Brewing the perfect cup of marketing integration

Unica has been on the acquisition trail to keep itself in the lead as a provider of multi-channel marketing automation tools. Chief executive Yuchun Lee tells David

Integration should rhyme with Unica. The fact it doesn’t is not through any lack of effort on the part of the marketing management software company. Despite announcing two acquisitions in this quarter alone – the first of email deliverability management vendor Pivotal Veracity, the second of search marketing application MakeMeTop – clients will be able to deploy them on existing Unica platforms almost instantly.

“With Pivotal Veracity, it was already integrated a year ago because they were a partner before we acquired them,” says Yuchun Lee, CEO of Unica. “With MMT, integration will happen in the coming quarter. That is one of our key criteria when looking at acquisitions – that the solution can be integrated into our suite.”

Adding these new components extends Unica’s goal of providing marketers with an integrated platform for their activities across every channel. It also underlines the importance the vendor places on having each module integrated into a single suite.

“Our approach is of de facto integration at the data level out of the box,” says Lee. “We have a very dynamic data model which we can take search engine elements into or email without extra integration.” Having already integrated other search engine partners into the Unica platform, the post-MMT acquisition phase will see these swapped out for the new application.

Lee sees these buys as critical for Unica in responding to a major market trend. “There is a move towards suites. Marketing, more than anybody else, has been buying software from 40 to 50 vendors and trying to stick them together. Those days are numbered,” he says.

Already, requests for proposals coming from the chief marketing officer’s desk are looking to achieve a broader footprint across marketing’s areas of activity by a single vendor. At the same time, CMOs are not willing to compromise on the quality of point soutions. “We believe you can’t be successful without best of breed at each point,” says Lee.

In parallel with this, he sees an important polarisation in the way organisations want to deploy these end-to-end solutions. For large companies, the goal is still to have an on-premise suite behind the corporate firewall. Alongside this sits the rapidly emerging Software as a Service part of the market.

“SaaS is a terrific paradigm for SMEs,” says Lee, not least since many of them do not have the IT resources to call on for an enterprise implementation. “So our strategy is simple – certain companies want SaaS, others prefer on-premise, our product is available as an enterprise or on-demand suite. When they are ready to switch, they have got that option. We have no religion about saying it must be on-premise. I expect to see a 50-50 split.”

In a difficult year which saw most marketing budgets cut back or kept the same, growth in revenues from SaaS (and also web analytics licences) were up 40 per cent for Unica. “We are now known as one of the leaders in the web analytics market alongside long-term players,” says Lee.

Despite a drop in turnover during 2009 – the first the company has experienced in its 17-year life – it remained in profit.

“There is a continuing shift of marketing budgets online and we’ve been investing into that area for many years. Our web analytics, email and behavioural targeting technologies are key elements of that,” he says. (NetInsight is one of the Unica modules which clients typically use in SaaS mode, but which can be transferred on-premise, “without users noticing”.)

Search marketing continues to increase its share of those budgets, which was one of the drivers for the MMT acquisition. Despite its size, search is still a young discipline and Lee sees two types of marketers. “The first does it for themselves, the second outsources to an agency, typically large organisations. But there is a trend towards insourcing as the market gets mature,” says Lee.

What marketers are looking to do is drive more value out of their investment. They also want to avoid situations where they needlessly spend money, such as the company Lee recently visited and found out it had three different departments all bidding against each other on the same search keywords.

Unica has come a long way since it started out with just three people, “and nobody would return our phone calls.” Now Lee can see just about any CEO or CMO to discuss how to integrate their marketing. But he notes that, if Unica is getting it right, it is not because of any unique insight, only that it makes the right choices. As he says: “Everybody is reading the same tea leaves.”

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