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Making sense of marketing investments

As marketing organizations face both internal and external pressure to reduce costs and prove their worth to the company, Marketing Resource Management (MRM) technology is steadily gaining ground.

Under increasing pressure to measure results and improve performance, marketing organizations are turning to technology.

Specifically, more and more companies are starting to invest in Marketing Resource Management (MRM), said Kimberly Collins, a research director with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

"Certainly it's growing rapidly among Global 1000 companies and recognition of the term has picked up," Collins said. "Marketing is waking up to the fact that automation can help them and optimize their resources."

The technology offers marketers a variety of functionality including: cost tracking, budget tracking, the ability to manage budgets by customer segments rather than brand, and the ability to close the loop with sales to measure a campaign's effectiveness. Ultimately, Collins said, MRM will be able to help determine the appropriate marketing mix to focus sales on opportunities that deliver value. For example, a business could find the synergies between mass media materials and targeted campaigns. @9699

Gartner predicts that by 2010 more than 65% of Global 100 companies will have implemented MRM and more than 25% will leverage MRM to help plan broader customer programs. Those that leverage MRM to support customer-centric strategies will achieve 30% higher returns through cost reduction and revenue enhancement, according to Gartner.

The market for MRM is still relatively mixed between best-of-breed vendors like AssetLink Corp. and BrandWizard Technologies Inc.; marketing software suite providers like Aprimo Inc. and Unica Corp.; and CRM and enterprise application providers like Siebel Systems Inc., SAP AG and Oracle Corp.

"[With vendor selection,] a lot comes down to whether people are looking for robust functionality or are they looking for a more integrated solution and willing to sacrifice functionality for breadth," Collins said.

Some companies have gone the route of building their own MRM -- even if it wasn't necessarily called MRM at the time -- without a great deal of success. IT departments tried to tie together existing portal, product management and workflow tools only to find that marketing didn't want to use it, Collins said.

"Now, with MRM being identified in words, we've seen greater interest in prepackaged or outsourced offerings," Collins said.

Facing outside pressures like Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, and internal pressures, most often from the finance department, marketing organizations are increasingly being held accountable for their budgets. MRM technology enables marketers to monitor spending across campaigns and target customer communications across a growing set of touch points, Collins said.

Finding ways to measure performance and track customers within those touch points has proven a difficult task, however. Database marketing has done a better job of identifying metrics to measure success. Terms like conversion rates, response rates and the connection to profitability have emerged, but other segments of the marketing department view them solely as database marketing metrics.

"[Chief Marketing Officers] and senior executives, media planners, the creative and advertising parts of the organization have to develop their own metrics," Collins said. "It's one of least developed areas in MRM both from the vendors and customers."

A lot of what is measured are internal metrics such as redundancies and money spent on agencies, she added. MRM provides a way to automate work flows. Also, knowledge repositories will keep marketers from redundant work and allow them to learn from past campaigns and channel success.

"Marketers lack a corporate memory of what works or doesn't," Collins said. "These solutions offer not just a content repository, but the ability to associate what has been used and where and how effective it was. It leverages that ability to make smarter decisions. It's an absolutely critical piece of this."

Some organizations do seem to have learned a lesson from the adoption problems they faced with their sales force automation (SFA) implementations. While there are still plenty of marketers reluctant to adopt new technology, particularly creative teams, companies have learned how to cope with change management, training and providing incentives for people to use the new technology, Collins said.

While sales can tie commissions to the use of a new SFA system, marketing has to use more stick and less carrot. For example, those who want to learn the budget for their projects may be required to use the MRM system to find it. Collins foresees MRM being deployed beyond the small groups of users that are typically taking it up now and expanding into a "marketing desktop" where marketers perform their day-to-day activities.

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