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
‘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
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
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
‘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
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
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
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 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.’