Tracking your leads

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Marketers at b-to-b companies will talk about how campaign management software can dramatically boost the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns. Indeed, such software can execute super-targeted campaigns by tapping customer data already residing within the company.

Maybe more important, analysts say, the technology often allows marketers to track and analyze the results of campaigns while they’re still in progress, so smart changes can be made immediately.

Yet analysts also observe that most marketers haven’t fully embraced the potential of the software programs now available. That’s not surprising: Installing a sophisticated campaign management tool requires serious commitment from senior executives because of the hefty price tag, typically $50,000 to $250,000 and more.

Buy-in at the executive level also is needed because other departments will have to cooperate when it comes time to integrate these programs with existing data management systems that often are scattered throughout an organization.

Setting up a preliminary system can take three or four months, and it can take up to a year to have that data cleaned thoroughly and transformed into a usable format for marketers, said Kevin Scott, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston.

"Companies need to know who their most profitable customers are and how to market to them effectively," he said. "But many companies have separate databases for all kinds of clients and getting a single view of the customer is easier said than done."

In addition, some companies are carefully selecting enterprisewide programs—many using customer relationship management technology—and campaign management tools are often part of that bigger package, Scott said. The marketing department’s piece of those huge projects often is one of the first to be installed, but marketers must wait until the entire program is launched to reap the benefits of the system.

Worth the effort?

Still, the results can be worth the effort. Campaign management tools can add great value to an organization because some of the more sophisticated programs enable companies to devise a return on investment calculation that shows which piece of a campaign is providing the best results in real time.

However, these metrics aren’t easy. "ROI calculations aren’t easy to do because they require some regression and statistical analysis that many companies aren’t set up to do," said Scott Doniger, an analyst in the San Francisco office of Forrester Research Inc. "Even if a vendor has the right software, each client will need extensive customization. The architecture is the toughest part of setting up these programs."

Further complicating the task for marketers is finding a vendor that has the right mix of products and services that meet their company’s needs. There are dozens of vendors currently touting their proprietary systems that will assist in planning, delivering, measuring and analyzing any online campaign or multi-channel effort. Some vendors include E.piphany Inc., Siebel Systems Inc., Digital Impact Inc., Aprimo Inc., Delano Technology Corp. and PrimeResponse Inc.

Marketers also have to decide if they’re going to purchase the software and run it in-house—which most companies do—or outsource the function to a vendor, such as WebSideStory Inc., that can manage any or all pieces of a campaign on a hosted site., a Fremont, Calif.-based company that sells computer monitors to other businesses, uses WebSideStory’s technology on a hosted basis to measure purchasing activity resulting from its marketing campaigns, said Greg Harris, VP-marketing at MonitorsDirect.

Real-time campaign feedback

When United Way of Greater Toronto installed an automated online marketing program from Delano Technology for its corporate fund-raising campaigns last year, the jump in donations from individuals working at selected corporations was evident immediately, said Philip King, VP of e-business for the United Way of Greater Toronto.

The company found that first-time donors targeted in the online campaign donated an average of $300, compared with a $200 average for first-time donors targeted in the organization’s traditional offline campaigns.

The success was attributed to the very targeted canvassing that volunteers were able to do, and to real-time access to campaign status that directed them to resend messages only to individuals who didn’t respond initially, King said. They also had the ability to alter the message and change the "from" field or subject line to increase the response rate, he said.

"The feedback we received was amazing because we’ve never had real-time views of campaign activity," King said. "In the past, we did campaign reviews once they were closed and only then could we see if it met our goals or not. No changes could be made until the next year when the campaign was redesigned and relaunched."

Marketers who can compare how one campaign measures against others can plan better for the future, said Jill Snyder, VP-corporate marketing at Aprimo, Indianapolis. Like many other vendors, Aprimo offers marketers the ability to analyze how an online campaign fared against a trade show or other marketing event.

"If I’m a marketer doing strategic planning, I have to look across all the things I’m investing in to get a global view of all the marketing campaigns in the portfolio," Snyder said. "If a marketer learns that e-mail marketing is the most productive effort, then they know to put more money into that next year."

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