Magnify Unveils Extranet to Help Marketers Create Their Own Promos

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Magnifi Inc., a builder of online business-to-business marketing networks, introduced a service this week designed to let companies design marketing materials, place orders and coordinate projects by linking employees and suppliers through an extranet system.


The service, called Magnifi.Net, is geared toward use by ad agencies and corporate marketing departments. Staff who are involved in making collateral -- i.e., brochures, direct mail, print ads, fliers, outbound e-mail -- are linked via a private online network to each other as well as to agencies and suppliers that sell them goods and services for their marketing efforts.


"Without any capital expenditure, [companies] can connect their marketing supply chain" such as graphic designers, focus group moderators and researchers, said Ranjan Sinha, CEO and co-founder of Magnifi, Cupertino, CA.


Clients do not have to buy additional hardware or software to use the system. Magnifi hosts the program on its own server and sells clients a set of seats that can access the system. Businesses can allot the seats as they wish, either inhouse or to their suppliers.


The service is unique, according to Donovan Gow, a research analyst who follows customer relationship management for the Aberdeen Group, Boston. Other companies digitize their clients' marketing materials and store them in centralized libraries, but don't help marketers design and make new materials, he said.


Creating brochures, fliers, mailers and ads through the Net lets marketers avoid the cost of several people in different locations passing hard copies around. Large companies might spend millions of dollars a year just in shipping creative materials from one office to another, Gow said.


"And that's just specific to this creation process, sending proofs and edits and documents back and forth," he said. "And there is also a time-to-market issue. The faster you can speed this up, the sooner you have your collateral to get your stuff to market," he said.


The analyst said roughly one third of the physical materials produced by marketers ends up wasted, either becoming lost, obsolete or stored in a warehouse until it rots. Magnifi claims its system cuts away such waste by letting marketing employees order materials quickly as they need them, rather than buying in bulk. The program automates the ordering of material with an electronic shopping basket system.


The parts of a project that users can access through the extranet service vary based on the type of content or the parts for which they are personally responsible. When employees complete a task such as, for example, ordering 300 T-shirts for an industry conference, that order is updated for everyone who accesses the system. Marketing staff also can pull up previews of materials being worked on.


Companies subscribe to Magnifi.Net by paying between $5,000 and $20,000 a month, depending on the amount of customization that they want. For its basic service, Magnifi uploads creative material, makes a library, and sets up individuals so they can monitor their projects. Training costs $1,500 per day per company.


Magnifi also announced last week that advertising agency Young & Rubicam Inc., New York, and drug wholesaler McKesson HBOC Inc., San Francisco, signed up for the program. Gow expects businesses with big branding budgets to form a substantial part of Magnifi's customer base. Using Magnifi's system is likely to be less expensive than developing internal extranet coordination themselves, he said.


"Somebody like Coke, they may be running 200-plus campaigns at the same time. The coordination efforts are just monstrous," Gow said.


Sinha is pursuing large corporate marketing departments and creative service vendors, touting Magnifi.Net's ease of use and the relatively small amount of strain it puts on IT departments. Several such companies currently coordinate projects with fax blasts or through e-mail.
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