You may or may not have heard, but Silverpop had a major platform announcement earlier this week. The company announced "... the launch of a new digital marketing platform that combines sophisticated email marketing tools with its top-ranked marketing automation and lead management applications," according to the official press release.
What are those crazy 'Poppers up to? Well, we're taking our Engage 7 email platform and our Engage B2B marketing automation platform -- both rock stars by themselves -- and merging them into a new, converged Engage 8 digital marketing platform.
[caption id="attachment_699" align="aligncenter" width="542" caption="Source: Silverpop; click to enlarge"]
It's kind of a big deal for us here at Silverpop, and we're pretty excited about this evolution. (In fact, we've added a video that helps explain where we're headed.)
For you it means we're raising the stakes in the world of B2B marketing technology ... and are more committed than ever to helping B2B marketers drive more effective and efficient demand generation programs.
Given this, I thought it would be helpful to talk about what this converged Engage 8 platform actually means for B2B marketers -- covering our enhanced focus on B2B marketing, as well as the added capabilities we are now able to offer to B2B marketers via Engage 8.
NB: For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you know that we don't often cover product issues, but I think this is a significant enough piece of product evolution that it requires some dialogue with the B2B marketplace. So here goes ...
Enhanced Focus on B2B Marketing
Silverpop is committed to being an engaged member of the B2B marketing community and to providing not only technology, but also education and leadership in this 'brave new world' of B2B marketing. At Silverpop, we believe there remains a gap between much of the current innovation in B2B marketing strategy and technology and the fundamental, daily reality most B2B marketers face in their demand generation efforts. We want to help close this gap and help B2B marketers become rockstars.
Evidence of this commitment can be seen in programs such as our 100% fee-free and 100% product-pitch-free B2B Marketing University educational series that -- now in its second year and with three times as many events scheduled in 2010 as we held in 2009.
So let me be clear for the record -- and this is important for us/me to repeat this -- that we are more than ever dedicated to serving B2B marketers. Personally, that's why I'm working here at Silverpop -- serving in my role as B2B marketing evangelist and as head of field marketing. I get up every morning excited about working with B2B marketers and enthusiastic about the unique moment we find ourselves in as B2B marketers. We are being asked to do more than ever before -- particularly to lead more, when it comes to our companies' demand generation programs -- but we also have more capabilities and resources at our disposal than ever before. Marketing automation is a big part of this (r)evolution ... and so is Silverpop, as a marketing automation vendor.
We are moving to a converged platform, but we are bundling key features and capabilities to meet the needs of different types of marketers. B2B marketers are one those key 'personas' that we have designed the system for.
I'll also note that the B2B marketing segment is the fastest growing part of our business. In fact, our CEO and my colleague, Bill Nussey, commented earlier this year that we saw 60% year-over-year revenue growth in our B2B marketing segment in 2009.
New Platform Capabilities for B2B Marketers
So I mentioned earlier that the converged Engage 8 platform represents a major enhancement to our traditional marketing automation capabilities. What does that mean for B2B marketers?
I've spent some time thinking about this over the last few days, and here's my take on what is value-added about bringing the two platforms together:
> Improved system performance: Okay, let's all admit that marketing automation platforms -- all marketing automation platforms -- have historically had ups and downs around performance. Why is that? Whereas a traditional email platform takes a list and sends the same email over and over again, an automation platform actually 'processes' each lead that comes into the system -- scoring and routing -- before that lead ever gets what is an individualized message. So the process of sending out an email, for example, requires many times more processing steps by a marketing automation platform. Now, that processing is critical to achieving a true one-to-one level of communication; however, performance can suffer at scale when you're doing that much processing for every single lead in your system. So what we've done with Engage 8 is rethink how we process leads and messages so that it's more efficient and scalable. We have a new underlying architecture that the automation platform is built on, and that is focused on high-availability, high-throughput processing -- achieving the type of performance you might expect from a traditional email platform but with all of the processing steps and intelligence of automation. For B2B marketers this represents a truly next-generation engine underlying our digital marketing automation platform -- raising the bar for how you expect your marketing automation platform to perform.
> Smarter, self-service marketing data management: Another opportunity we identified for improvement is the marketing data management and CRM synchronization in our marketing automation platform. This is one area where we as have learned a thing or two over the years. Managing the synchronization of data between your marketing automation platform and your CRM system is no trivial activity, and we've learned a lot from our integrations with the Engage B2B (formerly Vtrenz) platform. There is a lot of complexity that can potentially cause data duplication errors and/or cause synchronization to not be successful and bidirectional. Again, we felt we needed to re-think this. So we've re-designed our CRM integration strategy from the ground up. Not only is this focused on improving overall performance, but it better empowers marketers to configure (and reconfigure) their CRM-to-automation mappings to optimize individual performance. Below is a screen shot of our new interface that allows users to directly manage their own CRM integration (no calls to technical support necessary!).
[caption id="attachment_701" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Source: Silverpop; click to enlarge"]
> Raised bar on deliverability + advanced email features: Email is a critical medium for sending out messages via automation; however, the sophistication of the email capabilities of most marketing automation platforms is pretty basic (or relies on a third-party email service provider). By merging our email platform with our automation platform, we are able to offer automation customers more advanced email capabilities. The most critical capability is deliverability. Not only is Silverpop a leader in deliverability technology, we also have an entire team of experts dedicated to making sure our customers' emails get through. This is a topic that has not fully hit the radar of B2B marketers -- mainly because we send lower email volumes and tend to just assume everything goes through -- but deliverability really is critical to the success of your dynamic campaigns. The converged Engage 8 platform has rock-solid deliverability and built-in best practices to help our customers achieve industry-leading levels of deliverability via automation. On top of that, we have some extra bells-and whistles. For example, send-time optimization -- a type of behavioral targeting that looks at when prospects typically open their emails and uses this information to optimize when an email is sent out. This helps you make a better 'first impression' with your email nurturing (a topic my colleague, Kristin McKenna, covered in a blog piece earlier this week). And finally, B2B marketers will gain access to a greater number of advanced, email-based analytics -- yet another area where they can analyze the performance of dynamic campaigns, tune content and also gain data to help score prospects' responses to email campaigns.
> Updated core automation features: The Engage 8 story is not just about things we're adding to automation from an email perspective, but also improvements to our existing marketing automation platform's capabilities. For example, we've redesigned our interfaces for lead management, scoring (see graphic below) and automation -- making them more intuitive than ever before. We're also refining and improving our campaign graphical user interface (or 'campaign GUI,' as we call it). And we're adding more ways to deliver personalized and dynamic content via a number of digital channels than ever before -- helping B2B marketers move closer to true, buyer-driven, one-to-one nurturing communication.
[caption id="attachment_703" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Source: Silverpop; click to enlarge"]
> Expanded portfolio of digital communication channels: When it comes to connecting with modern B2B buyers, we're living in a massively-multichannel world. Buyers have more choices than ever for how they can access critical information. With Engage B2B, marketers were limited to email and Web landing pages, but the converged Engage 8 platform adds additional digital communication channels. Our 'share to social' capabilities enable emails sent out to be posted to social networks -- better leveraging buyer communities and enabling peer recommendations. We now offer B2B marketers the ability to send out messages via SMS. And in addition to regular-campaign emails, we are also able to deliver transactional messages -- useful, for example, if you have a campaign that is registering prospects for an upcoming event or Webinar. (This is a feature that our own field marketing team leverages when we register people for B2B Marketing University.)
> Ability to 'grow with us' as a B2B marketer: On top of all of the features I've listed above, I'm probably most excited about the fact that our new converged Engage 8 platform will enable us to support B2B marketing organizations over a longer lifecycle -- and help B2B marketers both better align with sales and also be more accountable. Marketers with basic email needs today will be able to ramp up and begin sending basic campaigns via our Engage 8 platform from day one, and then they will be able to take their email activities to the next level and eventually leverage more sophisticated automation capabilities -- migrating to true dynamic campaigns, triggered by intelligent scoring and routing -- as their organization is ready to go to that level. And at all stages, B2B marketers will be able to measure and improve the effectiveness of their programs in a closed-loop environment.
You can probably tell I'm pretty excited about Engage 8. I am. There are many ways B2B marketers will benefit from this new platform and its capabilities. But I'm most excited about how Engage 8 will help us at Silverpop better empower our customers to become marketing rock stars! That's the feature you're most interested in, right?