Magazine article Marketing

Tapping into the Data Revolution

Magazine article Marketing

Tapping into the Data Revolution

Article excerpt

Marketing teams are still not utilising IT as they should. But Clive Couldwell finds that some firms have put applications to good use

Is marketing software really useful, or is the IT department pulling the wool over your eyes? The short answers are 'yes' and 'maybe', but it's worth a gamble.

Not so long, ago, a Gallup/PCL poll of senior marketing management, questioned within 100 randomly selected companies from The Sunday Times Top 1000, believed that information technology was still under-used in their sales and marketing activities.

In 1996, there's no doubt that the techno-junkies are getting off on a wide range of buzz words from 'data warehousing' and something called 'OLAP' to 'data mining' and 'geographic visualisation', but software used by marketers now has a new set of sophisticated clothes and they're being worn by a growing number of users.

Even at the basic-but-necessary level, contact-management programmes - software geared to individuals and groups who need to keep in regular contact with customers, prospects, suppliers and colleagues - are making a real difference to the way companies do business.

Media First, a high-profile media and communications training company, has a client base of 2000 companies and generates 64% of its revenue from repeat business. The company has been using Tracker Software's Tracker 2 system for the past nine months.

"As we have no technical IT person, it was paramount that we bought a user-friendly contact management system which could be tailored to our needs, especially our terminology," recalls Media First's managing director Helen Ward.

Tracker 2, a Windows-based system, accommodates a full contact database, history, time management, electronic mail and word processing. After discussing and deciding with Media First's staff just what they wanted the software to provide, Tracker Software then went ahead and customised the system with three databases linked to each other for clients, training and resources. Media First has to keep detailed records and notes on each of its clients, and be able to communicate easily with them.

"At all times, we have to ensure that our efficiency matches their requirements," says Ward. "The system has made this attainable."

Personnel organiser

Financial software house Intuit is using another Windows-based package - the OfficeTalk contact and workgroup manager - developed by Sareen Software. The product took two-and-a-half years to develop and has been consistently used across a wide range of companies since July 1994. OfficeTalk manages personal and group diaries and organises time, workload and meetings. It administers all types of contact information, plans and tracks projects, and it supposedly keeps everyone in the picture all of the time.

Certainly where OfficeTalk scores is in the way users can switch from one activity to another seamlessly, making logical Pinks between almost every piece of information. Single mouse clicks move you instantly between function screens, and although the functions are comprehensively featured they're very simple to use, with clear, uncluttered screens and 'drag-and-drop' management. "As a marketing-led organisation, the system is invaluable to Intuit in a number of ways," says Ian Yarlott, managing director of Intuit UK.

"It facilitates management by objectives, allowing me to view my teams' to-do lists and so agree priorities. Another boon is the ability to organise meetings with product managers or business management personnel automatically. OfficeTalk interrogates their diaries and sets the time. Any software that can get 12 managers in the same room without me having to pick up the phone is an asset."

At the other end of the power scale, software that handles decision support and analysis has become flavour of the decade. Executive information systems (EIS) show key performance data about each section of a company and automatically build a rolling, up-to-date profile of a business. …

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