Monday, February 21, 2005

Taming Marketing Processes

Business Process Management (BPM), the effort to identify, document, quantify and replicate best practices is coming to marketing. CEOs and CFOs want to know what’s behind the curtain, how much it costs, how much it yields and how much faster and cheaper it can be done. .

Dubbed Marketing Process Management (MPM) or Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) the movement is much more than buzzwords. It is rooted in material changes and significant savings in time, efficiency and cash gained from process re-engineering in finance, accounting, manufacturing, logistics and supply chain. It’s marketing’s turn.

This business movement, championed by a bevy of opinion leaders, CEO authors and the usual B-school pundits, is based on the premise that every successful business is an aggregation of discrete processes. If you get the processes right and can find efficiencies in aligning simultaneous or sequential processes, you win the game.

The assumption is that marketing, long considered a black hole for budget dollars, can be similarly tightened up. Below is a guide to the topics likely to come under scrutiny as the first wave of BPM sweeps across the land and sets expectations for senior leaders.

Targeting. On a basic level there is a finite, definable universe of buyers, influencers, advisers and spoilers for every b2b product and service. On a sophisticated level, systems should track individuals by industry, segment, product use, title and role in a selling process mapped over time or deal cycles. Yet very few organizations have reliable processes in place to manage target lists and databases. Instead the squeaky wheel gets the grease when there is an obvious or embarrassing mistake or when the pipeline dries up.

And even though names and titles turnover as much as 40% each year, marketers ought to be able to continuously run data collection and cleaning programs to insure they know who to sell to. Ideally these systems incorporate information from sales reps, partners, customer service and online channels and are scrubbed regularly by telemarketers and online updates.

There is a constant anxiety about the quality of target lists and the relevance of the names on these lists when mapped against product or deal cycles. And yet very few companies have put standardized processes in place to manage this on-going need. Data cleansing and updating can be a program that runs quietly in the background of every marketing organization consuming a steady, constant percent of the budget it.

Organizational Alignment. It’s still not uncommon for sales and marketing to have different agendas, timelines, targets, program preferences and budget priorities. Part of this ambivalence is institutional, cultural and personality driven. But there is no real excuse for a corporation’s horses to be pulling in different directions.

Even the most Machiavellian CEO has figured out that competition and conflict between sales and marketing yields nothing more than wasted time and resources. Yet few have used their authority to compel a single view of the marketplace or to impose an integrated approach to applying the right amount of resource in the right sequence to yield the most profitable revenue in the shortest time.

The lessons of process engineering will soon be applied to this perennial problem in ways that will force chief marketers to become much more involved in sales processes, pricing and productivity issues. Similarly the process perspective will benchmark the ROI of favorite sales tactics like golf outings, trade shows, giveaways and travel boondoggles to force sales teams to demonstrate their throughput power.

Demand Generation. The desperate search for qualified leads that turn into bona fide sales opportunities is and always has been a game of numbers. There are a finite number of ways in which individuals are contacted, messaged, incented and engaged. A universal standard for defining lead qualification exists, though it is expressed in a million ways.

“Best practices” can be identified, quantified, replicated and probably automated. The emphasis shifts from creative, where the next campaign or package is expected to crack open the sky, to a mining and refining model where getting to the right person with the right frequency at the right time rings the bell.

eNurturing. In every industry and for every product there are prospects who are interested but not yet ready to buy. Hardly anyone has found a formula to keep these leads ”warm” efficiently and for nurturing their interest into deals that can be harvested when ripe.

Managing C or D leads should be an automated process driven by assumptions about when to mail, when to ping with an e-mail newsletter, when to invite to events and when to contact live by phone or in-person. A series of well-timed contacts, using pre-defined messages can be orchestrated at discrete stages of a purchase cycle by using technology to nurture future deals for maximum return on minimal investment.

CRM. Tracking customer information and behavior ought to yield competitive advantage, facilitate up-sell and cross-sell and build stronger customer loyalty. Ideally these systems ought to give senior management visibility into what is happening day-by-day in ways that will improve the speed and quality of decision-making.

Huge sums have been spent. Nailing down the real use and value of CRM investments, especially sunk investments in evolving technology, is high on most leadership agendas. An obvious payoff should be better reporting and insightful analysis from the data collected. As a result management “dashboards” featuring daily or weekly graphic displays of critical marketing variables will become as popular as Blueberries.


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1:09 AM  

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