Agencies add CRM to the mix

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To meet the needs of clients who want to integrate customer relationship management into their marketing mix, advertising agencies are looking into various ways to add it to their repertoire of services. "In general, I think that ad agencies are pursuing a combination of some internal developments, some acquisition and some partnering to address this opportunity," said Harry Watkins, research director-CRM practice for Aberdeen Group Inc., Boston.

Indeed, players such as interactive services agency Harte-Hanks Inc., San Antonio, have partnered with CRM providers. Harte-Hanks uses E.piphany Inc. and Xchange Inc. software to serve as "engines" for its own campaign management and analytics tools.

Others have formed their own CRM units. Tribal DDB Worldwide, New York, did so last December when it created Tribal Connections: Customer Relationship Management Solutions as a consulting branch to help clients decide on and formulate a CRM strategy.

Tribal decided to do so when it saw the wealth of information that it received from many of its clients who were testing out the CRM waters, but didn’t know what to do with the residual data.

"You really need to build out an IT or technical department so that you have knowledge of these different tools … and are able to recommend the most appropriate to each of your clients," said Scott Koehler, Tribal Connections’ director-knowledge management for North America. "And that is really daunting to most agencies."

Starting a trend

Of course, change begets change, too. Debbie Korono, Tribal Connections’ director-relationship marketing for North America, expects a shift in agency hiring practices toward professionals with a direct marketing background.

Tom Miller, co-founder and principal of the Miller Brooks agency in Indianapolis, uses and promotes the use of campaign management tools among his clients. Miller has considered what CRM tools the agency might employ in the future.

"That’s a question we have been talking about," he said. "We’re not sure how far we should push that because we’re not sure what our customers really would want us to do."

Or how much it might change the agency’s business model. "That seems like a big question for agencies right now," he said.

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