Polaroid finds CRM’s a snap

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Polaroid Corp., the struggling maker of photographic products, is getting a much-needed boost from a new Internet-based platform that lets its Polaroid ID Group track how promptly—and successfully—its independent resellers pursue leads supplied to them.

In the first 90 days after the platform’s implementation, the unit saw its revenue conversion rate increase by 15%, resulting in a 20% revenue increase. The figures are especially encouraging, considering the grim times the Cambridge, Mass.-based company is going through because of a slowdown in its mainstay instant imaging business. Polaroid, which is currently renegotiating heavy debt obligations with its bankers, recently announced it would lay off 2,000 workers, or 25% of its work force.

Polaroid ID, one of Polaroid’s biggest b-to-b divisions, develops corporate identification card systems for clients, including The New York Stock Exchange. It sells only through 35 independent resellers in the U.S.

Sharing knowledge

Sales leads, derived from responses to direct marketing campaigns, interactive marketing sites, magazine ads and trade shows, are passed on to resellers through the Web-based platform.

The platform, developed by MarketSoft Corp., integrates corporate information from Dun & Bradstreet Co. to help resellers better understand the leads they’ve been given.

The MarketSoft platform, called DemandMore Leads, also gives Polaroid ID’s marketers information they can use to develop targeted direct marketing and advertising campaigns.

Polaroid ID’s initiative is notable for the amount of emphasis on a backwater of the CRM process—monitoring how well salespeople are cultivating the most valuable of potential b-to-b customers, those who have expressed an interest in buying.

Before rolling out a pilot version of the platform a year ago and implementing it in full in March, Polaroid ID had no accurate way of tracking direct marketing and other leads.

Respondents to the company’s direct marketing campaigns and trade show marketing efforts were passed on to independent resellers, and kept track of by Polaroid ID on an Excel spreadsheet. Automation and transparency were practically nonexistent.

"We did 16,500 leads in year 2000," said Bob Carne, national sales manager-commercial ID. "We were literally tracking this with an Excel spreadsheet. It was time-intensive, labor-intensive and inefficient."

Worse yet, Polaroid ID had scant information to use when planning direct marketing and advertising campaigns. "We weren’t getting any of the data marketing needs," Carne said.

Polaroid ID’s initiative is shrewd for its emphasis on something that eludes some CRM executives—arranging a workable technological link between marketing and sales, said Rich Clayton, VP-product marketing at Responsys Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif.-based CRM platform developer and consultancy.

Indeed, Polaroid ID’s old system for passing along leads was dated and often ineffective. "Half the time, the business card never got to a reseller, but ended up in someone’s folder," said Mike Kozub, chief marketing officer at Lexington, Mass.-based MarketSoft.

The DemandMore Leads platform relies on automation—and a healthy dose of marketing oversight by Polaroid—to help leads turn into sales.

Polaroid ID’s marketers pass along leads over the Web-based platform to the most appropriate reseller, based on factors such as geography and business sector. If resellers don’t acknowledge that they’ve followed up on a lead within 48 hours, it is automatically sent on to another reseller.

Thirty days later, the system notifies resellers to send Polaroid ID another update stating whether they’ve succeeded in making the sale or whether Polaroid ID should forget about the prospect altogether. "A lot of leads are tire kickers, and we need to know this," Carne said.

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