While sophisticated segmentation (discussed in last month's column) is the primary requirement for a high-end campaign manager, these systems share other features as well. Most of these functions are related to user convenience and flexibility rather than campaign complexity.

Review selected records. Many systems allow users to browse the actual records selected for each campaign segment to ensure the correct customers have been chosen. This review should display both primary customer records and related subsidiary records such as transactions. In addition, the system should generate a statistical profile of records in each segment to provide another check of the accuracy of the selection. Users should be able to specify the fields displayed in the record review and the statistics provided in the profile. Usually, one may establish a default view for each which can be modified in special situations. The reviews must be available before the campaign is actually executed.

Key code generation. Key codes are the IDs assigned to each cell in a campaign. They are often used for response tracking and reporting. Marketers differ widely in how they assign key codes, using anything from random assignment to complex algorithms that embed the campaign, segment, offer and other attributes. High-end campaign management systems provide a range of options that allow different users to apply their preferred techniques. Most maintain a separate table of key codes that can hold additional segment attributes, such as costs and forecasted revenues, for reporting and analysis.

Seed management. Marketers often add "seed" records to their files to monitor campaign output and deter unauthorized lists from being used. Seeds are used in different ways. In some firms, seeds are top executives who receive all promotions as a way of observing the customer experience. In other cases, seeds are unique records generated for each campaign sent to the same address. In still other cases, seeds are names that belong to an outside monitoring service. Seeds are often added after the campaign manager has generated the basic list, but high-end systems provide internal seed management capabilities. These automatically track which seeds are used for which campaign, append identifying codes and insert the seeds into the output file to make them indistinguishable from actual customers.

Promotion history. The campaign manager should automatically track the promotions sent to each customer. This generally involves updating a promotion history table when campaign selections are executed. At a minimum, the history record includes customer, campaign and segment IDs. However, most users want an option to store additional customer data when the selection is executed. This data will be used for response analysis when the campaign is complete. Saving the data at the time of selection ensures that the analyst has an accurate picture of how each customer appeared when the campaign was run, including data that might have changed by the time responses are received. The items required for analysis will vary from campaign to campaign; therefore, the system should allow the user to select them during the campaign setup. However, it's also helpful to have templates of items that are usually included, as well as an option to automatically store all data elements used in the segment definitions.

Response definition. Response analysis is a vital component of campaign management. Keeping a history of who received each promotion is half the job; the other half is identifying who responded. A high-end campaign manager gives end users control over this process by allowing them to specify the definition of a response while setting up each campaign. This generally involves constructing a query that will select the respondents. Queries can cover both the simple case where responses are identified directly through key codes on transactions and the more difficult case where response must be inferred from behavior. Some systems provide response definition functions that are tailored to specific techniques such as the common retail practice of crediting a promotion with sales in a given date range and product category. High-end campaign systems support multiple responses per campaign, representing different response measures or stages in a multistep sales cycle. They also sometimes allocate responses that might be related to multiple campaigns to avoid double-counting the same transaction.

Budgets and forecasts. High-end campaign management systems allow users to define the costs associated with each promotion cell and assign forecasts of volumes, costs and revenues. Users can enter fixed and variable costs and link variable costs to different items such as promotion quantity and response quantity. Each type of cost can include multiple elements corresponding to the specific items (printing, postage, list rental, data processing, etc.) that must be purchased. The system provides templates with standard cost elements and default values for each element plus an option to add new cost elements for a single promotion.

Volume forecasts are usually entered directly at the cell level. These cover both promotion and response quantities. Some systems can compare a forecast to actual selection quantities once a segmentation has been run. When selection quantities are available, high-end systems allow users to specify a response rate for each cell and have the system calculate the response quantity. A few systems use statistical models based on similar past promotions to generate an estimated response rate. This provides a reality check and helps catch errors.

Forecasts are often made separately for individual cells and the promotion as a whole. This allows a preliminary promotion-level estimate at the start of the process, followed later by a more precise cell-by-cell estimate. Revenue forecasts can also be made at promotion and cell levels and may similarly be either entered as totals or calculated based on a value per response. Some systems allow users to enter separate figures for gross revenue and profit contributions.

Standard reports. Nearly all of today's campaign management systems run on standard relational databases, meaning users can develop their own custom reports with SQL-based tools from vendors such as Cognos, Brio or Business Objects. However, high-end systems still provide substantial packages of prebuilt reports that take advantage of the predefined data structures used to hold campaign and cell information. These include reports to compare champion versus challenger promotions ­– which, in turn, require an ability for users to identify cells as belonging to only one of these categories during campaign setup. Other reports compare planned against actual campaign performance, including volume and financial information. Most systems provide additional reports for customer analysis, product sales and other items not tied quite so closely to campaign management itself.

Next month's column will look at requirements apart from functionality.

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