Sprinklr’s $40M Series D round: what matters

This morning, Sprinklr made a two part announcement.

1) The availability of an integrated paid social media solution.

This capability allows Sprinklr clients to manage owned media (publishing), earned media (via listening/engagement), and now paid media (social advertising).

Sprinklr will claim competitive advantage in offering a single integrated data model vs. apps in parallel (Adobe), UX overlay (Salesforce), or API partners (Oracle).

Sprinklr competitive advantage
Sprinklr’s take on “depth of software integration” and how that leads to competitive advantage.

In theory, tighter integration can offer more powerful data analysis capabilities. In practice, Sprinklr cites an unnamed client that saw a 25% lift in paid social ad performance from using the module.

My take:

The “big three” marketing clouds already offer paid social ad creation, placement, measurement, and optimization: Adobe’s Media Optimizer, Salesforce’s Social.com, and Oracle via API partners Kenshoo, Nanigans, and SHIFT. This added capability brings Sprinklr up to par with bigger players in social media management functionality and just in time as paid social gains increasing priority in the paid/earned/owned media landscape.

2) A $40 million Series D financing round led by Iconiq Capital

This round brings Sprinklr’s total capital raised to $77.5 million. Sprinklr’s previous three funding rounds only had two participants: Battery Ventures and Intel Capital. But Iconiq Capital isn’t a venture capital company; it’s a registered investment advisor (RIA).

My take:

This is an interesting lead investor, especially for the social media space in which Sprinklr currently operates. Unlike VC funds that typically get passive investments from pension funds and insurance companies, Iconiq handles the private, personal investments of individual clients including Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Sean Parker, among others. Investors like to smooth the road ahead for their investment vehicles and those are three pretty powerful operators to have on your side.

Sprinklr tells me that they intend to use the round for “growth.” This can only mean organic expansion, because the round isn’t big enough to start acquiring pieces to build a complete marketing cloud (e.g. a marketing automation solution).

What Sprinklr’s annoucement means

Valuations typically aren’t disclosed, but Sprinklr undoubtedly has its sights set on joining The Unicorn Club and potentially filing for an IPO between now and 2015. The alternate route would require a bigger player stepping in to acquire Sprinklr, which is becoming an increasingly expensive proposition (but still no big deal for the deep pockets of an IBM, SAP, or Microsoft). Sprinklr’s preference would appear to be the former, as it has shown an inclination to build (e.g. listening and paid social) rather than buy (the exception being Dachis Group which provided some code and mostly developers).

Bigger vendors must evaluate the growing threat that Sprinklr poses to the early market-leading clouds. Smaller vendors need to bulk up or get bought out soon, before going the way of Argyle Social.  Clients/end-users need to evaluate their marketing technology stack and decide whether running a collection of best-in-breed point solutions still makes sense or if committing to a larger integrated cloud now will pay bigger future dividends.

Briefings this week: April 28 – May 2

Here’s who I’m briefing with this week:

Tuesday

  • Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud

Wednesday

  • Oracle Marketing Cloud

 

As a reminder, I’m interested in hearing from companies that enable customer experience management, provide marketing services (including agencies and consultancies) and support innovation agenda items.

If you are interested in briefing Constellation Research on your marketing technology, visit the Contact Us form.

Report: State of Community Management

The Community Roundtable, founded in 2009 by Jim Storer and Rachel Happe, has deep expertise in advancing the business of community.

The Community Roundtable State of Community Management 2014

This week The Community Roundtable has released the 2014 State of Community Management report, with three key findings:

  1. Community maturity delivers business value.
  2. Advocacy programs increase engagement.
  3. Executive participation impacts success.

To download the full report, click here.

Briefings this week: April 21 – 25

I am taking briefings with these companies this week:

 

Tuesday

  • Sysomos

Wednesday

  • Adobe
  • Beckon

 

As a reminder, I’m interested in hearing from companies that enable customer experience management, provide marketing services (including agencies and consultancies) and support innovation agenda items.

If you are interested in briefing Constellation Research on your marketing technology, visit the Contact Us form.

Briefings this week: April 14 – 18

I am taking briefings with these companies this week:

 

Monday

  • Adobe
  • Alexa

Thursday

  • Hubspot

Friday

  • Sprinklr

 

As a reminder, I’m interested in hearing from companies that enable customer experience management, provide marketing services (including agencies and consultancies) and support innovation agenda items.

If you are interested in briefing Constellation Research on your marketing technology, visit the Contact Us form.

Moving from Typepad to WordPress

After eight years, I’ve finally moved my blog from Typepad to WordPress.

 

Typepad to WordPress

I’ve never sought to make a living from my blog, but I enjoy tinkering around with infrastructure enough to be frustrated with Typepad’s stagnant platform. In the early days, Blogspot, Typepad, and WordPress were all feasible options when starting to blog. These days WordPress seems to be the only real option for blogs, unless you opt for a specialized option like Tumblr or Medium.

Here’s how I made the migration, in case you’re in a similar situation and thinking about making a similar switch.

Assumptions:

  • You’ve got your own domain name, e.g. example.com. If you are only using “example.typepad.com” then you’ll need to buy one.
  • You want a managed hosting solution, rather than maintaining a server and code base yourself.
  • You are comfortable clicking on links and changing numbers and words to point things in the right directions.

1. Prepare your Typepad blog for migration

Typepad makes this pretty simple. In your dashboard, go to Settings > Import/Export and click the Export button.

On the recommendation of several people, including Ray Wang, I used TP2WP to convert the Typepad export file to a WordPress-friendlier format. Was it worth the $49? Not sure, given that I didn’t try to import the original file directly. But I’ll assume that TP2WP saved me a bunch of cleanup effort, given what’s listed on their “how it works” page.

2. Set up your new WordPress environment

I knew that I did not want to set up or manage a hosting environment. When I was head of global digital marketing at PUMA, I negotiated the contracts for hosting our brand and ecommerce sites, including SLAs, server types, peering, CDN,  et al. I downloaded and installed server security patches, monitored uptime, and worked with consultants to load balance and otherwise operate the environment. That was worth millions of dollars for the company; this is a blog.

After considering Bluehost and Dreamhost, I went with WPEngine. They are a fully managed hosting service and while more expensive than do-more-yourself options, I estimate that the price premium is worth the support in security, backups, and other technical support.

3. Import your content

Once I set up my WPEngine account, I had a clean WordPress install. I installed the ReadyMade WordPress Importer plugin to import my unzipped TP2WP converted export file. (If you’ve never installed a WordPress plugin, it’s simple. Just mouseover Plugins, click Add New, then search for what you need or click the link to upload a .zip of a plugin you’ve already downloaded.)

Once the plugin was installed, I went to Tools > Import >ReadyMade WordPress Importer. I selected my .xml file and imported.

At this point, I was up and running on WordPress. I was about four hours in at that point, which included setting up new accounts, conducting research into different options, and messing around with designs and other options.

 4. Redirect the internet

I didn’t have much to clean up, so I was ready for the site to go live. I changed two records with my domain name registrar: the A record to the WPEngine IP address and the www CNAME to example.wpengine.com.

Typepad doesn’t support 301 redirects, so I changed the default blog folder and added a redirection script to the head of the only post’s page and also requested that Google remove example.typepad.com from search results, just in case any duplicate content was indexed.

In the WPEngine admin, I redirected example.wpengine.com and example.com to www.example.com. In WordPress admin, I set Settings > General to the new site, i.e. WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) are both www.example.com.

WordPress RSS feeds work a bit differently than Typepad, so in case anyone in the world still uses RSS, I updated the feed address in Feedburner. My new feed is www.example.com/feed/atom.

Search engine sitemaps needed to be updated as well. There are many plugins that can generate these; I used the recommended BWP Google XML Sitemaps.

5. That’s it

Really. All in, it took about six hours of effort to finish, which was just about the amount of time that the DNS took to redirect from Typepad to WordPress.

I still have a lot to tweak, but that can happen over time. WordPress has a world of options for design themes, increased speed, SEO, and more. If you’ve read this far and have suggestions for good plugins, let me know!

From Typepad to WordPress: the financials

In summary, I was out of pocket $49 for TP2WP migration and will pay $29/month for WPEngine managed hosting. This is a bit more than the $11/month I’ve paid Typepad for Pro Unlimited service, but I think the premium is acceptable for managed operations and access to a modern platform.

As a comparison, I received a quote from a WordPress specialist who offered to migrate my blog for $1,260 and provide hosting (but no support) for $25/month.

Not a bad day’s work when put in that perspective, if you ask me.

SAP Social

Wait, SAP has a marketing cloud too?

Last week I was at the SAP CRM 2014 conference. I’ve never been to an SAP conference before but I was told that SAP has an interesting play for the marketing cloud space. What I heard and saw in Las Vegas wasn’t a competitor limited to marketing clouds, but instead an offering that’s a comprehensive enterprise marketing platform.

The SAP Social Portfolio

SAP is charting a course into the CMO’s office via strong existing relationships with CIOs and CFOs, who are long-standing customers of SAP’s ERP, financials, and supply chain management offerings. Those are mission-critical systems for the companies that use them, much more so than typical marketing systems like digital asset management and social media publishing. What’s the top item on every CMO’s agenda right now? Driving business results. And marketing has been building stronger relationships with finance and IT in order to gain business intelligence and track operating impact.

But because of those long standing relationships, SAP has a perception challenge that it’s not a system for marketers. That’s where three points of information come into play, under the umbrella of CRM:

  1. Social media engagement. As pictured above, SAP offers a full suite of products that covers the external and internal aspects of customer engagement.
  2. Customer service use case. T-Mobile provides a compelling client reference, with SAP driving a 15% productivity increase. This is AFTER T-Mobile had been running with Radian6 + Jive as their customer service solution, citing millions of dollars in cost savings.
  3. The Adobe – HANA partnership. SAP and Adobe have inked a partnership where SAP will resell the Adobe marketing cloud in conjunction with HANA analytics and Hybris commerce.

Now, point #3 should be a head scratcher when thinking primarily about marketing clouds. The deal might mean that different SAP business units aren’t aware of what the others are doing, creating a conflict of interest. Or the companies have discussed and decided that their marketing cloud offerings aren’t meaningfully competitive right now. And may never be — the combined suite creates an offering as comprehensive as Oracle, that can claim to beat Salesforce (point #2), and broader than any point solution (point #1).

When discussing how marketing technology can support critical needs including analytics, omnichannel, and customer experience, it’s critical to evaluate solutions from a comprehensive online + offline point of view. SAP has defaulted to an enterprise-level approach to solve these issues, as opposed to focusing solely on the marketing department, which may prove to be a winning strategy in the long run.

As the big vendors are busy integrating their marketing cloud/platform acquisitions, there’s still a market for point solutions. Not all brands are ready for an all-in-one solution, whether because of budget, organizational structure, or ability of vendors to deliver on their sales promises. But the strategic positions in market are becoming clearer and the big players are raising the competitive stakes continually higher.

Spredfast + Mass Relevance

Spredfast and Mass Relevance merge: What it means for marketers and SMMS vendors

On April 2, 2014, social relationship platform Spredfast announced that it had merged with content curation platform Mass Relevance. I spoke with CEO Rod Favaron about the deal and what it means for the rapidly changing marketing technology space.

The New Spredfast

The facts

  • The new company will be called Spredfast
  • Mass Relevance stock will be converted into Spredfast stock
  • Spredfast has 200 employees and Mass Relevance has 150 employees; both companies are headquartered in Austin, Texas
  • Spredfast has raised over $60 million in venture capital funding and Mass Relevance has raised just under $6 million; both companies have Austin Ventures in common as an investor

The companies have at least a half dozen common clients and they had already been working on integration pathways between the two solutions. So this deal is good news for 1% of the new firm’s client base and great news for the Spredfast sales team that now has over 600 new cross-sell opportunities.

But what exactly is this thing?

My take is that it’s a bit different than what I’ve been hearing from the massive marketing cloud vendors (Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce), that are focused primarily on integrating owned content across digital marketing channels.

In contrast, Spredfast is focused primarily on earned content, allowing “marketers to display [social media] content on every screen that matters, whether scheduled or unscheduled.” Mass Relevance helps brands curate the social web outside-in; Spredfast enables brands to publish owned content inside-out. The combined company enables content discovery, optimization, and distribution.

A content marketing platform powerhouse

My take: Spredfast has just created a formidable solution in the white-hot content marketing space. There are players here including Percolate and RebelMouse, potentially Sprinklr (+Dachis Group), and segments of the big three Marketing Clouds. One big advantage Spredfast may have over other firms is Mass Relevance’s native access to the full Twitter firehose, which has allowed it to make huge inroads with major media companies.

Favaron tells me that Spredfast intends to become a consolidator in the marketing technology space — which means the company needs to raise capital via a new funding round or IPO. In the case of the latter, given the amount of funding taken so far, the company’s valuation would need to be close to unicorn club territory to make sense. (Which, by the way, is not too far off from where Sprinklr stands financially as well.)

A native advertising play

Even if Spredfast gains access to a huge amount of capital, competing head on with the likes of Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP may not make much sense given the headstart the others have on integrating broad marketing cloud solutions. Instead, the firm might decide to double down on its strong installed base of media clients and own the market for a new breed of native advertising solutions, combining large broadcast networks with major brand advertisers and user-generated content.

This way to the egress

I’ll be keeping an eye on how competitors respond, especially Hootsuite which raised $165 million last year and acquired analytics firm uberVU last quarter. All firms remaining in the SMMS space need to map out a path to the exit because it’s clear that standalones won’t survive much longer.

What’s in a name? #gTLD

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

With the rollout of new gTLDs, it’s just a matter of time until the .com addresses we have grown familiar with over the past 15 – 20 years start to disappear. Here are the domains that are available today and coming soon, via IANA.

Major brands and organizations have already lawyered up and brands like Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Oakley, USPS, Google, Amazon, and others are battling it out in the courts over new domains. I spoke with DomainSkate last week and their blog is a good resource; the company estimates that over 1,400 new domains will become available in 2014.

As if digital marketing didn’t change fast enough — here’s one more issue that marketers need to add to the to-do list; file under brand + SEO.

Social business and beyond.