Silverpop, Marketo Top Lead Management Evaluation List Silverpop and Marketo, along with Pardot, scored the highest in a recent vendor research study by Info-Tech Research Group on lead management, and all three were named champions in the space.

Lead Management Automation Matures

Info-Tech Research put eight product vendors through a pretty comprehensive comparison analysis, and it’s clear who landed where by glancing at the above image. Overall, Info-Tech rated the lead management automation space as very mature, with vendors playing catch up on HTML5 mobile technologies and social integration.

Over the last year, Info-Tech reported, lead management vendors have flattened out the field, and there is less variability in the market from both a vendor and product side. Content management, lead generation and scoring and multichannel support are the kinds of things any of theses systems should have, and should not be taken into consideration as a differentiator, the report noted.

Instead, those looking to short list their options should look more closely at social, mobile and event management, and CRM integration as the tools that really separate vendors.

Features Examined

In this report, Info-Tech used a somewhat similar evaluation analysis as large firms like Gartner, with each company getting product and vendor scores. Info-Tech’s Vendor Landscape report contained four individual categories in each of the scores for at a glance feature comparison, a value score for measuring each product relative to its price, and the more familiar strengths and weaknesses for each.

Furthermore, some of the most important features to look for in these vendors were defined from both the basic and advanced perspective. Social, for example, as a basic feature should be able to publish and share content to social media and have a social dashboard. An advanced social feature would be pulling in profile data, including location look up, social listening for lead scoring and automated responding for nurturing.

Three scenarios were also given as a way to differentiate vendors based on business size, industry vertical and a bonus category for those looking at location based marketing. Silverpop  and Sitecore were the exemplary performers in this category.

Champions, Market Pillars, Innovators + Emerging Players

Info-Tech calls its top line vendors in this report Champions as opposed to Leaders like in a Gartner report, but the format is still the same. Champions have the highest product score and highest vendor score, meaning the product and the company itself are ranked high. Next are the Market Pillars and Innovators who are high in either product or vendor score, and lower in the other.

Emerging players had lower product and vendor scores, but in this evaluation there was only one vendor there. As noted at the top, Champions included Silverpop, Marketo and Pardot (now part of Salesforce after being bought up by ExactTarget that itself was bought out in June). Market Pillars were Eloqua (now owned by Oracle) and Sitecore, Innovators were Right On Interactive and Act On, and Sales Engine International was the sole Emerging Player.

Vendors were chosen for this evaluation via a survey of Info-Tech clients, so the companies they are interested in or want to see evaluated are the ones that make it. Info-Tech has 30,000 clients, and it covers many other IT areas like security, applications, information management and customer engagement.

Silverpop, Marketo + Pardot Strengths, Weaknesses

Each vendor selected had its product and vendor scores added together with their strengths and weaknesses to give a clearer picture of where they stood relative to each other. Silverpop was singled out for its behavior based lead scoring and its Social Connect portfolio that includes location based marketing abilities. Info-Tech also liked its selection of prepackaged reports, its iPad app for marketers, and its mobile features like the ability to use text for info interactive SMS campaigns.

Additionally, Silverpop had the highest value index score, meaning it had the most features relative to its price. In fact, it got a 100 out of 100 score there. The only challenge Info-Tech cited with Silverpop was its somewhat out dated interface that some customers said should be updated. That shouldn’t be too hard for Silverpop to address, we think.

Pardot scored high on social integration, WordPress integration and its Google AdWords connector. Pardot also features a Twilio integration API for allowing sales agents to receive alerts about form submission by a prospect. That agent then has the option to instantly connect with that prospect on the phone. Researchers also found Pardot to have strong email marketing features like advanced spam analysis and testing emails in multiple email clients.

The biggest challenge for Pardot is that it was acquired twice in the last 18 months. Its features have not yet even been integrated with ExactTarget’s Interactive Marketing Hub let alone integrated with Salesforce. It scored an 81 on the value index for measuring features relative to its price.

Silverpop, Marketo Top Lead Management Evaluation ListMarketo’s customer engagement engine debuted in June, and may have been left out of Info-Tech’s report because it’s so new.

Marketo would likely have scored even higher if it’s price were a bit lower, but it did receive marks for its reporting and analytics, and integrations with virtual technologies like Adobe Connect, Webex, GoToMeeting and webinar tools. It’s forthcoming predictive analytics that should be ready by the end of 2013 were also commented on as part of its strengths. We were surprised to see no mention of Marketo’s customer engagement engine and its use of campaigns based on conversation models.

This is brand new feature that only debuted in June, so perhaps it was simply too new to make it into the report. If it had, Marketo would likely have been ranked higher, and the level of true automation within this tool should not be overlooked. Info-Tech called Eloqua’s campaign management tools the gold standard in this report, but Marketo has got to be a very close second at this point.

Marketo’s tools were taken to task for lacking great mobile features, and for not yet enabling location based marketing or SMS campaigns. Info-Tech does a good job with this report, and there’s even a handy tool on its website for building a short list of vendors based on customizable criteria like price or integration ability.

However, Gartner’s recent MQ for Lead Management had Eloqua and Marketo squarely in the Leader bracket, so it’s a tad surprising to see Silverpop ranked as high as it was. That’s likely becuase Info-Tech’s customers simply want to know more about the specific companies listed in this report, and that is why they were included to begin with. Info-Tech may have a larger SMB contingent in its customer base as well, so it may put more of a premium on prices.