What is IBM Marketing Cloud?
IBM Marketing Cloud, formerly known as SilverPop, is a marketing automation and email marketing solution. It is suitable for mid-sized to enterprise level organisation across a variety of industries – banking and finance, transportation, media, hospitality and more.
Founded in 1999 in Atlanta, digital marketing company SilverPop was acquired by technology giant IBM in a US $275 million deal in March 2014. It now forms part of IBM Watson Marketing, which aims to provide its clients with deep insights into the behaviour of its customers, and to be able to deliver to those same customers powerful and personalised experiences.
The platform enables users to create and run omnichannel marketing campaigns, and offers lead management and mobile engagement capabilities, as well as email marketing and marketing automation tools.
IBM Marketing Cloud can be integrated with other CRM platforms, as well as third party sales and business applications.
The program is trusted by more than 5,000 brands worldwide.
Amongst the benefits offered by IBM Marketing Cloud are:
Email marketing is at the core of this product. Digital marketing teams can launch timely email campaigns and communicate with customers and leads on a behaviour basis. For example, if they visit a product page on a website, or abandon a shopping cart at a particular point, that will automatically trigger a targeted email.
Multiple lead scoring
The solution offers multi-lead scoring functionality. This provides marketers with the ability to create multiple lead scoring models for different product lines, which can then be segmented and categorised. It also enables sales agents by providing them with a visualisation of the process. This enables focus to be given to those leads with the higher scores, and marketing and follow-up actions concentrated on them.
In addition, lead scoring is multi-channel, so the same understanding of customers and their intentions can be derived irrespective of their preferred channel – web, text, email, voice, SMS, social media etc.
Social Media Engagement
IBM Marketing Cloud enables companies to interact with their audience over social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. This deepens their understanding of customers, and also helps market their products to them more successfully. Marketing messages and campaigns can be tailored to customer groups depending on the social media channel of their choice. The program’s analytical capabilities enable companies to identify prospective customers, understand their behaviour and tailor appropriate responses to their preferences.
The solution enables organisations to automate many of their marketing activities, such as campaign management, and measurement. This, in turn, enables them to make better, data driven decisions. With the AI capabilities of Watson Assistant, users are able to gain deeper insights into customer behaviours and motivations, and to tailor marketing campaigns and other initiatives to match them.
The solution’s features include:
Marketing Cloud’s Engage tool uses customer data and behaviours which can be collected across a variety of sources and channels. These are then analysed to inform and inspire real-time interactions with customers. The solution helps eliminate some of the complexities associated with multi-channel marketing, by providing rich insights into customer behaviours and motivations. Companies are then able to tailor their operational and strategic marketing practices and offerings to deliver superior experiences for their clients across the entire customer journey.
Marketing Cloud is powered by IBM’s Watson Assistant, which is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) powered marketing assistant. It is used by marketers to save time by streamlining the way that they carry out regular tasks, as well as helping them make improved business decisions. For example, it can provide detailed feedback on the relative performance of different marketing campaigns, and identify which sales channels are performing well, and which merit further attention.
Watson Assistant is built on a leading conversational computing platform, and assists users to provide personalised experiences to their customers, and to provide deep and meaningful insights into consumer interactions.
It is a robust platform which has a graphical User Interface and uses powerful NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) so that developers can adapt to it create anything from a simple Chatbot, to more complex interactive conversational tools for customer service functions, and more.
Campaign Design Canvas
Marketing Cloud offers an easy-to-use visual canvas which companies can use to design and automate multi-step and Omni-channel marketing campaigns. For example, email campaigns can be designed from scratch, customised according to market segment, product, device, or other specifications, and then deployed across all marketing channels simultaneously. Content and appearance of email can be personalised with a few simple clicks.
Furthermore, taking advantage of Watson’s Campaign Automation capabilities, behavioural data from a range of sources can be used to create consistent campaigns across diverse channels – email, social media, web, SMS and more.
Lead Management and Scoring
The solution offers lead management and scoring that assists companies not only in attracting more leads, but of a better quality too. This functionality helps close the loop between marketing and sales, and lowers customer acquisition costs – resources can be dedicated to those leads most likely to convert. The application provides insights into customer behaviours and motivations, enabling more accurate lead scoring. Leads can then be managed and nurtured accordingly, enabling teams to maximise their returns from budgeted marketing spend.
IBM Journey Designer
This tool is software that allows companies, in a matter of minutes, to model customer journeys. Sales, marketing teams and customer service are able to collaborate and visualise customer journeys across multiple channels, and set marketing targets. They can also design a range of tailored customer experiences for multiple channels and market segments. All this is provided through a simple to use interface, with drag-and-drop functionality. Users can have conversations, notify team members of important events, send files and collaborate in real time, whilst building their customer journeys through a visual storyboard. They can also use the timeline view to understand what the customer experience will look like throughout their journey.
By providing marketers with a single view of the customer journey, Journey Designer empowers to deliver constantly improving customer experiences.
IBM Spectrum Accelerate
Marketing Cloud is supported by IBM’s Spectrum Accelerate cloud storage, access and data management capabilities. Accelerate is a software-defined block storage solution, with a number of specific properties, including:
Fast Deployment: Because it is cloud-hosted, Accelerate can be deployed in a matter of hours, as opposed to the days associated with a physical storage system.
Flexibility: IY can be deployed and licenced across a variety of IT platforms, servers, devices and other hardware systems;
Easy Management: All cloud-storage places can be scaled and managed from one central location. This not only improves efficiency but helps users manage data protection and other regulatory requirements.
Fast Data Access: All data can be accessed quickly and securely.
Control: Users are given complete visibility and control over their data store needs.
Personalisation and A/B Testing
Users are able to use the solution to add personalisation to their various campaigns to try and improve open and click-through rates, and subsequent conversions. Email message, landing pages and mobile messages can all be customised in terms of content and design in order to improve the customer experience and lead conversions. They can then use A/B testing to determine the relative merits of the various designs and marketing messages, in order to optimise their campaigns and sales initiatives.
Reporting and Performance Insights
Marketing Cloud offers a host of standard and customised reporting and charting options, all through an interactive interface which can be used to analyse the results of marketing campaigns. Data can be displayed in intuitive to understand charts and graphs; marketing teams can hover over them to gather customer insights, and then tailor marketing strategies and campaigns to achieve better results.
For better performance management, users can connect their marketing plans to their budgets and investments, and match planned spend and returns against actual results. This can then be used to adjust forecast spend, or to change the marketing mix, so that resources are deployed to the most effective marketing channels, or, alternatively, to place more resource on underperforming areas.
Send Time Optimisation
This feature analyses recipient behaviour on a continuous basis to determine when is the best time for email to be delivered to list recipients.
The solution offers a snooze feature which can help reduce costly email list churn. Rather than asking to unsubscribe from a marketing lists, users can, instead, opt to take a break from receiving email messages. After a set period, they can then automatically start receiving them again.
All pricing is on a quotation-only basis. Interested parties need to contact the vendor directly for more information. They can also sign-up for a free trial without having to provide credit card details. In addition, there are multitudes of product demos available for viewing through the IBM Watson Marketing website.
There are three pricing plans on offer, aimed at different target customer segments. All offer, as standard, CRM integration, and unlimited customer records. It should be noted that there are different options available for B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Customer) organisations.
Essential: Aimed at teams with moderate business volumes who want to deliver personalised customer interactions across digital
Essential is available for a maximum of 5 environments, with 10 users per environment, 20 active programs and one lead scoring model. It is designed for up to 500,000 monthly marketing interactions.
Standard: This pricing plan is designed for businesses who want to build deeper customer relationships through consistent digital experiences. This pricing tier is available for up to 10 marketing environments, with 20 users per environment, with a monthly limit of 1 million monthly marketing interactions. It offers unlimited active programs and unlimited lead scoring models.
Premium: Designed for company with higher sales volumes who are looking to maximise lead conversions. With a maximum monthly marketing interaction ceiling of 1.5 million, this plan offered unlimited environments, and unlimited users per environment. There are unlimited programs and scoring models on offer, and subscribers are also given Planning and Budgeting capabilities as well, for up to 5 seats.
IBM Marketing Cloud is a cloud-hosted web-based platform that supports Windows and Mac Operating Systems, as well as IPhone and iPad mobile devices. There are no mobile apps for the product as yet.
As part of the IBM product family, Marketing Cloud is provided with extensive technology support. For example, subscribers can take advantage of a 30 minute no-cost, no-obligation call with a technology support expert to discuss their IT and support needs. They can also avail of the opportunity to consolidate (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and Vendor contracts into one, to simplify IT support and save costs.
The solution meets a number of industry and global compliance standards, such as ISO 27001, EU-US Privacy Shield, and the Swiss-US Privacy Shield Framework.
Other services offered include specialised support for companies working in the banking, healthcare and retail industries, Network, Security and Data Center support, and third party software support for Apple, Microsoft, Red Hat and SAP products.
IBM supports leading technology brands like Dell and HP (Storage and Systems), Oracle, Citrix, Cisco and Linux.
For Developers there is extensive support and training options available, with a dedicated page on the Marketing Cloud website, and a host of guides and training material provided.
Multi-lingual phone (dedicated phone) numbers and email support is available, as well as a live support option. There is a customer support portal available where users can raise a support ticket, download fixes, updates and drivers, and find a range of self-service options like FAQs, product documentation and guides, and an extensive library of education and learning material in their Skills Gateway.
However, as this is now an IBM product, the support options go far beyond this. There are products trials and demos, forums, blogs and wikis, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube communities available. In addition, users can attend regular IBM product demonstrations and training sessions, or can sign-up for one of their online certification programmes.
The website supports and can be translated into a multitude of languages which can be selected from a drop down menu.