There have never been more options for small businesses looking to use marketing automation services. They are more affordable and easier to use than ever before. And the services these systems provide are more important than ever as catching and keeping the attention of today’s customer is more challenging than ever before.
Adrienne Weissman, CMO of software review platform G2 Crowd, discusses the results of the new marketing automation grid the company recently released. Particularly she focuses on what areas of marketing automation are most important to small businesses, how they score vendors, and which vendors came out on top.
* * * * *
Small Business Trends: Before we jump into this really interesting report you did around marketing automation, tell us a little bit about your personal background.
Adrienne: I’ve been at G2 Crowd now just for about six months, and I most recently joined from LinkedIn.
I’ve spent a lot of my career in the emerging and incubator type of markets where I’ve been really focused on disrupting the norms and the status quo in order to help consumers and users and professionals have much more productive outcomes, whether it’s in their job or their day-to-day.
I started at Google a number of years ago, and eventually made the move over to LinkedIn and really started to focus on the B2B side of things.
And along came this really cool opportunity here at G2 Crowd which aligned and still aligns very nicely with LinkedIn’s vision, and that is to make the world’s professionals more productive and successful.
Small Business Trends: Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about G2 Crowd?
Adrienne: G2 Crowd was established to help provide much more visibility into the software buying process.
To date, you were able to find a whole lot more information about where you were going to go eat or what kind of clothes to buy. But you had very little visibility into making software purchases for your company or organizations. And as we know, making some of those purchasing decisions can cost upwards of multiple thousands of dollars, if not, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So our goal has been trying to provide insight into how customers and users of software products really have benefited from the purchases they’ve made, so now small business owners in particular, and professionals across the board, can really start to look at what [softwares] are going to be most applicable to their challenges.
And that is really how G2 Crowd came around.
Small Business Trends: So let’s talk about the recent grid that you put out around marketing automation. Maybe you could tell us at a high level the parameters around it.
Adrienne: We’ve done a lot of work in the marketing space as a whole.
When you think about marketing automation in particular, there are a lot of players in that space, and it is becoming more and more competitive. You see brands starting to separate from the pack as well as new brands coming into the marketplace that are really focused on potentially disrupting the applecart or sometimes really being very niche about what they are offering to potential customers.
So marketing automation is a report that we’ve been able to generate a couple of times now because it is a very popular category. People are very willing to share their point of view on products that they have purchased for their organizations. And so because of that we have actually a very nice report with a lot of content and a lot of reviews that are supporting the small, medium and enterprise level customers out there.
Small Business Trends: So you’ve broken down — it’s called the G2 Crowd grid for marketing automation. Maybe you could tell us about the four quadrants, so to speak, and what do they mean in terms of if I’m somebody looking for marketing automation software.
Adrienne: What we do is ask a fair amount of questions about how an individual is using the product, what features they like best.
There are a lot of data points that are asked in the review surveys that we send out.
After we’ve collected a large number of surveys and hit a certain scale, we’re able to start mapping the product onto our grid. And it is mapped according to customer satisfaction as well as market presence; meaning products, company size as well as the customers they serve, lots of other data points like revenue, total number of employees, that really feed into how we map out here. It’s a nice algorithm around customer satisfaction and NPS scores, balanced out with market presence.
Then looking at the four quadrants that make up the grid, in the top right hand corner you’ve got the Leaders, and those are the brands that have gotten really high customer satisfaction scores, as well as have a deepened market presence.
The bottom right quadrant is the High Performers; those are brands that are getting really nice customer satisfaction scores, really good reviews, but may not yet have the market presence to compete with some of the larger brands that tend to fall into the Leaders quadrant.
The bottom left hand corner are the Niche products. They tend to probably address one of the different audience sizes: small, medium and enterprise; may have a smaller market presence or do not have a strong customer satisfaction score as yet; but are certainly on the grid and making some moves in the marketplace.
And then lastly, the top left quadrant are the Contenders. Market presence tends to be a little bit larger, customer satisfaction is either improving and/or increasing, and it certainly also tends to serve certain markets that some of the others are much more broadly serving.
Small Business Trends: You have folks in the leader group for the SMB space, like HubSpot and Pardot, which of course is now Salesforce, and Act-On. What are some of the key areas or categories that are really important to the SMB buyer, when it comes to looking at marketing automation?
Adrienne: For SMBs I think a lot of the features that are most highly rated tend to fall into email marketing: the ability to build and personalize emails; ability to send outbound emails. Really it’s the ability to automate a lot of their online marketing tactics — things like A/B testing, search tracking and optimization — as well as being very thoughtful about lead management and the nurture stream that marketing automation is very well known for.
So, again, the ability to be tactical enough for a small business to implement across their goals and objectives for their quarter or year tends to be some of the key features that are most important.
A lot of things that we’re also seeing as highly important are the ability for the social components. Social listening, social sharing and social campaigns are becoming more important.
Reporting, of course, is always a key feature that is very important to most customers.
Small Business Trends: What about things like price? Because we all know small businesses are focused sometimes on price — price, but also support.
Adrienne: Those are very important.
Support in particular is very important, especially because small business customers don’t tend to have as many people that can really support a marketing team. So a lot of times the marketing teams within a small business tend to be one to two people, and even sometimes it’s like a half a person, really. And so being able to help small businesses with support and direction is very critical in some of the features that they’re looking for.
Adoption and implementation is also very important. The ability to implement simply and go live within a short period of time is very important. Most SMB customers are looking for it to be less than one month for implementation.
Small Business Trends: As you move forward with this over time, are there certain categories that you think are going to become even more important than they are today — or maybe less important in the future?
Adrienne: I’m not sure about more important versus less important.
I think marketing automation and CRM worlds are starting to become more and more blurry. I think same with social listening and social monitoring and social management, in that some of these brands in each of those categories really can play in other categories.
So there might be a time where consolidation might happen more quickly. The entrance of other players that can do all those things might pick up even further.
One thing we do track between reports [is] products’ velocity on the grid — those that have changed pretty rapidly in a short period of time.
For example, Act-On — their customer satisfaction score increased by 9 percent, and the market presence increased by 22 percent in just one year.
Pardot had a really nice jump as well.
So we’re tracking what these products and brands are doing and really tracking what their customers are thinking about what they’re offering to them as a product and service.
Small Business Trends: Where can people go to learn more about this particular grid but also what G2 Crowd is doing in general?
Adrienne: Yeah, so you certainly can go to G2Crowd.com and navigate through there.
Small Business Trends: One last thing I started thinking about. Could you give us your definition for SMBs?
Adrienne: Sure. The way we’ve broken up the grids, small businesses are companies with fewer than 50 employees. Mid-market represents companies with 51 to 1,000 employees, and then once you get to enterprise it’s 1,001 upwards, is how we look at the different segments.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.