UQube Offers Execution Measurement

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"Marketing management system" used to sound suspiciously oxymoronic. But the term has become so common that many people not only understand it, but even can distinguish subtypes within the category. Coming from vendors and analysts, such distinctions often are little more than marketing ploys to differentiate fundamentally similar products. But in this case, some classifications are helpful because marketing management does encompass several distinct disciplines.


In broad terms, these fall into three groups: planning, execution and measurement. Obviously, these follow a natural sequence, and some data sharing makes it easier to provide continuity as the sequence plays out. But planning is mainly a strategic process run by senior managers while execution is an operational process run by people further down the hierarchy.


Thus the integration between strategy and execution is limited, in theory as well as practice. Measurement has both strategic and operational components. It can be considered a supporting function within planning and execution or, more grandly, a separate specialty in its own right.


UQube (Upper Quadrant, 703/476-1992, www.upperquadrant.com) falls neatly into the slot for marketing execution measurement. This is a tough role to fill because it requires gathering data from many sources and integrating it to connect promotions with responses. UQube has no magical solution for this longstanding challenge. But it does provide a framework to systematically capture and store whatever information users can acquire. This is more important than it may sound, since response analysis is often done in one-time special projects rather than as part of a comprehensive, ongoing system.


The key word is "comprehensive." UQube's framework includes direct response, mass media and insert promotions and responses from mail, call center, Web site and retail. When explicit identifiers are available to link promotions to responses, the system can import these and report on the results.


When only indirect linkage is possible, the system can capture information such as retail store or geographic location and relate results to these. It also can store external data, such as reports on competitive media purchases, to provide a context for analysis. Users can add more information by loading copies of promotion materials and financial data about costs and revenues.


The richest information is still related to traditional direct marketing campaigns. UQube stores campaign details down to the cell level, including vendors used, drop dates, offers, creative materials, costs, list sources, Web addresses and data overlays. The system includes a function to manage 800 numbers, including tracking of actual volumes of calls processed in recent days. This lets users determine which numbers are active and which can be safely reassigned to new campaigns.


Extensive forecasting features can generate day-by-day response forecasts using results of previous campaigns and taking into account day of the week and holidays. These forecasts can be transmitted to call center vendors for staff planning. Forecasts are updated automatically as results are received.


UQube does not extend to actual campaign management, in the sense of loading lists of customer or prospect names and selecting them for promotions. The vendor does provide some predictive modeling services, more or less outside the system. Its plans integrate these and will add name-level list management in a future release.


Processes for loading and consolidating UQube data are straightforward. The vendor developed standard interfaces with major call center, Web advertising and media buying services. Feeds for retail point of sale and direct response order files are developed as needed, but are fairly easy since they tend to have similar types of data. Outbound campaign information is generally entered by hand or imported from spreadsheets. The real work is less in importing the data than in capturing the various identifiers needed to relate promotions to results. This is an administrative rather than technical issue.


Once the data are loaded, UQube provides a range of reports. Dashboards provide tabular and graphical summaries of promotion results and can be tailored to individual users' needs. Starting with the dashboard reports, users can specify the metrics to view and drill down for details by date, geography, medium, creative treatment, list and other dimensions. Different reports are available for different channels and to focus on different business issues such as new sales vs. retention.


Specialized reports track performance by vendors in terms of both results and costs. Other reports compare forecast vs. performance. Aggregate reports show results across campaigns to help understand marketing mix, financial information and segment performance. These reports provide some degree of strategic overview, but UQube does not provide document collaboration or hierarchical linkage of goals, strategies and tactics, which are central features of a strategic planning product.


UQube is fully hosted, meaning the software runs on computers operated by Upper Quadrant. Clients access the system through a Web browser and manage data loads by sending files to the UQube server. This process is typically automated, so reports can be refreshed as often as new data become available. Role-based security lets different users see different parts of the system. This lets clients provide limited access to business partners - for example, to share response forecasts with call center vendors. Users also can export data from the system for further analysis or to share with external sources.


Users pay a monthly fee based on modules purchased and number of users. The system has separate modules for direct response, interactive marketing and mass media. Modules include specialized reports and data loading routines. Monthly charges range from $10,000 to $85,000 and include 15 to 20 hours of analytical assistance.


Implementation takes four to eight weeks including custom data mapping and report development. A new release of the system, due by the end of 2005, is expected to ease configuration and reduce implementation time to several days.


UpperQuadrant was founded in 2002 and launched UQube in June 2004. It has about a dozen clients in various stages of implementation. Most are large consumer marketers and financial services.


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