Infor's Alampi on marketing amid multiple acquisitions

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Enterprise software company Infor this year has expanded its product lineup with several key acquisitions, including Softbrands Inc. With more than 40 acquisitions in the past five years, the $2 billion company, which sells ERP, CRM, and human capital management (HCM) software, is now closer in size to two of its main competitors, Oracle Corp. and SAP.

But integrating dozens of companies isn't easy, especially when it comes to marketing, said Dave Alampi, VP-global marketing strategy and services. ITM recently asked Alampi about his best practices.

ITM: What processes do you put in place when you're trying to combine an acquisition's customers with your existing customer base?
Alampi: Depending on the acquisition, there may be no overlap. We just bought Softbrands, and in parts there was no overlap and in another there was some. So we definitely scrub the list to make sure we're not duplicating efforts. Then we need to get information out there. The acquired customers have three questions: 1) Who is this Infor company? 2) What will we do with their products and services—‘Are you killing them? Are you going to make me move somewhere? Are you going to improve them?' and 3) What other products and services do we have that may be of value to their business?

For existing customers, they already know who Infor is. They may want to know whether this [acquisition] will change what we're doing in the investments and development of the products they use today.

We segment our communications to address each of these issues. The acquired customer base is always the most sensitive. We communicate with them about what our plans are, how they are going to be taken care of and how they are only going to be more satisfied with what we're doing. Our goal is to reach everyone, and to reach them multiple times.

For an existing customer, we might have two, three or four products that might be complementary to what they have. We run very integrated campaigns that are very digitally focused. We'll do e-mail campaigns and webcasts. We'll put them on our newsletter list and drive them to our blogs. In wave one, we tell them who we are and what we're doing. [This] definitely goes out day one. Wave two would typically be within a week but no more than four weeks. The longer someone waits, the more nervous they get. You have to get through wave one and wave two to earn the right to send wave three— selling them other products and services. [Wave three] can vary from two months [after the acquisition] to as long as six months.

ITM: How do you handle integrating an acquisition's Web site with the main Infor site?
Alampi: It's something that's evolved recently. Before, quite honestly, we were slow to integrate the brands and the Web sites; really slow. And there was very little planning behind it. Now we understand the brand equity of our company. We don't want a lot of brands living out there. If a company gets a lot of traffic, we will leave it but redesign it so it's got Infor's look and feel. In parallel, we will build out a new microsite and then start directing traffic there. At some point, when the large majority of traffic is coming to the new site, we will do a full redirect. Our goal is not to lose all the organic traffic the company was getting—those who bookmarked it. [This process] usually takes six months to a year, unless the original site really didn't get much traffic.

ITM: What are you using to expand your lists?
Alampi: One of the things we have is the Infor365 community, where business people or IT folks can congregate and read discussions and posts. We have groups set up for the large products. We have more than 8,000 people signed up. We also run campaigns and ask that our existing contacts offer up colleagues names. There's no silver bullet.

ITM: What has worked when integrating a new company? What hasn't?
Alampi: There was a time when we weren't really optimizing landing pages and microsites. We weren't putting the best foot forward, watching the campaigns, tracking the metrics. Now we do that without fail. We do true A/B testing with the Web site and with paid search. We're using technology to see which are truly the best keywords, and then optimizing the landing pages. We're using Ad Director from WebTrends and some Omniture tools. We're working with Oneupweb to help drive organic search traffic.

We also just launched a major campaign to extend the awareness of our company. We're reaching out with high impact direct mail and e-mail. People are asked to go to a microsite where they can learn more about the company and sign up for a bobble-head. We're making a significant investment, and we're offering an unlimited number of the bobble-heads. [CEO] Jim Shaper recognized that we need to focus on our awareness, so we're really supporting this campaign, which started in North America on Nov. 1 and will expand to several countries in Europe.

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