FranklinCovey's E-Marketing Journey

FranklinCovey, makers of popular personal organizers, binders and training tools, understands that even the best-planned projects rarely go smoothly. The longer the journey, the more chance for missteps. So when FranklinCovey stumbled time and again in efforts to better manage its email marketing operations, the company continued to pick itself up and change directions. "We've made some mistakes, and they were painful," says a weary Doug Smith, executive vice president of e-commerce at FranklinCovey. "But one of the things we've learned is that experience matters." Today, the firm's marketing engine can fire off 100,000 emails an hour and drives more than 1.6 million targeted emails each week. Most companies view marketing automation as a molehill among customer relationship management's (CRM) more precipitous peaks: sales force automation and customer-service management. Besides, marketing budgets are usually the first things slashed in a tough economy. And e-marketing, in general, still carries a bad rap -- a holdover from the dot-com era, when marketing dollars outstripped operating costs. That's why FranklinCovey outsourced its email marketing blasts to ClickAction, preferring to shell out $70,000 each month rather than embracing the practice in-house. In other words, FranklinCovey did not view e-marketing as a core competency. "We liked ClickAction and had no problems with their service," Smith says. But the volume of emails began rapidly approaching the point of diminishing returns. ClickAction charges per email, and FranklinCovey figured an internal email-management system could do the job for around 25 percent of the cost. Moreover, e-commerce sales -- the primary beneficiary of email marketing -- were growing to eventually account for 20 percent of FranklinCovey's revenues. The kicker? FranklinCovey was using Oracle's E-business suite that included a marketing campaign-management module. In due diligence, FranklinCovey evaluated many e-marketing vendors, including MarketFirst Software. In the end, the company chose Oracle largely because it was already licensing the module, recalls Smith. Oracle's best-of-breed rivals, however, contend that competitive engagements with suite vendors have more to do with personal relationships than technology or pricing. "There's a high-level relationship already established, maybe even with [Oracle chieftain] Larry Ellison himself. It's pretty common," says Steve Daniel, vice president of marketing at MarketFirst. FranklinCovey never got to the implementation stage of Oracle's marketing module. "We found that Oracle's incremental pieces weren't as integrated, and some of the feature-functions weren't quite as thorough as we originally thought," Smith says. "We were also working on other things and decided not to implement, given the difficulties we had with the other modules." FranklinCovey's e-marketing journey stalled. Then Jennifer Glover, director of marketing at FranklinCovey, recommended the company try to build the system from scratch. Why not? After all, Glover had witnessed internal software developers first hand, building a comparable email system, while working at a previous company. FranklinCovey consented and put developers to task. And again, the email-management project failed. Email tracking and customer segmentation capabilities were severely lacking. The database became "a little corrupt and hard to manage," admits Smith. Even processing 'unsubscribes' was getting difficult. After nine months, FranklinCovey threw up its corporate hands and called MarketFirst for the second time. Glover now says, "What I've learned is that this genius development team at the other company doesn't exist everywhere else." Three weeks later, in April this year, FranklinCovey signed a deal with MarketFirst. Among other things, MarketFirst's administrative interface that could be used by non-technical people was a key selling point. And so was speed to deployment. MarketFirst boasts that FranklinCovey installed its software across four servers in just 11 days and delivered 1.7 million personalized emails to customers only three weeks later. Of course, it wasn't all sweetness and light. "We were pushing the edge of MarketFirst's system," Smith says. "I think most of MarketFirst's clients are B2B types who don't do the kind of volume we do." In fact, 60 percent of MarketFirst's installed base is business-to-business companies. "We quickly got the site up, but then it needed a few months of tuning and tweaking, in order to get the rate of emails per hour to an acceptable level," Smith says. FranklinCovey's hard work though, has paid off. Today, the system flies; and Glover can finally focus on what she does best -- marketing. MarketFirst's software leverages re-usable campaign 'blueprints,' and thus enables Glover to quickly build e-campaigns. Consequently, she's able to launch up to six different e-campaigns a week, whereas before she could only create one or two per week. Additionally, the tools give Glover the flexibility to conduct email-based customer surveys, registration campaigns, welcome campaigns, refer-a-friend campaigns. The entire operation costs only a fraction of what outsourcers charged. All of this points to the real destination for e-marketing automation -- that is, doing more with less. Let technology fill the gaps. Says Smith: "Where is all this showing up? The overall cost of generating our revenue has decreased." (Editor's note: To see the latest on CRM and marketing automation's new emphasis, download the brand new E-Business Outlook: 2003 at no cost from Line56 Media.) Tom Kaneshige also writes for Line56.com
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