There's an interesting debate going on in LinkedIn Answers about the positioning of various lead nurturing software solutions. The marketing automation market leaders face off with each other in an unusual display of bravado. Let's try to boil this down to the primary issues and see how the players compare.
First let's define lead nurturing in the context of a marketing campaign. Lead generation is the process of attracting people to your venue (in the case of internet marketing, we're talking about your website) and convincing them to sign up for something, i.e. capture their contact information. Lead nurturing is what happens after that, the steps you go through to improve your lead's interest in your products and services and ultimately commit to a sale. More loosely defined, lead nurturing is an early form of customer relationship management (CRM), where you work on relationship-building and maintain constant contact with your customers to enhance retention and inside sales.
So the debate is about marketing automation, using software to make the process of lead generation, lead nurturing and CRM as easy and productive as possible. Here's a breakdown of the players and their solutions (this is not an exhaustive list, just the players in the LinkedIn debate):
As you can see, Eloqua and Marketo offer similar solutions, focusing primarily on e-mail marketing for lead generation and lead nurturing. HubSpot, on the other hand, offers a complete solution for content marketing, social media marketing, seo, lead tracking and nurturing and marketing analytics. The Eloqua CTO and Marketo VP argue that their solutions offer more in-depth lead nurturing, scoring and deeper analysis of leads than does HubSpot. HubSpot's lead nurturing is new and has not been market-tested as long as either Eloqua and Marketo. Clearly Eloqua and Marketo offer more tools for lead nurturing, but my concern is their lead generation strategy. While e-mail marketing has a place in any internet marketing campaign, I believe that inbound marketing is a better strategy for getting found online and capturing leads.
In the interest of fairness and transparency, we have already chosen HubSpot as our inbound marketing solution, and we are a Certified HubSpot Partner. We have no experience with either Eloqua or Marketo, so it's up to you to investigate the benefits of these HubSpot competitors. We chose HubSpot because it is as close to a complete Internet marketing solution as you can find on the market.
The tip of the HubSpot spear is inbound marketing - creating great content, social media marketing and lead capture using calls-to-action and landing pages. Lead nurturing, closed-loop marketing (crm integration) and marketing analytics then allow you to take your lead generation success and optimize conversions to sales. For us and for our clients, there's a tremendous benefit to combining all of these disciplines in one coherent and easy-to-use platform. With such a platform, sales and marketing people can actually use the software to achieve maximum results without intensive training or technical support. If anyone else does all this, please let me know.