How one manufacturer converts leads into sales

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When it comes to linking electronic b-to-b sales and marketing systems, Poly Hi Solidur is a grizzled veteran.

The Fort Wayne, Ind.-based manufacturer of abrasion- and corrosion-resistant polymers has been combining sales and marketing efforts since June 2000. By most standards, that’s an aeon’s worth of development experience, experts say.

Eighteen months of practical experience running the unified sales and marketing system has served the company well, said Dorothea Rynearson, Poly Hi’s marketing communications manager. About 8,000 leads are distributed through the system annually, she said.

Killing ‘big chief tablet’

"We used to manage our lead-generation processes by what we called the ‘big chief tablet’ system,’’ said Rynearson. "That means the big chiefs were writing down leads on paper. Now we’ve got a system that not only collects those leads from the top people but also shows what action has been taken. Over time, these types of systems only become more effective.’’

Poly Hi Solidur, a subsidiary of Neenah, Wis.-based Menasha Corp., won’t disclose how much it has spent so far to develop its electronic Web-based system for dispensing sales leads.

"As for the cost of this system, it is about $100 per salesperson per month for marketing, sales support and analysis,’’ Rynearson said. "If a company is not able to dedicate $100 per salesperson per month to a Web-based lead-generation system, [it has] bigger problems to worry about than that cost.’’

Rynearson, who ranks on the same corporate level as regional sales heads and reports to top sales and marketing management, is responsible for running marketing campaigns that collect sales leads. Marketing managers worldwide can run their own campaigns, but her department then centralizes the results from each campaign.

When collected, those leads are dispensed through a service agreement with Lexington, Mass.-based MarketSoft, which also monitors how the staff follows up on leads.

Mike Kozub, chief marketing officer of MarketSoft, said that by today’s standards Poly Hi is one of the most advanced b-to-b sales and marketing companies in manufacturing.

"They are pioneers,’’ Kozub said. "Two years ago, few manufacturers were even looking at optimizing lead flow. There was no blueprint for Poly Hi Solidur to copy. They invented the blueprint.’’

Visionary executives deserve credit for getting that blueprint done, Rynearson said. Moreover, if the marketing and sales system had not been centralized under a new department, ownership issues might have bogged down results, she said.

Rynearson originally joined the company to integrate call center applications with marketing, but she convinced management to buy into a Web-based marketing and sales system when early experimentation demonstrated a potential for long-term competitive advantage.

Avoiding CRM pitfalls

Poly Hi avoids one of many pitfalls to a CRM/sales force automation effort by not hiding budget or organizational issues in the planning process. Instead, it created a structure and a long-term commitment, said Stephen Horne, pres-ident of Analytici, a CRM consulting and database marketing solutions company based in New York.

Organizations also must calculate the total cost of ownership, maintain the CRM/SFA system on a daily basis and identify long-term goals, Horne said.

For instance, Poly Hi identified two goals: global reach and a focus on the company’s direct sales force, rather than dispensing leads to distributors.

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