Category Archives: marketing automation

Best CRM for Marketing Automation:, Microsoft or Oracle?

Forrester recently released a vendor evaluation for midmarket CRM vendors. If you look at Marketing Automation systems, the best supported CRM system is However, Forrester states that Microsoft Dynamics CRM may actually be a better CRM product. That brings up a range of questions:

  • What does CRM integration mean?
  • What if you’re choosing a CRM system today? Should you look at Marketing Automation options first?
  • What if you prefer Microsoft CRM, but you also want to have a choice of Marketing Automation systems?

By the way: tomorrow I’m presenting a webinar with SalesFUSION, a Marketing Automation vendor that focuses heavily on Microsoft Dynamics CRM (but also supports, of course). Click here for more info and registration »

What does CRM integration mean?

First of all, what does “integration” really mean? The minimum level of integration is bidirectional synchronization of contacts and leads. That is relatively easy for Marketing Automation systems to support. But some advanced features make the integration really shine.

For example, many CRM systems have a ‘campaign’ feature to measure campaign effectiveness. It’s useful if the Marketing Automation system can create and update CRM campaigns, and update campaign statuses. That way there is only one way to define and measure campaign effectiveness.

Also, it’s useful if sales people can see information from the marketing automation system within the CRM system. If they see campaign history, email responses and web visits, they get a much better picture of the needs of that particular lead. It’s even better if they can assign leads to the most appropriate marketing campaign.

Consider Marketing Automation Support When Making a CRM Choice?

If you’re currently looking for a new CRM system, you may want to check which CRM systems are supported by Marketing Automation vendors. In my experience, integration with CRM is extremely helpful in any Marketing Automation project. So if you can, you should integrate both systems.

There are a couple of things you can look at:

  • On-demand or on-premises
  • CRM system market share
  • Which Marketing Automation vendors currently support the CRM system

If you’re serious about Marketing Automation, I would choose an on-demand CRM system. Those are much easier to integrate, because pretty much all Marketing Automation systems are on-demand too.

Most Marketing Automation vendors will integrate based on market demand. So if you choose a popular CRM system, you have a much better chance to find Marketing Automation systems that integrate.

Of course, you should also look at the CRM systems that are currently supported by the Marketing Automation vendors. They’re adding integrations all the time, so make sure to contact the vendor. Also ask them the level of integration, and – if they support multiple CRM systems – how those integrations are different.

Why Limited Support for Microsoft Dynamics?

So why are relatively few Marketing Automation vendors supporting Microsoft Dynamics? I’d say it’s primarily based on market demand.

It seems that a lot of early adopters of new marketing and sales technology are using, so – when selling innovative Marketing Automation technology – that’s obviously a good audience to sell to

Also, many Microsoft customers may be using their on-premises offering, making it harder to integrate with Marketing Automation, and harder to sell an on-demand Marketing Automation solution.

Finally, Microsoft sells a lot through channel partners. Being successful in the Microsoft market requires that software vendors befriend those same channel partners and give them a cut: that’s a different business model from direct sales.

What CRM System to Choose?

First of all, you should choose a CRM system that works well for you. Marketing Automation is only useful when hooked up to a CRM system that meets your needs and is actively being used.

Clearly, is the safe CRM choice if you want to hook up a Marketing Automation system, because it’s supported by all Marketing Automation vendors.

However, it’s not the only choice. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Oracle CRM On Demand are both on-demand solutions, and both are in the Leaders section of the Forrester report. More and more Marketing Automation systems are adding support for these systems.

I’ve also seen support for SugarCRM and NetSuite, so consider those too. But if integration with Marketing Automation is a must, it’s better to avoid on-premises solutions like Pivotal and Saleslogix.

Live Webinar: Seven Strategies for finding hidden revenue in your marketing database

a detailed and informative webinar that will give you tips, strategy and tactics for mining your internal house file for hidden revenue opportunities This Thursday @ 11am PDT

Register now »

Learn Holistic Lead Nurturing

Would you like to learn how Lead Nurturing can turn more of your leads into revenue? On a single afternoon in New York City, Silverpop brings together several expert speakers to discuss Holistic Lead Nurturing strategies. The agenda covers B2B marketing trends, marketing infrastructure, nurturing dialogs, campaign development and implementation advice. Speakers include Adam Needles (Silverpop), Jay Hidalgo (Annuitas Group), Mac McIntosh (Acquire B2B) and myself. See below for an overview of Holistic Lead Nurturing.

Date & Time: September 14th, from 12pm to 5.30pm, with cocktails afterwards
Location: Affinia Manhattan Hotel, 371 Seventh Avenue
Cost: FREE for qualified marketers

Register here:

Other locations: Boston (October 19th),  San Francisco (November 2nd); see the full schedule

What Is Holistic Lead Nurturing?

For those of you who can’t make it, I’ll give a short overview of the event. First of all, what does “holistic” mean in this context? It means that you identify market trends, then define a strategy for lead nurturing, and then implement it. So it’s not just “let’s do some drip emails”, but a more comprehensive approach to get the most out of your lead nurturing campaigns.

The Changing B2B Buyer

The B2B buying process has changed. There is more information available online and in social networks, and sales people get involved at a much later stage. That also means that Marketing will be involved much longer: not just to generate leads, but also to nurturing the leads until they are ready to talk to a sales person.

New Marketing Technology

At the same time, technology solutions enable a new way to design and automate campaigns. Marketing Automation systems make it possible to design automated multi-step email campaigns. Also, they can track the responses at a very detailed level, including monitoring of website visits. Based on that activity, lead scoring gives an indication of the interests and sales-readiness of leads. And by integrating with the CRM system, sales can also be kept in the loop.

Creating a Dialog

With the new buying and technology environment, you can create a new type of nurturing dialog. It’s about understanding, tracking, scoring and routing leads. However, to succeed you need to put these individual activities together in a process to help leads along in the buying process. That is holistic lead management, which will help you turn more “raw” leads into qualified leads.

Generating Demand

And that brings us to the next step: optimizing your nurturing campaigns to generate more demand for your solutions. This starts with designing multi-track nurturing campaigns, based on the overall lead flow from the previous step. These campaigns should be aligned with the steps in the buying process, they should include appealing offers, leverage Buyer Personas, and possibly also integrate telesales or direct mail.

Putting It Into Practice

Because lead management and lead nurturing are pretty new, it’s sometimes hard to visualize how it will actually work in your organization. First of all, there are few organizations who have implemented all best practices: it can take years to build out a holistic nurturing program, but you can see the first results in just months, by taking small steps towards the ultimate vision. I recommend talking to peers at other organizations to see what they have accomplished with their lead nurturing programs.

Is Holistic Marketing the Future?

What is your take: should every B2B organization with a complex sales process adopt Holistic Lead Management practices? Or do you feel it’s too comprehensive? Did I forget any steps? Please let add your comments.

Social Media & Marketing Automation

This week there was a discussion about Social Media and Marketing Automation in the LinkedIn Group of the Marketing Automation Association. Around the same time I got an email announcing Marketo’s Chatter for Sales Insight, integrating sales notifications in the Facebook-like interface of Chatter. Then I remembered that Pardot also recently announced new social features, called Pardot Social Insight. I asked myself:

Does Marketing Automation Get Social?

How can Social Media be integrated with Marketing Automation? How useful is this? Is it easy for the vendors to implement?

I started researching this, and I found five ways to add Social Media features to Marketing Automation:

  • Share to Social
  • Social Media ROI
  • Lead Intelligence
  • Collaboration
  • Social Media Monitoring

Share to Social

Many vendors make it easy to add “share to Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/etc.” buttons to emails and landing pages. In my opinion, this is a no-brainer: every Marketing Automation system should offer this. It’s an easy way to promote your social initiatives and it’s simple to do. It gets more advanced if you can actually track who shared your information, and whether it brings additional visitors to your website, but the core idea is pretty simple.

Social Media ROI

This one is getting more interesting, because it allows you to track Social Media as a lead source, all the way to revenue. This is either done by analyzing the HTTP referrer or by posting a tracking link on the Social Networks. On top of that, some vendors offer a built-in URL shortener, such as’s gURLs and SalesFusion’s IttyBitty (which isn’t very short by the way: My take: this is a real must because it can show the value of your Social Media investments. And it’s also not that complicated. The tracking and ROI mechanism is already built into most Marketing Automation systems, so it just needs to be extended to Social Media.

Lead Intelligence

Pardot’s Social Insight is focused on Lead Intelligence. It will find a prospect’s Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profile, and it will pull relevant information into the Marketing Automation system. And because it’s synced with the CRM, all this info is also available to the sales people. If you want, you can also use this information for lead scoring. This is something that is easy to implement: for example, Pardot uses the Rapleaf service. It provides Sales People with background information on leads before they make the first call.


The most critical collaboration is between Marketing and Sales. Sales works with a CRM system, so integrating with the CRM system’s social features is a smart idea. And that’s exactly what Marketo announced. They provide sales updates via Salesforce Chatter, an idea I outlined in a blog post earlier this year. And was the first to implement this a couple of months ago. Again, a simple idea that really helps close the gap between sales & marketing.

Social Media Monitoring

The discussion in the LinkedIn Group talked about HubSpot’s Social Media features, one of which is Social Media Monitoring. HubSpot integrates these features into its software, because it wants to be the one-stop marketing software for small businesses (and mid-size companies, although they’re not there yet). Every day it tells you where relevant discussions are going on, so you can join in. It’s pretty independent from other marketing automation features. Therefore I would recommend that mid-size companies get a dedicated solution for social media monitoring. Maybe in a couple of years, it makes sense to integrate social media monitoring and marketing automation into a comprehensive B2B Marketing Suite, but for now I give it a low priority.

To All Marketing Automation Users: “Demand Social Media!”

The first four Social Media integrations are all extremely valuable and really simple to implement. My question is: why don’t all vendors have these features in place already? If you’re a Marketing Automation user or if you’re evaluating systems, ask your vendor for these features. Social Media may still be an emerging marketing tool, but that makes it extra important to show the ROI. And that’s exactly where Marketing Automation can help.

Let me know your take: do you agree with these 5 categories? Which vendors do a great job?

Live Webinar: Lead Nurturing – Best Practices That Need to Die!

Many B2B marketers have too many leads in their database who have never been followed up on. Which “best practices” are holding you back from generating additional revenue from your existing leads? Tuesday at 10am PT.

Register now »

Finding Untapped Revenue in Your Marketing Database

It’s sort-of like living on top of a goldmine, but you have to dig to get to the gold. Lead Nurturing takes a lot of effort, but it’ll pay itself back ten times over. With a solid nurturing strategy you’ll find new sales opportunities from leads who you thought were not interested. But how do you create a solid lead nurturing plan?

In Manticore’s Quintessential Marketing Automation GuideBook I’ve written a chapter on how to find untapped revenue in your marketing database. It consists of 6 steps that are guaranteed to uncover new opportunities:

  1. Choose The Right Audience
  2. Know All About Your Audience
  3. Create Content That Your Audience Needs
  4. Make Offers They Can’t Refuse
  5. Have Conversations
  6. Collaborate With Your Sales Team

My chapter is only 1 of the 10 chapters in this book. Several of the leading marketing practitioners and consultants have written chapters on topics ranging from sales & marketing collaboration to conversion optimization and content marketing:

  • Jill Konrath: Candid Letter from Sales to Marketing
  • Craig Rosenberg: Process, People, and Content: The Keys to Success with Marketing Automation Technology
  • Jeff Erramouspe: You Need Good Technology, But…
  • Sue Hay & Cari Baldwin: Supercharge Your Demand Generation with Marketing Automation
  • Andrew Gaffney: Focus on the Marketing Metrics That Matter
  • Ardath Albee: Use Content Intelligence to Drive Pipeline Momentum
  • Robert Walmsley: Why Marketing Automation is a Must-Have For Every B2B VP of Sales
  • Brain Massey: Conversion Stack: Marketing Automation for Performance Marketers
  • Jonathan Block: A Roadmap to Marketing Automation Success

So a great guidebook, chock-full with valuable advice on marketing automation and lead management. Download it here.

5 Questions That Will Double Your Email Response Rates

Great lead nurturing content starts with great email copy. So I’ve created 5 questions to ask yourself when writing email copy. If you use these questions to optimize your emails, you’ll see a spectacular increase in response rates.

Want to see more?

In just 30 minutes, the webinar will show you how to:
– create more content than you ever thought possible
– map content to personas and buying stages
– link this all to your marketing automation processes

View the Webinar recording »

Also please let me know your comments on this video!

Will Marketing Automation Be Free?

Today announced a free version of their Marketing Automation system. Only about a month ago, Loopfuse also started offering a free version of their Marketing Automation system. What does this mean for companies interested in adopting Marketing Automation?

How Much Is Free?

Let’s first look at the features of the free versions:

Users unlimited 5
Emails / month 5,000 2,500
Contacts 2,500 3,000
Pageviews / month 100,000 unlimited
Support community-driven community-driven

So these offerings are closely matched. Both are meant as ‘freemium’ offerings. They are great for small companies and small initial projects, but they’re too limited for normal projects. Companies will have to upgrade to the paid version as their initiatives grow. And of course, that’s what Loopfuse and hope for.

Why Free?

Why are they doing this? Loopfuse gives as the main reason that adoption rate of Marketing Automation is still very low (5-10%), and that a disruptive offering is needed to get the remaining 90-95% on board. This is supported by the main trends in the Marketing Automation market:

  • The product scope of all marketing automation vendors is quite similar
  • There is severe competition (30+ vendors)
  • Land grab is common, where vendors lower prices to get customers on board
  • Industry consolidation is starting (Market2lead acquired, LeadGenesys refocused)

My take: even though your project may be too large for these free versions, you may get a better deal for paid versions from whichever vendor. Just realize that this may not be a sustainable situation. Some vendors will sell below cost to gain market share, so higher prices or acquisitions may follow.

Will Other Vendors Follow?

Because the cost of offering a free version is low, other vendors may also want to create a free offering. But it’s not without its challenges. The key to success of a freemium model is to make the free version functional enough, while making premium version attractive enough so that a significant percentage of users will upgrade. Some of the other challenges:

  • The gap between the free and paid versions may be too big
  • ‘Free’ customers may lack the expertise to be successful
  • There may be too much cost in the vendor’s business model (e.g. expensive sales teams)

Loopfuse has published pricing for their paid products, and they have a low-overhead sales model. Also, their founders came from Red Hat, which has a very similar strategy of offering both free and premium products. Few other vendors are in a similar position, so my prediction is that free versions are not going to be a trend.

So What Does It Mean For You?

If your company is looking to adopt Marketing Automation, count on paying for your Marketing Automation system. Either you will go over the limits of the free version, or you will require support. Instead of focusing on free or cheap, choose a vendor that you trust, that best meets your requirements, and that provides excellent support.

Does that mean that these free versions are irrelevant? No. It’s great to try out marketing automation without the limits of a trial period or for small projects. Also, it may be a good solution for small and savvy organizations. But the overall impact on the market will be limited. So I don’t think it’s going to be a general trend. What is your take? Please leave a comment with your prediction…

Assessing The Value of Your Lead Database

This Wednesday I’m presenting a webinar called “Search and Rescue” for your lead database, hosted by Loopfuse. It presents a 7-step process to generate revenue from existing leads, who were previously assumed “lost”.

Part of this process is assessing the value of your existing leads. Unfortunately, there is no exact answer for this. However, there are 7 questions that you can ask to get a feel for the value of the leads in your database.  See the video below for more details.

To get the full story, view the webinar:

View the Webinar now »

Webinar: Using Segmentation & Personas to Increase Conversion by 50-400%

Live Webinar: Tuesday July 27th, 2010, 11am PDT/ 2pm EDT (recording available)

Segmentation of your database and development of personas allow you to develop the right messages, content and offers. This will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your lead nurturing campaigns. This 30-minute webinar presents a step-by-step approach to segmenting your database and developing personas for your most important target groups.

The following questions will be addressed:

  • Do segmentation and personas really increase conversion?
  • How many segments should I create?
  • Do I segment my database by title, influence, industry, or something else?
  • Which personas should I develop?
  • How can I develop an insightful persona quickly?
  • I have created segments & personas, what now?

In 30 minutes you will get practical tips that can result in conversion improvements ranging from 20% to 400%. I hope you can make it!

Click Here to View the Recording of the Webinar

Hubspot Review

UPDATED REVIEW: My earlier review of HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing software was more than 1 year old and the software has evolved a lot: time for an update!

I see two clearly distinct target groups for HubSpot:

  1. Small business owners
  2. Marketing departments at mid-size companies

Both groups will use HubSpot to generate more inbound leads, but they have vastly different requirements. Small businesses usually have no dedicated marketing resources, are less tech-savvy, and often don’t have a CRM system. Mid-size companies have dedicated marketing people, an IT department, a CRM system, and generally more sophisticated requirements. HubSpot can serve both audiences, but in a different way. But – just like any other SEO & Social Media tool – HubSpot will only deliver results if you put a fair amount of time into creating and promoting content: compelling content is what makes the HubSpot engine hum.

Small Businesses

Until recently, it was hard for small businesses to be effective with online marketing because the tools were fragmented: you had to hire someone to do your website, get email marketing somewhere else, hire a search engine optimization (SEO) consultant, and figure out this social media thing. HubSpot provides an attractive package that includes all of this: not just software, but also advice.

Their website management system (CMS) is fairly basic, but it includes everything you need: the pages are search engine optimized from the start, it includes a blog and registration forms, and there are social media integrations. If you’re really picky about the design or have advanced technical requirements, the HubSpot CMS may be too basic for you. In that case you can consider HubSpot Medium, which allows you to add tracking keys to your own website.

In addition to the website, HubSpot offers a range of SEO tools for keyword discovery, keyword selection, rank tracking and more. Social Media is also covered: you are notified of relevant online discussions on Twitter, LinkedIn and other locations, so you can join the discussion; there are ‘follow-me’ buttons in email and on your website; and you can find prospect’s social media profiles. With the improved Lead Manager, you could even use HubSpot as your CRM system. You can use basic email marketing to stay in touch with your prospects or create some drip campaigns. And finally, reporting and analytics show the business results of your activities.

Overall, if your business lends itself to online marketing but technology has been a challenge for you, HubSpot will be a good fit. You’ll have a big chance of success if you reserve 20-25 hours to get started, and enough time each week to write at least 2 blog posts (again, this is true for all SEO & social media tools).

Mid-size Businesses

The story for mid-size businesses is less clear-cut. First of all, many mid-size businesses will choose to host their own website, either because migration is too big of a task, or because they have specific requirements. HubSpot’s Medium and Large products give you the option to keep using your own site. These editions also make it possible to integrate with and – through partners – with other CRM systems. The result of this integration is that you get great end-to-end analytics, for example: you’ll see how much a particular search keyword contributes to revenue.

If you’re a mid-size company, search Engine Optimization and Social Media are really the key features that you’ll use HubSpot for. If you compare it with stand-alone SEO & Social Media tools, you may say it’s expensive. However, it’s a fully integrated solution with unique end-to-end reporting features: you won’t get this level of integration when using a combination of stand-alone tools. And when you compare HubSpot’s monthly cost to hiring a SEO and a Social Media agency, it’s not so expensive at all.

Where small businesses will be okay with HubSpot’s email marketing, email nurturing, lead scoring and landing page functionality, most mid-size businesses will have more advanced requirements. Some of these requirements are lead nurturing based on rules with an unlimited number of steps, support for multiple lead scoring models, and progressive profiling for web forms. For those requirements I would recommend using a Marketing Automation system, as even the most affordable Marketing Automation solutions have way more functionality in this area than HubSpot. However, few if none of those solutions have the SEO and Social Media tools.

HubSpot is a good option for mid-size companies that need best practices and an integrated tool to improving their SEO & Social Media strategies. Combined with a CMS and a Marketing Automation system it is a complete online marketing suite.


SEO and Social Media take a lot of time to do right, and HubSpot makes this process a lot smoother. Small companies can use HubSpot as a one-stop-shop, while mid-size companies can integrate it with their existing CMS and/or Marketing Automation system. You still have to create lots of compelling content, but HubSpot takes care of the rest.

About Jep Castelein

Jep Castelein is the founder of LeadSloth, a firm that helps technology companies find untapped revenue in their marketing databases. He is always looking for marketers who want to get a better ROI on their investment in Marketing Automation technology. For more information on LeadSloth’s methodology, see the webinar “7 Steps to Finding Untapped Revenue in Your Marketing Database“.

Upcoming Lead Management Events

This week there are a couple of interesting Lead Management events, so I thought I’d share them with you in a short blog post:

Hubspot Show & Tell

Hubspot is best known for their Inbound Marketing evangelism and a software product that helps small to medium-size companies generate leads through search engine optimization and social media. They are taking some steps towards lead management, and will be showing their email marketing and lead nurturing capabilities in this webinar. It’s not a full-blown marketing automation system (not sure if they want to go there either), but it’s interesting to see them adding these features.

More info & registration »

Genius Demand Gen Academy

The Demand Gen Academy is a free online learning program to help you master the process of demand generation with practical, hands-on training. It covers Demand Generation, Lead Management, Return on Investment and Inbound Marketing in a series of 35-minute webinars. There is a webinar every Wednesday for the next 12 weeks. You will earn a Demand Generation Certification badge if you successfully complete the exam. I’m co-presenting the email nurturing session this Wednesday.

More info & registration »

MarketingSherpa Lead Management Webinar

The full title of this event is “Lead Management: Tackling the Top 5 Questions about the Lead Cultivation, Qualification and Hand-Off Process”. It’s presented by Sean Donahue, Editor, MarketingSherpa and Jennifer Horton, Best Practices Consultant, Eloqua. During the webinar, they will cover practical strategies that highlight the best way to attract new leads, how to find the right approach for the type and timing of messages, and when to complete the transition to sales.

More info & registration »