Monday, March 28, 2011

Email Marketing and Auto-Responders - What's New and Who's Best?

Email Marketing is an established category that has been around for a long time (over a decade). Having been around for that long, a fairly stable set of features has emerged over time and deliverability which used to be all over the place, has stabilized. The pricing has come down to affordable levels and market leadership has been established (arguably) with Constant Contact going public.

Some of the new directions, however, that email marketing has been evolving includes segmentation, surveying, multi-step auto-responders, and A/B split testing. Of these segmentation in general (and conditional or auto-segmentation in particular) is probably the feature that has the most potential to change the email marketing landscape. Sending the right email piece at the right time based on what a prospect clicked on or opened in the past is a powerful concept and can easily mean a difference between another email that I don't open and something that triggers my attention.

Below is a brief summary of the email marketing players and their strength and weaknesses. Please let me know if you disagree on any of it, and feel free to use it to help you make your decisions!

Constant Contact iContact Aweber GetResponse
Email Limits excellent excellent excellent excellent
Deliverability excellent excellent excellent excellent
Segmentation weak fair good excellent
Follow-up Sophistication weak fair good fair
Signup form flexibility fair good good fair
Surveys good good none good
Split Testing weak none good excellent
Templates fair fair fair good
WYSIWIG editor weak excellent fair good
Pricing fair good fair excellent
Special Features email-2-speech

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Real Group Collaboration is Finally Here

After taking a look at newly launched, I declare 2011 the year of group collaboration.

While group collaboration is not new and products like Yahoo Groups (yet another squandered opportunity) and Google Groups (what's taking these guys so long to realize the potential there) have existed for almost a decade now, the marketplace is ready for the 2nd wave of the group collaboration that is going to draw on many other advances that have been made in the internet technologies world. Advances like Activity Streams, App Stores, clean and dynamic designs, etc..

There are many startups and incumbents vying for this lucrative market - Salesforce, Jive, and Yammer are the ones that come to mind. I'm going to rule out Salesforce due to the amount of other weight they have to carry around - they are not going to be the first ones to get this right..(I'm also obviously ruling out Microsoft and Google for similar reasons - they've got too much legacy and too many other projects clamoring for attention to be able to come up with a dominant design for group collaboration). Yammer has something big in the hopper having raised $25M a few months ago however!

Podio is a brand new player that's coming out onto the marketplace swinging for the fences. I've briefly reviewed the product and it seems very solid and very formidable. You've got all your basics - work is organized into workspaces, each workspace has got an activity stream, a task list, and a calendar. This is far from IT however.. The user then starts adding Marketplace apps to the workspace, which there are plenty of - deliverables, documents, designs, product input, processes, presentations - the list goes on and on.. In addition to read-made modules, Podiohas an app builder out of the gate.

Podio is not naive to think that they can get a market overnight by doing a slightly better job at implementation and packaging of the features. No sir! They are making a very gutsy move by opening a retail (yes, you heard me right, retail! presence right on their opening day). Not even Salesforce had the foresight (I'm assuming money is not the problem here) to do this. I'm really curious to see how this is going to go down and look forward to using the product!

The address is 224 6th Street San Francisco, CA 94103.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Google Docs Sprinkles a Bit of Wave to Make it Taste Even Better

Google Docs adding discussions is very cool and sets a new standard for online document editing! But Google guys, if you want to be taken seriously by professional public, make up better examples! I know working on a contract is not as sexy as discussing an April 1st prank, but who's your target audience for this?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Wavemaker gets acquired

I've had it on my To Do list to do a review of Wavemaker for a while. Well, VMWare beat me to it - they acquired this young (less than 2yr old) startup.

WaveMaker describe themselves as an Open & Easy-to-Use Web & Cloud Application Development Platform - essentially a Platform-as-a-Service solution, or Visual Basic for the Cloud (my words, not theirs)

I'm not entirely sure why VMWare is pursuing this space - I see little reason for them to attract developers or even business people writing business apps - they don't own or host the underlying data (this is a much more obvious fit for companies, but they obviously have something in mind.

Here's a snippet from Wavemaker letter on their site:

According to Gartner, only 20% of IT staff have expert app development skills – WaveMaker is the tool to enable the other 80% of IT to build web apps quickly and deploy them to the cloud with a single mouse click.

As WaveMaker went from 3,000 downloads a month in January, 2010 to 135,000 downloads a month in December, 2010, we realized that we had created the perfect “on ramp” for cloud computing. WaveMaker can play a big role in bringing large numbers of developers to the cloud, but on ly if we team with the right cloud partner.

Whatever the reason it VMWare is going in this direction, this acquisition stands to add legitimacy to the Platform-as-a-Service in general and situational business apps in particular. Professionals can write apps on WaveMaker's platforms without worrying what's going to happen to their app if something was to happen to the startup..

Security Risk is the Price of Freedom

Good article in itself that talks about precautions that smartphone users need to take in light of recent malicious applications for Android, but also helps to put the trade-off between convenience, freedom, and security into perspective. This triangle applies to more than just mobile platforms - it applies to fundamental cloud questions very well as well (not to mention the subject of airport security :) )

Friday, March 04, 2011

Salesforce Service Cloud 3

Key Takeaways:
  • customer interaction is not your grandmother's "pick up a phone and call" model - it requires reaction speed, mining of the cloud, and proactive approach
  • Salesforce Service cloud now has good connectors for Twitter and Facebook
  • Pretty slick workflow integration from escalating the issue, to filing it to the knowledge base, to dynamics diagnostics and knowledge base mining, to video chat
Overall, looks like a decent offering staying in step with the time - which is what SaaS is all about - quick product release cycles and most importantly quick deployment cycles by the customer (when compared to on premise model where just to deploy a new version might take months or even years)

P.S. I wish all those public speaking coaches would stop telling execs to move around the stage so much - all this pacing is really irritating.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Skype + GoToMeeting = Nirvana

Today Skype and GoToMeeting announced a partnership that is so exciting, I can hardly contain myself! As a long-time user and fan of Skype for its audio calls (specifically for awesome audio conference calls), an integrated web meeting has been on the top of my wish list for quite a while. Yes, Skype added a screen sharing function a version or two ago but it only worked between 2 people and was using video compression protocols meaning that the text on the screen was often unreadable.

Anyways, talk about a match made in heaven! Skype has been trying to break into the enterprise market and GoToMeeting has been trying to increase its market share. Both of them were facing a steep curve. Now, all of a sudden, they pull a rabbit out of the hat that makes their prospects ever so bright!
I don't know why I'm so surprised - guess haven't seen a partnership that made so much sense in a while (like ever?) This is 1+1=3, or the stuff Business school case studies are made out of.. The only reason this might fail is if either of the companies will feel that their partner is getting a lot more out of this relationship then they are, or if they screw up the pricing. Otherwise I think this is going to be an enormous hit!

So, to sum it up:
  • great news for small businesses and telecommuters
  • good news for businesses of all sizes (eventually it will make its way into larger and larger businesses)
  • good news for both Skype and Citrix
  • bad news for WebEx
  • bad news for all other Web conferencing solutions (including Salesforce's DimDim acquisition)
Citrix / Skype merger on the horizon? This is like watching oil and vinegar come together in a perfect Yin/Yang fashion.