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Autodesk’s blueprint for integration

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Autodesk Inc. is familiar to most every architect and interior designer for its AutoCAD design software. The company also supplies software for such diverse industries as construction, manufacturing, mapping, media and entertainment.

San Rafael, Calif.-based, Autodesk went through lean times between 2001 and 2003. Sales stagnated, income slumped and the company's marketing and sales leadership blamed the underperformance on a misalignment between the two functions, said Mike Colombo, senior director of worldwide sales execution.

One culprit, Colombo said, was Autodesk's dispersed marketing groups. The groups were in separate geographic divisions focusing on metrics that weren't particularly important to sales. "Those measurements, such as impressions, eyeballs and click-throughs, might have been valuable to marketing in their geographic areas, but we really wanted to have a field sales organization that was focused on driving revenue," Colombo said.

The company decided to take action. In 2003, the unit Colombo leads was formed. It straddles marketing and sales, creating a bridge to help develop marketing messages that support field sales. Feedback from sales allows Autodesk to continually improve those messages.

Further, the group ensures that fact sheets and white papers developed by product marketing are consistent with corporate branding messages and with sales' direct mail campaigns.

The next step for Autodesk, Colombo said, is to cultivate sales execution teams in each of the company's geographic regions. The company is particularly focusing on its international regions as some 64% of revenue derives from Europe and Asia. To reach those overseas, the company eschews printed sales messages, concentrating instead on the Web.

To aid its new move toward marketing as a facilitator of sales, Autodesk has since 2003 contracted with consultancy and business intelligence firm SiriusDecisions. Last month, Sirius featured Autodesk at its Return on Integration Summit in Las Vegas as an example of a sales-marketing integration best practice.

The emphasis on ensuring marketing's support of sales and expanded revenue is reflected in Autodesk's rebound since 2003. Its most recent fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31, produced revenue of $1.84 billion, up 21% over the previous year, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 20% over the past five years.

"It all revolves around trust and transparency," said Colombo. "Yes, sales and marketing people are different. But this is about saying, 'OK, there is a difference, but let's build the trust to understand what the other group does, identify it and then get over it."'

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