Sales and marketing merge with Manticore's Virtual Touchstone

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The division of labor between marketing and sales used to be clear: Marketing sent campaigns to customer and prospect lists and handed the resulting leads to sales for follow-up.

The technical distinction was similarly sharp. Marketing systems were designed for mass queries, and sales systems were built to process individual transactions. An aggressive salesperson might maintain his or her own customer list and send an occasional mailing, but it would be done with whatever technology was available.

Today, both organizational and technical boundaries have crumbled. Sales departments conduct sophisticated direct marketing programs, delivering multistep streams of targeted mail, e-mail and Web pages. And they're doing this directly within their sales systems, not in a separate marketing database.

Virtual Touchstone, made by Manticore Technology, represents a logical extension of the marketing-within-sales trend: It adds serious marketing campaign capabilities to hosted sales-software system Salesforce.com.

Manticore provides a number of capabilities that should be more than adequate for most companies' needs.

As with any marketing system, the core functionality is creating lists and assigning them to campaigns. Lists are built by defining criteria for up to five data elements on the customer record. These can include custom elements created in either Salesforce.com or Manticore itself. Users can view the names on a list and drill down to see the related data for an individual. They can create multiple lists and replace or append one list with another. Once a list is created, its membership will be updated automatically as changes in the underlying data result in different people meeting the list criteria.

Lists are attached to campaigns. These are created as a flowchart by connecting decisions and processes. When users set up a campaign in Manticore, the system automatically adds a corresponding campaign in Salesforce.com.

The "decisions" function checks for user behavior such as having opened an e-mail, visited a Web site or filled out a registration form. Manticore provides only about 10 decisions and does not let users create their own. But decisions can check for a specified value in any custom data field. Since this encompasses just about any behavior a user can define, the limitation is not as painful as it sounds.

"Processes" are actions taken by the system, such as sending an e-mail, scheduling a task in a Salesforce.com, sending an alert to a salesperson, adding or removing the customer from a list or sending the customer to another process. Processes can also specify a waiting period for multistep marketing programs with a delay between each message.

Even though processes can adjust list membership of an individual, the initial step of attaching a list to a campaign must be taken manually. Users can also add individual customers to a process from within Salesforce.com without using lists at all. The system automatically checks submitted records against people currently active in a given process and will not add someone who is already present. Users can also create a list of people who cannot be added to any process. But the system cannot exclude members of specific lists from specific processes. This reflects a more general limitation: List membership cannot be an element in system queries.

Manticore campaigns run as batch processes, re-executing every 15 minutes to check for new data. The system also supports rules, which execute immediately when a specified event takes place. Rules can manage real-time interactions such as opening a pop-up window when a visitor reaches a particular Web page.

The system provides some content management. Users can import HTML pages for Web forms and e-mails and then insert data fields for personalization, form elements for data capture and links to other Web pages. Users can edit the text on these pages, but they can't change the graphics or create a new page from scratch. Personalized landing pages can be created and attached to e-mails sent by the system.

E-mail execution includes common features such as previews, transmission scheduling, bounce processing and delivery reports. The system can customize an e-mail so it looks as if it came from the salesperson associated with the recipient's account in Salesforce.com.

Behavior tracking is fairly robust, reflecting Manticore's origins as a Web-analytics vendor. The system can place a tracking tag on a Web page or e-mail. This will notify Manticore when the item has been opened and can be used to trigger other events within the system. Manticore can automatically look up the company associated with a visitor's IP address and build a history file of that address's behavior. Campaign processes and rules can then access this history to customize Web page treatments for the address. The system can also deposit cookies on visitor computers to track behavior over time.

Additional functions help to manage pay-per-click campaigns in Google AdWords. For each keyword Manticore reports the number of clicks, initial and return visits, and user-specified goals, such as submitting a registration form or reaching a checkout page. The system does not import costs or perform related financial calculations.

Pricing is based on e-mail volume and starts at $3,000 per month for 10,000 e-mails. According to the vendor, Salesforce.com integration takes less than an hour. Manticore has about 45 current installations of Virtual Touchstone. n

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