I did a webinar with Act-on software (www.act-on.com), who contacted me to share information on their platform and products. I was pretty impressed and I’m sure that Act-on will make it onto next year’s Top Twenty Small-Business-Friendly Marketing Automation Vendor List. The webinar was conducted by their Regional Sales Manager, Molly Fitzgerald. I’ve been through one of her webinars earlier this year but I didn’t have time to do a write up so here it is.
Act-on got into the marketing automation field in 2008. In 2009, they had only 9 employees and around 35 customer. They’ve grown rapidly and today have over 1000 customers and 150+ employees. I was told that they just completed their third round of financing and raised US$16 million dollars for their continued growth. I like their positioning statement (at one time I thought it was my idea but it appears they’ve been using it before me). It’s “Marketing Automation for the Fortune Five Million”. Most marketing automation solutions are designed for Fortune 1000 companies. They’re reaching down into the next category of business size, which I appreciate. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates (2007) that there are about six million firms in the U.S. that have employees (another twenty-one million businesses have no payroll but account for half the business receipts (http://www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html#RcptSize). This seems to be a lucrative market.
The product looks good. They are an integrated suite of several important marketing automation tools including:
- Email with Both Trigger and Drip Marketing Capabilities
- Forms and Landing Pages
- Website Visitor Tracking
- Lead Management and Scoring
- Social Media Tools
- Reports and Analytics
- Webinar and Event Integration and Tracking
Molly took me through screenshots and a demo of each of the product categories. I liked the look of the interface. It seemed very easy to learn and use. Although I sometimes think that designers get carried away with graphics in user interfaces, there is a balance that I think they’ve achieved pretty well. The site uses plain English language and avoids jargon and corporate-speak.
Campaign management looked easy enough. Their method of creating campaigns is marked using an outlining system and conditional criteria that makes it easy to understand. You build campaigns the same way you would create an outline using A-1, A-2, A-3, then splitting off into a B Campaign or a sub-group of your A Campaign. Once you build your campaigns, each email is recorded and can be referenced from other parts of the system. It seemed very organized.
Another part of the system that stands out is their Lead Scoring system. Here again, a simple interface that makes it easy to develop a scoring program should make it easy for newcomers to marketing automation. The concepts of lead scoring don’t come naturally to those new to marketing automation.
Their take on social media adds a new twist. They have a method of monitoring competitor’s social media presences and using the feedback to build better content but it also is set up to allow marketers to prospect for unhappy competitive users. It allows you to tweet or post right from within their application.
On-Boarding and Support
This is a nice benefit. Many of those new to marketing automation become frustrated by premium support programs that are offered by some companies. Premium support may sound nice until you realize that it costs extra. Ms. Fitzgerald pointed out that Act-on’s program offers support for as long as you are a subscriber. Since their program is set up from month to month, with no long-term commitments, this is quite a commitment for them to make.
They offer assistance with initial campaigns as well as ongoing training through their Act-On University program. This consists of live and recorded webinars and what appears to be a robust knowledge base. There is also a transparent system of suggested features which allows users to comment and monitor progress.
As with most marketing automation systems, Act-On integrates with Salesforce, Sugar CRM and several others. Their Partner Exchange program lists partners in several realms including GoToWebinar and Webex. Molly also pointed out that with their relationship with Cazoomi (http:cazoomi.com) that you can use Zoho and other sites at a reasonable price.
Act-On’s pricing model is all-in-one. Pricing is simple to understand and is based on the number of active contacts in your database. Users get all features regardless of their pricing level. This is something, I think, that more marketing automation vendors should emulate.
Overall, I’m very impressed with Act-On and I’m sure they will make our Top 20 List in the coming year.