Albert Einstein had it wrong. Information is knowledge. Of course, when Einstein famously drew the distinction between information and knowledge, he was getting at the fact that information is just one ingredient of the knowledge brew. It has to be mixed with experience and judgment to beget true knowledge.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, however, one where companies can take deep stores of information and automatically apply them to business processes that make discoveries about customers and potential customers, it might be worth rethinking Einstein's nugget.
Dynamic Web content technology -- which adjusts Web pages depending on who's looking at them, and provides organizations with a deep background on prospective clients before they even make a call or fill out a form -- can be a powerful way to turn a little bit of information into knowledge. Demandbase Inc., a provider of a real-time targeting and personalization platform for business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, is extending that power to its customers.
No place to hide
"You can't hide from Demandbase," said Tom Wentworth, chief marketing officer for Ektron Inc., a vendor of Web content management products based in Nashua, N.H. that has been using the Real-Time Identification service since the end of 2011. Ektron wanted to see how its website could be customized to individual visitors, even if they were visiting the site for the first time and Ektron had no history of interacting with them.
That history is the key to Demandbase's database. The company has 1.4 billion IP addresses attached to 6 million organizations around the world.
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"There are lots of data sources out there that could give us part of the picture," Wentworth said, "but there was nothing out there on the market that could have such a deep record of the company."
He explained that once an Ektron website visitor's IP address is identified, it passes to Demandbase, whereupon all the information connected to the IP address is passed to the Ektron CMS, which then generates dynamic Web page content.
Four reasons for website relevancy
"We can now be relevant the first time someone comes to the site," Wentworth said, explaining it's possible for four reasons:
First of all, the new capability means that -- with the help of a software developer on Ektron's marketing team -- it can use the Real-Time Identification API to tailor its homepage appearance every time a new visitor lands on it. When a visitor from a health care company visits, for example, a flash application automatically loads and displays a band of logos of other Ektron health care customers across the page. Visitors see logos that make sense to them.
Second, there's a marketing spot right above the flash display that also reacts to the Demandbase information. The spot displays offers that change based on such factors as the prospect's industry or how many times he's visited the Ektron site. This works because Ektron can add information to the mix that it has collected about repeat visitors.
After that information passes to Demandbase, it is integrated with existing data and added to Ektron's account. If the site visitor is an existing customer, the Web CMS displays an offer for an upgrade to the latest Ektron version. Likewise, if a returning visitor uses a competitor's product, the Ektron site offers an opportunity to change to Ektron.
Third, the service means Ektron can augment its Google analytics capabilities by segmenting reports according to the different attributes Demandbase offers. That means Ektron can see how customers are navigating compared to prospects and discover the reasons, say, behind conversion rates on the website for health care versus financial services companies. "It's a great way to get more intelligence on our visitors," Wentworth said.
Finally, the system enables Ektron to shorten any of its Web forms. Before adopting Real-Time Identification, every site visitor who came across a form had to fill out the same, lengthy information -- information that was sent to Ektron's SalesForce.com CRM system.
Now, fields for things like company name, company size, industry and visitor name are eliminated because Real-Time Identification automatically fills them out and integrates them with SalesForce. The result is a 25% better conversion rate just by removing some fields. More leads mean a better bottom line, Wentworth said. "And we know they're qualified leads because we have all that additional information."
It wasn't difficult to integrate the Demandbase API, Wentworth added, explaining it took about three weeks to get a prototype working that enabled dynamic Web content.
What can be a challenge, however, is knowing precisely how to use the customer data effectively, Wentworth said.
"Demandbase provides great data for B2B marketers, but it still requires marketers to have good processes in place for understanding and acting on data," he said. He pointed out that although dynamic Web content technology is a worthwhile investment, potential users should make sure they have good measurement processes in place before they take the leap. One of his criticisms concerned the product's lack of self-service capabilities for uploading and managing customer information. "I have to pass it to Demandbase via an account manager," he said. "I would love for it to be self-service."
Since its deployment, the technology has generated 30% more views of Ektron's online case studies, and roughly 30% more visitors fill out forms for offers from the homepage. Ektron hadn't planned to pursue a partnership with Demandbase, but once it saw the increases, it has been able to extend those same benefits to its customers using Real-Time Identification. As for the accuracy of all this automatically generated data: "I'd say it's well above 90%," Wentworth said.
Ektron customers now can customize their websites with the Demandbase technology tied into the Ektron CMS. "It makes it really easy for our customers to use it," Wentworth said. "And makes their data more actionable."