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Enterprise marketing platforms ranked by Forrester

No clear leader has emerged as the true marketing platform, according to a new market analysis, but great strides have been made in usability.

Marketers are increasingly clamoring for a comprehensive software suite to enable them to do a better job, but according to Forrester Research's latest analysis of enterprise marketing platforms, the vendors have yet to fully provide it.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm recently released a Wave report on Enterprise Marketing Platforms, its first in two years. Marketing technology vendors have begun to focus on usability, something already seen in the wider CRM software market.

"The vendors seem to recognize that marketers want simpler user interfaces. They spent a lot of time focusing on that," said Suresh Vittal, senior analyst with Forrester and author of the report.

In the past two years, Siebel revamped its user interface (UI), Aprimo rewrote much of its interface, SAP responded to user feedback that its UI was difficult to use by making changes to it, and SAS simplified its campaign management. @48056

"The average [marketing] analyst can use these more efficiently -- but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done," Vittal said.

Forrester evaluated vendors based on their current offering, strategy and market presence, using customer interviews, lab-based evaluations and market research. Forrester identifies Unica as a leader in marketing leadership and relationship marketing; Aprimo as a leader in marketing operations; Oracle's Siebel application as the broadest overall application; and SAS as offering a strong, analytically driven application for relationship marketing. No vendor got top marks across the board.

Forrester defines marketing platforms as consisting of six core applications: campaign management, customer analytics, interaction management, marketing resource management (MRM), marketing asset management, and lead management.

MRM, campaign management shine

One area where marketers said they struggled is management of their marketing processes, according to Vittal.

"This is something the vendors have heard and something that the MRM solutions do pretty well," he said. "We've certainly seen a lot of focus there."

In addition, the campaign management functionality is not highly differentiated.

"There's a recognition in the marketing universe -- and by vendors as well -- that campaign management is a mature discipline now," Vittal said. "The tools come off as very similar. Where they differentiate themselves is in the user friendliness, depth and access to analytical data."

The CRM suite vendors

Marketers interviewed for the report said they look for technology that meets their specific roles -- be it strong segmentation and analytics for one organization or trade promotion and collaboration tools for another. The CRM suite vendors -- Oracle, Infor and SAP -- offer more in the way of industry-specific functions.

"[The pure marketing vendors] treat marketing as a horizontal function, which is really what it is, and build out the depth of the platform," Vittal said. "The CRM companies really took an industry-specific approach with a lot of vertical templates. The benefits of that are arguable. Certainly, many marketers demand you have a track record, but there are other pieces that need to be solved as well."

Vittal also found that service providers and system integrators had a strong influence on the selection of marketing platforms. Many of Unica's customers, for example, came through a customer's service provider, he said, while almost all of Siebel's deployments came through a systems integrator.

Interactive marketing

When it comes to new developments in interactive marketing, new vendors that traditionally were not considered part of the marketing platform market are emerging, Vittal said, including companies like Omniture and Responsys, which are targeting the interactive marketer.

"I'm less optimistic the enterprise vendors will add that functionality," he said. "The outsiders, the specialists, have more domain expertise in interactive marketing and understand the space better. We're at the juncture where if these platforms are going to become ubiquitous, we'll need to see the learning curve become shallower."

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