Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Marketing Automation Buyer’s Guide to Email Deliverability

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Email Deliverability is a hot-topic today as marketers seek to fine-tune their outbound messaging and engage customers with mass email campaigns and lead nurturing programs. Before making a purchase decision for a marketing automation platform, buyers should know the basics of email deliverability, as it will have a direct impact on the success or failure of their marketing programs and ROI.

The list below is composed of technology and usability items that we believe are a base-line for achieving increased deliverablity rates from your email marketing campaigns.


Why APIs Matter

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

One of the primary functions of a Marketing Automation system is to automate tasks that would otherwise be a manual process, just as the name itself would imply.  However, what is often missed is this automation can expand outside of the product itself.  Using application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate with internal systems can also help automate systems running outside the Marketing Automation system as well.  LoopFuse offers a wide variety of webservice APIs to allow for such automated integration.

For example, with the LoopFuse webservice APIs, users can make programmatic calls into their account to send out email campaigns.  This can be useful for internal processes such as an account management system where automatically sending out a warning email that a client’s account is about to expire would be desired.  There are LoopFuse customers using this functionality today within their internal account management system to trigger the sending of a pre-build email campaign with the notice of expiration via the LoopFuse webservice API.  This not only allows for their marketing team to control and manage the content and messaging of the email notice, it also allows them to track the email campaign to see if the recipient opened the email and took action based on the email.  It is even possible for them to then put the recipient into an automated lead nurturing program to monitor these tracking events and automatically follow up via a follow up email or CRM activity if the recipient had not performed an action within a given amount of time.

Not only does LoopFuse allow for inbound webservice calls, but users can utilize outbound webservice calls within their lead nurturing programs.  This is important because it allows automated workflows to incorporate specific internal business data points within the decision logic of the workflow.

One LoopFuse customer uses the outbound webservice call feature within their lead nurturing program to determine how best help their users who may be having trouble.  Once an end-user downloads their demo software, they will be placed into a lead nurturing program within the customer’s LoopFuse account.  The next day, their lead nurturing program will make a webservice call to their internal system to see if the end-user has installed and run the downloaded demo.  If not, an email will be sent to the end-users asking if they are having trouble installing the software along with troubleshooting tips.  If they have installed and run the software, then the end-user will be sent an email covering more of the advance features of the software to help them progress further.  The lead nurturing program will even monitor via an outbound webservice call to see if the software has been uninstalled and email the end-user a survey to get feedback on their experience with the demo.

For more information on the LoopFuse webservice API, check out our reference documentation on outbound webservice API and lead nurturing nodes.

Tech talk – Cloud, Multitenant, J2EE, Open Source and other techie buzz words

Friday, March 26th, 2010

I’ve been asked a lot lately to talk about our solution platform and technology used here at LoopFuse, so figured it would be worth a blog… To start, LoopFuse OneView is an on-demand marketing automation software solution. In a nutshell, this means it is software hosted by a vendor on the internet that can be run using a web browser without having to install any software, so is ready for use immediately. This is also called SaaS (software as a service), which is a term originally made popular by vendors such as Lately the term “Cloud” has replaced SaaS as the new buzz word.

Cloud computing as a concept and even as a practice has been around for a long time. Although “the cloud” is often seen as a synonym for SaaS, it actually is a broader term in that it refers to hosting all types of internet based services such as remote file storage and not just packaged software solutions. Many “cloud” hosting vendors exist, but the most well known one is Amazon with their AWS (Amazon web services) which includes offerings ranging from data storage to payment services to distributed database hosting.

Although there are many upsides for on-demand software vendors to deploy in the cloud, there still exist a few downsides as well; the main one being loss of complete control of the NOC (network operations center) they run their software service from. For many on-demand applications that are not mission critical, such as photo sharing sites, the tradeoff between losing control of network operations and the cost savings of outsourcing their IT is very acceptable. However, for mission critical applications such as marketing automation where businesses rely on leads being captured to drive revenue, the tradeoff can be less compelling.

At LoopFuse, we made the decision to host all our core services ourselves within our own NOC instead of hosting with a cloud hosting provider such Amazon. Collectively, we’ve had a lot of experience building out network infrastructures and felt this would be the best way for us to ensure the reliability, security, and scale which our customers would depend on. To date, this decision has proven to be a good one. For example, under the Amazon EC2 Service Level Agreement the target uptime is at least 99.95%. While this is very good, it could potentially translate into almost 55 minutes of downtime since the beginning of this year (54.72 to be exact). The actual uptime for the LoopFuse lead capture service since the beginning of this year has been 100% (i.e. no downtime). Even though just under an hour of downtime over a three month period may not seem like much, not being able to capture leads after launching a major customer acquisition campaign would be a major problem for most businesses. Another area where having complete control of the NOC is beneficial is being able to implement specific security controls. An example we encountered of this at LoopFuse was a customer who worked with government agencies that had the specific requirement of degaussing hard drives containing their data after being decommissioned. Because we have direct physical access to all our hardware running within our NOC, we were able to meet this requirement.

Another somewhat unique decision we made related to being an on-demand software provider is how we implemented our multi-tenant architecture. Most SaaS vendors use a multi-tenant architecture where all their customers share all the same hardware, application instance and the same database instance. Although LoopFuse OneView is a multi-tenant application with shared resources, all customer accounts are stored in separate database instances. Because every customer has their own database instance, there is no commingling of customer data (i.e. customer A’s leads to not sit next to customer B’s leads within a database table). Besides being inherently more secure, customers having separate database instances also helps will scalability since can allocate hardware based on size and usage of individual accounts. For example, many smaller customers can be put on a database server where share hardware resources such as CPU and memory and a large enterprise customer can be put on a similar database server by themselves. This prevents the smaller customers from being impacted by the larger customer consuming all the hardware resources and vice versa. Also, scaling up as more customer accounts are added is not limited by what a single server can handle across all customer accounts which would require expensive hardware upgrades, but instead can simply add more reasonably priced servers to the server farm.

Finally there is the actual technology we used to build LoopFuse Oneview, which is primarily J2EE (Java Platform, Enterprise Edition). This was an easy decision for us since Roy Russo, the other founder, and myself both came from JBoss, an Open Source J2EE vendor, we were already very familiar with J2EE.  As you might guess, we also deploy on JBoss as well.  Using J2EE, along with JBoss, provides many inherently “enterprise” features such as clustering, failover, load balancing, caching, and distributed processing along with enterprise grade security via JAAS.

We also use a number of other Open Source products such as Red Hat linux and MySQL.The use of Open Source technologies and products was a no-brainer as well since we were already well aware of all the benefits.  The first and most obvious benefit is cost.  The next biggest benefit of Open Source is access; not only to the code but to information.  Because of free and open access within the Open Source world, it is much easier to find information about issues and work-arounds, how to implement specialized requirements, and best practices in general.  This is a very powerful benefit and one of the main reasons access to our customer support portal is free and open to all.