"He has a great deal of belief in the people he works with, and he gives you more than you could possibly imagine in terms of opportunity. He's basically someone who says, 'Here it is, run with it.'" These statements, provided by an employee at NuEdge, aptly describe the management philosophy of Timothy J. Keane, CEO of NuEdge Systems, a leading provider of fully integrated customer relationship management (CRM) solutions for enterprise marketing automation. NuEdge Systems came into being when RTMS (Retail Target Marketing System) and CIC (Customer Insight Corporation of Denver) merged in March of 2000.
According to Keane, NuEdge Systems' primary focus is to help its customers solve their business problems. In April of 2000, in line with their customer orientation and an industry first NuEdge established an executive-level position for ensuring customer satisfaction. Ted Uczen was appointed chief customer officer (CCO), tasked with ensuring that customer input and ideas continue to shape NuEdge Systems' product development and service offerings.
Keane states, "We're in business primarily to make more money for our customers, and that's what we've been doing for a long time. Fundamentally, what we deliver is increased sales to our customers. In fact, we have a customer who describes us as an ATM. He says doing business with NuEdge is like having us pay them because we return profits faster than we bill for our services. We have a very, very strong group of professional business experts who know how to use customer information to drive more revenue. These experts bring extensive vertical market expertise to our customers and help them throughout the entire process to achieve their business goals and increase profitability. The solutions that we build support their work not the other way around. We focus on providing our customers with solutions, not products."
Keane's expertise in direct marketing was honed through real-life experiences. "I taught high school until 1975, and then I worked at GE for eight years as the head of worldwide marketing communications. One day in 1980," recalls Keane, "a partner showed up with an ultrasound scanner for obstetricians. The ultrasound equipment GE made at that time was refrigerator- sized and sold to hospitals. The scanner from the partner looked like a compact portable computer. It sat on a desktop and physicians could learn to use it. I had a friend who was an obstetrician, and I took the scanner to his office and plunked it on his desktop. He said, 'Well, this is kind of interesting, but I don't see any use for it.' I wasn't doing sales, but I was trying to be creative actually doing some market research on the fly. I asked, 'How many women do you see in a month that you send to the hospital for a scan?'" When Keane's friend explained that he sent 20 women to the hospital each month for an ultrasound, Keane provided him with cost information on the scanner. The physician quickly calculated his potential return on investment and asked Keane to let him keep the ultrasound.
"GE put together a sales force for the desktop ultrasound scanner, but after six or seven months, results weren't what they wanted," states Keane. In the meantime, Keane had acquired the first IBM PC in the division and was experimenting with it. "Along came a representative from Clarke O'Neil, a company that sold practice demographics," recalls Keane. He told Keane about VisiCalc a precursor to Lotus 123. Keane collected the names of physicians and obstetricians that had registered ultrasound systems in the last six months. "I took the practice demographics and dropped them down the list and started parsing it. We discovered that the physicians who were buying ultrasound scanners were primarily under the age of 40 in big practices those with at least four physicians that were seeing hundreds of women a month. We started targeting physicians that matched those demographics, and within six more months we had greatly increased market share. That's how I discovered direct marketing," says Keane.
In 1987, Keane gave a talk on database marketing and was approached by Ed Carroll of Carson Pirie Scott to implement a database marketing program. As a result of that request, Keane and Tom McArthur established Com-munique as a service bureau. Keane explains, "We were buying computer time on a MVS operating system running COBOL and EasyTrieve. We would take Carson Pirie Scott's flat files and run queries to derive customer sets for marketing purposes. From 1987 to 1989, Carson Pirie Scott's marketing mix changed from 10 percent direct mail to 60 percent direct mail because it was driving their sales."
After two years with Communique, Keane discovered that he did not care for the agency business. "I also discovered that direct marketing really worked and recognized the opportunities it presented," states Keane, "and in 1989 I bought RTMS which had $300,000 in sales and one full-time employee me. In short order, we had Elder- Beerman and then Nordstrom stores as customers. One thing led to another, and away we went." RTMS had customers begging for desktop CRM applications. "But you have to remember," states Keane, "that this was 1989 when the 386 was a big machine!"
"In the banking industry at about the same time, we were seeing the evolution of marketing customer information files. They were pointer- based files that were highly summarized to work on a PC," says Keane. "While this worked in the banking industry, it didn't work for retail. If I'm a retail customer for Carson's and I shop there 20 times a year and have done so for 10 years, I have 200 unique transactions. Whereas, if I've been a customer of a bank for the same period of time, I have maybe 10 transactions the balance of my checking account, savings account, car loan and mortgage. In the eighties, that's how they looked at the data summarized. Taking that banking system and applying it to retail did not work. Every competitor out there tried, and every single one of them failed," says Keane.
"Because our orientation from day one was to make money for our customers, we knew our technology had to work at the transaction level. Yet, our customers were asking, 'Why can't we have one of those banking-type systems? They're so nice, they sit on a desktop, and I don't have to pay for cycles.' We listened to our customers, began working on a solution based on those requirements and succeeded. The technology that Jeffrey Naughton, Ph.D., and Bob Hedgcock (vice president of quality at NuEdge Systems) developed is the basis for our current technology. Our patent is on speed acceleration in exact transaction environments."
"The CIC merger was a strategic win for both companies," says Keane. "By building on our respective strengths advanced technology, customer-centric vision and a loyal, blue-chip client base we're well-positioned to meet the tremendous opportunities of this exploding market. The NuEdge Suite combines RTMS' Archer Software, the leading software for planning, executing and measuring marketing programs, and the AnalytiX System, an analytical database application. The result is a highly flexible, scalable and open solution."
"What makes NuEdge different is we let customers dialog with information," explains Keane. "That's really important. They can talk to their data. They can ask how many people bought a red hat? Click. And two pairs of shoes? Boom. In Cincinnati? Click. It's smart, it's fast, and it's dialogical. That really makes us different." Keane adds, "And, we can get it implemented. Actually, our data warehouse failure rate is zero. We have never had an implementation that doesn't work. We just don't do that."
NuEdge Systems' plans for future growth include its ASP offering. "My hope is that the ASP business will be a good one for our customers," says Keane. "Our vision is one application that does three or four things. For the sake of our discussion, let's say we've got the data so the analysts and marketers can perform analysis. From the results of the analysis, the analysts and marketers create groups and do campaigns. They can individualize the campaigns which is an important part of our technology. If you've got a million customers, you can actually send a million different communications you don't have to do any segmenting. Our product then allows you to read back the responses. With the ASP model, our customers will be able to look at a Web interface and say, 'I would like to know how many of these people have children in the household.' All kinds of companies, such as Experian, provide that data, and there's a link. With the click of a button, they'll have the answer. Our customers will be able to buy all kinds of enhancements to data. Then, on the back end, they will be able to buy live training from us over the Web. They can sign up for a class and sit at their computers. They'll be able to buy variable e-mail from an e-mail service bureau using our tool. That's the premise of our ASP model."
Guiding the direction of the company is Keane's technology philosophy. "I don't see technology advancement necessarily as a series of steps. I really think technology progression is more like a pinball game. You bounce off this and if it doesn't work, you try this, this and this. ERP is a real thing. EDI is a real thing. My guess is auctions are a real thing, and CRM clearly is a real thing. I think you will continue to see themes such as the efficient factory, seamless supply chain and seamless customer system. Those systems will be improved by technology, whether it is wireless technology or faster access or customer self-service. Those are the areas where we will clearly see technology progress," Keane says. "The business application will be the most compelling issue as opposed to the technology."
"Today everybody is interested in getting closer to their customers and driving up their profitability. That has been our business model since day one. Thus, as customer relationship management becomes more and more endemic, we expect to grow fairly rapidly," states Keane.
Keane is clearly motivated. "First and foremost, it's seeing our customers succeed," states Keane. "We've been an integral part of a lot of successful operations and I find that gratifying. The fundamental measure in the business we're in is how many times your customer comes back to you. That's the fundamental principle and it's immutable. We have to pay attention to it because customers don't fall out of the sky! I really enjoy watching our customers succeed."
Like all entrepreneurs, Keane possesses several qualities that he projects to sustain and increase the success of his company. He's a visionary and a leader. He is quick with witty retorts, modest, dedicated, innovative, sharp, cognizant of his abilities and willing to take risks. Keane is clearly the leader responsible for the success that NuEdge has achieved and the satisfaction of more than 150 NuEdge customers in banking, insurance, publishing, high technology, e-commerce and retailing.
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