New Topics Join Familiar Ones at NCDM

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KISSIMMEE, FL -- Well-known topics such as customer-centric marketing and integrated database marketing solutions were joined by newer issues like process-based marketing and marketing resource management at the Winter 2004 National Center for Database Marketing Conference last week.


Several vendors discussed marketing resource management, including Unica, Waltham, MA, and DoubleClick, New York. DoubleClick Inc. acquired MRM software provider SmartPath Inc. this year as a way to meet the emerging demand for these applications. MRM software aids in planning a marketing function and the coordination and collaboration of marketing resources. It also helps marketing organizations create strategy, define objectives and devise budgets.


Another trend discussed was process-based marketing, which uses automated marketing communications systems. These systems -- which are Web-enabled platforms for the production, customization, distribution and management of marketing communication -- help companies manage their direct marketing communications, or CRM efforts, from front end to back end.


"They make it possible for companies to effectively change the operating environment from one based upon static, job-defined, high-volume communications messages to a dynamic, data-driven, real-time communications flow executed on virtually a one-to-one basis," said Gary Scott, president of Trialogue Corp.


Trialogue, Minneapolis, unveiled its suite of automated marketing communications tools at the conference, impressing experts on the trade show floor.


"This technology is like MRM on steroids," said David M. Raab, a DM News columnist and principal of Raab Associates, Chappaqua, NY, a consulting firm specializing in marketing technology.


Another topic was the growth of right-time marketing, which lets organizations communicate with customers when those customers are most receptive, with the message most likely to bring about the desired response, through the most effective channel.


For example, a bank could offer an exceptional rate on a six-month CD just after a customer receives a sizable bonus. Or an online retailer may offer a high-value customer who has called in with a complaint a discount on her next purchase.


"While large, sophisticated banks have been doing this for a while, we are seeing that it is being used in a variety of other industries as well, such as retail, e-commerce and travel and hospitality," said Carol Meyers, vice president of marketing at Unica Corp. Unica's enterprise marketing management solution, Affinium 6, enables this practice.


Tim Berry, vice president of data solutions at Merkle Direct Marketing, Lanham, MD, said that as companies are gathering more data, it is increasingly difficult for them to get the information they need.


"Data is becoming a huge haystack, and the ability to find the needle is getting harder and harder," he said. As a result, Merkle is starting to tell customers to "pull data out of their database, as opposed to putting more in."


A trend that arises regularly at NCDM shows and was discussed here involved the movement toward customer-centric marketing from product-centric marketing. Berry said this type of marketing is not for everyone.


"This requires a different culture and philosophy," he said.


Another perennial topic revisited at this year's show was the importance of using a full-service, integrated service provider for a company's database marketing and CRM needs.


"There are many CRM software tools out there, but people have to understand that there is no magic button that allows you to have a customer-centric business," said Joanna Smith Bers, managing director of DB Marketing Technologies, New York, a management consultancy that helps optimize customer relationships. "Companies need to use technology along with good business processes."


But Meyers gave a plug for standalone software solutions. Since many CRM software vendors offer their technology in an open, Web services format today, she said, "people can use a best-of-breed technology for each specific function" and formulate their own complete solution as opposed to relying on one software vendor for all their CRM needs.


Vendors were generally optimistic about prospects for 2005.


"Companies today are starting to pay a little more attention to generating revenue than they have been over the past few years, as opposed to just reducing costs," Meyers said.


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