Last month's column began a discussion of campaign management options, comparing generic query tools to high-end campaign managers. This column continues that discussion.

Sales force automation systems (SFA). These systems are designed primarily to manage contacts between individual customers and salespeople, in person or over the phone. However, nearly all can generate lists for outbound mail and telephone campaigns and evaluate campaign results. Thus, they provide at least a rudimentary version of conventional campaign management systems. And, being aimed at a set of notoriously tech- hostile users, their interfaces are the easiest available.

Sales force automation systems diverge from high-end campaign managers on two critical dimensions. The first is campaign complexity. Most of these products limit each campaign to a single segment They further limit the complexity of the query that defines this segment to the subset of SQL functions that can be easily represented on a fill-in-the-blanks form. This generally means, for example, no "or" relationships among fields and no calculations. Response definition is also typically limited to a source code captured with a reply. More complicated tagging, based on queries that search a transaction database for specified behaviors, would be custom-coded outside of the system. On the other hand, many sales force automation systems do let users set up multistep campaign sequences such as an outbound telephone call followed by one or more personal and direct mail contacts.

The second major difference between conventional campaign management systems and sales force automation products is the nature of the underlying customer database. Conventional campaign management tools usually run on a denormalized structure designed to handle large-scale analytical queries against the entire file. Even when the campaign manager is adapted to support real-time interactions, this is usually accomplished by adding a subsidiary profile table rather than restructuring the main database to handle online transactions. By contrast, sales force automation systems usually have complex normalized data structures, both because they are intended to handle transactions involving one customer at a time and because they are typically designed for business-to-business marketing situations where there are multiple layers of data about companies, locations, individuals and projects. The richness of such a data model is potentially a benefit for conventional campaigns, particularly in business to business. But large-scale analytical queries may be painfully slow against a complex, normalized structure.

The simplest sales force automation tools, basic contact managers such as ACT!, can be purchased for a few hundred dollars per user, but few marketers would find these powerful enough to be of value. More realistic candidates for campaign management are mid-tier products such as SalesLogix or high-end products such as Siebel. The prices of these are comparable to standard query tools, also in the $1,000 to $10,000 range per user, with most running somewhere from $1,500 to $6,000. There is often a minimum number of users or a central server component that brings the minimum price to $30,000 to $50,000. The result for installations with a handful of users would be a higher software cost than a solution based on standard query tools. Implementation costs might be lower for sales automation systems, since they include some functions that would need to be built from scratch for a query tool. However, most marketers would probably need to simplify the sales force automation system's standard data model, a task that could easily eat up any savings in development. Over all, the sales automation-based solution would probably be more costly.

Marketing Automation Systems. This class of system, including products such as MarketFirst, Annuncio and Revenio, is built primarily for marketers rather than sales people. The main difference of this product is the underlying data structure which leans more toward the denormalized, analytical structures of conventional marketing systems than the normalized, transaction-oriented structures of sales force automation. In terms of campaign management functionality, marketing automation systems are actually quite similar to sales force automation systems. They offer multistep campaigns and simple response analysis, but often do not build complex multisegment campaigns. Perhaps half include random sampling for champion/challenger tests. It's particularly dangerous to generalize about this segment, which contains a wide variety of systems that are evolving rapidly – and not necessarily all in the same direction. Compared with conventional campaign managers, many products in this group have more of a business-to-business orientation, offer more integrated Web site and e-mail components, provide more administrative functions such as project management and budgeting support, and are designed for somewhat smaller marketing databases. Some products that fall roughly within this group, notably E.piphany and Broadbase, offer a slightly different mix of features that include tightly integrated analytics, extensive data preparation and reasonably powerful campaign management, spiced with a well- concealed dash of proprietary database technology.

Like conventional campaign managers, marketing automation systems are usually priced according to the database size rather than number of users. Minimum prices are generally in the $100,000 to $250,000 range and rise less steeply with volume than conventional campaign management systems. Except for the most demanding campaign management users – people with very large consumer databases who employ sophisticated direct marketing techniques – many marketers will in-deed find marketing automation products an attractive alternative to high-end campaign management systems.

Less-Known Campaign Managers. Although Xchange, Prime Response and Recognition Systems own the major brands among high-end campaign managers, there are other systems that offer competitive products. Notable contenders with proven scalability and entry price points as low as $100,000 include Decision Software (TopDog) and Unica Technologies (Affinium). A newer product, dbMastery, offers impressive functionality against 500,000 records for $60,000. However, dbMastery relies on index-intensive databases, such as FoxPro or Sybase IQ, and may not easily transfer to the mainstream databases such as Oracle and SQL Server that are preferred by most large installations.

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