B2B Has a Moment in the Sun

 I thought all B-to-B Marketers might enjoy this recent piece Jonathan Salem Baskin wrote for BtoB Magazine. Baskin reflects on the fact that in this time of economic downturn, B-to-C marketers are coming to terms with the fact that flashy branding campaigns can’t always equal sales - sometimes you have to get back to basics.

“B-to-c marketers are going to start thinking and acting like b-to-b folks,” says Baskin. “You are better positioned, better prepared and better armed to weather the downturn than your b-to-c brethren.”

Obstacles on the Horizon for Behavioral Targeting?

DMNews recently featured a piece outlining one of the larger challenges under debate before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), tracking and behavioral targeting. Many consumer groups are concerned with privacy issues surrounding tracking online behavior using cookies and clickstream data.

The challenge arises when consumers themselves express conflicting opinions. A recent TrustE study resulted in 57% of consumers expressing that they are uncomfortable with online activity being tracked. However, 64% of those consumers also said that they prefer to receive relevant, messaging from brands they know and trust. The ability to track activity is what allows marketers to serve up valuable ads with a targeted approach.

The article recommends taking the following steps to be sure you’re ahead of the curve as legislation unfolds:

  • Be Transparent - Make sure you privacy policy clearly states when data will be used for tracking and targeted marketing.
  • Give the Customer Control - Many companies are already creating goodwill by allowing consumers to opt out of tracking programs.
  • Use Tact - As we’ve said before, sometimes you can be too close for comfort. Customers want targeted messaging, but don’t want to feel like they’re being stalked.
  • Keep up to Speed -  Keep up with trends and make sure you stay on top of which way lawmakers are leaning so you aren’t scrambling to be in compliance when decisions are made.

Getting to Know Google Chrome

Marketers are constantly faced with the challenge of keeping up with emerging technology. Just when you learned to format everything to render correctly in Firefox, IE and Safari, another browser comes along that’s sure to be popular. That browser is Google Chrome.

In the wake of last week’s launch, MarketingProfs has posted anarticle giving a rundown of the handy facts about Google’s latest creation. Here are the highlights:

  • Chrome aims to be a basic browser without all the bells-and-whistles. It simply exists to provide a window to the web.
  • Chrome features a very toned-down interface with a few simple buttons.
  • Chrome has user-friendly features, offering predictive text in the browswer bar, accessible download locations and integration of online applications.
  • Chrome is based on Webkit, the open source browser engine that powers Apple’s Safari for Mac and PC, and currently only runs in Windows.
  • Chrome uses a multi-threaded system similar to major operating systems, making it more stable and even allows for a “task manager” similar to Windows.
  • Chrome has Incognito mode for anonymous browsing.

If your customers aren’t using Chrome yet, you can bet some of them will be soon. So download it and be sure to test out your pages in the new browser in town!

Not to be Outdone…

Less than a week after Salesforce.com announced it’s partnership with GoogleApps, increasing the offerings of it’s on-demand CRM suite, Microsoft announced Dynamics CRM Online, a full marketing, sales and service suite on an Internet-based model.

“At Microsoft, we’re revolutionizing how companies deploy marketing, sales and service solutions to users within their organization,” said Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM at Microsoft. “Microsoft Dynamics CRM delivers the power of choice to customers, with a familiar and productive user experience and a multitenant platform that enables fast on-premise implementations or ‘instant-on’ deployments over the Internet.”

Targeted toward small-to-mid-sized businesses, Dynamic CRM Online integrates with Microsoft Office and boasts a $59 per user per month price point, slightly lower than Salesforce.com. Focused on creating a flexible and affordable tool, Dynamics CRM has performed well with 500 participants in the Microsoft Early Access Program, offering more storage capacity and configurable entities than Salesforce.com, as well as incorporating workflows.

Learn more about Dynamics CRM Online here.


Salesforce.com Partners with Google Apps

This week, CRM giant Salesforce.com announced a partnership with Google Apps.

The convenient new platform allows communication through popular Google tools Gmail and Google Talk. Sales teams will also have access to applications such as Google Docs and shared calendars. The partnership aims to create an efficient way to manage schedules and maintain up-to-date versions of documents and sales tools.

This partnership embodies the trend of technology moving away from installation-based softwares, as two of the largest advocates of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) join forces.

“Salesforce.com is thrilled to be offering Google Apps integrated with our Salesforce applications and Force.com Platform-as-a-Service to the millions of businesses looking to manage their entire office in the cloud,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com. “The combination of our leading CRM applications and Google’s business productivity applications pushes forward the transformation of the industry to cloud computing. The end of software is here.”

SFDC CEO Benioff Named Top Business Leader

As SalesforceWatch.com points out, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has been named a 2007 Agenda Setter and Top Ten Business Leader by Silicon.com. Benioff has led salesforce.com to be not only the leading on-demand CRM (by far) but also the poster-child for the massive shift to the software as a service (SaaS) model.

10 years ago, few executives would have believed in the end of installed software. Five years ago, companies were still very reluctant to put sensitive data into a hosted platform. Now we are in the age where on-demand applications are actually the preferred platform for marketing solutions. It is only a matter of time before finance/account, ERP, and other typical enterprise platforms follow suit.

As Google has been for many companies, salesforce.com’s platform has been a key enabler to many SaaS vendors, giving them access to  a massive number of potential clients via their AppExchange ecosystem. Salesforce.com users have instant access to roughly 700 AppExchange partners, each with a solution designed to integrate seamlessly with the CRM platform. It remains to be seen how lucrative the ecosystem will be for salesforce.com in terms of direct revenue but it certainly does lend its own services a certain amount of stickiness that rivals Microsoft (on-demand CRM due out in the near future) and NetSuite (who has a similar but much smaller ecosystem) may find difficult to emulate.

The entire list of 2007 Agenda Setters is available atsiliconagendasetters.com


Omniture’s Appetite for All Things Analytics

On October 25th, Omniture announced its acquisition of Visual Sciences for an estimated sum of $394 million. The deal will bring together two the top vendors in the online business optimization space, which has been growing at a breakneck pace over the last few years as businesses seek ways to measure the effectiveness of their online spending. Currently, marketers are faced with a lot of choice when it comes to online marketing tools, but many of these tools remain disparate and lack effective integration.

The Omniture-Visual Sciences deal is part of a larger trend of consolidation and “roll-up” within the web analytics industry. Even though Omniture and Visual Science have some overlap in terms of products (see their web analytics applications — duh), the acquisition will allow Omniture to add to its earnings and client base, as well as knock out a key competitor. For marketers, this means the appearance of more integrated solutions that can take care of a wide range of analytics needs. This consolidation leaves 800 lbs gorilla Omniture to compete with Webtrends and Core Metrics until it eats them up as well.

The real question is where do the roll-ups stop? My guess is that they will go all the way to the big guns like salesforce.com in the B2B space or Google in the B2C arena. What these mergers do show for now is that a lot of people are banking on the propensity of companies to look to manage all of their marketing vehicles from one centralized interface and eventually cast aside their current toolbox of disparate systems. Look to see more and more consolidation in the space as we move forward.

In case you are curious, here are some quick facts about the acquisition:

  • Visual Sciences:
    • Founded in 1996 (originally WebSideStory)
    • Provider of analytics applications and analytics driven application
    • Offices in the U.S, Europe and Australia
    • Currently trading at 15.54 on Nasdaq
    • Total revenue for the year was 20.4 million, a 17% increase on year-over-year basis
    • Reported a net loss of .2 million dollars for Q2 2007, should break even in the next 2 or 3 quarters based on current trends
  • Omniture:
    • Provides search marketing, marketing integration, and web analytics tools, as well as on-site behavioral targeting
    • Headquarters in Utah, additional national and international offices
    • Currently trading at 27.78 on Nasdaq
    • Some of its current offerings come from previous acquisitions (such as TouchClarity)
    • Will acquire Visual Sciences in a stock and cash transaction worth 394 million.
    • Q2 2007 revenue of 33 million, up 13% compared to the previous quarter
    • Reported a net loss of 4 million for Q2 2007, expecting a loss for Q4
    • Acquired Offermatica in September

$58 Million Buys a lot of Suspects

KnowledgeStorm, an Atlanta startup made good, was just acquired by Tech Target for roughly $58 million. KnowledgeStorm hosts white papers for vendors and guarantees a certain number of leads (from white paper downloads), each of which must register for the site before accessing any content.

Though these leads are hardly prospects (and indeed at the point they are transferred, they are really “suspects” at best), KnowledgeStorm has built up a sizeable business in lead generation.

Companies who take advantage of leads like these must realize that they are most often far from sales ready. The white papers they downloaded did not even come from the authoring company’s website. The suspects may indeed be quite surprised if followed up with by a sales rep.

It probably makes more sense to do a little lead nurturing or qualification first, whether that is through an automated system or a marketing coordinator. Only once they have started to show some buying signals should they be handed off to the sales department. Companies incorporating nurturing programs will see the most value from the suspects they purchase from third parties.

The end of installations?

Seth Godin predicts the end of installed software in a recent post and really hits the nail on the head.

Salesforce.com popularized this craze in the CRM world and rivals soon emerged (see Netsuite’s impending IPO). You know they are on to something when Microsoft, king of the installed software world, enters the space. Microsoft has announced an on-demand version of it’s CRM offering, Dynamics. Not only will it have functionality mirroring salesforce’s, but they will price it at roughly 40% less in a bid to capture market share.

The success of these solutions is no surprise. There are many compelling reasons for B2B marketers to turn to hosted solutions, and indeed most email, analytics, and ad serving solutions are on-demand. Obvious benefits include:

  • no (or lower) capital outlay
  • less (or no) IT involvement needed
  • more likely to work out of the box
  • seamless upgrade process as everything is done on the provider’s end

A common theme to the above mentioned benefits is that the marketer is put in control of the marketing software. This is a simple idea, but it is not always the case with heavier, server installed applications where budget and IT approval often kill any hope of integration. By lessening IT involvement, and splitting payments into monthly fees, a marketer is much more likely to be able to implement a new solution without jumping through hoops for approval.

If only I could find an on-demand operating system before Vista crashes my computer again. Service Pack 2… where are you?