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Campaign management comes of age

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The economic downturn hasn’t been all bad. Forced to slash budgets and improve efficiency, many marketers have learned to operate leaner and meaner by leveraging advances in marketing automation software and campaign management applications.

New technologies are enabling increasingly complex, multichannel tracking and analysis, improving on products that just serve simple online advertising efforts. And it’s just what marketing departments need right now, analysts say. With marketers curtailing broad brand advertising, many have returned to traditional direct marketing strategies, both online and offline, to generate specific, measurable returns on their campaigns.

"All marketing spending has to be justified today," said Gareth Herschel, research director for Gartner Group Inc. "Every element of a complex campaign must be accounted for, and marketers need analytics and lead management to tie it all together—including enterprise data from sales and customer service."

While it’s all about optimizing marketing efforts, "it’s not about getting faster campaign drops," said Rob McLaughlin, co-founder and exec VP-product marketing for Indianapolis-based Aprimo Inc. Campaign management needs to be focused on building better relationships and responding to those relationships, he said. Cutting costs and maximizing awareness, while important, are secondary to setting long-term goals.

It’s important to note that in the past 18 months, the campaign management market has changed considerably. Several niche marketing vendors have been purchased by marketers of broader customer relationship management suites.

"Through these acquisitions, CRM companies such as PeopleSoft Inc. and Pivotal Corp. have added best-of-breed marketing solutions that make them quite formidable," said Harry Watkins, research director-CRM/marketing technology at Aberdeen Group. "However, the dedicated campaign management and marketing automation vendors are still much more successful than the mega-suite vendors, although the gap is closing somewhat."

Meanwhile, other campaign management vendors have become part of the burgeoning enterprise marketing management (EMM) market by broadening their scope into software modules that automate and integrate all marketing functions.

Unica Corp., for instance, started with an expertise in campaign management and analytics but now has migrated into other areas, such as marketing planning, Watkins said. Aprimo began on the other side of the spectrum of marketing services and is now beefing up its campaign management capabilities, he added. Watkins observed that both companies have significant traction in the market and should continue to compete well against larger CRM vendors.

"Campaign management was too narrow to be an independent category [for long]," said Aprimo’s McLaughlin. "However, the collapse of the campaign management space will not be defined by what traditional CRM vendors do, but by which marketing suite vendors emerge to offer the best solutions for the entire marketing process."

Of course, CRM suite marketers vehemently disagree. For example, Vancouver, B.C.-based Pivotal Corp., which acquired marketing automation vendor MarketFirst last October, has created a game plan to become a leader in the campaign management and EMM space.

"The Pivotal MarketFirst products, as they’re now branded, will be available stand-alone as well as part of the Pivotal CRM suite," said Anurag Khemka, MarketFirst’s founder and now Pivotal’s VP-general manager of marketing products. "Moreover, they will be compatible with other CRM suites from companies such as Siebel Systems and SAP."

Better, stronger, faster

There have been many innovations in campaign management software over the past year. Some of the most significant are:

• Tracking complex campaigns.
Products are continually getting better at looking at multiple campaigns across multiple media, Watkins said. "Many vendors offer sophisticated ways to see what campaigns are working best and how they’re complementing each other," he said.

• Optimization analytics.
Analyzing data from various sources can help marketers determine which campaigns work best, said Kelly Fiedler, manager of product marketing for campaign management and EMM software vendor Unica Corp. "It’s critical for marketers to determine the optimal interaction strategy with customers over time," Fiedler said.

• Tighter integration.
More stand-alone campaign management products or EMM modules are being built with open platforms so they can integrate with marketers’ existing CRM suites or proprietary enterprise systems, Watkins said.

• Campaign cloning or templating.
Most best-of-breed campaign management applications allow users to create templates of their most successful campaigns.

• Ease of use.
"One of the biggest problems with early adoption of any marketing system was the need to hire IT personnel to run it," Watkins said. Today, most campaign management software can be used by anyone in the marketing department, he said.

• Distributed campaign management.
Vendors such as Pivotal allow corporate users to extend marketing efforts to local offices and distributors. "Corporate can control brand and consistency, while customization can be done to react on a local level," Khemka said.

Customers reap benefits

Customers are already reaping the benefits of campaign management software advances. Sharp Electronics LCD Products Group, Mahwah, N.J. began using MarketFirst’s solution in June 2002 (a few months before it was acquired by Pivotal). The group wanted to differentiate itself through its marketing efforts—which include call centers, direct mail, e-mail and advertising—and customer service within its dealer network, said Fred Krazeise, the group’s director of strategic marketing. "For us, the main thrust is managing roughly 100,000 one-to-one, simultaneous direct campaigns," he said.

With a campaign management system, Sharp can "drive relevant information to prospects and cause interactions to happen dynamically," he said. "We’re able to capture leads and respond almost immediately."

Krazeise also credits the software with reducing the cost of acquiring leads by 400% in just about six months. It’s also helped the company reduce the number of third-party vendors it works with, he said. "Now that I have it, I can’t live without it."

Another important benefit to Krazeise was the time it took to implement these capabilities. "It took just three weeks to get up and running, and we can make changes in the system very rapidly," he said, citing his ability to add surveys to an outbound telemarketing campaign in less than two hours. "Best of all, we didn’t have to hire programming people to run it; it has been very easy for our marketing staff to use."

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