• June 1, 2004
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Making Sense of Marketing Automation Options

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There are few industries as fragmented and confusing as the enterprise marketing automation industry. Take ISP powerhouse America Online, for example. AOL selected Kintana, which was recently acquired by Mercury Interactive, for process tracking and financial management of marketing initiatives after the success it had with Kintana in other parts of the company with invoice management and procurement processes. Yet, after implementing Kintana AOL realized it needed more. "We were working with a small piece of an overall solution and didn't recognize that until we saw the Aprimo solution," says Michael Murray, vice president of marketing infrastructure development. So AOL implemented Aprimo to support its marketing efforts. If AOL is experiencing these stumbling blocks--and investing in new tools as a result--it is likely that others will, as well. In fact, IDC has noticed single-digit percentage increases in marketing investments, specifically from IT organizations, over the past year. Rich Vancil, vice president of IDC's Chief Marketing Officer Advisory, says marketers "have done a lot of house cleaning and are better positioned and able to effectively garner more budgets internally after three years of rationalization." Three years is a long time to temper marketing efforts, and the marketing automation industry has matured considerably over that time. "There is some confusion about what tools are needed, and which vendors are offering the right functionality for a customer company," says Martin Schneider, an analyst at the451 Group. The market is seeing the emergence of enterprise marketing management, Schneider says, which is a suite of marketing applications including various fields of marketing operations, digital traffic management, and product and marketing branding. Unica, for example, has its roots in marketing automation, which helps organizations create targeted marketing campaigns and measure their results. Aprimo's background, however, is in marketing operations, which focuses on managing campaigns. Both vendors are expanding into the other's roots, according to Ian Jacobs, principal CRM analyst at Current Analysis. He adds that one of the few vendors to provide a suite of marketing solutions that covers various fields of marketing operations, digital traffic management, and product and marketing branding is SmartPath, which was acquired by DoubleClick earlier this year. Another slow-moving trend is the convergence of CRM suite vendors and analytics vendors into the marketing automation market. SAS, for example, wowed analysts with its SAS9 release earlier this year. The product is designed to make it easier for marketers to build their own customized campaigns and track their results. "At some point the CRM suite guys will be looking at this space," Jacobs says. "The revenue generated from MRM [marketing resource management] and the size of companies and the level of importance to those companies are still too small. But they will get there eventually." Siebel has long offered marketing functionality. Oracle is improving the integration of its marketing capabilities into its back-office functions, such as quotation and order management, and hosted vendors like NetSuite offer "a lot of e-commerce marketing functions," Schneider says. But whatever your organization's goals are, he adds, "companies need to carefully evaluate vendors based on their specific needs." AOL BUILDS VISIBILITY INTO MARKETING RESULTS When it comes to tracking marketing performance, "you can't manage what you can't see," says Michael Murray, AOL's vice president of marketing infrastructure development. This is especially the case for large organizations with multiple product lines. Murray had seen the ISP's product line soar from a one-product organization two years ago, with AOL narrowband, to a multiproduct organization that includes broadband and 10 premium services. "Now we have to use the same resources and support for each brand, which changes the dynamic of a marketing organization," he says. "We've gone from being a dot to a cube with a lot more surface area. We needed to invest more to create visibility, manage and track that information, and report where we were winning and losing." To do this AOL selected Aprimo and wrapped it around its Kintana application (Kintana has since been acquired by Mercury Interactive). While Kintana provided process tracking and financial management of marketing initiatives, Aprimo provided the up-front strategic planning and knowledge repository, and eventually "became a big piece of the workflow track," he says. Along with getting better visibility into the status of projects, Murray says, Aprimo helps lower employee attrition, because "people are happier with the work they're doing." Additionally, he says, it used to take six months to train an employee on mapping a project format; this can now be cut down by 50 percent, "because people understand the workflow. It helps you manage through rather than guess." --D.M.
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