but pretty much every company is dying to figure out how to make this work.
That's where next-generation partners like digital agency Gate 6 step in. Founded in 1996, the company can develop cool social media engagement platforms, like the social site it recently launched for guitar legend Eric Clapton. But the Gate 6 team does far more than design cool Web sites or campaigns, it offers a series of services that marry this sort of creativity with the Big Data analytics that marketing teams are eager to leverage.
"The future of marketing is integration with the back end, and analytics to get information about engagement in order to make decisions. Most marketing agencies don't have this background," said Manish Mamnani, CEO and founder of Gate 6, which makes its home in Phoenix.
The tools behind the Gate 6 projects are pretty much what you would expect. The agency relies heavily on Salesforce.com and Google Apps to deliver its capabilities, along with automation platforms like HubSpot and ExactTarget. And it handles projects pretty much everywhere along the marketing lifecycle, from startups first trying to get noticed to legacy businesses that require a serious image overhaul.
The company's relationship with Natural Partners, the second largest distributor of natural supplements in the United States, offers an example of what it can handle.
Gate 6 pulled off a major rebranding that included a new logo, interactive Web site, email marketing campaigns and site optimization services. The project delivered a 117 percent increase in Web visitors, a 350 percent boost in search engine traffic, and a 52 percent improvement in referrals.
Gate 6's message resonates particularly well with companies that have been spending much of their marketing funds on television and are looking to technology to help make more effective use of their budgets, Mamnani said. "For those types of businesses, it is easier to justify the move."