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MRM applications move into mainstream

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Facing pressure to streamline the marketing process and increase accountability, companies large and small are turning to software applications to manage their marketing activities.

While a 2003 Gartner report indicated that nearly half of Global 1,000 companies had deployed so-called marketing resource management, analysts now say MRM has pervaded the workplace in so many different forms that it’s hard to measure.

“Unless you’re going to count only the pure play companies that say this is all that we do, you’re going to get into a gray area with companies that offer suites well beyond that,” said Robert Blumstein, the research director-CRM analytics and marketing applications for IDC, which recently released a report on MRM. IDC estimates MRM is now a $65 million segment within the marketing automation industry.

Also called marketing optimization management, marketing administration, or enterprise marketing management, MRM software brings the marketing process together. Among other tasks, these programs coordinate the progress of different projects, monitor spending and keep track of digital assets throughout the company.

“It’s about trying to take some of the chaos out of marketing,” said Joe Meyer, the VP-marketing and business development for Aprimo, an MRM vendor. “It’s taking a job that’s done via e-mail and telephone and putting it in a system where it can be managed.”

Push to quantify For years, marketing lagged behind other departments in terms of automation, as many marketers resisted attempts to standardize the creative process. But an increased desire to quantify the success of different marketing initiatives, along with advances in relevant technology, has fueled the drive toward automation.

“Imagine if the finance department didn’t have applications and key people left with the knowledge of how to close the books,” said Richard Vancil, the VP of CMO advisory research at IDC. “It would be preposterous to think about a company running like that. In marketing, things often do.”

Many larger companies were early converts to MRM. Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, has used MRM since it acquired Compaq Computer Co. in 2002.

Mike Winkler, exec VP and CMO for HP, said MRM made it possible to see what the return on investment was for particular marketing efforts. It also standardized the marketing language used by the more than 5,000 members of HP’s marketing staff, who sell to more than 160 countries worldwide.

“It pulled hundreds of different marketing organizations together and helped us to align the marketing planning process,” he said. “There was a period there where we didn’t even know how much we were spending in marketing.

The popularity of MRM has also sparked interest within the SMB market. Many vendors, particularly the smaller ones, are now offering less expensive software packages for these businesses. While large vendors such as Smartpath, Assetlink and SAP offer comprehensive suites, smaller vendors such as Unica and Kickfire often offer stand-alone applications.

Cummins Inc., a manufacturer of diesel engines, began working with Aprimo in 2001 to automate certain aspects of its marketing. Initially, Aprimo provided software to manage the company’s e-mail communications and to provide measurements of open and click-through rates.

The partnership has been so successful that Cummins has begun adding other applications offered by Aprimo to bring more automation to the development of its marketing projects. Cummins now uses Aprimo software to manage project development and review, and to store digital assets.

“I definitely think it’s a scaleable solution. I know having worked in a much smaller organization previously that we could’ve used this kind of a solution,” said Alissa Kanwit, the marketing manager at Cummins.

HP’s Winkler said that MRM has become the “new wave of marketing” because of the discipline it brings to the process.

“I think it’s putting marketing on more of a scientific and professional basis, and I think it’s leading to a lot wiser expenditures,” he said.

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