Interview with Peter McCormick of ExactTarget
CP: Email marketing and remarketing are hot areas for both web analytics solutions and email platform such as ExactTarget. It’s a great opportunity for marketers to demonstrate some new value. I’m really interested in your perspective on the unique challenges and opportunities facing companies that are thinking about engaging in this strategy.
PM: We really are in the dawning of a new era as it relates to remarketing and Web analytics and email applications coming together. The era that we’re leaving is the “promise” of remarketing. What we are now addressing is the REALITY of remarketing.
Omniture expanded its product with Genesis as the first step. With Genesis, marketers can create custom segments on the fly. The combination of that leap forward in functionality along with our interaction module, which are specific tools that allow the marketer to control what use to be an IT-driven integration process.
This is allows even the “non-technical” marketer to move data and unlock the power of Omniture and ExactTarget without needing IT to set it up.
CP: Are there any areas where you would caution marketers? Yes, the functionality is there, but like in the early days of web analytics, there are huge amounts of data available to take action on. Do you have any recommended strategies for avoiding the pitfalls associated with too much data?
PM: Start small. The excitement of the opportunity is almost overwhelming at first. So now that we’ve left the era of web analytics being IT-driven and now it’s marketing driven, we see a huge amount of data available to us in Omniture’s SiteCatalyst. There is also a lot of behavioral data in ExactTarget such as opens and clicks, etc. The tendency is to try to “boil the ocean” simply because I can. There is now technology available that allows me to do that. The caution would be to start with a specific, discreet, tangible project. Get that up and running first, practice and prove the value. What I mean by that is you should focus on a couple of segments from SiteCatalyst that can do two things:
Once we get a single process underway, then we can move to the second and the third marketing process to automate.
CP: Along those lines, put yourself in the shoes of a VP of commerce at a major Internet retailer that is using ExactTarget and Omniture. What would be your top priorities with respect to our solutions?
PM: I think that using email as a part of the purchasing process is not new. The email confirmation has been in place for some time. But, typically that email confirmation is just that. It is dry and hasn’t been optimized from a marketing standpoint because it has been too difficult to achieve that until now.
The opportunity now is to take all of the capabilities that you think of with traditional list-based email marketing: testing, segmentation and dynamic content. Now we have the ability to apply all of those great marketing principles to what once were very transaction-focused or confirmation-focused communications.
The marketer now asks “how can I take advantage of every touch point with the prospect in the purchase decision?” “How should we be taking advantage of every pixel in that email communication to make it more timely and relevant to the email subscriber?”
There has always been email marketing, which has become more and more sophisticated. Then there has been this other bucket which is thought of as trigger emails and transactional emails. Those don’t need to be separate anymore.
CP: How are some of your more innovative customers using ExactTarget and Omniture to drive increases in marketing performance?
PM: There are several great examples but our most recent joint success is certainly worth noting and that’s the work being done over at Cable Shopping Network. The folks at CSN have seen dramatic improvements in email relevancy to their target audiences through the Genesis integration with ExactTarget. The results have been outstanding, including over fifty percent improvement in site conversion and a hundred percent increase in targeted traffic.
The key to these results is testing and targeting the email campaigns. The idea of testing has always applied to traditional email marketing. Now we are starting to see the concept of testing and targeting being applied to a purely transactional trigger communication, which dramatically improves conversion with visitors that show strong interest but may abandon the shopping cart for example.
The only way to know what’s really working is through testing. In traditional email marketing, testing has been a principle in place for what feels like forever. It has always been too much of a pain to test, say, shopping cart abandonment scenarios with different offers or products because that process has been so IT-driven.
In this new era, the marketer can control it. He or she can apply marketing principles to what in the past were simple transactional communications.
CP: That makes sense, Peter. I’m confident that it is easy to articulate that value proposition to retail clients. Are you seeing any other industry verticals doing interesting things right now?
PM: Well, we talked about B2C already. When it comes to B2B, it is not as top of mind, but there are great opportunities for marketers in terms of integrating Omniture and ExactTarget.
CP: What might be an example of a B2B-focused integration?
PM: Well, ExactTarget is a client of Omniture, so obviously the behavioral data of visitors to our Web site is important for us to understand the needs of our prospects. We’re a B2B provider, we use the data available in SiteCatalyst in our lead qualification and lead nurturing process.
But it is also important to understand what portions of our application our clients are using. We look at what portions are being used and what is not being used. We can use this data when it comes time to manage the renewal process. In fact, we use this to look at both prospects and customers.
CP: With your customers, are you engaging in any programs through your email platform to drive more utilization of your own products?
PM: Absolutely, in fact the biggest driver of renewal and retention for our business is usage. If our customers are using our application and understand the broad set of functionality available to them, they are more likely to renew. They are already realizing business value from ExactTarget. We want to look for customers using a narrow portion of our functionality and get them to use new tools. By encouraging greater adoption of our full feature set, we can realize greater renewal and retention rates.
CP: What aren’t the digital marketing professionals thinking about today that they should be?
PM: Well, some digital marketers are starting to think of the word “aggregation.” I’d like to see more of them thinking about it, though. There is a wonderful integration between Omniture and ExactTarget. We’re seeing that marketers have the data to support emails or data-driven landing pages, but it is in multiple sources. A great majority of it may be available in SiteCatalyst, some of it may be in ExactTarget, but it also might be in a CRM system, or in a data mart.
Being able to bring all of that data together to impact the landing page and also being able to filter across those hasn’t been a possibility until recently. As a marketer, I want to filter across Omniture, ExactTarget and Salesforce data. The result of that filter impacts the content of the message and triggers the message.
The next era I see is not just the expected tight integration between Omniture and ExactTarget. The promise of Web 2.0 and Web services is to able to aggregate all of that information as if it was all in one place to drive closed loop marketing efforts.
CP: So by having all of that information consolidated and being able to segment it to look for unique attributes, it certainly helps marketers deliver more relevant and targeted content at the outset of the message…
PM: Right. It’s just not realistic to have all of your information in one place. We’re in the era where the marketer should be able to leverage all of the various sources to drive their marketing. We call that “aggregate and automate.” Whether it is outbound emails or data-driven landing pages, you can now automate that process by segmenting data across multiple sources.
CP: Does ExactTarget deliver any technology to enable that process?
PM: Yes, our interactions module, combined with functionality called “Data Extensions” allows the marketer to set up data extensions specific to Omniture or Salesforce.com within the UI. So say there is information across target segments via Genesis. Now a marketer can implement a program (marketing campaign) that leverages all of this data. We can either import the data or point to the data and create a filter and schedule or trigger email campaigns.
CP: What else is the latest and greatest from ExactTarget from a platform perspective?
PM: We are evolving from being just an email company. We are now applying the same principles to landing pages and permission-driven voice and SMS or text messages. The idea is that the communication will always be a data-driven, but the medium may change. The marketer can now decide the best way to reach a potential customer. The great thing is that all of these methods of communication can work together. A text message can drive to a dynamic landing page as part of the campaign.
CP: And all along, being able to test what is working and what is not!
PM: The final element that I wanted to mention is the idea of “embedding,” which allows other software providers to leverage our functionality as part their application. We have a vision where a lot of other software providers would want to utilize the functionality of ExactTarget within the context of their application.
So, as an example, there is a software firm called Global Cloud based in the Midwest that services non-profits. They have created a software application for one of their clients, Juvenile Diabetes, that leverages a broad array of functionality such as donor management, case management, and email in which they have embedded ExactTarget’s functionality.
CP: So how do they do that, Peter? Is this where we see Web services come into play?
PM: Absolutely, as a SAAS company, where customers are using ExactTarget, they are logging into the application at ExactTarget.com. But behind the scenes, we’re using Web services to drive the application — to create an email, to upload images, to send an email, etc. We have exposed those Web services to other software providers so that they can quickly build email marketing functionality directly into their offering.
CP: This has been very insightful. Thanks for your time, Peter!