Flexibility and plenty of sales impact highlight this down-to-earth product.
For the rest of the September 1999 issue of CRM magazine please click here
Whenever I sit down to write a new review I always sift through my archives to review the dialog I have had with a company over time. I was surprised to recall that I first reviewed this program in October 1986. How many sales force automation software firms can claim to have been around for more than a decade? This quiet little company has steadily grown and improved its program, which is now used by more than 5,000 companies, with more that 50,000 total users.

Contact Management
MarketForce provides the powerful contact management capabilities you would expect from a company that has been in the game this long. The Default Data Entry screens provide a lot of information in a logical and easy-to-view fashion. Every data field can have a user-definable "pick list" called Data Selection, that automatically pops up and allows the user to pick the appropriate information to stuff in that particular field. Data Selection also allows multiple fields to be stuffed with a single selection. MarketForce's built-in Custom Search query and reporting system also allows you to update records globally. With this option you may copy, move, clear, append, extract and replace information from any field.

When searching for a contact, MarketForce shows the quick search keys based on fields in the main Client Record and Relational windows that have been defined as quick search keys. There will always be at least nine key fields for the Client Record and one or more for the Relational window records. Up to nine additional keys may be added to the Client Find window by your management team. This option provides an extremely fast way for you to search for and retrieve a record. The search is actually performed by looking for the first record that is greater than or equal to the text you type in the Search For area. The comparison only takes into consideration the number of characters you enter and starts from the left of the data in the actual record.

MarketForce displays multiple related database records in a tabular list format called DataView. This lets you select related database records (such as Contacts) from a list quickly and then go to the record without searching through each related record using [Previous] or [Next]. Once data is displayed in a tabular list format, DataView provides a powerful array of tools that let you view and manipulate the contents of the record.

MarketForce helps you quickly assemble call lists to manage your daily contact activities. As you contact each prospect, the program keeps track of the dates you schedule for recalls. Each day, when you request a daily call list from the menu, this "tickler file" is automatically activated to place recalls scheduled for that day on your call list. You can also prepare targeted call lists by using Custom Search.

MarketForce integrates nicely with Microsoft Word so that you can easily fax information to your contacts. The Client Document Manager then gives you the ability to attach documents to any clients in your Client database. You create or edit these documents in the native format you choose. This makes it possible to attach specifications, fax sheets, correspondence, images, spreadsheets and so on. Typically, you will attach any document that you send to the client's record. In this way, you always have an easy way to find a copy of anything that you have ever sent to the client. You can even pull up a document later, make a revision and send it back out very quickly. You can think of DocMan as an electronic filing cabinet for MarketForce clients.

The program's time management capabilities are extensive. MarketForce's calendar combines comprehensive features with remarkable ease of use. Features include Day, Week, Month and Year-at-a-Glance screens with icons differentiating types of activities; the ability to track an unlimited number of appointments for individuals or workgroups; and Scheduler for logging different types of events including field sales calls, in-office appointments, workgroup meetings at a central location, to-do items and anniversary dates.

Sales Management
MarketForce includes an opportunity management system designed to be easily configured to match your unique sales cycle. Opportunity management also supports multiple sales representatives selling multiple products or product lines to a single organization, simultaneously. It lets you assign and track different, multiple sales cycle steps for each product or product line, while also providing for the assignment of multiple actions as necessary to complete each step in the sales cycle. It can coordinate telesales, inside sales and field sales activities into a single cohesive sales force, focusing on managing the customer relationship to optimize revenues. Finally, MarketForce provides the advanced synchronized data exchange capabilities needed to achieve instant connectivity between every member of a far-flung sales team. The MarketForce Opportunity Management System lets you easily define your unique sales methodology.

Using the system's configurable business rules, you can help your salespeople track their goals and improve the chances of achieving quota. The program's Executive Information System lets sales management display a wide variety of graphical reports so that you can easily track important statistics such as sales dollars, time on calls, number of calls, longest call, letters sent and average call length for each individual salesperson.

However, there are no compelling features here that I don't see in 50 other programs. For example, to really help sales managers guide the efforts of their sales team, I look for more robust sales metrics. The MarketForce response is, "You can do those things using the RAD customization capabilities." I look to superior programs to provide these additional capabilities "out of the box."

Sales Impact
MarketForce is one of the few programs that let you design a multistep series of marketing activities, or sales tracks, in which each scheduled, automated activity delivers a separate message to your prospects or clients. From initial lead generation to after-the-sale customer service, you'll be able to:

  • Design sales tracks for letters, calls or faxes you want a prospect or client to receive;
  • Send consistent automated messages to your prospects;
  • Be prompted with needed call reminders;
  • And never lose continuity of follow-up with customers, even with busy schedules. This powerful Automated Marketing System (AMS) provides an easy way to create a completely "hands-off" follow-up plan for each sales opportunity. Multiple follow-up packages, letters, calls and so on can be set up on a user-defined "track" that automates the follow-up process completely and allows thousands of sales impressions to be made with little or no human intervention. Predefined follow-up letters can be automatically merged with customer information, printed, sorted for mailing and even signed (using a scanned-in graphic) with the proper salesperson's name by the laser printer.

Ease of Use
MarketForce uses a Windows-like GUI interface that makes all information easily available from a menu by the click of a mouse key or by a unique keystroke combination. This means users are not required to use a mouse to operate the system on their laptop computers. For this strategy to work properly, the program must provide keystroke combinations for all-important tasks. MarketForce does this.

The MarketForce Menuing System is the first screen you see when you log in and gives you instant access to all major sales and marketing functions. The Menu screen and the operations it controls can be quickly customized to fit your sales organization. The applications, icons and text, which appear on the Menu screen, can be easily customized. The MarketForce Menuing System can be:

  • Customized on the fly without exiting MarketForce;
  • Set up with any number of menu and sub-menu buttons for launching programs;
  • Arranged to include captions or icons from other programs; and
  • Custom-configured for specific work groups or individual users. Though MarketForce's menuing system is powerful, I frequently found myself searching for the correct menu choice. I prefer stricter compliance with a Microsoft look and feel to find my way around.

The program is written in a combination of Visual Basic and C++ and supports a wide range of database systems including Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft SQL Server, Pervasive 7, and Btrieve. MarketForce comes with its own Scripting Language, known as TASK, which is a complete Visual Basic-like programming language that allows you to control virtually every aspect of MarketForce operation, including handling task-specific DDE functions and objects. Though Year 2000 compliant, the company has yet to deliver a full 32-bit version.

The MarketForce Rapid Application Development (RAD) system, a full fifth-generation development tool kit, allows complete control of screen design. Using the RAD editor, an entire screen can be created and set up in a few minutes, and then the user simply exits the editor and can use the new screen immediately to view or edit data.

In order to understand the flexibility of MarketForce, it helps to understand the underlying database structure. There is a main client record, which holds detailed information concerning the client. This record contains over 95 fields of data, all of which are completely user-definable. The clients' mailing, shipping and billing addresses, phone numbers, main contacts and other client-specific information are stored here. Relationally attached to the main client record are data tables of other information concerning different aspects of the main client record such as Notes, Contacts, To-Do, Sales Forecasts, Expenses and Orders. MarketForce supports unlimited user-defined fields. Using RAD, new fields are added with "drag and drop" ease. New tables are added just as easily and any information can be stored in these new tables or fields.

MarketForce provides a lot of flexibility. Furthermore, this flexibility is accessible by mere mortals-Xyou won't need to call in an army of consultants every time you want to change something.

The Bottom Line
If some of the larger CRM developers strike you as a bit too slick, give this homey company a look. MarketForce does a nice job of covering all the bases and their "mom and pop" way of doing business is a refreshing change of pace.

Hit or Miss?

Contact Management------3
Sales Management--------2
Sales Impact------------3
Ease of Use-------------2
Flexibility------------ 3

1=Falls short
2=Meets expectations
3=Exceeds quota

At a Glance

Software of the Future, Inc.,
P.O. Box 120279,
Arlington, Texas

Telephone: (800) 766-7355
FAX: (817) 274-6700
E-mail: sales@marketforce-inc.com
Web: www.marketforce-inc.com

Pricing: MarketForce's price has a broad range-Xfrom $300 to $1,200 per user according to platform, configuration and quantity.

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