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The two customers are treated differently, the company says, because they are different. The marketing e-mails they receive, for example, will look different, with one focused on whitepapers, industry developments and product demos and the other highlighting product upgrades and pricing specials. Why give them something they don’t want?

I’m an advocate for cloud computing in the enterprise if it helps to increase efficiency. In this sense, it strikes me that a company isn’t replacing sales or marketing folks with an algorithm. Instead, the SaaS product is giving them the information they need to make the best use of their time - laying low for potential customers who aren’t quite ready yet while spending that free time digging in to close a sale for a customer who’s one step away from signing on the dotted line.

Marketo’s new version of the product - Lead Management 3.0 - includes 125 new enhancements and a new User interface. Among the newest features is anonymous lead tracking and real-time alerts. Check out this description for the “anonymous lead tracking” feature. It’s kind of cool if you’re on the sales team but, at the same time, kind of creepy - in an overhead camera kind of way - if you’re the potential customer. (At least that’s how it makes me feel)

Think about how you get to know new people - new neighbors, perhaps. At the first meeting, you exchange introductions, maybe talk about their former place of residence or even where they work. Over the next few meetings, you learn more and more about your neighbors - their hobbies, their habits, their idiosyncrasies, and, by the fourth or fifth meeting, you’re on friendly enough terms that you invite them over for a weekend barbecue.

Marketo, which today announced a major upgrade to its sales lead management software, has taken that same basic concept of relationship building - mixed in some integration with the sales force cloud - and developed an automated service that’s intended to better manage potential sales. Targeted at B2B relationships, the software tracks everything from unopened marketing e-mails to downloaded whitepapers to the number of visits to specific pages over a given period of time. The purpose: learning where the customer is in the buying process and then ensuring that he’s approached with the right message at the right times.

What it’s really doing is making sure that a company’s sales team can identify Joe Customer, who’s just starting to shop and clearly is still doing research, and approach him with more of a how-are-you, can-I-help-you-find-something type of contact from a sales rep. It also allows them to spot a Jane Customer, who went straight for specific products and price lists online, as a customer who needs a sales rep with a blank purchase order ready.

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