I recently spoke with Peter McCormick, Co-Founder and Vice Pres­i­dent, Part­ner­ships for 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:

1. Impact the con­tent of the email (we call that dynamic con­tent)
2. Trig­ger an email based on vis­i­tor behavior

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 Sales​force​.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 Exact​Tar​get​.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!