The 2014 CRM Rising Stars

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Sales and marketing professionals have much to be excited about, thanks to the efforts of this year's Rising Stars. These six award-winning companies consist of both young and seasoned vendors that have made significant contributions in their respective industries. If your organization is interested in marketing campaign management, social visual marketing, B2B advertising, predictive analytics, or sales and marketing productivity tools, read on to see what this group of innovative vendors has accomplished over the past year.

Adobe: Conquering Campaign Management

Though no newcomer to enterprise business solutions, Adobe is a star that has risen at an unprecedented rate. Since acquiring campaign management provider Neolane in June 2013, Adobe has made major changes—from overhauling its marketing suite to launching the Adobe Digital Marketing Cloud.

Following the acquisition, Adobe worked to integrate Neolane's technology, gradually unveiling its redesigned suite in a series of announcements culminating at its Digital Marketing Summit in March, where executives touted the revamped cloud platforms, as well as a new integration between the marketing cloud and Adobe's unparalleled Creative Suite.

The crown jewel is, for the time being, Adobe Campaign—Neolane's rebranded cross-channel campaign management solution, which enables marketers to create an integrated customer profile, build meaningful relationships, deliver relevant offers, and orchestrate experiences in real time through an open and flexible architecture.

Adobe has emerged as a key marketing player, thanks to the high level of integration of its marketing cloud solutions and the depth of the campaign management capabilities that those solutions can provide. "As new channels emerge, companies are constantly thinking about the best ways to build multichannel campaigns, and Adobe is aiming to stay one step ahead with Campaign," Gartner analyst Julie Hopkins says.

But Adobe's claim to fame isn't just its technology. Its vision for growth has turned heads too. In early 2014, Adobe announced a strategic partnership with SAP that would allow it to reap the rewards of SAP's extensive enterprise reach. "The partnership is ripe with potential," Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group, told CRM in March. "There's opportunity for Adobe to compete with major vendors, and building on this alliance will take it one step closer," he said.

The company is still charging full speed ahead, recently announcing new capabilities for Adobe Analytics, including a real-time data firehose, predictive marketing decision tree functionality, new mobile app analytics, and Apple iBeacon support. To complement its marketing cloud solutions, Adobe released an updated version of its digital advertising platform, Media Optimizer, which promises to boost advertising performance through predictive modeling algorithms that forecast and optimize campaigns across channels.

Adobe is on a promising path, analysts agree. "They're starting out on an impressive trajectory," Greenberg says. "I'm hoping we'll be seeing big things from them."

AgilOne: Bringing Predictive Analytics to Marketing

AgilOne is bringing predictive analytics algorithms to new territory: digital marketing. With less than 10 percent of marketers using any predictive modeling, according to Gartner Research Director Martin Kihn, there's plenty of room for growth.

While the predictive techniques that AgilOne uses have long been applied in business intelligence or among credit scoring companies, notes Kihn, doing this kind of work in marketing posed a "logistical challenge." Faster computers and an increase in data-driven marketers have made more marketing teams ready to do the sophisticated segmented messaging AgilOne enables.

This year, AgilOne introduced predictive segmentation, which enables companies to automatically group customers into personas based on behavior and product preferences. Marketers can figure out which customers are more likely to buy and which have higher lifetime value. As a customer's behavior changes, she can fluidly move to a different group and receive different messaging. "You can segment the database, use that to help you put together the right offer strategy, and then predict the response," Kihn says.

AgilOne has gained a foothold among e-commerce-focused brands, but is moving to help retailers with brick-and-mortar operations as well. Its capabilities around replenishment and subscriptions have attracted clients such as PetCareRX, which saw an 18 percent increase in repeat sales and a 38 percent growth in quarterly sales with the technology.

Another feature introduced in the past year, the universal customer profile, enables retailers to merge online and offline behavior for a better view of the customer. That information can be brought in to an existing CRM system through the company's newly created application programming interface.

The company, though, is not without its challenges. Adobe announced at its Digital Marketing Summit that its premium product would have advanced analytics features similar to AgilOne's. Custora and Sailthru also focus on analyzing customers to identify the right time to message customers and identify high-value customers or those likely to churn.

The competition doesn't appear to have deterred investors. In April, AgilOne raised $25 million in Series C funding, in part to aid global expansion. The increased focus on predictive marketing is good news as far as CEO Omer Artun is concerned. "We're in the phase of early maturity. [Predictive marketing is] on everyone's radar. They know they have to do something about it, and they're looking for vendors to help them with that."

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