Neolane marketing automation: the story

This story starts in the City of Love – Paris, France, 2001. This is where four talented marketing technologists, Stephan Dehoche, Stephan Dietrich, Thomas Boudalier and Benoit Gourdon founded their third company together: Neolane Ltd.

Neolane started life as a CRM system with some campaign management capability. It was designed to store data from multiple sources and create a customer profile that campaigns could then be sent to. However, the Neolane marketing automation team started to realise that the power of their tool was not only in the ability to create customer profiles but also to make very intelligent decisions about the campaigns, content and channels that individual customers wanted to receive.

This realisation occurred just as the marketing automation revolution was beginning. The automation goal for every marketer was to understand customers, their preferences, behaviours and transactions, and then act upon this information, at scale, with highly personalised communications.

To understand why Neolane was so perfectly placed within the new marketing automation market, you must first understand how the market was established. Marketing automation was not a new concept at all – brands have for many years been trying to streamline their marketing processes and apply technology to automate them as much as possible. The problem for many years was that the technologies that marketing teams were acquiring to automate their processes fell short of the desired solution. These technologies fell into two types:

  • Traditional – database based platforms built to offer a view of an individual customer with all their associated attributes. These platforms were often very big, very expensive and required a high dependency on internal or external IT resources. These platforms did have lots of functionality that marketing automation required but it was very focused on each platform’s heritage, for example Pega Systems’ call centre management or Unica for offer management. Most fell down on the execution element.
  • New-age – mainly email service providers (ESP) with some list management capabilities. These tools were solid execution tools but lacked much of the functionality required for true marketing automation. Also, as most ESPs were built from lists, there was limited ability to do customer first marketing – everything was built from collections of customers with similar attributes. Examples include ExactTarget, Silverpop and Responsys.

Neolane marketing automation had a strong competitive edge and was developed around the concept of profiles and workflows, important for two main reasons:

  • Process replication – nearly all processes within a business, be they marketing or otherwise, are usually thought of as a step-by-step workflow. This meant that the marketing processes that a brand had developed could quickly and easily be replicated and automated within Neolane.
  • Customer first; not attributes – Traditional marketing platforms are built on the premise of lists made up of customers with similar attributes, transactions or actions. This is a very inward facing view to marketing – putting the brand first rather than the customer. Neolane was created with the concept of customer profiles in mind, so the customer would be looked at first and then their attributes would inform the personalisation element.

These features meant that Neolane was perfectly placed to become a visionary in the marketing automation revolution, as recognised by Gartner and Forrester, as it allowed true marketing automation, but without the IT dependency or price tag of the traditional players.

Testament to this was the increased market share and year-on-year growth that the Neolane marketing automation platform enjoyed between 2007 and 2013 as it became a global technology. The continued R&D of the platform meant that new functions were also being released, including:

  • Interaction – rules based offer management using priority matrix
  • Federated data access – real-time data access to multiple databases
  • Distributed marketing – data localisation by user
  • Campaign optimisation – simulated campaign executions to review final send amount and predicted response
  • Response manager – Content level reporting to understand the effectiveness of individual pieces of dynamic content, within any campaign

By early 2013 Neolane had become a marketing automation leader with over 400 clients worldwide. There had already been a number of traditional platform acquisitions by the large software brands such as Unica by IBM (August 2010) and Eloqua by Oracle (December 2012).

June 4th 2013 saw the first major new-age platform acquisition of ExactTarget by Salesforce, for $2.5billion. This was a huge play for Salesforce that enabled them to compete in the execution market as well as CRM. The combination of both the CRM functionality of Salesforce and the marketing execution of ExactTarget was a very strong proposition.

Adobe at the time were very interested in ExactTarget but, as Adobe lacked the CRM platform that Salesforce had, they needed a more rounded solution – enter Neolane marketing automation.

Neolane was acquired by Adobe on June 27th 2013 for $600million, and Neolane was renamed Adobe Campaign, becoming the sixth element of the Adobe Marketing Cloud. Adobe have since developed the platform and integrated it more deeply within the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

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