Zyman zeroes in on software

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Sergio Zyman, former chief marketing officer of The Coca-Cola Co., is setting his sights on a new client base: buyers of marketing software.

Zyman Marketing Group Inc., a consultancy Zyman founded last year, has introduced ZTools, software to help plan marketing campaigns, as well as ZLearning, online marketing courses. The company also recently announced that it has raised $8 million in venture financing from JPMorgan Partners, a significant feat in a moribund venture capital market and testimony to the faith bankers have that Zyman can make technology marketing work amid the current slowdown.

The company enters a marketplace teeming with software and e-learning course vendors, all fighting to sell to companies with shrinking marketing budgets.

Still, Zyman, author of best-selling marketing books, said the slowdown presents his company with a prime opportunity.

"Marketing departments have been decimated," said Zyman, who during two stints at Coca-Cola helped oversee the marketing launches of Diet Coke and Coca-Cola classic. "So when you look at the stuff we do, we bring science into marketing."

Methodology in marketing

ZTools, the basic version of which costs $5,000 per user, are designed to bring greater methodology to marketing, a discipline that Zyman said most companies recklessly execute. "Marketers’ No. 1 mistake is that they haven’t spent enough time trying to figure out how they’re going to make money," he said. "We actually get it done for the client."

ZTools’ software includes marketing planning, promotion, positioning and performance assessment models.

The planning software in particular embraces methodologies to guide marketing performance, said Dave Singleton, VP-content. "It walks you through the things you need to think about, like the connection between volume declines and marketing spending," he said.

The ZLearning online education courses are intended to teach nonmarketing employees about marketing. The courses allow for e-mail correspondence with Zyman Marketing Group and costs $200 per user per course.

A hurdle for Zyman Marketing Group, at least among b-to-b marketers, is its founder and CEO’s strong association with business-to-consumer marketing. But Zyman said his company’s consulting and software are applicable to b-to-b, and cited its work with b-to-b clients, including Ariba Inc.

"I am not consumer-centric, I am customer-centric," Zyman said.

Convincing clients of its b-to-b merits may not be the company’s greatest challenge. Rather, its strict marketing focus could be a drawback at a time when big companies are consolidating their consulting engagements, giving an advantage to companies that provide both overall business strategy and marketing strategy—McKinsey & Co., for example.

Zyman, however, said his company’s marketing-only focus is precisely what many clients, especially those with under-trained staffs and tight budgets, need today. "We operate well with companies without well-trained marketing departments, or those without marketing departments," he said. "We don’t do execution, or the consigliere thing, like Robert Duvall in ‘The Godfather.’"

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