On Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 7:00am ET, the CRM Watchlist 2014 registration process begins. Yep, right in the middle of the 2013 reviews. Progress (and time) wait for no man (or woman). What that means is that if you are a technology company or consulting/systems integrator business that does "customer facing" things which means software or services products/solutions, you become a candidate for the CRM Watchlist 2014. That means that:
Now back to our scheduled show:
Previously on the CRM Watchlist:
Marketing departments are at the forefront of strategic technology investment – at least you would think that if you agree with Gartner’s now famous (apparently defensible) declaration that CMOs will have more budgetary authority then CIOs when it comes to technology buys in the near future (see Watchlist winner Aprimo’s CMO Lisa Arthur’s Forbes post on this here). The corollary is that marketing is also the hottest area when it comes to customer facing (e.g. social CRM and social media) technology purchasing and strategies. Thus, software and services clearly labeled social marketing are incorporated at least in concept with the more traditional tools like campaign management, email marketing, and for the larger ventures, marketing resource management among many other options.
This trend has led to something of a new phenomenon too, with what were essentially public relations and advertising agencies transforming their business models to add practices that specialize in social CRM and social media strategies and the technology components that enable those strategies – something brand new. Take a good look – Industry giant Edelman has a social business practice that involves thinkers like David Armano and Michael Brito; LBi hired Anthony Lye, who ran the CRM and customer facing cloud applications practices for Oracle to be President of their global digital technology division; three years ago, G2 split from Grey Global to be a digital strategy agency rather than a traditional public relations firm. Vendors such as Company to Watch winner Next Principles has redefined itself as a “digital agency” – and, for them, it makes sense, given the services they provide with their applications enabling those. In other words, the evidence of this change is everywhere.
This is a great partnership opportunity for the smart vendors – and all the vendors here are smart. In one case, as you will see, I think that they are exceptionally positioned to develop those relationships. (Don’t cheat and look ahead! Bad! Bad kitty!)
Every vendor here with the exception of perhaps Infusionsoft has substantially advanced social marketing tools incorporated into their portfolios. They’ve adjusted to the market realities of the Fortune 3500 so to speak and to the new demands of customers in how they “relate” to companies – mean care to be involved with the companies that they want to buy things from.
So, let’s see why these 6 companies in the hottest of the customer facing technologies market will impact that market in 2013 – and what they have to do about all that.
Aprimo, which is owned by Teradata, has been “different” than the standard marketing automation vendor for many years. They specialize In what’s called Integrated Marketing Management (IMM) which not only has the normal marketing automation capabilities such as the demand generation components (lead generation, lead scoring, lead nurturing etc.) and campaign management, but the operational aspects of marketing such as marketing resource management and a deep business rules/workflow engine. They have been the standout in this world.
But the world is changing. Marketing Pilot a small competitor of theirs who somewhat mirrors what they do is now part of Microsoft and thus has the resources that Microsoft can bring to bear; Infor is with their acquisition of Orbis has now added substantial Marketing Resource Management capabilities to an already very good marketing suite. Competition is showing up now and they are big competitors.
That said, there is still no one doing IMM at the level of Aprimo and the sophistication of their enterprise ready product shows in the product suite they provide. It is extensive to the point of being nearly overwhelming for all but the most sophisticated enterprises when it comes to marketing
Aprimo is not only a player that was very good before they acquired and now even better. Now, it’s time for them to not only be good but to show it to the world – which they are doing more and more. It seems to me that 2013 is their year – and I’m sure I’m right.
Eloqua’s review is going to be short. In a way, they don’t even belong here having been acquired by Oracle for a bargain $871 million in the last month of 2012. But, they are a standout company; the acquisition, while announced, is still pending officially and it’s really hard to not include them in a list of companies having an impact when they’ve had a strong impact on the marketing technology world in particular and on CRM and customer-facing technologies in general for years. But their acquisition limits what they have to do in the next several months – and we’ll get to that in a minute.
There was no doubt about the impact Eloqua had in 2012 – with their successful August 2012 IPO – the first company of their genre to go public and their December 2012 acquisition by Oracle. But this isn’t all that makes Eloqua an impact player.
Even though they arguably battle for mindshare with Marketo in the Revenue Marketing space (they call it Revenue Performance Management (RPM) as does Marketo. The Pedowitz Group (TPG), another CRM Watchlist winner calls it Revenue Marketing. I prefer the TPG designation by a long shot. RPM makes it sound like accounting), they have a serious piece of it with their thought leadership in the space. Arguably the first to build their applications with the alignment of sales and marketing objectives in mind, Eloqua has bolstered their case for mindshare with their Grande Guides (disclosure: I did one for them on Social CRM in 2012) which cover such topics as: Lead Scoring; Social CMOs; B2B Content Marketing; and, of course, Social CRM among many others. They also were among the early adopters to incorporate communities into their engagement strategies. They have their Topliners community, which they call “an open forum peer-to-peer community for marketers and Eloqua customers” which serves as a location to get questions answered, interact with experts and other customers and get marketing expertise. They have over 6000 members – which while not say, SAP’s numbers, is still impressive for a company focused on marketing.
The acquisition changed things a great deal and not completely for the better. In 2011 and 2012, Eloqua invested a lot of time into their salesforce relationship, partially in response to Marketo’s sashay with salesforce and partially because their deep integration with the basic salesforce applications had been so successful. But the acquisition kills that and all other integrations that they had invested in, no matter what you might hear.
But that is a smaller problem far exceeded by the likely benefit of the acquisition should the cultural integration work as well as I hope it does. There is some speculation that Eloqua was acquired to replace an aging Siebel Marketing application with something more attuned to contemporary marketing – i.e. Eloqua. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that Oracle bought Eloqua and it was a smart acquisition for whatever reason.
So, Eloqua, here’s what you need to do….limited by the acquisition of course….
Hubspot is one of the last several years’ success stories. They evolved from an inbound marketing knowledge “site” to a mature technology platform without losing a beat over the last 3 years or so. Now they have a complete set of tools to support inbound marketing efforts that, while originally focused on the small business market, are now squarely in the mid-market.
They are a company that has attuned themselves to the 21st century with a model based on attracting customers rather than pushing messages to customers (thus, “inbound” marketing) Their focus is around quality content and their systems reflect that with applications that provide (among other things):
And I could go on. The key is that they have a strong toolset that is geared to their midmarket customer base and at the same time allows their small customer to cherry pick what they need to do what they do at the lesser levels that they operate on.
I’ve seen their platform and their methodologies in action and they work. Stop me if I’ve told you this story, but about 3-4 years ago, Brent Leary did a social CRM webinar for them. They had 6500 registrants and 2600 attendees!! Far exceeding anything I’ve ever heard of from anywhere else. But, what makes this really amazing, is that this was only the 4th largest webinar they did that year!!
But as far as impact goes, great success stories when it comes to webinars etc. are awesome as part of a mythos, but not enough when it comes to market presence. So in late 2011, Hubspot hired a product marketing person and at the same time began thinking about their brand in a significantly self-aware way. That means that Hubspot began to attack the market to increase visibility leading to over 70 articles in 2012 that mentioned them. They proactively built out their existing strong thought leadership in a market that they say they coined “inbound marketing” with a book by co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah on Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blog and other books by other Hubspot staffers. Even their blog has over 100,000 subscribers.
Meaning they know how to be in the market.
Their success led to a Mezzanine round of funding in November 2012 of $35 million from institutional investors.
Jeez, they seem so successful, but they are also in a place – marketing where the competition is hot and heavy and the challenges huge – so they need to step up in some areas. While there are tweaks beyond the two mentioned here, these are the imperatives.
This is a company that doesn’t do much but win. Except when it comes to their love of Boston sports teams. But despite that, Hubspot will be an impact player in 2013. They just need to figure out how much they want to be and then do what they have to do to get to that level. They are entirely capable of that. Mark my words.
Infusionsoft is adamant about one thing – they are going to be laser focused on small businesses under 25 employees – a market that has been historically underserved and yet is HUGE – 27 million small businesses according to the most recent figures from the Small Business Administration. That laser focus has been absolutely unmovable no matter what the temptations of going up market into the larger side of small business or the medium sized business – where companies like Sage with Saleslogix and others lurk.
Thing is that this focus has given them the best possible results too – a company that has fanboys as customers – witness the 1500 attendees at their 2012 InfusionCon and $39 million in revenue in 2012 –a 50% increase from 2011. They have 40,000 customers too. To add a very big cherry on top of the cake, in January they announced a Goldman Sachs led funding round of $54 million – indicating the confidence their customer base and their investors have in their future.
And why shouldn’t they? They actually have a product that is very, very good and is absolutely tailored to the market they serve. Its focus is around marketing but they’ve added sales (which they rather weirdly call CRM) and paid attention to the trends that we see that are sweeping the marketing world – which is how sales revenue and marketing objectives need to be aligned – and it shows in their application. Their applications don’t skimp when it comes to the standards of sales force automation – opportunity management, contact management, pipeline management et al. but they really shine in marketing where they cover everything aspect from demand generation (e.g. lead generation and scoring) to campaign management. What they don’t do much of is the integrated marketing management functions like marketing resource management – because they don’t really need to do that for small businesses under 25 people now do they?
But they go considerably further than that with their involvement with their customer base. They have a strong services offering that provides “success coaches” which has a slightly narrower definition than the “success managers” that are becoming such a popular job category in the technology industry. A success coach’s job is to make sure their customers optimize their use of Infusionsoft. They have an Elite Forum program for selected customers limited to 20 who get a deep workshop in how to grow your business to the next level. They have an Ultimate Marketers Program which is an award for the most significant users of Infusionsoft each year with a decent basket of prizes including $5000 cash for the winning 3 companies.
They also have remarkably close relationships with customers who are very vocal about their requirements as customers, so they have a vibrant informal co-creation process that is ongoing with their customers. They are not abstract or formal about it. The customers have deep input. They listen to it and make changes accordingly.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t make mistakes, though, thankfully not a lot of them in recent years. Perhaps their most egregious mistake was their “CRM is Dead” campaign of a few years ago which they smartly and thankfully dropped when they realized that CRM not only wasn’t dead, but was one of the things that made them money. One thing I like about this company is their willingness to correct mistakes and call them that – rather than defend the indefensible. Makes for a much more transparent i.e. honest relationship with the market and their customers.
Their partner program is focused around resellers more than anything who account for a significant portion of the revenues of the company – much like the Saleslogix model of the early part of the millennium. Their strategic alliances are a bit different than I expected. They really seem to be something that are based on customer editions of Infusionsoft for a vertical. Which is really not the standard definition of “strategic” but if it works, who am I to question? (J)
With all that and their remarkable success, the competition is getting more intense for the market they dominate, which means the bar is being raised as of right away. That means in 2013, Infusionsoft, to continue to have the impact they have or increase it, are going to have to effect some evolutionary changes, four of which I’ll mention here.
They are an impact player in the small business world – period. But they can even be more and if they proceed apace, 2013 might be a bigger year than even they anticipate. But watch out for competition on the horizon.
Marketo just seems to keep moving. It’s kind of a funny thing with them. They are truly market leaders when it comes to marketing automation or what they (as does Eloqua) calls Revenue Performance Management. They are the ones that are mentioned more frequently top of mind than any other company in their in genre. They have the technological chops and the vision to stay a leader in the industry if they choose to.
Their management is not only a highly experienced one but to their credit a highly visible one – unlike most companies in the tech world. For example, Phil Fernandez, Marketo’s CEO is an author, was an active mentor in CRM Idol (one of the contestant’s favorites) and was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal.
The company itself piles up the accolades as an industry leader – too many to count. If you want to see what they have won, check here.
They don’t rest on their laurels however. They understand that the market is demanding two things – high quality products and content that is meaningful. They’ve decided to provide them both.
Marketo provides what are arguably the highest quality integrations with other CRM software – salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM in particular. But, the highlight of 2012 was their acquisition of Crowd Factory, which at the time, was the leading social marketing suite, now fully integrated into Marketo. In the course of that acquisition, they also acquired their new CMO Sanjay Dholakia, a gifted professional who is as valuable to them as the acquisition of the Crowd Factory applications. Crowd Factory had been the second place finisher in 2011 CRM Idol competition.
But their applications refresh is only part of it. They provide extensive, quality content to the world that wants it – focused around their Definitive Guides series which provides detailed expert knowledge on things marketing – often up to 100 pages.
Of course their success has led to a series of rumors about the company ranging from acquisition of Marketo by salesforce.com to an IPO down the pike. Rumors are what they are – rumors. But they reflect a “feeling” that Marketo is a valuable and important property.
That said, they are far from perfect and in fact they have to move faster than ever before. Which means they have some things to take care of – more picking them up than creating them though. You’ll see what I mean.
This is one strong company. They have done so much right in the last few years that their primary sin might be that they coast on what they’ve done sometimes rather than drive forward. But they are without a doubt an impact player and will continue to be until one of those rumors comes true. Big stuff is possible in 2013 if they just do what they are doing already. Even greater things if they take up my suggestions. Either way, they are winners of the Watchlist for a really good reason.
Neolane is a first time winner of the CRM Watchlist this year. I’ve been aware of them for several years however and followed their travels (and occasional travails for quite a long time). Not that they are that old. I’m WAY older than they are. They were founded in France in 2001 and I was founded in Long Island NY in 1949. They’ve had a strong European footprint since their founding. I’ve had two footprints since mine – at least since I learned to walk.
They have a strong European presence. They are well funded, announcing a $27 million C series round of funding led by Tier One VC Battery Ventures in January 2012. Their 2012 revenue numbers hit a decent $44 million. They have a really solid well thought out product (more in a minute). Not only that, they were one of the few companies that (refreshingly) directly answered most of my questions.
Thing is, Neolane is a genuinely smart company. For example, their view of "social" is that it is a practical requirement for the businesses that need marketing support. They launched Social Marketing in 2011 - slightly ahead of the general game - but its not based just on Twitter responsiveness which so many social marketing apps are. The underpinnings are the monetization of social media audiences. That means of course, deep social profiles tied to the customer records and the records of the interactions of specific and named customers (easier said than done); it also means that personalization is at the core of the interactions. It's, in effect, marketing to one. That means at all levels. Learn what you can about the individual and then deliver what you can based on what you know about that individual. Simple in concept; tough - very tough - to execute at scale.
Their marketing suite has all the broad capabilitie that a solid marketing suite needs including:
Now, I don't know that they do any one of these better than anyone else on this list, but its breadth is important for customers getting into the marketing automation world. The one thing that I am a bit wary of is their commitment to their umbrella term for this, "conversational marketing." Its a term that they seem deeply attached to, but I'm a lot more diffident about. I'm not sure what purpose it serves beyond seeming somewhat "hip." See what I say below for my thinking on this because it is important to how they position themselves as they expand.
Neolane also is a company with a sense of humor. For example they did a song parody they released at Dreamforce 2012 using the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Otherside" (RHCP was the concert at DF12) called "Touch the Social Enterprise." It was something only a geek could love but the guy who sang it was pretty damned good. At least they (and Hubspot too) try to inject humor, something missing from the enterprise software world.
So what does this rookie Watchlist winner have to do?
If Neolane focuses on the U.S. the impact I already think they are going to have will be miniscule by comparison to what I think they can achieve. But, that's an opinion. I just like what I see and I think they can realize all kinds of unrealized potential. This is why they won this year. Because they should have.
Next up: Customer Service companies – KANA, Moxie, Parature