The 2009 Elite - NBC Universal Airs a Winning Program

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The NBC Universal (NBCU) universe comprises quite a few media properties-approximately 20, including USA Network, SyFy, Bravo,Oxygen, and NBC Sports. That kind of breadth provides great opportunities for boosting sales and advertising revenue-but it can also bring great problems.

Eric Johnson, NBCU's vice president of commercial excellence, easily recalls the three pain points: knowing and understanding the latent marketing needs of the advertiser base; selling all of NBCU's media properties; and optimizing marketing assets.

"There are a lot of handoffs and different properties that can get involved [in a project]," explains John Sabino, senior vice president of commercial excellence at NBCU. "We can start here on the East Coast, then shoot information to creative teams on the West Coast, [and] collaborate back and forth, coming up with the ultimate idea or product for our sales team to take back out to the client to pitch."

Some of those handoffs were fumbled, says Andres Bang, director of information technology for NBCU's   marketing initiatives. "The main charge for us was to use technology to bust through these silos and create a collaborative environment, as well as transparency and accountability across the board," Bang says.

NBCU needed a quick fix. Bang says he was "an army of one" on the implementation's technology side, so he didn't have time for servers, architecture, or network designs."Essentially, by default we had to go to software-as-a-service, and Salesforce.com was the best-of-breed," he says. The clincher was Salesforce CRM's ability to unite all parts of NBCU's sales, marketing, and advertising. "It's now a closed loop process," he says. "[Salesforce CRM] allowed us to create deal teams...and a multidimensional view on clients.We could have a Bravo account executive talking with the same client as the network, and also have [NBC] Sports and [NBC] Digital all see the single view of the client."

The build-out itself only took eight weeks, Johnson says, and users were trained in six-but the project's biggest hurdle involved data cleansing: It took four months to align the data and hierarchies from NBCU's 14 disparate sales systems. For example, before the new implementation, one client appeared 271 separate times across NBCU's redundant systems.

By streamlining all of the systems and business groups involved in selling ads, there was better visibility into which generic (or "stock") marketing ideas could be used for multiple clients, and which accounts required a customized approach. In just the first half of 2009, NBCU identified 291 stock ideas that can be accessed by any account executive-ideas, Sabino says, that are the "lifeblood [of] my sales professionals."

Before, NBCU couldn't separate the generic marketing ideas from the customized ones."If I went to any salesperson and asked them to show me every marketing and creative pitch presented to a particular client, there was no way to do that because everything would be in file servers, proprietary content management systems, people's email inboxes, and hard drives," Bang says.

The streamlined process has already reduced market-cycle time by 81 percent, and transparency enabled NBCU to attach 133 marketing ideas to booked deals in just the first half of 2009-compared to 83 in all of 2008."It's amazing to see 133 in already," Sabino says, noting it's helped generate a return on investment 23 times the size of the initial cost of its Salesforce.com project.

The sales team's entire paradigm has changed, Johnson says. Reps no longer have to accumulate data themselves; all the information they need-internal NBCU data, third-party data, contact information, etc.-is served up in a concise view. "Account executives can think more [about] how to position the brand to win versus how to find data and articles," he adds.

"Account executives can think more [about] how to position the brand to win versus how to find data and articles."

The success has prompted other NBCU divisions to reassess manual processes that the Salesforce.com platform could help optimize. "What we're excited about is that Salesforce.com enables us to turn the wheel faster and faster and faster," Johnson says.


Real Results: NBC Universal

  • Executed on 133 custom marketing ideas through the first half of 2009, compared to 83 for all of 2008.
  • Reduced the market-cycle time for all custom deals by 81 percent in the first quarter of 2009.
  • Created 291 general-use marketing decks in the first half of 2009.
  • Effectively combined 14 different sales systems to produce a comprehensive view of clients.
  • Fully trained employees on Salesforce CRM in six weeks.
  • Realized a return on investment 23 times the size of its initial project cost.

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