ABR 2011: Merkle

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David Williams
David Williams


Principal
: David Williams,
chairman and CEO

Ownership
: Privately held

Offices
: 12 wholly owned
globally; 11 in US

Subsidiaries
: Analytici,
 CognitiveData, 
Impaqt

US revenue
: $253.5 million


Expansion was the theme last year at CRM agency Merkle. The Columbia, Md.-based company expanded both its physical footprint and its core offerings through acquisitions and with the opening of its first international office in Shanghai. It also dropped its "database marketing agency" tagline and is turning the corporate conversation toward customer relationship marketing.

Capabilities


In the last 12 months, Merkle created an integrated social marketing practice area; added new services to its mobile marketing practice; created the CRM Retail Marketing Suite for retailers; and acquired consulting firm Lenser and search marketing firm Impaqt. 


"We've focused a lot on digital and how we can better integrate the different media into our understanding of the customer," says Merkle chairman and CEO David Williams. "We've spent the last 18 months capturing data from fragmented sources, but most clients today don't have a single data infrastructure. We're integrating all that data to help clients understand customer interactions in the short- and long-term."


Williams defines Merkle's approach as using data and analytics to build predictive models to drive customer value conversations.


Accounts


The company's strategy appears to be paying off. Merkle won the following accounts in the last year: Amnesty International USA, Clorox, Feeding America, MetLife, US Olympic Committee, and the CRM AOR account with Wal-Mart. Those new relationships build on existing relationships it has with Dell, Geico and DirectTV. The agency would not disclose any lost accounts in the last year. "What people are coming to Merkle for is leveraging customer strategy as a business strategy," explains Williams.


Staff


Merkle added roughly 250 staff over the last year, bringing its total to 1,445. Williams expects to continue adding new positions this year in order to support additional growth. Mark Weninger joined last year as the company's first chief creative officer. 


At the time of the appointment, Williams said Weninger would help to strengthen and unify "our end-to-end marketing capabilities." It also plans to open at least two new offices next year, including one in London. Weninger notes its global expansion is necessary for clients such as Dell, which it is "now supporting around the world."


Performance


Merkle had record revenues of $254 million for 2010, a 14% year-over-year increase. It expects to hit $300 million by the end of this year. Williams says the agency is looking to improve its digital chops going forward, which may come in the way of acquisitions. It plans to double the size of its new Shanghai office this year.


Going forward, Merkle will continue to distance itself from its reputation as a database marketing agency and will look for new ways to integrate customer data from all digital and offline channels. 


"The economic downturn opened a lot of people's eyes about how to build a sustainable competitive advantage," says Williams. "What everyone learned is that customer centricity as a business strategy is a 10 out of 10. Our mission is to change consumer behaviour using data and analytics."

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