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Making Sense of Marketing Software, Part 3

Published
  • November 01 1999, 1:00am EST
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Last month's column described seven classes of marketing software: e-mail campaign management, interactive customer support, conventional campaign management, marketing automation, Web site personalization, collaborative filtering and interaction management. These systems were selected because they are all used by marketers to manage direct customer interactions ­ which is why the list excludes other familiar categories such as predictive modeling Web site analysis and non-Web customer service, telemarketing, sales automation and product configuration systems. Modeling and Web site analysis systems are used by marketers, but don't execute interactions. Rather, they provide information to improve results from other systems. Customer service, telemarketing and other front-office systems do execute interactions but are usually run by operational groups, not marketers. This is an admittedly arbitrary rule, and individual cases may be debatable within it. But it's probably not worth much discussion.

A more interesting question is how these categories relate to each other. Last month's column described the key capabilities of each group. These are summarized in Figure 1.

As Figure 1 indicates, some features are shared by multiple categories. For example, both marketing automation systems and conventional campaign management systems let users define "multi-step campaigns" ­ a sequence of system-initiated contacts with different branches on how the customer reacts initially. This is something that today's e-mail campaign managers do not generally provide.

Software Category Key Feature Shared Features
E-Mail Campaign Management Broadcast personalized e-mails to a user-specified list and log response. E-Mail and Web Form Creation
Interactive Customer Support Automatically classify inquiries, identify appropriate answers and track as cases. E-Mail and Web Form Creation
Conventional Campaign Management Split a customer/prospect universe into mutually exclusive segments and promote to each segment. Multi-Step Campaigns
Marketing Automation Manage campaign budgeting, scheduling, approvals and execution. E-Mail, Web Form and Web Site Creation; Multi-Step Campaigns
Web Site Personalization Present customized Web pages based on the segment to which a visitor belongs. Web Site Creation; Real- Time Response
Collaborative Filtering Automatically create and adjust models that predict a visitor's product preferences. Real-Time Response
Interaction Management Select the appropriate treatment for a visitor based on specified rules. Real-Time Response

Figure 1: Mareting Software Categories

While it's possible to define the category features with some clarity, the boundaries get fuzzier when you look at individual products. Vendors are continually jockeying for advantage, and one key dimension of competition is breadth of product functionality. As vendors develop or acquire new capabilities, they produce systems that straddle the categories.

This sort of consolidation is typical of a maturing industry, as point solutions are replaced by integrated packages. Although some buyers prefer to purchase "best of breed" solutions and do their own integration, most find the cost and speed advantages of buying an integrated system to be overwhelming. This is particularly true in the marketing arena, where time and technical resources are especially scarce.

Still, it will be some time before all seven categories are combined into a single "Great Marketing System in the Sky." As Figure 2 shows, there are significant differences among the classes of marketing systems along two key dimensions: the processing interval which ranges from real time to batch, and campaign complexity which ranges from none (responding only to the current situation) to complex (considering long-term goals and strategies). In broad terms, the processing interval is related to technology while campaign complexity relates to functionality.

  Campaign Complexity (Functionality)
None Simple Rules Multi-Step Campaign, Multiple Campaigns
Processing Interval (Technology) Batch     Conventional Campaign Management
Near-Real-Time Interactive Support E-mail Campaigns Marketing Automation
Real-Time Collaborative Filtering Personalized Web Site Interaction Management

Figure 2: Marketing-System Grid

As it happens, each of the seven categories falls into a different place on the grid. On the right, conventional campaign management, marketing automation and interaction management systems can all execute very complicated campaigns that respond to customer actions in a context of tactical and strategic considerations. But conventional campaign managers do this via batch processing ­ rarely more frequently than daily and often no more than monthly. Marketing automation systems can manage near-real- time response to e-mail and Web forms but still don't handle the real-time interactions of an online interaction manager. In the center column, e-mail campaign managers use standard queries to select names for broadcast, and personalized Web sites link standard contents to preferences indicated by a Web site visitor: both approaches can be considered simple business rules. Of course, e-mail messages are near real time at best, while Web pages are generated immediately. On the left, interactive support and collaborative filtering systems react to a specific situation ­ finding the best response to a question or the product a customer is most likely to purchase ­ without any particular concern for long-term campaigns. Again, the interactive support via Web and e-mail is near real time or worse, while collaborative filtering provides responses as the interaction unfolds in real time.

It is just a coincidence that each category falls into a different box on the grid. If other classes of software were added, some boxes would get more crowded. For example, front-office systems such as telemarketing or sales automation would fall into the same group as personalized Web sites. They are also real-time systems governed by simple campaign rules. Adding more groups could also fill the two blank boxes: simple list generation systems belong in the batch/no campaign category, and first-generation campaign management tools such as bank MCIF (marketing customer information file) software fall under batch/simple campaign. Both groups are technically qualified for the list; they are just too old-fashioned to be of much interest.

Next month's column will explore what the grid says about product integration.

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