Tag Archives: Ringlead

Review of FormAssembly Form Builder

On this blog I primarily write about integrated Lead Management systems, rather than small tools. However, in a previous post I wrote about a project in which I’m replacing a full-blown Marketing Automation system with tools that add on to Salesforce.com. One of the key tools is a form builder: and that is exactly what FormAssembly provides.

I was impressed with FormAssembly: they have a cool-looking form builder that has lots of advanced features in a user-friendly package. You can simply add form fields to the form, position or group them, and get a live preview. You can edit the properties of the form fields, and set the advanced features (such as label placement or calculated fields).

Once you are done with your form you can copy-and-paste the form’s HTML code to your own website or you can run it from the FormAssembly server.

formassembly form builder

Advanced Features

You can send a ‘thank-you email’ immediately after form submission, and also get a notification yourself. You can create conditional questions, such as showing a ‘state’ field only when ‘United States’ is selected as a country. Also, you can pre-fill form fields by putting parameters in the form URL (e.g. http://website.com/form.html?field1=value1&field2=value2) However, it does not automatically recognize repeat visitors, like most marketing automation systems.

Submission of the Form

On the submission side of things it is very flexible too, but it takes more knowledge to set it up properly. You can submit straight into Salesforce.com, but it supports only limited deduplication: based on email address it can overwrite all other fields. So if an email address matches an existing Salesforce.com record, the information in the form will overwrite all information in Salesforce: I find that a little scary. Therefore I’ve used their HTTP Post functionality to submit the form to Ringlead, which does more elaborate deduplication.

Salesforce.com integration complexity

The setup of this part is more complex than in most marketing automation systems. You have to:

  • Manually map fields to the right Salesforce.com fields, based on naming conventions
  • Re-create select boxes (e.g. a list of industries)
  • Add several hidden fields, for example to link the form submission to a Campaign

Once you’ve figured this out once, you can easily copy the settings for additional forms.

AdWords Landing Pages

I’m using AdWords to drive visitors to one of my landing pages. I’ve tagged the advertisement so the link contains the search keywords and Ad Group. I’d like to save this information in Salesforce.com too, so I can see which keywords and Ad Groups generate the most business. Some marketing automation systems capture this information automatically, but with FormAssembly I had to write some PHP code to read the information in the URL and put it into a hidden field. It would be great if FormAssembly could make this feature standard: I bet a lot of people are using FormAssembly for AdWords landing pages.


Overall I feel that FormAssembly provides excellent value a low monthly fee ($34). And if they would improve Salesforce.com deduplication I would happily three times as much, and even more if they support AdWords tagging.

Abandon Your Marketing Automation System!?

I’m working on an interesting project right now: moving away from a marketing automation system. The plan is to go back to using only Salesforce.com with some cheap add-on tools for email, form submission and data quality. Smart or foolish? I’d love to have your input on the potential pitfalls (and benefits) of this approach.


The company in question has used a comprehensive marketing automation system for about 2 years. In the early days it was used to sift through hundreds of new B2B leads per day to identify the valuable leads. This changed over time: now the focus has shifted to pro-active outreach to a handful of executives, instead of targeting thousands of software developers. In addition to cost savings, the thinking is that a full-blown marketing automation system just makes less sense with the new strategy.

How to Replace a Marketing Automation System?

My first reaction was: no way, you should not want to do without any type of marketing automation system (for simplicity sake, I use this term as synonymous to demand generation and lead management). However, when I started looking into Salesforce.com and the wide variety of add-ons, I was less convinced. The Salesforce.com database has some big issues (e.g. the split between Leads and Contacts), but many 3rd party tools are addressing these weaknesses.

What is easy to replace?

Email marketing that integrates with Salesforce.com is provided by many vendors, like VerticalResponse, Boomerang, ExactTarget, Genius, Lyris and more. There are also some relatively affordable registration form vendors, like FormAssembly and OnDialog. Basic lead scoring features are built into Salesforce.com, and data quality tools are available from vendors like Ringlead, CRM Fusion and Datatrim. Notifications of companies visiting your website are available from Leadlander, Netfactor, LEADSExplorer and DemandBase. You can create reports and dashboards in Salesforce.com to provide analytics. So there are lots of useful add-ons available at a nominal price.

What Is Going to Be Missed…

Some Email Service Providers can send email on behalf of the record owner or can handle drip-campaigns, but those are exceptions and you sometimes pay quite a bit more for these advanced features. Unsubscribe handling is typically done via a generic page, rather than via branded page.

If you use a basic form vendor, you have to manually map the fields, and put the form on a landing page yourself. You may want to pre-fill the form, or send a thank-you email or the start of an email drip campaign: this is not always possible. Also, some form vendors are not able to append to existing records (resulting in duplicates) or to link new registrations to a Salesforce.com campaign.

Lead scoring based on attributes (e.g. job title) is built into Salesforce.com, but that does not include activity-based scoring, such scoring based on website visitors, clicks on links in emails or form submissions.

Even though you can get reports on anonymous visitors via stand-alone tools, it’s much more work to set up notifications of website visits by known users, and even more challenging to sync that information with Salesforce.com.

Then there are specific usage scenarios that are automated in a marketing automation system, such sending a reminder to non-registrants for an event: with the new approach this needs to be done manually, which takes a lot more time.

Most marketing automation systems replicate the Salesforce.com database with their own database: in the new situation everything is stored in Salesforce.com (or at least: that’s the goal). That is great for manageability, but – if you have the habit of qualifying leads before sending them to the CRM system – you now have a database full with unqualified leads.

What Is Your Take?

This project is still in the planning phase, so I’m still compiling a list of all the pros and cons. One thing is sure: in the new situation the monthly cost will be about $200, down from well over a thousand dollars. That is a significant savings.

But how much more time will it cost to manage the new situation? Are there specific features that create revenue, but simply cannot be implemented with the new approach. What is your take on this?

Lead Management Automation Systems Compared

Stagnant email service providers becoming irrelevant? (see conclusion)

In a previous post there was a lively discussion about the terms Demand Generation and Lead Management Automation (LMA) systems. The consensus was that Lead Management System is part of the demand generation process, and focuses on managing leads you already have in your database (and capturing/importing new leads). Some example features:

  • building landing pages and registration forms
  • tracking the source of leads
  • collecting as much information as possible (web & data analytics)
  • nurturing via email and other channels
  • calculating a lead score until the prospect is sales-ready

But how does that compare to email marketing, web analytics and landing page optimization tools? In talking to several marketing managers, they often asked: “How do LMA systems compare to {fill in any other marketing software}”. In the next paragraphs I compare LMA systems with other popular marketing systems, and I hope to go more in-depth in future posts.

Email Marketing

Lead Management Systems can send out batch emails to a list, similar to Email Services Providers (ESPs) like VerticalResponse, ExactTarget and Constant Contact. Interesting enough, I’ve heard of several companies that still use ESPs in addition to their Lead Management System, not sure why. Let me know if you have ideas.

Lead Management Systems also provide lots of advanced email features, such as drip-marketing, event-based emails, heavily segmented and personalized emails (e.g. sent from the account of the responsible sales person), and event reminder emails. However, ESPs are also moving forward, and for example ExactTarget now also offers drip-marketing support.

Data Management

Some demandgen vendors provide data management features for deduplication and normalization. My personal opinion is that these features are usually somewhat limited, and that they’re not mature enough to replace specialized data cleaning solutions (Ringlead, DemandTools). But that may change soon, as LMA vendors keep expanding their offerings.

Web Analytics

All Lead Management Systems offer some kind of web analytics, mostly focused on marketing metrics. Only LMA systems aimed at smaller companies tend to offer generic web analytics (page views, referrers, etc.). In all other cases, you would still need a general-purpose Web Analytics systems, such Google Analytics, Coremetrics, Omniture or WebTrends.

There are also some specialized Web Analytics vendors that identify the company name of anonymous leads (Leadlander) or website activity for known leads (Genius.com). However, more and more LMA systems include this functionality. It ranges from fairly basic (Market2lead) to more comprehensive (Marketo, Genius Enterprise, ActiveConversion, LeadGenesys, Pardot).

Web Content Management

Lead Management Systems also do not replace Web Content Management systems, although it may be more common to have WCM features in Demand Generation in the future (earlier post). The only web pages they currently manage are landing pages or microsites. Those are usually hosted on a subdomain such as http://marketing.company.com. There are some exceptions: both Marketbright and Marqui include a full WCM system.

Landing page optimization & Website Personalization

An area where many Lead Management Systems can still improve is landing page optimization. In my opinion they should offer more features to optimize landing page conversion, which critical for Search Marketing efforts. There are dedicated vendors with a superior feature set, such as ion interactive, magnify360 and Sitebrand.

I’ve heard some vendors thinking about personalizing offers based on behavior of anonymous visitors to make it more likely that they register for an offer. Currently I’m not aware of any LMA vendors that offer this functionality: let me know if you know more about this…

Search Marketing

Search Engine Optimization and Pay-per-Click management are usually not included in Lead Management Systems. At most, LMA systems provide reporting on the lead source (which keywords, and organic search or PPC). It looks like SEO and PPC management will stay separate from Lead Management for the short to medium term. Personally I expect this will be integrated in the long term, as lead acquisition and lead management naturally complement each other, and cover the entire demand generation cycle.


Lead Management Automation vendors are rapidly expanding their functionality, but will not replace all specialized tools any time soon. I think we’ll see a consolidation of the industry of the next couple of years. Specialized vendors need to keep innovating, otherwise they will falter. Some categories are there to stay, such as Web Content Management and Web Analytics, but each will also expand their marketing automation features.

I’m not sure about Email Service Providers: In my opinion they either need to move towards lead management or become irrelevant. ExactTarget, Lyris and Silverpop are on the move, but VerticalResponse is at risk: even for small companies there are more effective lead management solutions (such as InfusionSoft).

What do you think: is there a future for pure-play ESPs?