How Aprimo hopes to help marketers tackle distribution of content, funds and data

Chief product officer explains how the new-look brand is looking to etch a position in the convoluted martech lumascape

In the thick of martech and adtech convergence, it can be hard to fathom what position players outside the top five are taking in order to differentiate from the convoluted pack.

But for Aprimo chief product officer, Kevin Souers, the vendor’s product roadmap can be summed up with three quick capabilities: Distribution of content, marketing funds and data.

Aprimo was one of the first big players in the marketing automation and marketing resource management (MRM) space until it was acquired by Teradata in 2011 and subsumed into the enterprise vendor’s Marketing Applications play.

Now, 12 months after divesting from Teradata, being snapped up by private equity fund, Marlin Equity Partners, splitting from its campaign execution counterpart (now Mapp Digital), then merging with a distributed marketing platform and digital asset management (DAM) solution, the brand has returned to the martech lumascape with the promise of helping more companies run marketing efficiently and effectively.

Kevin Souers
Kevin Souers

Before taking on his current role at Aprimo, Souers was the chief technology officer at Revenew, a channel marketing management platform designed for controlling marketing undertaken by resellers and partners at a local level. Having been acquired by Marlin Equity at the same time as Aprimo, Revenew’s platform has now been rebranded Aprimo Distributed Marketing and integrated into the new-look martech stack.

Souers told CMO the ethos behind Revenew was to help brands centralise the distribution of content, funds and data. Over the years, the platform became plug-and-play, allowing a channel partner to execute everything from search, display and social campaigns to multi-step nurture programs against targeted audiences using sophisticated, centralised data sets and content, in their local area.

“There are 8000 different execution engines, 5000 largely different execution channels, and it’s way too sophisticated an ecosystem for a channel marketer to manage,” Souers said. “Our whole point is that execution has to hook back to the mother ship, and controlled centrally.

“We think independent channels could use this too. That’s why we’re calling it distributed marketing. Facebook, Google and LinkedIn to a point allow hyperlocal targeting, and some martech and adtech companies coming online will have to up their game in terms of radius targeting. We see the future as centralised control of distributed marketing.”

Putting gas into the marketing engine

It’s the same logic Souers and the team are applying to Aprimo’s wider offering.  While there has been an explosion in marketing and advertising technology on offer, he cited a lag in adoption across all but the largest of players.

“Only the top vendors are reaching into the top companies right now, and the other stuff takes a while to mature. There is clearly going to be a shake-out – you aren’t going to end up with 25 DMPs,” Souers said. “We’re already hearing pressure in that adtech space now.

“So you have the big guys – I call them the atomic baloney slicers – offering end-to-end solutions, such as Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, SAP and to an extent, Marketo. They’re acquiring the pieces; how integrated they are is an ongoing question.”

As one of the dots outside the top ranks, Aprimo is striving to carve a niche as a best-of-breed solution provider delivering the content, budget and data needed to fuel marketing execution tools.  

“Every one of these platforms are engines that need gas. That gas is the same for everyone, whether it’s Revenew, or a DSP – it needs content, budget and data,” Souers explained. “Plus, it needs people. If you don’t have an efficient flow of that stuff, your wonderful engine isn’t going to take you anywhere.

“We have reached the point where you can target anyone at any point in time. As a marketer, I can build that engine. But what do I do then? Well, I need content, I need to decide what to say to these people. Just because I can get their attention, doesn’t mean I’m ready to.

“That’s what we’re working on with our customers now.”

To better support content distribution, Aprimo acquired enterprise-grade digital asset management vendor, ADAM Software, in May. The quest to be best-of-breed is also why the vendor is investing in its distributed marketing and marketing productivity platforms, as well as releasing a beta version of a new planning visualisation model in Q3 for adhoc collaboration.

“We need to be the best in the world on what we’ve chosen to focus on, which is the management and flow from ideation all the way to the cusp of execution, and potentially measurement of execution,” Souers said. “Everything that happens up to the point of execution has to be consistent, follow processes, be organised, have funding, and ensure brand and content consistency. So we’re focusing on those stops.”  

For example, a sophisticated DAM solution is required to deal with the reams of personalised content and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities coming into marketing’s sphere, Souers claimed.  

“You also need the metadata sitting underneath a piece of content, because you either want to feed it to a decisioning engine, and that relies on data,” he said. “AI will rely on the underlying data attributable to a piece of content and the relationship between pieces of content, in order to execute these sophisticated strategies.”

In addition, Aprimo has recently released a cross-channel campaign (CCM) management tool, which Souers said is vital in helping clients tap the right data sets for executing increasingly targeted, time-sensitive campaigns.

“A year ago, our hypothesis was not to take Campaign because it doesn’t fit in. But we made a crucial mistake and luckily our customers pointed it out,” he said. “In the CCM category in general, it’s all about segmentation, journey building, tied to email execution and lead distribution. Our segmentation engine is unique in that it allows ‘cloud to ground’ pulling of multiple data sources.

“We recognise companies are firstly, not going to want to pull data out of their central data repository, and secondly, that it’s hard to execute if your data is in eight different spots.

“Think of our offering almost as bring-your-own email engine or adtech – you use our tool to slice, dice, get your accounts, help with planning, run what-if scenarios, and pull that data in. Then when it comes time to execute, you’ll use CCM to help pull in the relevant data needed to target and plug it into your execution engine. You could have 10 different execution engines.  

“We want to be that quarterback that drives the content, data, budgeting and managing the resource capability into whatever ecosystem you choose that’s right for you.”

Offering enterprise-grade solutions for the masses

The ambition is big, but with a track record only in the largest of enterprises, Aprimo faces a challenge bringing its solutions to a smaller audience. Souers said the first step has been to devise point-based solutions that are natively integrated. As an example, he noted a content-only, SaaS-based DAM is on its way, along with a multi-tenant planning module.

That leads to Aprimo’s second selling point, Souers said: It’s a solution brands won’t outgrow. “What we find with folks that replace true MRM with a WorkFront or OpenText with Box, is in two years, they’ve outstripped their capability,” he said.  

“So many people are doing things either on spreadsheets, or through adhoc tools like Slack, or they built some kind of SaaS or swiped a card to get a small-scale collaboration tool, which is like putting a bandaid on a bullet hole. They can’t do all this at scale, and get the content you need to fill the rockets sitting on your launch pad.”  

Another priority Souers is working on is the user experience around its platform. “We are building out a new UX, top to bottom, across the platform set,” he said.

In addition, Aprimo is partnering with the likes of PowerBI, Microsoft and Tableau to lift its data visualisation and reporting game.  

“We have 300 configurable reports, but they’re post-mortems. It’s about what’s happening right now,” Souers added.  

Given the rapid innovation and change occurring in the martech and adtech landscape, Souers said it’s hard to predict what things will look like in five years’ time. But he agreed cross-vendor integration is the other big must. Aprimo is working to productise connectors with key martech and adtech execution platforms.

To help, it’s brought back hundreds of field services consultants previously building customised configurations of its platform for clients into bolstered product and R&D teams. 110 client-specific customisations are being integrated into the base platform or offered as configurable elements.

“We recognise we have to be more consumable, flexible with the user experience and point-based solutions,” he concluded.   

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