Act-On Unveils Online Marketing Platform

Web-based software targets SMBs and small marketing groups within larger organizations while pushing enterprise-like application integration across digital channels.

Kevin Casey, Contributor

March 1, 2011

4 Min Read

Act-On Integrated Marketing

Act-On Integrated Marketing

(click image for larger view)
Act-On Integrated Marketing

Act-On Software on Tuesday launched its online marketing platform for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and small marketing groups within larger organizations.

The Web-based software enables the expected range of digital marketing tactics, including email, social media, landing pages, forms, lead management, webinars, and analytics reporting. Though Act-On has been around for about three years, CEO and founder Raghu Raghavan considers this the official launch of the company.

"A lot of what we're about is the beginning of the commoditization of marketing automation," Raghavan said. "Everybody should be able to use it. Everybody should be able to afford it. Everybody should be able to derive value from it."

Act-On is casting a decidedly wide net when defining SMBs: Raghavan says the company's target is the "Fortune 5 million," and that his sales and marketing team is charged with looking past early adopters of online marketing.

"Every startup in Silicon Valley goes up and down Silicon Valley trying to sell its services to the other startups up and down Silicon Valley," Raghavan said. "If you look at us, we sell to a wide range of companies. If you look at our top 20 [clients], a lot of these are companies that have been around for 30 years, but you've never heard of them." Act-On has around 250 current customers and 22 employees.

Raghavan, who was a co-founder of email marketing vendor Responsys, sees his company as a move-up market from Constant Contact and other online marketing firms that serve the small business segment.

"One of the things I really admire about Constant Contact is, by sticking with a very simple product, how they hit an enormous market," Raghavan said. "I think just above them is another enormous market." In particular, the CEO said that Act-On is targeting companies looking for an integrated marketing platform beyond email -- that's a trend that Constant Contact and other firms have been pursuing for some time.

According to Raghavan, Act-On's is taking "more of an enterprise approach, in the sense that the solution needs to tie into other enterprises applications that these companies are using. Even small companies, we find, are using" Act-On's platform integrates; Raghavan gave online meeting tools from WebEx and Citrix as other examples of integration that are needed.

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Raghavan declined to identify a target company size for his firm's sales efforts, saying that Act-On prefers to look at the size of the marketing department instead. Act-On's "sweet spot" is marketing teams with between one and 10 people, according to the CEO -- he added that departments of this size often have tight budgets and little IT support for their operations. "When the marketing department becomes large – 20, 30, 40 people – their needs and the way they look at the whole solution starts to change," Raghavan said. "It becomes much more like an ERP system."

That strategy might lead to fuzzier definitions of "small" or "midsize," but it's one echoed by other tech vendors who see familial resemblances between departments within large enterprises and SMBs.

"A good example is IBM: There are a number of field marketing groups at IBM that simply can't get the time of the day from their central marketing team," Raghavan said, noting that IBM is an Act-On customer at the departmental level. "So it tends to become a departmental sale. For smaller companies, we are the whole thing."

Act-On's online architecture -- the software lives partly in its own data centers, and partly in Amazon's EC2 cloud -- enables more rapid updates than traditional software models. Raghavan said the company has a continuous two-week release cycle so that it can incorporate feedback from its clients.

"If you look at our product and the evolution of our product, I would say very much it's been crowdsourced," Ragahvan said. "We listen very closely to our customers, very much influenced by Intuit and what they did with QuickBooks and Quicken and so on."

The service's cloud basis also enables pricing flexibility: Act-On offers month-to-month commitments with a minimum spend of $500 per month. While "cloud" is certainly a buzzword, it's backed by an increasing expectation of businesses that applications like Act-On's be delivered online. "For us, the cloud is all-important," Raghavan said. "For our customers, it's a given -- they assume that you're out there."

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Casey


Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses.

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