Marketing gets with the program

Linda Hecht faced a disconcerting fact: Sales success was leading to a marketing failure. "As we grew and added more people to marketing, we hit a limit on productivity," says Hecht, director of marketing at geographic information systems vendor Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). "No matter how many more people we added to marketing, we couldn't become more productive."

Hecht has a marketing staff of 180, but with 40 products to market to 40 industries worldwide, she couldn't manage the workload. "It got to be impossible for us to do any long-term campaigns, since we had no way of managing the results," she says.

Last year, ESRI turned to marketing resource management (MRM) software to automate routine actions and improve strategic planning. "Before, we had a system that could do e-mails, but not campaigns. Now we are getting our marketing managers to start designing and building campaigns rather than just mailing something out," Hecht says.

MRM tools, provided either as extensions to CRM packages or as stand-alone offerings, are designed to incorporate every aspect of marketing, from initial concept through the evaluation of completed campaigns. While the number of MRM implementations is still relatively small, analysts expect strong growth in this area as companies look to extend efficiencies gained in traditional CRM strongholds, such as sales force automation.

"Marketing is one of the last bastions of full right-brain creativity, no holds barred and no accountability," says Robert Blumstein, an analyst at market research company IDC.

"In a more budget-conscious era, MRM will let marketing stand up to scrutiny on ROI so it can gain the funds it needs," he adds. But users say that a gradual approach is best when bringing these tools into play.

A Logical Extension

MRM follows in the footsteps of enterprise tools such as ERP, CRM and sales force automation that automate and standardize business processes. Like those tools, MRM software uses a central database and establishes workflow procedures. The database contains the information on potential customers. MRM involves workflows for creating and executing marketing campaigns, including budgeting, designing promotional pieces, generating mailing lists and tracking marketing responses. Programs often include analytic features that help measure the results of campaigns and frequently hook into other enterprise applications.

MRM tools work well when addressing specific marketing challenges. For instance, ESRI was struggling to convert leads into sales. Only 2 percent of its prospects purchased products. The company wanted a system that would guide prospects along until they were ready to buy and weed out those who weren't good prospects.

ESRI has been using software from Aprimo to manage campaigns for specific products and industries, as well as to manage registration and follow up on the roughly 1,000 workshops and trade shows the company conducts or exhibits at annually. It has built questionnaires into the system for sales prospects to answer online. Depending on the responses a prospect gives, ESRI sends him sales materials or forwards his information to the CRM system as a prequalified lead. By tracking a prospect's responses through each step and taking the appropriate action, ESRI says it raised its sales conversion rate to 30 percent over the past year.

But to get to that point, ESRI had to clean up and consolidate the databases that the MRM system needed to interact with. Information on 1.7 million customers and prospects was originally spread among a dozen databases. ESRI consolidated it by pulling data from an SAP ERP system into its CRM system before migrating that data into Aprimo's SQL Server database.

Brand Loyalty

While Hecht needed to manage sales to enterprise customers, Dennis Upton's concern was maintaining brand loyalty among customers without cutting out retailers. Upton is CIO at Brother International, a vendor of electronics products for consumers and small businesses. Brother already used SAP's mySAP CRM software, so Upton decided to use that package's MRM features.

Brother collects customer data from product-registration cards and service calls and records it in databases for e-mail follow-ups. For example, a customer who purchases a printer might receive an e-mail when a new driver is available. The problem lay in coordinating those notification efforts.

"We have stringent opt-in policies and rules that customers don't receive more than one e-mail every two months," says Upton. But with customer names appearing in multiple databases, those rules were hard to enforce.

It also took longer to create marketing campaigns, since the process involved querying several databases to assemble a list. Like Hecht, Upton started by cleaning up and consolidating assorted databases into a data warehouse. And it took about five months to test and configure the software, including writing the code to pull data from other sources and populate the data warehouse.

Once that was completed, however, the time required to create a marketing campaign dropped from 80 hours to just two. "By improving the operational efficiency, we have been able to run a lot more campaigns than before," says Upton.

Hollywood Ending

United International Pictures (UIP) in London, the international distribution arm for Universal Studios, Paramount and DreamWorks, didn't bother to undertake a database cleanup and consolidation project to make way for MRM. Since its objective was to market films in 52 territories worldwide, UIP instead decided to standardize processes and workflows so employees could spend more time on marketing and less on administrative tasks.

"There is an immense flow of information from the studios and headquarters to the territories," says Robin Sturmey, UIP's marketing systems manager. "We have exceptionally short deadlines and needed a way to turn around approvals very quickly."

A multiyear effort to achieve this is under way, with completion expected next year. UIP didn't do a database cleanup, but it did have to integrate its Aprimo MRM tool with a proprietary sales and distribution financial database called Midas. Aprimo pulls movie titles, release dates and other information from this database, and the staff uses the software's budgeting tools to plan film budgets and feed that data back into Midas. The MRM software runs on a dedicated server at headquarters that users access via a Web browser. UIP also runs local copies of Aprimo at each regional office that provide updates to the London server.

Sturmey has devoted much of his time to visiting offices to train staffers during the phased rollout. The first locations went live in April, in time to market summer films in 16 key regions. The rest will come online in the next year, he says. However, Sturmey says, "as with most things, there is some uninformed resistance, and people do tend to get kind of frustrated with any new system."

Starting Slow

Another challenge lies in how managers establish internal procedures and train employees on the use of MRM systems. Kimberly Collins, an analyst at Gartner, warns against trying to run before you can walk. "These are complex projects with many internal and external participants, and the real key is finding out where to get started, focusing on one or more pain points and growing the MRM solution over time," she says.

MRM may meet resistance because it enforces a certain structure that may be unfamiliar to users.

Steve Rauchenecker, director of membership and marketing at the Healthcare Financial Management Association, uses MarketingPilot MRM from MarketingPilot. Before deploying it, however, he set up dummy marketing campaigns to let his staff gain familiarity with the tools. "For a period of time, we let people run wild with those projects as well as creating their own so they could see how it worked," he says. "After that phase, we were in great shape and could start moving forward with actual work."

At ESRI, Hecht doesn't even make using MRM software mandatory. Instead, she makes the tool available and lets staffers use it of their own volition. "We don't force them to have everything go through Aprimo," she says. Once the initial setup is done and the staffers are familiar with the software, however, most users are quick to admit that it makes their jobs easier.

Rauchenecker says the end result is a more efficient operation. "Before, it took eight different spreadsheets and seven different folders to assemble the information for a campaign," he says. "Now we just need to look at MarketingPilot."

Buying Into MRM

Vendors offer a wide variety of MRM functions in their products, but Gartner analyst Kimberly Collins says IT managers should concentrate on five areas: planning and budgeting, creation of assets, collection and management of assets, fulfillment and distribution, and measurement and reporting.

Vendors often emphasize one or more of these but typically don't have a lot of depth in all of them.

"Companies need to look at what their requirements are for those five functionality pieces, which areas are they trying to solve, and then assess the vendors against those needs," Collins advises.

While some vendors focus exclusively on MRM, others take a different approach. Vendor offerings fall into four basic categories. Here's a sampling of what's available:

Best-of-breed products offer strengths in specific MRM niches or vertical markets. Vendors include SmartPath (recently acquired by DoubleClick), Veridiem, and MarketingPilot.

Marketing automation tool vendors offer products focused on automating repetitive steps in the marketing process. These include Aprimo, DoubleClick and Unica.

Major CRM Software vendors that incorporate some MRM functions in their products include Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel Systems.

Digital asset management tool vendors offer features for managing marketing assets. They include Artesia Technologies, EMC's Documentum, and FileNet.

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More about Artesia TechnologiesBrother International (Aust)DocumentumDoubleClickEMC CorporationEnvironmental Systems Research InstituteESRI AustraliaGartnerIDC AustraliaLogicalOraclePeopleSoftSAP AustraliaSiebel SystemsUnicaUniversal Studios

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