Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tying Up Some Loose Ends: Hardmetrics, Revcube and Viewmark

I’ve been following up systematically—some might say compulsively—on my earlier list of MPM software vendors. This has been a lesson in the perils of Internet research. Despite my close reading of their Web sites, several firms turned out to be focused on something else. Rather than simply remove them from the list, I thought I’d give a little update on what I found.

Hardmetrics does offer a marketing measurement solution, but it’s just an extension of its primary offering: business activity monitoring, especially for call centers.

The heart of Hardmetrics is middleware that can identify related inputs from disparate sources. This is essential for all types of business activity monitoring, which often reports on correlations between events recorded in different systems. Hardmetrics uses a specialized star schema design, running on any standard relational database engine. But instead of relying on exact matches against hard keys, the middleware can link records through indirect matches such as time/date stamps or comparisons across different fields. Of course, if a hard key is available, the system will use it.

This correlation mapping is Hardmetrics’ secret sauce: it lets the system load data with minimal preparation, substantially simplifying both the initial implementation and subsequent data loads. It also means the system will automatically reassign matches between records when new or changed data is added.

Hardmetrics also has a knowledgebase of data found in common application systems, such as standard call center software. This speeds the mapping process for clients with those systems in place.

Clients can access the data using Hardmetrics’ own browser-based tools for reports, dashboards, scorecards, alerts, etc., or by writing their own queries against the middleware API. Either way, they still get the benefit of the indirect matching.

Hardmetrics offers its technology as a hosted, externally-managed, or on-premise solution.

RevCube originally attracted my attention with their Web site’s bold claim of a “complete customer acquisition solution” that would optimize placement, creative and budgets within and across multiple online channels. Apparently their core technology, a self-training content targeting engine, really could do that. But it’s a large pill for most marketers to swallow, so the company is asking them to nibble on something smaller: optimal Web landing pages for different visitor segments.

The system finds best pages by developing a set of test pages, each with a different combination of values for key attributes. It then presents each page to different visitors and infers which values appeal to which segments. This is harder than it sounds because the segments themselves are based on visitor attributes. This means the system is considering different segmentation schemes at the same time that it’s trying to find out which attributes appeal to which segments. It’s like shooting a moving target while riding in a boat.

This is all quite interesting and I hope to eventually write about it in detail, probably in my Customer Experience Matrix blog. But that won’t happen until RevCube formally releases its new system, tentatively late this summer. Until then they’re in stealth mode—so forget everything I just told you. (Or, if you’re seriously paranoid, first ask yourself how much of it is likely to be true…)

Viewmark also caught my attention (okay, it doesn’t take much) with the promise of a system to “capture and correlate information from many sources – both online and offline.” The system even has an oddly-spelled and therefore trademarkable name of its own: Viewmetrix. So it must be serious.

Well, yes and no. Viewmetrix does exist and has been quite successful. But Viewmark chose not to pursue it as an independent product, deciding instead to focus on its core business of web development for medium-sized organizations. It does still integrate Viewmetrix with its content management system, which has another catchy name, Cyberneering™.

Viewmark almost certainly made the right business decision about Viewmetrix. Still, it’s a bit of a shame, because Viewmetrix looks like a very good product. It incorporates dashboards, custom sales funnels, and a sophisticated approach to marketing ROI. This approach gathers information on the marketing contacts made with each individual, such as emails and sales calls, and the ultimate value of sales made to that individual. The contacts are assigned weights that reflect their contribution to moving customers from one stage in the sales funnel to the next. Weights are further adjusted for the time between the contact and the subsequent customer behavior . Based on this information, the system can allocate a fraction of each customer’s value to each marketing contact with that customer. The ROI of a marketing program is then calculated by comparing the program cost with the cumulative value of its contacts.

At least, I think that’s how the ROI calculation works. I might have some details wrong. But you get the idea: this is a very complex calculation calling for lots of data gathering and lots of analysis to set those weights and validate them. The problem, according to Viewmark, is that only large companies can afford such sophisticated marketing measurement. Smaller firms don’t spend enough on marketing to justify the cost of such precision. Since Viewmark’s business is centered on those smaller companies, it has even less incentive to further refine those features of Viewmetrix.

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