Of all the different categories of marketing technology we study and analyze at VB Insight — VentureBeat’s research arm — “marketing clouds” create the most discussion over their definition.
So much so, in fact, that John Koetsier is due to launch this week a 10,000-word report to help clarify the situation and explain where marketing clouds are going in the future.
But one thing is clear about the vast majority of marketing cloud solutions: They are big, integrated systems for big companies.
Today, V12 Group has launched a considerable upgrade to its Launchpad product that challenges that assumption, relabels its offering, and puts the marketing cloud in the hands of small and medium-size businesses.
The company, headquartered in Red Bank, New Jersey, now employs 135 staff, and continues to grow organically without external funding. I spent some time looking at the new edition of Launchpad with Paul Chachko, CEO and chairman of V12 Group, last week.
“Creating a marketing cloud for the mid-market sets us apart,” Chachko said. “The big marketing cloud vendors just aren’t targeting this market right now.”
The first thing I noticed over my last look at Launchpad, back in July 2014, was a much cleaner, and sleeker design. Looking more like a modern, responsive website than a marketing tool, the new dashboard has a highly active feel to it.
Want to run an email campaign? Click the Email icon. Need to advertise? Click the Simple Ads or Display Ads options. Sending postcards or postal invitations to existing customers? Click the Print & Mail section.
We’re studying social media management tools (SMM)…
Add your voice and we’ll share the data with you.
Launchpad, in fact, includes options for everything from advertising to social media, mobile messaging to print, segmentation to Lookalike prospect discovery. In addition, it has a full data visualization and analytics tool, CRM, and the ability to augment existing customer data, helping to keep your records up-to-date.
One area that Launchpad wins over other, similar solutions is the ability to leverage V12 Group’s extensive database to find new prospects. The Lead Builder tool allows marketers to find new prospects by business area, and the Clones tool allows the user to find prospects that mimic existing customers.
It is that feature that makes Launchpad unique. It is built on data using information from virtually every single consumer in the country; data that allows businesses to target prospective clients within their chosen demographic profiles.
There is one inherent risk in V12 Group changing tack and relabeling its solution a “marketing cloud.” It is, by definition, comparing itself to the likes of Adobe, Salesforce, SAP, IBM, and other behemoths in the space.
“We don’t see ourselves competing with those big companies,” Chachko said. “We’ve made a conscious decision to go after the small-to-medium business market and offer a cloud that is instantaneously accessible.”
With that in mind, you might expect Launchpad to appeal to just the smaller businesses, but that isn’t the case. V12 Group counts MasterCard, The Home Depot, and AT&T among its clients. That unique database of consumers broadens the appeal of Launchpad beyond the typical B2B customer that would be attracted to a standalone CRM solution. B2C organizations can leverage the data.
Behind each of the various dashboard items included as part of the Launchpad integrated cloud is a simple, but effective, tool that helps to get things done quickly and efficiently. V12 Group has clearly taken a lot of cues from modern website design when re-imagining Launchpad, and as a result it looks incredibly easy to use.
“The simple and intuitive interface does a better job of guiding marketers through campaigns seamlessly to help them reach customers and feel secure in their investment,” Chachko said.
Of the new tools added to the Launchpad dashboard, Social is the one that will need more features in order to be able to compete with, or replace, your existing social media marketing (SMM) products.
While it can send updates to all your standard social channels, and the user can manually schedule those messages, there is no algorithmic scheduling (where the application decides the best time to post). It seemed quite basic in comparison to the SMM tools I’m currently researching for my forthcoming study, but then it is one of the newest additions to the dashboard.
Launchpad now offers businesses of all sizes, rather than just those with billion-dollar budgets, the opportunity to find out why a marketing cloud — a dashboard where the marketing team can “live” all day. But marketing clouds aren’t just about integrating tools; they’re also a big part of maintaining high-quality customer data.
“We’re integrating with a lot of other companies at this point, so the ability to move data back and forth will be a lot easier from one desktop,” Chachko said.
The new version of Launchpad is available today from V12 Group.