[:en]By Jeff Marcoux (@jeffmarcoux), CMO Lead, Worldwide Enterprise Marketing, Microsoft
Three of the biggest challenges faced by marketing executives today are connecting marketing and sales, bridging the gap between digital and traditional marketing, and using data to capture a more complete view of the customer.
This is especially true in one common scenario where customers who discover a product online are then passed along to a representative to move the transaction forward. The tools for tracking the digital end of that engagement are precise and complete. As long as the customer is clicking through a website or app, the company has exact metrics on their activities and can retarget ads and content based on a good understanding of that customer’s interest and intent to buy.
But once the customer leaves the web or app experience to send an email, call or IM for additional information, anything that happens qualitatively during the course of that engagement is not available as part of the digital record. That can leave marketers without the information they need to follow up effectively on the engagement, or to properly attribute sales results to marketing motions.
Closing the loop. Now a new startup, Outleads, has developed a solution to bridge that gap. Outleads has created a simple form-based service that captures offline, in-person interactions with customers and makes them available as data that can be used for ongoing digital marketing efforts, just as if the customer were doing business entirely online.
Outleads tracks offline activities through integration with common CRM platforms, then creates a digital record that passes that information back to ad networks using tagging schema that are recognized as part of the ad network’s segmentation and targeting process.
“Good ecommerce tools let you drill down in detail to get a complete view of the customer and optimize or adjust marketing to them as they move through a funnel online,” says Outleads founder Dorin Rosenshine. “But ecommerce is only a small slice of the pie in terms of online ad spend. Outleads delivers the same capabilities for advertisers that have offline funnels, which represent more than half of online ad spend.”
Bring ecommerce analytics to offline customer engagements. Rosenshine’s goal was to bring the kind of powerful analytics capabilities made possible by ecommerce to CRM systems to dramatically increase the power of lead generation. “With lead gen, you don’t have a full view of the funnel because of the disconnect between offline and online,” she says. “Data in CRM doesn’t connect with the ad network. Now, with Outleads, it can.”
Rosenshine has been working on the core technology behind Outleads since 2013, and has been working with customers in a pilot program that launched in October, 2014. The company’s primary target customers are ad networks who can incorporate Outleads into the network infrastructure, but Rosenshine says she is also talking to individual advertisers looking to implement better solutions for lead generation.
Recognized as a leader. In March, 2015, Outleads became part of the second cohort of promising new companies in Microsoft Ventures’ Accelerator program – one of 14 startups recruited nationwide because of their potential to transform business with innovative technology solutions.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be part of the Microsoft program,” says Rosenshine. “It’s great for the mentoring, the exposure, and the opportunity to scale up so we can compete for the talent we need to grow the business.” She said she sees opportunities not only in the program itself, but in migrating Outleads to Azure, and in connecting with groups within the company that are relevant to her space such as Bing and Microsoft Dynamics.
What’s ahead? “Voice recognition is something we really have our eyes on,” says Rosenshine. This would enable a service like Outleads to automate the capture of conversations in call centers, making qualitative customers interactions searchable and able to be integrated with structured marketing data. For that reason, Rosenshine said she is eager to better understand some of the directions that Microsoft is taking with Skype.
In the meantime, the goal is to sign up more ad networks to the service and consolidate the opportunities afforded from the accelerator program so that marketers will have better tools and better data to connect sales and marketing across the digital and physical worlds.