Recently, ActiveConversion announced additional features and interface enhancements to its marketing automation solution. We’ve been following ActiveConversion for several years and have always considered it to be a solid product. Given the recent enhancements, I thought it made sense to take a fresh look and update our review.

There are many marketing automation solutions available today but most are priced well above what the average company can afford and are so complex that they require additional staffing to manage and optimize the system.

ActiveConversion offers a great balance of affordability, functionality, and ease-of-use.

Starting at $399 per month, ActiveConversion is priced significantly lower than most marketing automation systems yet it’s no light-weight when it comes to features.

The solution is particularly well suited for companies that use traditional or integrated marketing campaigns, and are primarily interested in identifying who is interested in their products and services and when would be the best time to call their prospects. Medium-sized companies in manufacturing and fabrication; technology and software; and professional services are particularly helped by ActiveConversion.

Having reviewed their recent announcements, we found a few key differences that distinguish ActiveConversion from most other solutions.

  • Salespeople can benefit from ActiveConversion even if they don’t have CRM.
    Typically, marketing automation systems deliver information to reps through a CRM system. And in fact, ActiveConversion can do this as well. However, if you don’t have a CRM system – or you have individual sales reps or sales agents that so not use your CRM – they can still get alerts and see the ActiveConversion data. The optional AC-Prospect Alert module gives them access to the same lead trends, lead information and Jigsaw contact data, without using CRM or buying a full license to the ActiveConversion system.
  • You can identify visitors to your website, even if they haven’t had any previous interaction.
    This feature helps you generate new leads without the use of email or other campaigns. Most marketing automation systems can identify an anonymous company visiting your site only if; 1) it’s a large company (because those companies will have unique Internet Service Provider coding) or 2) the visitor has either completed some type of web-form or responded to an email campaign. Using its secret sauce, ActiveConversion claims the ability to identify a high number of anonymous company visitors even without those two factors. If that proves to be the case, it would have a significant advantage over other systems because you can’t reach out to contacts if you don’t know who the company is. Once you know which company is visiting, you can use their Data.com (previously Jigsaw) integration to find contact details.
  • ActiveConversion can work with 10 major email service providers (ESPs).
    Marketing automation systems typically have email marketing built-in so you don’t need a separate ESP. Having opted for a different approach, ActiveConversion doesn’t have this feature. Instead, their system lets you continue to use the ESP you already have*. The advantage is that you don’t have to migrate from your current ESP. However, it’s important to keep this distinction in mind when you compare costs of marketing automation systems as you’ll need to include your ESP fees for a true comparison.

Apart from those key points, there are several feature enhancements worthy of note.

New Features Summary:

Lead Management using Automation Rules

Newly introduced automation rules give sales more control over lead scoring, assignment and qualification. Like I said, ActiveConversion provides features found in the more costly systems. Now sales can:

  • Automatically tag leads for better lead classification.
  • Automatically route targeted leads to particular sales reps.
  • Automatically choose, display and assign only the leads that fit their sales criteria (including revenue and geographical region).

ActiveConversion Automation Rules

A New UI and Simplified Work Flow

  • Dashboard & Lead Identification Enhancements include:
    A graph indicating lead generation trends with the ability to compare present activity versus a long term average
  • A single click view on companies visiting your website, generated prospects and qualified leads saving you valuable time otherwise spent on lead data management and complex workflows.

ActiveConversion Dashboard

 

An important feature of all marketing automation solutions is the ability to score leads based on their behavior to determine whether a lead is “sales-ready” – did they download a whitepaper; did they view a demo; did they visit your website multiple times? Those are just a few behaviors for which you can judge whether a lead is “sales-ready.” But the flip side of this is equally important. That is, which leads should our reps not spend time on just yet? Those are the leads that can be nurtured through email marketing campaigns.

Email Marketing

ActiveConversion is integrated with VerticalResponse so you can automate email marketing, nurturing, and tracking responses from your email campaigns. And as mentioned earlier, it can work with 10 ESPs.

One email feature we particularly like is the ActiveConversion Outlook plugin. Sending a standard Outlook email, the plugin will track if the recipient opens the email, whether they click on a link, and whether they forward the email. Equally important, it lets you know “when” so the rep can follow-up at the appropriate time.

Marketing ROI Analysis

Every company – no matter the size – needs to invest their marketing dollars wisely. Many companies determine their marketing ROI based on the sheer quantity of leads generated because it’s the one number that’s easiest to measure. But lead quantity isn’t enough. In fact, focusing on lead quantity can have a negative impact on revenue growth. That’s because having reps call low-quality leads is an inefficient use of their time. A better approach is to measure marketing effectiveness by which campaigns generate the most quality leads, and which companies respond to which campaigns (even if they don’t fill out a form).

By coding the source of an ad, direct mail piece, search ad or email, a company can see what campaign directed the visitor to the website. In the case of a search ad such as Google AdWords pay-per-click, it can be easily tracked when the visitors click through, telling you not only which ads created a response, but what type of response.


Other Features Summary:

AC-ProspectAlert Module
Get sales alerts, detailed lead information and Jigsaw integration from ActiveConversion’s sales-centric view add-on. The assigned sales rep will only see their leads and alerts, and can add prospects to auto-nurturing campaigns. The built-in Jigsaw integration lets sales rep find info for the company that they are prospecting. Sales can now be aligned with marketing without sales reps accessing the full ActiveConversion system. And they can get this information even if they don’t use Salesforce or any other CRM.

AdWords API Integration
See which campaigns produce the best leads. Identify the keywords that deliver the most leads, calculate cost per lead, and see how many leads are coming from Google AdWords. 

Explicit Company Data
ActiveConversion will automatically display a company’s estimated number of employees, revenue, industry and location. This capability, which used to cost thousands of dollars per year from credit database providers, is included in all ActiveConversion subscriptions.

Auto-Lead Nurturing
Create mini-campaigns that will send pre-defined emails to prospects while they are in the funnel. If they respond, the lead score is incremented. Get them warm and KNOW when they want to be contacted – automatically.

Automatic Lead Routing and Improved Lead Management
Automatically assign leads to sales reps by geographical territory, or by special tags. Easily see what leads have been assigned to each sales rep.

Our Conclusion:

ActiveConversion continues to broaden its capabilities and simplify its user experience.  It’s one of the most affordable marketing automation solutions in the market today and yet it’s not short on features or power. If you’re considering marketing automation – whether or not you already have a CRM and/or an email marketing solution – we recommend taking a look at ActiveConversion.