Tuesday, December 04, 2012

MindMatrix Adds Sales Support to Marketing Automation

One easily predictable trend in B2B marketing automation is that vendors will tailor their systems to specific industries. This is happening to some extent, but not as quickly as I had expected. The reason may be that B2B marketing automation products have a narrower scope than B2C systems, meaning there’s less advantage in creating vertical editions. For example, the data model of B2B systems is largely fixed, so industry-specific data models (a major component of vertical systems) are largely irrelevant. 

But while I see just a few general systems trying to become vertical specialists, I do keep finding specialist products trying to serve additional markets.   I wrote in February about one set of these vendors:  Balihoo and others that specialize in helping central marketing organizations work with channel partners such as dealers and franchisees. In May I wrote about Demandforce, which specializes in local service businesses such as dentists and auto repair shops and had just been purchased by Intuit.  I'm sure plenty of other specialists exist as well.

MindMatrix  is one of them. Founded 14 years ago, the company has built its business serving the real estate industry, where individual agents and local agencies work in conjunction with large national franchises. The company has nearly 250 clients and about 34,000 end-users, making it larger than most B2B marketing automation vendors. MindMatrix already has 30% of its business outside the real estate market and has recently begun to promote itself as a general purpose marketing automation system – or, more precisely, as the “next generation” of such systems.

The company’s justification for this claim is that it adds sales-marketing alignment to standard marketing automation features. Concretely, this refers to centrally-created marketing materials that are automatically personalized for individual sales people; desktop and smartphone alerts for Web activity by sales targets; and creation of personal Web sites, landing pages, and social media accounts. As the table accompanying my Balihoo post indicates, these are pretty much standard features for channel partner systems. But MindMatrix is correct in saying that they’re not part of mainstream B2B marketing automation.

Mindmatrix does a good job with these features. Content personalization is especially sophisticated, supporting dynamic content (i.e., conditional logic) within templates; drawing personalization variables from user, partner, contact, and other tables; and providing precise control over which content attributes can be edited by a salesperson or other end-user.  Personalized output formats include not just email, but also Web pages, Powerpoint, and online or pritned PDFs. The content can be sent from the smartphone app as well as the desktop. Emails can be sent through Microsoft Outlook and tracked in the MindMatrix contact history.

The system also provides a full set of standard marketing automation features. These include landing pages and forms for lead capture; email and postal mail; lead scoring on attributes and behaviors; branching multi-step campaigns; and bi-directional synchronization with Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Outlook, and SugarCRM. Integrations with ACT! And Saleslogix are under development.

Lead scoring rules can consider response to system-generated documents, such as proposals and presentations, arguably allowing more accurate scoring than other systems. Another unusual feature, due for release in January 2013, can add personalized Web messages, polls and chat requests as pop-ups within an external Web page.

The system’s campaign flow builder is reasonably powerful, with support for test splits, filters on based on time and on complex behaviors such as number of Web page visits, updates of contact data, and sending contacts to a different campaign. The interface lays out steps in the flow like a deck of cards, making it unusually straightforward. Flows can be shared with sales users, with some or all features locked down to prevent unauthorized changes.

Does all this really make MindMatrix the next generation of B2B marketing automation? I don’t quite think so: although sales integration is indeed important, I believe the next generation will be focused on serving other groups within the marketing department, including acquisition (advertising and social media) and administration (budgets, planning, content creation, workflow, etc.). Integration with sales will be important but there’s only so far marketing automation systems can go before they compete with CRM – a contest that marketing automation will inevitably lose, since CRM will remain the primary system for sales.

Although MindMatrix has been sold primarily as system to coordinate central marketing with channel partners, it is also used with internal sales groups. The company is actively targeting small companies, with a starting price of $499 per month for the marketing features and another $25 per sales person per month. This is competitive with conventional marketing automation products for small-to-mid-size businesses.  It's a pretty good deal considering the additional sales alignment features that MindMatrix provides.

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