Monthly Archives: January 2009

Reputation Monitoring Software – Is it worth it?

For a couple of months already I was planning to research reputation management tools. I wanted to do a better job tracking the mentions of my company across the Internet. I’m currently using Google Alerts, but those are at least a day late, and not always accurate. I want almost instant notifications, so I can actually engage in discussions, rather than jumping in days afterwards.

Lucky me. David Raab (of the Guide to Demand Generation Systems) linked to two articles by Dan Schawbel about free and paid reputation monitoring tools.

The article about free tools lists 10 useful tools, starting with – of course – Google Alerts. Not always accurate, and not always fast, but a good place to start.

My favorite tool is Backtype, which shows all comments made by a specific person, anywhere on the Internet. I often forget where I left comments, so this will be an indispensable tool to keep track of my own comments.

What I like about the paid tools is that they’re more integrated: from one dashboard you can track anything. Some include advanced features, such as analyzing social maps. So you really get added value for your money.

For me, the big question is: when should you spend time on money on this? Does this make sense if you are a niche vendor with a relatively small group of potential customers, and enterprise pricing? Or is it more useful if you have a fairly horizontal solution with an attractive price point?

I think the latter, so for now, I’m not very active with monitoring the blogosphere. I’ll stick to Google Alerts, a daily manual search on Twitter, and an occasional search on Technorati. Am I missing opportunities here, or do you feel this makes sense for a vendor of specialized software for Fortune 500 companies?

PS. I will add a resource page on Social Media Monitoring software shortly, similar to my pages on Demand Generation Systems and Webinar software

Web Content Management for Lead Generation

This week’s news about the acquisition of Content Management vendor Interwoven by Autonomy made me think about the importance of website management for lead generation. Nowadays, most lead generation campaigns revolve around the website: SEO, AdWords, Email campaigns and even direct mail usually point to a website to capture responses. So the website clearly has an important role in lead generation.

Thinking about lead generation, what functionality would you expect in a CMS? I would look for the following:

  • Updates possible by non-technical users (WYSIWYG)
  • Search Engine Optimized & SEO Reporting
  • Landing pages
  • Registration forms integrated with
  • A/B or multi-variate testing
  • Web Analytics integration, and automatic inclusion of other tracking code
  • Real-time visitor reporting (similar to Demandbase Stream)
  • Press Release distribution to PRWeb and others
  • Behavioral targeting
  • Fast downloads for downloads for trial software, videos and Flash demos (CDN)

There are some vendors that focus on these areas. First of all Hot Banana, who’s been focused on creating a ‘Marketing CMS’ for quite a while already, further emphasized after their acquisition by Lyris. However, few of their clients are in industries that rely on lead generation (such as tech companies).

I-Dialogue has also been around for many years, and their solution works from within They seem to be more focused on closed communities, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

There is one demand generation vendor that integrates a full Web Content Management system: Marqui. However, they had financial difficulties and have been acquired in the fall of 2008 by a group of investors: now they’re hiring again, so let’s hope that their new management can execute their vision.

In addition to their core SEO functionality, Hubspot offers a basic CMS for their entry-level customers. However, those are typically small companies, who are most likely migrating from either template-based Site Building tools or simple plain HTML websites: no advanced features to be found here.

Demand Generation software vendor Pardot is part of the Hannon-Hill group, a CMS vendor. Adam Blitzer, co-founder of Pardot, told me that Hannon-Hill just launched eCrowds, a hosted CMS for SMBs, and they are actively cross-selling the Pardot marketing automation system (see ‘add-on’ section on their pricing page). Also, there is some product integration: Pardot’s tracking tags and forms can easily be inserted into an eCrowds-based site. That’s interesting, and I’m curious to see how many customers will start using both.

There are also companies focused on landing pages alone, rather than a full CMS. For example, ion interactive and OnDialog (formerly Plurapage). When I lasted talked to OnDialog they were moving towards a full marketing suite, because landing pages along didn’t give enough revenue. Ion interactive has followed a strong thought-leadership campaign, including a recently published book on post-click marketing,and they seem to do pretty well, although they also introduced lower entry-level pricing.

Altogether, my gut feeling is that CMS software can definitely be optimized to support lead generation, but few customers are willing to pay a premium for it today. Most likely, website management will be added as an add-on to Demand Generation systems, or vice-versa. When the worst of the credit crunch is over (say 2010) we may even see some acquisitions: will Marketo or Eloqua acquire a CMS vendor, or will CMS vendors acquire marketing automation companies? What is your take?

Hubspot Review – SEO Optimization

IMPORTANT: Please read my new Hubspot Review, published in July 2010. The review below is outdated.

Hubspot is the market leader in the category they invented: inbound marketing systems. They should be pleased with this link, because they teach their customers to ask other websites for links to their website, using the term that potential customers type into Google. Hubspot offers a combination of a hosted software platform and best practices. The software shows how to optimize your site for certain keywords, and how you fare against your competitor’s websites. The best practices include tips, such as the one above: Google ranks your site higher for keywords that others use to link to your site.

hubspot inbound marketing system for seoWhat I like about their offering is the simple packaging: you have the small company package for $250 per month, and the larger company offering for $500 (called ‘Marketer’). As a small company you have to use their content management system, and as a larger company you will use your own website (you just include some tags in the source of your site). Also, this ‘Marketer’ version includes integration with for closed loop reporting: in other words, it will show which Google keywords result in how much revenue.

Their philosophy is that search engine optimization is a better investment than pay-per-click advertising: over time you will only get more traffic, and it doesn’t cost you anything. With PPC, whenever you want more traffic you have to pay more. And if a new competitor enters the market, they will drive up the price for the keywords that used to be cheap. However, PPC is great to get attention for time-sensitive events. Because SEO takes time: if you have a seminar in two weeks, PPC can start promotion right away, but by the time you have a good organic search engine ranking, the event has already taken place. But for less time-sensitive information, SEO will definitely pay off.

I’m fairly sure that Hubspot provides tremendous value to companies who’ve never optimized their site. For my company I’ve already applied several SEO best practices, and we have a decent page rank (6). So for us the benefits are less clear. However, hiring a company to outsource SEO optimization is even more expensive, so I may give Hubspot a try: their contract is month-to-month, so if it doesn’t work I can cancel at any time. I’ll also look at some other vendors such as Raven SEO and Spyfu, because I don’t know how those compare. If you know more about Raven or Spyfu, please leave a comment.

IMPORTANT: Please read my new Hubspot Review, published in July 2010. The review above is outdated.

Zoomio Review – European Marketing Automation Vendor

Today I had a meeting with a representative of Zoomio, a European marketing automation vendor that started in Denmark in 2002. I was curious to learn about their solution, because I’ve heard of Eloqua, Market2Lead, Marketo, and a whole bunch of other demand generation vendors, but never of Zoomio.

Zoomio Marketing Automation

It turns out that Zoomio is mainly doing business in Northern Europe, but they do have 600 customers and 75 employees, so they’re larger than most US-based demand generation vendors. Most US-based vendors have at least half of their customers in the technology sector, but not Zoomio: they have customers across all industries: from travel agencies to car dealerships to software companies.

Their strength is in the definition of the interaction process: they have a flow chart that defines the touch points, which includes call centers and text messaging. Another neat feature is the split in an easy UI for marketers and an advanced UI for marketing specialists. However, they do not support typical B2B features such as lead scoring and Salesforce integration.

We really need those features, so it isn’t a great solution for us. But when they decide to offer lead scoring and a Salesforce integration I will definitely look at them again: especially since their pricing is quite attractive. By that time I hope they also offer US-based support, because currently it’s only offered in mainland Europe.

I’m curious to learn more about Zoomio from actual users: if you use Zoomio, please leave a comment below with some feedback on how you like Zoomio.

Web Conferencing and Webinar Software: Bundle or Best-of-Breed?

Most B2B tech companies use Web Conferencing software for both sales presentations and marketing webinars. Both activities use the same core  functionality: sharing a slide deck or sharing your desktop. But there are many additional features that are unique to each type of meeting. For example, a ‘meet now’ feature is important for sales presentations, and a ‘Q&A’ feature is essential for webinars.

However, it seems that many B2B companies have a single web conferencing solution, rather than a specific one for sales purposes, and a specific one for webinars. I wonder whether selecting two solutions wouldn’t be a better option.

Webinar Platforms

Ken Molay at Webinar Success has a top-3 of preferred webinar platforms:

All three include standard or optional features that are required for webinars:

  • Support for large audiences (100+)
  • Registration pages
  • Hiding attendee list from attendees
  • Collecting attendee feedback (e.g. speed up / slow down)
  • Polling
  • Q&A
  • Recordings
  • Practice-mode
  • Voice over the Internet
  • Reporting (attendance, chat transcript)

Yesterday I stumbled upon a company called BrightTALK that offers a solution specifically for webinars. Next week I will attend a webinar hosted on their platform to see what that looks like. One 30-minute webinar per month is free, while their premium package supports unlimited 90-minute webinars (one at a time).

In addition to the technology providers there are many service providers such as On24, but that doesn’t match with my DIY marketing philosophy ;- )

Web Conferencing Platforms

Ken’s top-3 vendors also a solution for sales presentations. Webex offers Meeting Center and MeetMeNow, Citrix offers GoToMeeting, and in Adobe Connect Pro you can configure a meeting room specifically for sales presentations.

In my experience sales people love simplicity: just click a button to start a meeting, and automatically provide a conference call number. Also, they prefer desktop sharing over uploading a PPT. This is how WebEx MeetMeNow and GoToMeeting work, while Adobe uses a permanent and personal meeting room URL, and does not integrate conference calling. Our sales people were much happier with GoToMeeting than with Adobe Connect Pro.

For our specific situation we need fast desktop sharing, because we are showing very dynamic demos. In our experience GoToMeeting is superior for this, with WebEx as a close second. Connect is trailing, just like a whole range of more affordable (or free) solutions. I’ve tried DimDim, and their desktop sharing was a little choppy.

After some research I came up with this list of affordable vendors:

And these companies provide a free service:

The Budget Solution

If speedy desktop sharing is not so important to you, you can save a lot of money by using any of these cheap or free web conferencing solutions and work with WebEx, Citrix, Adobe or BrightTALK for webinars. Especially Citrix provides great value with unlimited webinars for $99 per month.

The All-in-One Solution

When you go for a corporate deal with one of the top-3 providers, you often get both Web Conferencing and Webinar functionality in one package. WebEx, GoToMeeting Corporate and Adobe Connect Pro are all in the $4000+ per year range. If you spend that amount of money, it makes sense to make good use of the offered functionality. However, no solution is perfect for all needs: for example, we found Adobe Connect Pro ideal for online training, good for webinars, and so-so for sales presentations. And we found GoToMeeting Corporate ideal for sales presentations, average for webinars, and not so good for online training.

The Best-of-Breed Solution

When you have high demands for both sales presentations and webinars, it may be better to go with best-of-breed vendors. We will probably go with GoToMeeting for sales presentations, while we still have to make a choice for webinars. We like the price of GoToWebinar, but not the quality of the recordings. So maybe we’ll use Brainshark or Articulate to create stand-alone recordings, rather than posting the live event as-is.