Choosing the Right Software

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Marketing and information technology managers seeking ways to automate the marketing automation process must choose from several software applications.


Some of these automation tools also model results. Others interface with statistical packages while some create files for analysis elsewhere, all to complete a learning loop designed to optimize marketing campaigns.


Although such applications are designed to facilitate customer acquisition and retention efforts, the number of choices, new players, emerging technologies and claims of "end-to-end" solutions have actually generated confusion and potentially complicated the very work they were intended to simplify.


Marketing automation continues to grow and change, not just in terms of specific features and functionality, but also in terms of focus. At one time, simple list production and basic segmentation were enough to meet customer expectations. Today, e-marketing flexibility, multichannel integration and real-time one-to-one communications dialogue, including real-time updates of customer profiles, are in universal demand. In the future, the market will offer even more choices for pricing, outsourcing, integrating functionality and building enterprisewide solutions.


Demand for integration with electronic, as well as sales and service channels, and the need for real-time response capability, fosters a rapidly changing business environment. To adjust to the market's increasing demands, vendors are turning to acquisitions, partnerships and service relationships. Interest in service bureaus with experience in e-mail marketing is increasing while new channels (pagers, fax, wireless) are being added to the mix. Long-term, businesses determined to take a customer relationship management approach to marketing will require seamless enterprisewide


solutions.


E-mail, Web and call center integration are driving marketing automation to new innovations. Because the customer grants e-mail permission, behavior can be automatically tracked. The ability to measure customer behavior in this manner has made e-mail a very attractive communication vehicle for marketers. As with direct mail in the 1980s, businesses are now discovering that high volume e-mail requires different processes and resources compared to e-mail in small numbers.


Another trend can be observed in customer service across channels, driven by customer expectations. Marketers will not only have to find the right message for each customer, but also find the customer in the right channel. Campaign management vendors that once boasted features and functionality now tout suites of products that may be integrated at once or over time to support other channels, other functions and even other software. Those now rushing to pull together their diverse systems will find it is easier said than done. Major customer complaints from businesses trying to automate their marketing processes fall into two categories: business integration (channels, business units, functions and goals) and software/hardware integration (standards and support for database integration, Web and e-mail use).


The choices for marketing automation software continue to grow. As we see consolidations and acquisitions, we see just as many new vendors entering the space or existing vendors creating new marketing automation capabilities through building or acquisition. Today's marketers face difficult decisions about whether to purchase all marketing automation functionality from one vendor or choose a best-of-breed approach.


To help with these choices, Quaero LLC published a comparative analysis report in cooperation with the Direct Marketing Association on current marketing automation and campaign management software tools earlier this year. While Quaero's study focuses on tools that automate marketing processes, we are keenly aware that marketing is only one part of a complete customer relationship management solution.


The systematic approach of understanding customers for the purpose of establishing a mutually profitable exchange of offers,


services and communications involves many automated platforms: data warehouses, call centers, sales force interfaces, data mining and e-commerce, in addition to campaign management. The purpose of the study was to spell out for prospective purchasers, managers, users and observers what the major marketing automation tools are, what they do, how they distinguish themselves from each other, and which tools meet which business needs most effectively.


Quaero evaluated and rated 32 leading marketing automation vendors that provide software that claims to address the complete campaign management or marketing automation process. We gathered information from vendor Web sites, marketing collateral, live demonstrations and interviews with sales representatives or developers. The analysis was based on 85 functional and technical criteria elements in the following categories:


• Workflow: the management and coordination of the activities of a campaign from planning and budgeting to execution and tracking.


• Segmentation: the process of analyzing one's customer base to find groups of customers around which to conduct marketing efforts.


• Personalization: the ability to customize message content for individual customers.


• Execution: the delivery of an outbound message to a segment or target over a specific channel.


• Response measurement: the ability to track a customer's response to a specific message or offer delivered to that customer.


• Response modeling: the ability to develop response models within the marketing automation tool to be used in future segmentation and targeting efforts.


• Reporting: the ability to report the results of marketing campaigns.


• Promotion history: the ability to capture and store outbound and inbound campaign activity for use in future segmentation.


• Technical architecture: the integration of all hardware, software, databases and security control required to run the marketing automation software.


• Pricing: software costs as well as possible additional fees such as setup and integration, per user or workstation, per e-mail or per customer record.


In addition to the vendor reviews and evaluations, hands-on testing was completed on three software products. A customer database with 1 million records was created on platforms specific to the three tools. The test involved running two marketing campaigns, which evaluated the functional components listed in the categories above. The results of the hands-on functionality testing are included in the report, as well as evaluator notes related to each specific tool.


Kathie Harper is vice president of Quaero LLC, Charlotte, NC.
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