Act-On Takes Ease-Of-Use Approach to Marketing Automation

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-06-09
Act-On Marketing

Act-On Takes Ease-Of-Use Approach to Marketing Automation

NEW YORK--Act-On Software, a marketing automation software provider for small and midsize companies, demonstrated why it is considered a leader in its space at its #iheartmarketing user conference here featuring hundreds of the company’s users.

At the June 6 event, a regional conference for the company’s East Coast customers, users called out Act-On's ease of use, among other benefits.

“We’ve been working with Act-On because it’s the most user-friendly, easiest to implement, fastest to start up of all the ones we’ve used,” Brandon Larocque, managing partner at Access Marketing Company, told eWEEK in an interview at the event here.

“What drove me to search for a [marketing automation] provider was the analytics piece, because I work with market researchers and they want data,” said Monica Mayk, marketing director at Market Connections, also at the #iheartmarketing event. “They need to know what’s working and what isn’t. There are some systems out there that are clearly enterprise-level systems aimed at very large teams. Other systems had pieces and parts that didn’t all work together in one platform. Act-On had the tracking I needed; it was also more budget-friendly and more user friendly. Also, their support and their service are unsurpassed.”

In January, Act-On Software was named  a "Leader" among lead-to-revenue management platform vendors in the Forrester Research report: "The Forrester Wave Lead-To-Revenue Management Platform Vendors, Q1 2014" for small marketing teams and large enterprises. Act-On was classified as a leader in both Forrester Wave market categories--Small Marketing Teams and Large Enterprises. Its product and delivery models are right-sized for small and midsize businesses, as well as departments of large enterprises.

The 75 evaluation criteria for the Forrester Wave looked at a mix of current product, future vision and company strength. The criteria were grouped into three high-level buckets: current offering, strategy and market presence--which, combined, determined the Forrester Wave rankings of the top nine solution providers invited to participate in the assessment.

Meanwhile, research firm G2 Crowd also ranks Act-On among the leaders in the marketing automation software space. G2 Crowd says the best marketing automation software products are determined by customer satisfaction (based on user reviews) and scale (based on market share, vendor size and social impact) and placed into four categories on the G2 Crowd Grid. Leaders offer marketing automation products that are rated highly by G2 Crowd users and have substantial scale, market share and global support and service resources. Leaders include: HubSpot, Pardot, Act-On, Marketo, Eloqua, and Vocus Marketing Cloud.

The marketing automation software market is heating up fast, as a Frost & Sullivan study from earlier this year indicated the market–slated at about $550 million in 2013--is expected to grow to $1.9 billion by 2020. Frost & Sullivan defines marketing automation software as solutions that enable marketing and sales disciplines in small, midsize or large organizations to automate customer engagement activities.

There has been a bit of consolidation in the space, with Oracle acquiring Eloqua for $810 million in 2012 and IBM acquiring Silverpop for an undisclosed amount this year.

Act-On Takes Ease-Of-Use Approach to Marketing Automation

"The marketing automation industry has been heating up and Act-On is playing in one of the hottest markets right now,” said Atri Chatterjee, Act-On’s chief marketing officer, when IBM acquired Silverpop. “IBM acquiring Silverpop further validates the rapidly growing market and substantiates the industry as a whole. We are seeing an increasingly growing demand for marketing automation as companies are doing more online multi-channel marketing and moving beyond email. Corporate Darwinism is at work here in a fast-evolving market. The companies that remain standing are the hyper-growth ones with leading edge technology, or the behemoths that are scrambling to enter the market. This is a time of opportunity for marketing automation vendors to innovate and grow. The use of marketing automation has only scratched the surface, and we are in the beginning stages of a long and prosperous road."

In mid-April Act-On announced it secured $42 million in new venture financing. Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) led the round, with existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, US Venture Partners and Voyager Capital also participating. Act-On will use the new capital to accelerate its business on all fronts, including new product development, sales expansion and brand recognition.

“We plan to primarily use the money to build up our sales force,” Raghavan told eWEEK. “We need to grow our sales and marketing. We’re not constrained by market size but by the number of sales people we could hire. It’s also for geographic expansion. The way we sell will also change–we’re increasing the efficiency of social selling.

Raghavan said he also plans to double the size of the Act-On product team, including developers and engineers.

With a slightly different outlook than Frost & Sullivan, Raab Associates estimates the software automation market will increase 60 percent annually and is expected to reach $1.2 billion in 2014. Act-On grew at almost twice that rate in 2013 and expects this rate of growth to continue. Small and midsize businesses and departments of large enterprises have turned to Act-On to execute integrated, multi-channel marketing and lead nurturing campaigns.

"It is very exciting to see marketing automation evolving to move beyond tech companies, and getting broad adoption across all company sizes and industry verticals," said Raghavan in a statement. "We are the forefront of this movement. We have grown rapidly to over 2,000 customers now, but there are at least 200,000 companies in North America alone that are in our sweet spot. We are very pleased to have the backing of a long-term investor like TCV as we seek to take full advantage of this enormous opportunity."

The new $42 million investment is primary capital into the company to further fuel its revenue, customer and employee growth. In total, Act-On has raised $74 million since it was founded in 2008. Along with this new round of funding, David Yuan, general partner at TCV, joins Act-On's board of directors.

"Through an elegant product and a frictionless go-to-market model, Act-On has brought the power of marketing automation to small and midsize companies,” said David Yuan, general partner at TCV, in a statement. “This segment represents an enormous, green field market, and we're excited by Act-On's emerging leadership. We've been following Act-On for the past couple of years and look forward to working with the team to build a category leader."

Act-On Takes Ease-Of-Use Approach to Marketing Automation

“The continued growth of the industry has uncovered pockets of opportunity where specialized vendors can compete successfully with established general-purpose systems,” said David M. Raab, founder and principal at Raab Associates, in a statement. “We’re seeing a new generation of products emerge to claim these niches.”

In May, Act-On announced that W-Systems, a sales and marketing systems integrator, saw a seven-fold increase in qualified leads after switching to Act-On for marketing automation. W-Systems' lead generation jumped from four leads per week to four leads per day after leveraging Act-On to fuel its content marketing strategy.

Prior to Act-On, W-Systems' internal marketing programs were inconsistent and infrequent. Its strategy consisted of sporadic email, newsletter and Google AdWords campaigns. The only predictable inbound traffic the Website generated was through AdWords. Act-On has allowed W-Systems to execute a multi-channel content marketing strategy across email, Web and social that drives a steady flow of leads and cuts advertising spend in half.

"Instead of doing a little bit of marketing once every five months or so--which is very ineffective--Act-On has allowed a small group like mine to accomplish consistent marketing," said Christian Wettre, president of W-Systems, in a statement. "That makes all the difference. If I hadn't had Act-On, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish that consistency, because it would have been too difficult to do it across all the different systems involved."

Also last month, Act-On announced that CoreElement, a marketing agency with a focus on B2B and B2C companies within the industrial manufacturing space, had embraced Act-On as part of its corporate strategy and was using it to redefine its business.

As part of CoreElement's demand generation and corporate marketing initiatives, the agency developed a global industrial marketing survey using Act-On's predefined templates and forms. CoreElement created the survey within the Act-On dashboard in a matter of days, and executed it across seven time zones, using a progressive roll out feature to ensure the message was delivered to the thousand marketer pool during their time of business. The survey garnered more than 400 responses.

"What would have taken months or even years to launch and compile, only took us a few weeks with Act-On," said Bob Parina, president and creative director of CoreElement, in a statement. "Act-On has helped us create more formal processes and a better marketing workflow, allowing us to accomplish more with less."

Meanwhile, the market will continue to shape up and Act-On will face increased competition in the marketing automation market. Yet, Raghavan said he believes “the danger comes from below us, not above us.” He said he is more concerned about newer, smaller players entering the market with new ideas and approaches.

For instance, Raghavan said Act-On became the first marketing automation provider that introduced month-to-month licensing and it did so to wrest a customer from a competitor. Nimble moves like that can be game changers, he said. Also, Act-On is on a weekly release cadence, with new releases coming every week–which in the SaaS world, is practically a requirement, he said.

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