New ERP system focuses on helping customers control costs

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Jeffrey Mills, director of marketing at Sage North America's business management division, recently spoke with BtoB about the launch of the software company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. He also addressed which marketing channels are performing well despite the down economy. BtoB: Given the economy, how's the market for ERP systems? Mills: The ERP platform industry is facing challenges that all the other industries are. Customers are hesitant to make investments in new solutions because their business is hurting as well. BtoB: With that in mind, what's been different about this particular product launch? Mills: We focused a little more on the benefits of the ERP solution that can help customers control costs, manage expenses and keep track of the costs savings portion of the software. [In a better economy, we might] look at how the ERP solution can help grow their business. It might be 60/40 or 40/60, [but] we still talk about both. BtoB: What marketing channel is performing well right now? Mills: The best-performing channel for us is direct mail and talking to our existing customers. As long as I've been doing this, we haven't found a better method yet. E-mail is a second place for us. And then, for [customer] acquisition, I'd have to say pay-per-click [search marketing]. BtoB:What are you measuring and paying particular attention to? Mills: We look at the traditional indicators: ROI, match-backs, response rates, call reports. Upper management probably is looking at ROI more closely than they have in the past, but without getting into too deep of a tangent, I think marketing isn't about ROI. Marketing is about lifting customers' response rates. It sounds esoteric but it's two different things. I can get a really good ROI by having a marketing campaign in the market for six months, but it may have only lifted the revenue by 5% or 10%. You kind of have to have a good balance of the two. BtoB: What's your marketing goal in 2009? Mills: Our first priority is to engage our current customers and ensure they're active with us through a maintenance and support plan. That's a large part of what the marketing team does. In addition to that, we focus on acquiring new customers. One of the things we're working on—just in the last couple of weeks as the whole peanut [salmonella contamination] thing has gotten so much press—is traceability. We're trying to communicate [the software's strong traceability functionality] to our customers and prospects. BtoB: What else is going on in your marketing? Mills: Our biggest goal is to leverage Web 2.0 and newer media opportunities. I think of those as the places we're heading. M
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