1 the ultimate buyer s guide to Selecting an Marketing Platform The most comprehensive, practical, and objective guide to choosing the service provider that best meets the needs of your business. Unleashing the Power of Online Marketing
2 Introduction The target audience for this Buyer s Guide is the business person who is investigating the purchase or upgrade of an marketing software platform. The business may be ready to buy now or may simply be reviewing its capabilities in the face of a rapidly changing business landscape. To help these buyers, faced with a complex undertaking (one that may include its own project management, RFP process, vendor presentations and bidding, TCO and ROI analysis, and user acceptance testing), the buyer s guide discusses the technology and business trends influencing a purchasing decision, and offers guidelines to the buyer who is identifying and evaluating the vendors in the marketing software arena Helping buyers to identify the best product for their business goals and marketing strategy. About MediaBrains For 17 years, MediaBrains has provided business professionals the essential tools required to effectively explore their purchasing options and reach a confident purchasing decision faster. With a network of over 120 directories covering 21 vertical markets, our business-related content and effective vertical search delivers a reliable source for businesses to research and compare companies and products. MediaBrains Buyer s Guides feature product assessment guidelines and discuss the business trends influencing a purchasing decision. MediaBrains recognizes the importance of maintaining a clear separation between our editorial content and sponsorships. While we allow our sponsors to bring you their marketing message the content of this Buyer s Guide is not editorially controlled or influenced by the sponsors. Sponsored by: JangoMail (937) JangoMail is a web-based broadcast and marketing system designed for businesses. It allows you to create, send, and track marketing campaigns. Created in 2000 by its parent company, Silicomm Corporation, JangoMail has thousands of satisfied customers around the world. JangoMail offers a feature rich application, VIP customer support (24/7), inbox delivery, easy integration, detailed reporting, and a low price guarantee MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved.
3 Table of Contents Section 1: Executive Summary... 1 Section 2: Technology and Business Trends Support Marketing... 1 Section 3: Determining Your Present and Future Needs... 3 Heads Up! Things to Watch Out For... 4 Section 4: Choosing the Right Business Model and Vendor... 5 Making the Most of Your Vendor Relationship Marketing Software Platform Business Models... 6 SaaS and ASP... 6 Purchase and On-Premises Hosting... 7 Pricing Options... 7 Other Considerations... 9 Training and Learning Curves... 9 Learning Communities... 9 Additional Support... 9 Section 5: Evaluating the Features of Marketing Software Systems Scalability Broadcast Capability Automated ing Features Auto Response Event, Transaction, and Behavioral Triggers Sequenced Messaging Scheduled Mailings Retries Usability Features Customizable Dashboards Flexible User Customizable Content Editing Tools Customizable and Newsletter Templates Graphics Design and Management Tools Marketing Campaign Design and Automation Tools Social Media, Web Landing Pages, Forms, and Mini-websites A/B Testing Support Ability to Include Attachments Inbox Previewing MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved.
4 Table of Contents Mail Customization Mail-Merge Personalization Dynamic Conditional Content Integration with Location Data Publish to Social Sites and RSS Forms Design Feature Alias From Fields Message Tracking List Management Tools Adding Subscribers to Mailing Lists List Hygiene List Import and Export Frequency and Date Limits Automatic Handling of Opt-Ins, Subscribes, Unsubscribes, and Bounces Integration with Other Online and Offline Systems Mobile Web Apps and Remote Login Segmentation Tools Data Collection, Reporting, and Analytical Capabilities Deliverability Enhancement Features Multiple Languages and Encoding Support Administration and Security Features Section 6: Your Responsibilities Section 7: Features Checklist MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved.
5 Section 1 Executive Summary Because marketing has established itself as a business marketing workhorse, it may not be given the importance it deserves when company marketing budgets are being forged. But market leaders are taking advantage of platform innovations by investing in new systems and re-investing to improve existing systems. Similarly, forward-looking companies are thinking beyond simply tracking activity like opens, click-throughs, and unsubscribes to monitoring behavior beyond the message itself and dynamically tailoring interaction and content. Auto-response message triggering and other types of automation, along with integration with the latest Internet technologies, make ever higher levels of sophistication cost-effective. On the Future of Marketing I think is the best way of communication especially for a marketing company like us. If anything, it will just get better more interactive and cooler. Vertical Response client John McMillan, COO, Vyral Marketing The target audience for this Buyer s Guide is the business person who is investigating the purchase or upgrade of an marketing software platform. The business may be ready to buy now or may simply be reviewing its capabilities in the face of a rapidly changing business landscape. The guide discusses the technology and business trends influencing a purchasing decision, and offers guidelines to the buyer who is identifying and evaluating the vendors in the marketing software arena. It can help navigate the maze of currently available products, and give an overview of the main features available with today s marketing software products. Throughout can be found advice, best practices, and tips for a successful choice of vendor and product. Section 2 Technology and Business Trends Support Marketing continues to offer unique advantages as a marketing tool. Pew Internet Research found that 92% of all adults surveyed use to communicate. The study stressed that this is true even as new platforms, broadband and mobile devices continue to reshape the way Americans use the internet and web MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 1
6 Because of s wide popularity, marketing is the easiest way to get information into the customer s hands, to generate leads, and to open sales opportunities. marketing programs are cost effective, quick to deploy, and deliver fast, measurable results. The rapid expansion of paid search, mobile, and social media channels has done little to diminish the growth of as an effective marketing medium. marketing continues as a lifeline between vendors and customers before, during, and after sales, even as businesses realize the importance of newer crosschannel marketing communication approaches. Study after study confirms that the expanding use of mobile devices and social media are enhancing and increasing the use of rather than the reverse. 2 And rightly continues to command a lion s share of the digital marketing spend. 3 Growth for the foreseeable future is being fuelled by integration of with other communication channels, adapting to mobile and tablet devices, and by personalization and targeting that heighten effectiveness. Timely, relevant, and compelling will continue to play an increasingly important role in the digital channel mix, driving strong ROI in lead prospecting, customer acquisition, and engagement. Implementing an marketing software platform is a big step toward tapping the business potential of this trend. One final note implementation of an marketing software platform is not an end in itself. The soundness of the marketing strategy that underlies the use of the marketing platform is paramount. With a strong strategy as a starting point, your marketing platform can combine with other campaign management tools and marketing channels to achieve optimum results. On the Future of Marketing ESP technology no matter how well packaged or good looking does not trump a sound marketing strategy Make certain that all technology purchase decisions are made in support of a thoughtful strategy rather than in the expectation that the technology will provide the strategy. Alex Lustberg, CMO, Lyris, Inc. Take a close look at your other marketing activities. cannot exist within a bubble, and it is at its most effective when it is integrated with other marketing channels. Ron Cates, Director of New Market Development, Constant Contact Depending on the size of an implementation, deciding on an marketing software solution can be a complex undertaking that may include its own project management, RFP process, vendor presentations and bidding, TCO and ROI analysis, and user acceptance testing. Nevertheless, the task really comes down to a few closely connected decisions: analyzing the needs of your organization, choosing the right vendor (and business model), and finding the best product for your business goals and marketing strategy. The remainder of this Buyer s Guide gives a brief overview of the marketing platform selection process MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 2
7 Section 3 Determining Your Present and Future Needs Because of the variety of solutions available, you need to ask yourself a few questions before you can intelligently enter into partnership with a vendor and select a suitable marketing software platform. How will enhanced ing help carry out your marketing plans? What problems do you want to solve? What are your expectations? What is the competition doing? Advice for Buyers Size matters. Explore whether the vendor supports senders with your volume, data complexity, segmentation, programmatic sophistication, and reporting needs. Can the vendor do more than accommodate your current needs can they provide real guidance to help you grow and improve? Return Path Spokesperson Your answer to these kinds of questions will help determine what capabilities your system needs in order to carry out your marketing plans; ultimately, your answers will also impact your operating costs. For instance, will you be introducing a monthly newsletter or employing frequent blasts to segments of your subscribers? What level of coordination do you want to achieve between and other marketing channels? Think, too, where your business is headed in the next 5 to 10 years because you ll want the system you choose to be able to support your growth. Don t forget to consider the impact of the new system on your operations. How will the marketing system fit into my organizational structure? Who will be the principle users? Who will synchronize marketing efforts? Questions like these will determine the level of automation you require and the administrative features you need. These questions will also give you insight into what kind of training and support (and possibly staffing) may be needed. Section 5, page 10, describes many of the most important marketing software features you should consider. With an understanding of your marketing goals and operating environment, use it to develop a checklist of features that your ideal marketing platform should include. It is important that you have a clear understanding of what is available before interacting with a vendor, even though your requirements will almost certainly be shaped by the guidance that a good vendor can provide. Section 7, page 24, is a Features Checklist that can be used as a starting point when drawing up an inventory of the features you seek MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 3
8 Heads Up! Things to Watch Out For Ensure stakeholder buy-in at all levels, including C-level. Gain senior management support for the initiative by showing how improvements available in a new marketing system will be aligned with the company s goals or improve the bottom line. Focus on choosing a system with features that you anticipate will bring the biggest return in sales or lead conversion rate, eliminate or simplify manual processes associated with campaign management, improve deliverability, and add to the quality of your message. Use metrics to bolster your case. Gather hard data such as comparisons of open rates, subscribe/unsubscribe rates, and click-throughs before and after implementation to prove the effectiveness of the new or upgraded marketing software platform. Consider using customer satisfaction surveys. Advice for Buyers Pay attention to what questions the vendor is asking. Are they questions that demonstrate a concern for your metrics and your success? And the vendor must be honest about what marketing technology can do. Find a partner who is willing to have that conversation. Joe Devine, Solution Consultant, Listrak Go beyond Marketing. Get endorsement from Finance, IT, Customer Service, Operations, and Web Development in the decision process because the choice of a system will likely impact all of these functional areas. In fact, a new marketing platform may call for changes in the way things are done or how responsibilities are divided among departments. New lead management processes may be called for, or the current organizational structure may need to be modified to accommodate differences in company visibility, quality of marketing intelligence, and customer engagement that may come with the new system. Set reasonable timelines. Complexity of integration needs, condition of existing mailing lists and databases, and the number of users and their training needs can all affect how soon you start to see results MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 4
9 Section 4 Choosing the Right Business Model and Vendor Armed with your list of requirements, begin looking at vendors and matching your criteria to their solutions. Like any purchasing decision where significant investment is involved, a few common-sense rules apply. Of course, price is a consideration. But price shouldn t be your only criterion when choosing a vendor. You are forming a partnership. Evaluate vendor reputation and expertise. Make sure the vendor you select has sufficient experience (length of time in business and number of implementations are good indicators), and has successfully handled top name customers running high-profile, mission-critical applications. Ask for references and take the time to check them out. Hints and Tips Carefully define your requirements. Then look for a vendor that will do what it takes to build the right solution for your business. Ask them if they re willing and able to incorporate your current tools and develop new technology and features to meet your needs. Kim Wright, President and COO, JangoMail Vendors sometimes have business specialties and cater to clients in selected domains such as healthcare, manufacturing, high tech, finance, or education. Or, the vendor may specialize by business size. This kind of expertise may help narrow your choices. If the vendor doesn t specialize, ask for a reference in your line of business. Consider, too, the likelihood that the vendor and the product will be able to support you with an application that is vital and in tune with emerging technologies and business developments. Ask vendors about their vision for the future and whether they have a roadmap for their platform. Finally, be sure to review the terms of the vendor s warranty. A vendor s willingness to stand behind the product is a good indication of its quality MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 5
10 Making the Most of Your Vendor Relationship The successful vendor wants to help the customer select the right marketing software system for their situation and then use it to its fullest potential. You can get a good feel for the level of commitment the vendor offers by taking advantage of a thorough demo and trial of the product. Some self-directed online demos and trials may not give a clear enough picture of the capabilities of the system. A free trial should come with expert advice from a sales staff that is interested in being your partner. If necessary, the vendor should give you access to marketing and technical experts who can answer more detailed questions. Marketing Software Platform Business Models marketing software is offered under a variety of business models. In some cases, a vendor will offer a product under more than one model, but they typically specialize. Regardless of business model, marketing software applications are often combined with a menu of service and support features. Decide which is best for your business needs and budget. SaaS and ASP ASPs (Application Service Providers) and SaaS (Software as a Service) providers both offer on-demand application hosting options via the Internet. No software is deployed on the customer site. The buyer negotiates a contract to access the software, but because the customer does not need to invest in hardware and hardware maintenance, ASP and SaaS usually have minimal IT infrastructure requirements and a correspondingly low entry cost MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 6
11 The ASP utilizes a secure centralized data center and connects the user to the software product over the Internet. Each client uses a separate licensed copy of the product, possibly customized for the client, and installed on the central server. The application is basically a client-server system with a Web interface. The SaaS provider also uses the Internet to link the customer to the application. However, the application itself is designed to be securely shared by many clients, even though each client may enjoy a customized user experience via configuration options. The SaaS product is a native Web application, designed and coded using Web services for Web delivery. Besides the savings in hardware, technical staffing, and physical space, the SaaS approach is generally considered the better way to deliver on-demand application hosting because it can give a: faster and smoother user experience it is available from anywhere the Internet is accessible and it is greener than other options. Mistakes to Avoid Think Long Term Switching platforms is disruptive and incurs real costs. Plan for future volume and platform requirements now, so you don t outgrow your provider in the short term. Look for a Partner Look for a vendor who will be part of the team who will continue to support you in meeting your objectives after the sale. Moreover, compared to ASP, product improvements are easier to implement since only one standard version of the software is maintained. Purchase and On-Premises Hosting Another business model option is on-premises hosting. In this scenario, the buyer purchases the software off-the-shelf for installation on in-house hardware. The buyer is responsible for installation, maintenance, and providing adequate bandwidth. The buyer also has total control over when and how the software is used. In addition, some perceived advantages of in-house as compared to SaaS/ASP are heightened security and independence of Internet performance. Pricing Options Arriving at a reasonable comprehensive cost estimate may be the most challenging part of the buying process. Some vendors publish their prices freely, while others depend on customized cost estimates given only upon request. Offerings range from simple to complex MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 7
12 Some of the more common pricing options include: Per user, sometimes called per seat. You pay based on the number of people at your business who can use the system simultaneously. This approach is typical of ASP platforms. Unlimited usage, pay-as-you-go. You are simply charged for services used or the number of s sent. Cost per message may fall as the number of s sent increases. Tiered pricing with a flat rate for all s below a set maximum per month or year is not uncommon. There may be overage fees for exceeding the maximum for your tier. Don t Forget the Learning Curve Training modes range from formal on-site classes and group workshops to webinars and selfguided online tutorials and videos. Remember to take in to account how the vendor s customer support resources align with the needs of your team. One per-month or per-year fee based on the size of your subscriber database (mailing list) with unlimited sending. This monthly/annual fee may be allinclusive or you may be billed separately for use of certain features. Some vendors charge additional document storage, image storage, and campaign archiving fees. Wholesale pricing. Some platforms are designed specifically for agencies, creative firms, and resellers that deliver marketing services for multiple clients, with client-specific subaccounts from a single implementation. These platforms may allow branding and customizing for each client. These can include billing and other specialized features. If you choose a SaaS or ASP solution, it might be to your advantage to negotiate a Service Level Agreement, or SLA, with your vendor. This is a type of contract that helps ensure standards for system performance, reliability, uptime, volume sending capabilities, and tech support response. Because marketing costs depend on many factors, including the number of messages sent, your choice of product can strongly impact your marketing expenditure. Consider two companies, one a large corporation and one a small sole proprietorship, both using the same marketing software product. Intuitively it would seem that larger companies should spend more on marketing. However, the smaller company using the same marketing software as the larger company could spend more than the larger company if the big company is reaching out to a small niche market for higher-priced products, while the smaller company is selling a low-priced product to a large undifferentiated audience MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 8
13 Then, too, you need to factor in business model specific features like licensing fees, system maintenance, and administrative overhead for the chosen marketing software product. The nature of your products and services, campaign designs, and business environment should be kept in mind when selecting an marketing software platform since they all affect your marketing budget. Crawl, Walk, Run Learning curves may be steep for some products. Training is where the vendor can offer the most valuable post-sale assistance. Other Considerations Training and Learning Curves Though some of the features of an marketing software platform are similar across products, how they are implemented and the details of operation will be new even to seasoned users. In addition, there will almost certainly be tools unique to any given system that will be challenging to almost all new users. These are likely to support more advanced tasks involving segmentation strategies, triggered marketing, integrated and social campaigns, and others. Because you want to get up to speed on the new platform quickly, and be able to take advantage of all the features offered by the new system, training is where the vendor can offer the most valuable post-sale assistance. Training modes range from formal on-site classes and group workshops (usually an expensive alternative) to webinars and self-guided online tutorials and videos. In between, some vendors offer FAQs, libraries of articles, phone training and chat. Learning curves may be steep for some products. Crawl, walk, run. Learning Communities Product users may also have formed online information exchanges, user forums, communities, and blogs that allow users to take advantage of their combined experience. Hints and practical tips from these unbiased sources can be valuable. Additional Support Depending on the vendor, you may have access to various types of after-purchase support. These may include technical support and assistance with creative and marketing strategy MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 9
14 Section 5 Evaluating the Features of Marketing Software Systems The features and quality of the platform are truly what distinguishes one product from the next. Each vendor offers a different mix. Your aim: a state-of-the art, reliable, robust system with all the functionality you need immediately and for the foreseeable future. What follows is a list of some important features you ll want to consider. Scalability You can expect to be using the solution you select for a while, so it should be scalable it should be able to grow with your business. Once your target audiences see how useful and relevant your messages and newsletters are, the number of subscribers is sure to grow. Moreover, the anywhere anytime convenience of mobile will be a factor in the increasing importance of messaging. Even within your own company, experience shows that as other departments see how effective marketing is at prospecting leads and making sales, they are sure to find their own applications for the system as well. As message traffic increases, make sure you re not forced to rip out the old system to install something completely new. Broadcast Capability These are the basic on-demand ing capabilities like volume broadcasting (aka blasting ) and drip campaigns that involve selective sending of smaller numbers of s. A platform s mail sending capability can be rated in terms of messages per hour. It is not uncommon for powerful delivery engines to be able to send nearly a million messages per hour MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 10
15 Automated ing Features Automated ing refers to s that are automatically generated based on triggering events, transactions, or recipient behaviors and demographics. According to an Epsilon study, triggered messages resulted in a 70.5% higher open rates and 101.8% greater click rates when compared to business-as-usual messages. 4 Automated ing features can be central to well-planned, successful marketing campaigns as well as major contributors to cost savings. Here are some of them. One Important Question to Ask Does the system provide feedback or keep records or copies of autogenerated messages? You need to know what the system is doing. Auto Response Event, Transaction, and Behavioral Triggers Some examples of what is also known as auto response or real-time include: a follow-up offering further sales assistance triggered by downloading a whitepaper from the company website; an ed receipt resulting from a bank ATM transaction; automatic notification of the impending expiration of a license or subscription; or a greeting automatically ed two days before the customer s birthday. Other common uses of automated s are abandoned activation messages, welcome messages, thanks messages, itineraries, reorders, shopping cart queries, win-back, rewards, and notification of password change. One important question to ask: Does the system provide feedback or keep records or copies of auto-generated messages? You need to know what the system is doing. Sequenced Messaging Sequenced messaging, sometimes called life-cycle messaging, allows you to set up a series of s that are automatically sent over time as a succession of milestones are reached. For example, upon purchase of a product the customer receives a Sale Confirmation that includes an Upselling Offer. This is followed by a Shipping Notification and finally an After Sale Satisfaction Survey. Scheduled Mailings Features that let you automatically schedule mailings by date and time or time zone to conform to reader behavior patterns can be a way to improve response. Some research shows that the most active hours for reading are between 2 and 5pm, and more subscribers open on Wednesday and Thursday than any other day of the week MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 11
16 Retries Sometimes s bounced by an ISP as suspected spam are passed if the message is sent a second time. This feature lets you set the number of times a bounced is resent. Usability Features These are the features that show that the marketing software platform is designed for people these features show awareness of what tools people need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. And sometimes they can even make doing those jobs fun. Customizable Dashboards Many marketing software users have learned the advantages of customizable dashboards. These personalized displays allow the user to view graphs showing (sometimes dynamically) trends and real-time statistics about campaigns for easy reference. The dashboard can also give direct access to often-used software features and current projects. Flexible User Customizable Content Editing Tools A flexible editor with an intuitive user interface (UI), incorporating WYSIWYG interaction, and point and click/drag and drop features for text and graphics, enables you to easily create and edit content for both HTML and text messages. HTML Text Editing. You ll need tools to select font, typestyle, and size. Features for formatting tables are handy. HTML Source Import. If you have design professionals on staff, they may appreciate being able to upload designs in HTML format that they have created using full-featured graphic design applications. HTML Source Viewer and Editor. More advanced users may like to bypass the WYSIWYG interface and directly access HTML source for more advanced custom coding. CSS import. Cascading style sheets (CSS) are sections of code that control font and layout for HTML messages. Because CSS must be internal to the and cannot be included by reference, it is convenient to have CSS import features which allow you to pull in CSS and automatically copy them into messages MediaBrains Inc. All rights reserved. Page 12