Things are good at Silverpop, the email service provider.

The Atlanta, Ga.-based provider had the best revenue growth year-over-year in the first quarter in six years. It was acquired by IBM last month. It's got 5,000 brands using it and 25,000 marketers. It's gotten some praise in the industry by analysts who say it gets marketing automation and its regarded among the visionaries for the concept of behavioral marketing.

"In the last three to six months, this idea of behavioral marketing and the notion of the individualized, one to one customer experience is finally getting widespread," Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop, told CMSWire. "Analysts are crediting us for being years ahead of anyone. The recognition of this vision is really coming to fruition. We're years ahead of the marketplace."

IBM's Buying It

As big as its first quarter was, Silverpop's in for bigger changes.

IBM became the latest big fish to scoop up a respected player in the digital marketing software world when it announced its acquisition of Silverpop. IBM gained the marketing automation provider's cloud-based capabilities that deliver personalized customer engagements with real-time personalization technology in scalable environments. 

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At least one competitor said it could trigger an integration nightmare. But Nussey defended his company's ability to integrate -- with IBM and in general. He said integration is in Silverpop's DNA, and it's successfully integrated with several platforms, including IBM's.

"We already work with IBM," Nussey said. "They're a great partner. I think we're going to be very successful. It's in our DNA to partner and integrate with other companies."

Behavioral Pioneers

Nussey in his interview with CMSWire this week kept coming back to the notion of behavioral marketing. The true, one-on-one, personalized approach through marketing automation. 

That, he said, is a big part of Silverpop's success. Ian Michiels, principal and CEO of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Gleanster Research, blogged that 1,500 of the 5,000 brands using Silverpop's platform use the behavioral marketing capabilities.

B2B marketing automation transformed B2B marketing, Nussey said. What would we want to hear dropping in on a customer conversation, we asked?

"That Silverpop allows us to automate these individual experiences," Nussey said. "That by using Silverpop, they can change the way they think about marketing and make it natural and easy to think about marketers one at a time." 

What's Next?

Nussey earlier this month at his company's customer conference talked about continued enhancements to the Silverpop Engage interface which will complement Silverpop's digital marketing automation capabilities with multichannel campaign management functionality.

Once fully deployed, the capability will include a single place to manage and launch all marketing campaigns, regardless of channels, with new abilities for workflow, approvals and collaboration. 

Learning Opportunities

Impressive Improvement

Gleanster's Michiels has been covering Silverpop for 10 years. He told CMSWire he’s seen “very impressive improvement” in their product and in their customer base.  

Michiels said he was initially a bit apprehensive for the future of Silverpop’s 2007 acquisition of Vtrenz, which made Silverpop a Software as a Service (Saas) provider of both email marketing and marketing automation solutions at at time when marketing automation was still establishing a market.  

“But what I’ve seen recently validates they took the right approach,” he said. What culminated from the acquisition was a universal platform designed to facilitate “behavioral marketing” at scale, he added. This, he said, was a term Silverpop started messaging around as early as 2011.   

The combination of marketing automation and Silverpop's core email capabilities allow Silverpop to combine marketing automation capabilities such as lead scoring, behavioral triggers, multi-channel communications, and business rules (which were traditionally designed for B2B) with the core email marketing capabilities (largely designed for B2C).  

"It's about facilitating and automating more relevant engagement at scale," Michiels said. 

Unknown users coming to website can be tagged and tracked by the Silverpop technology. When visitors identify themselves via forms or "contact us" pages, the technology marries historical behavior to personalized messages and targeting.

"This offers a more complete view of customer behavior and a platform to drive communications via channels the customer prefers to engage in," Michiels said.

“It’s very powerful,” he added. “Getting marketers’ minds wrapped around how that works is daunting. Marketers are traditionally used to blasting campaigns. So it's a quite an educational challenge for Silverpop to get customers and prospects to embrace behavioral marketing tactics."

On the Road

To mitigate this challenge, Silverpop actually developed a program where product evangelists visit clients as a free service to educate them and provide recommendations on new ways to embrace the platform.  

“It was a huge risk to invest in headcount to offer free advice as opposed to customers paying for a services, but I think it’s working,” Michiels said. “I think the industry needs more of that. Invest in customers so they can learn to use the tools and tactics in full. Plus it helps with churn rates.”