The strange case of the marketing / CRM cobblers’ children . . .

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Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

In October 2007 I wrote about the Marketing and CRM applications market showing new signs of life, buoyed by new Internet-based applications Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) solutions become trendy (again).

Indeed, leading CRM vendors such as Alterian, Omniture and Microsoft showed very strong sales growth in 2007. The fact that the market is on the up was reinforced by the crowds who attended the Technology For Marketing & Advertising show at London’s Earls Court in February 2008. Sadly Oracle (including Siebel), SAP and Microsoft did not attend, but this did not dampen their enthusiasm.

Two hundred vendors were represented in 34 product categories. “So still not so easy for customers to work out what’s important then?” you might well say. True. From a customer perspective it is quite confusing with many vendors whose marketing messages are somewhat difficult to decipher and who look pretty similar.

The behavior of some exhibition stand personnel was unexpected. Mentioning no names, some stands were manned by sales people who preferred to talk to each other rather than to customers. A product demonstration was mostly hard to get. To be fair, some stands were excellently managed, but many were not.

Finally, the sales follow up. As an analyst, I am not buying. I really am “just looking”. One vendor’s follow up was: a sales email, a tele-sales call, and then 2 resellers rang me. Conversely, some vendors promised to send information and never did. Strangely the show’s organizers followed the former track—bombarding me with email messages “your last chance to register!” when I had done so months before. I got so paranoid I dug out my ticket to reassure myself I was not going mad!

These behaviors are disappointing as the show was about marketing, and marketing is about (amongst other things):

  1. crafting marketing messages that communicate competitive differentiation and uniqueness.
  2. engaging customers and stakeholders (which I was) in a positive, helpful, and congenial manner.
  3. listening to customer requirements and responding in a correct and appropriate manner.

For those that did follow these simple rules there were rich pickings—genuine buyers looking to find appropriate suppliers. For example, SmartFocus got Harrods to speak on their behalf. A real customer with real experience—as you can imagine the theatre was “rammed” as the popular lingo goes. SmartFocus also offered continuous excellent theatre-style demonstrations on their exhibition stand, which were well-attended and helped educate their audience.

The main focus at the show was Campaign Management, Email Marketing, CRM, and Digital / e-marketing. These can be perceived as “push” technologies i.e. more campaigns, more marketing messages to more desktops with more sales propositions. This is how the show’s organizers targeted me (see above). Luckily, most suppliers have now clearly recognized that the customer requirements are changing from volume marketing towards intelligent marketing.

Intelligent marketing means using technology to be smarter and slicker at marketing processes. To be better at customer segmentation and targeting, better at marketing messaging delivered via the right mix of media and channels; better at engaging and tracking customers’ decision making processes, and better at delivering products and services via operationally excellent and seamless sales execution.

The Technology for Marketing industry has been too focused on customer acquisition, with too little focus on customer care. The balance is changing. However, marketing technology vendors themselves need to represent ‘best practice’ in marketing behaviors to be credible to potential ‘technology for marketing’ customers. The cobbler needs to ensure his children are well shod with good shoes to send the right message to potential customers. For those vendors that achieve this, there lies a rich vein of opportunity in the marketing / CRM marketplace.