MARKETING TECHNIQUE: IT; Softly, softly does it

Spending more time on administration and paperwork than on being creative? Let your computer take the strain, writes Ron Condon

Spending more time on administration and paperwork than on being

creative? Let your computer take the strain, writes Ron Condon



Computers will never replace the creative, lateral-thinking side of

marketing, but they can certainly help mop up the paperwork, as Terry

Forsey has found to his benefit.



Not so long ago, he was working as a marketing consultant and revelling

in the creative end of the business - researching and evaluating the

market, running brainstorming sessions - but getting fed up with the

administrative task of getting the ideas nailed down into an agreed

marketing plan.



‘I was constrained by the speed at which I could cut and paste

spreadsheets and word processing documents. My clients were paying for

me to be a typist,’ he says.



Figuring there had to be a computer system to handle this kind of

drudgery, he searched but found nothing. And, like any good marketing

man spotting a hole in the market, he filled it.



He set up a new company, Director Portfolio, to develop a PC-based

software package called The Marketing Director. It is designed to manage

the gathering of information for the marketing plan, allow users to test

out different scenarios - the costs and benefits of having one or two

sales-people for example - and, once it is agreed, produce the plan on

the spot.



Forsey uses it as a tool when doing consultancy. In some circumstances,

he claims, it is possible to put together a complete marketing plan

within a day.



His claim to be unique is borne out by his range of customers. Microsoft

is starting to use it in the US, and UK clients include ATT-Istel and

computer-maker Bull.



Bull has used the system to focus the joint marketing programme it does

with its resellers in the UK. It enables the company to work out

marketing plans with resellers in detail and determine on the spot

whether the expected benefits merit the expenditure. The system also

works well in assessing how results match up against forecasts.



Paul Ogier, computer services manager at the Guernsey-based financial

services group BDO Reads, turned to the Goldmine PC-based software

package to solve a different paperwork problem - handling mailshots.



The company does a lot of marketing campaigns and needs to keep track of

who has received what. Ogier received help and support from the software

supplier AVG to convert existing name and address files to run on

Goldmine. He now finds the software can handle a lot more than mere

mailshots.



‘One of the big benefits for us is being able to track referrals, as

just about all our business comes from recommendations,’ says Ogier.

‘With Goldmine, we can identify who are our main sources of business and

nurture them.’



The system allows them to keep a complete historical record of each

client, with details of all the services they have received. The system

also provides a basis for identifying opportunities for cross-selling.



In a very different market sector - selling computer network services -

Trend Communications has successfully used the facilities of Goldmine to

streamline sales and marketing activities. Trend has used the system to

centralise a variety of databases into one, of 15,000 records, holding

all the information relating to customers and their contracts.



Account managers with laptop computers can access the database and

revise their own accounts, so the database is always up to date. With

the same information accessed by the firm’s telemarketing department,

the effect has been dramatic.



‘We are talking to more and more customers and prospects than ever

before,’ says marketing manager Stuart Muirhead. Telesales staff, he

adds, have doubled their call rate to around 75 calls per session.



Top management also seems to be losing its fear and loathing of

technology. This notoriously difficult bunch of people is now beginning

to see real benefits from the movement towards what is called ‘the data

warehouse.’



The trouble is that, while computers hold all the information about a

business, they tend to spill it out in large wads of printout that

nobody looks at.



Improved technology is now allowing the data to be managed, summarised

and presented to non-specialist users in understandable, bite-sized

chunks.



And users are able to make up new questions - ‘Which of my products

achieved a profits margin of 20% or more in the north of England last

May?’, for example - and get an immediate answer.



One company to take advantage of this recently is the drinks

conglomerate Allied Domecq, which has built a system for its top 150

directors around the world.



The system uses the Lightship software package from Pilot Software and

is designed to enable the directors to use it with virtually no

training. The database they access is updated daily and contains

competitive performance data as well as in-house figures.



‘You cannot improve your business without knowing how, on a regular

basis, your company is measuring up,’ says Bruce Rance, who masterminded

the project.



‘The system allows senior management to have dialogue with the major

sources of information - generating focused questions as they go - and

gives them a wider picture of the business.’



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