Is An MRM Tool Right For Your Marketing Department?

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1 N O V E M B E R A U T H O R : D A V E H A M M E Is An MRM Tool Right For Your Marketing Department? The Inside Scoop on Marketing Resource Management Software Packages MRM DEFINED To an outsider, the market for MRM packages might appear to have arrived overnight. Many vendors seemingly stumbled into the market accidentally when dabbling in the marketing arena. Previously, these vendors specialized in limited services like the online proofing of creative pieces or the digital storage of marketing assets. Other vendors grew from the print side providing tools to manage data for building advertising events. Regardless of their origin, these vendors eventually expanded the scope of their software to serve the greater marketing organization. In general, MRM packages aim to be the backbone of a marketing department a single location to plan, design, build, monitor, and measure marketing vehicles. From a more detailed angle, these packages provide a toolset to create and manage marketing vehicles, automate routine processes, solicit and capture feedback on advertising vehicles, store and retrieve digital files, and provide reporting to monitor performance. In a nutshell, the expectations of an MRM package are that it > Provides a consolidated view of all marketing activities; Over the past decade, nearly every major company has invested in some form of enterprise software package to automate critical processes, to improve the efficiency of key parts of their organization, or to capture new information about its business. Marketing was largely left out of this run on enterprise packages, perhaps due to a hesitancy to box in creative talent with rigid processes, or a fear of not keeping pace with marketing s rapidly changing landscape especially in regards to digital marketing. Even today, a good number of marketing departments rely on traditional spreadsheets for collecting product information, to monitor progress on advertising activities, Word documents to draft briefs, and the routing of hard copy proofs to capture feedback. While niche software tools catered to some marketing needs, the larger marketing organization remained underserved until the recent advent of Marketing Resource Management (MRM) tools. ¹ > Allows managers to measure results versus projections; and > Manages marketing execution via automation and tracking to reduce cycle time, enhance the quality of advertising vehicles, and improve resource efficiency. The immediate question confronting most marketing leaders is whether it makes sense to invest in an MRM solution. The answer depends on the number and extent of an organization s marketing activities. Companies with numerous marketing campaigns and a collection of brands will greatly benefit from the efficiencies of an MRM tool. Smaller enterprises may fulfill their needs initially with spreadsheets and a hardcopy proofing process. But with growth comes complexity; as marketing activity multiplies, the sheer volume of data, collateral, and activities makes an MRM system almost a necessity. Simply providing a view of the full complement of marketing activities and their timing is often enough to justify the investment. ¹ MRM Tools are also commonly known as MOM (Marketing Operations Management) Tools

2 Because of the manner in which the market was created, there is significant overlap between the offerings of MRM providers and other software markets like customer relationship management, packaged art, deals management, analytical tools, and print advertising. THE FUNCTIONALITY PROVIDED BY MRM TOOLS As the demand for MRM systems grows, the functionality provided by the packages is distilling into a standardized toolkit. These foundational tools or modules, as they are frequently named are designed to support the base activity of most marketing departments. However, the naming convention across vendors is inconsistent; therefore, when comparing products, it is wise to confirm the actual functionality for similarly named modules. The standard foundational set of modules is as follows: Online Proofing (also called soft proofing, annotation, or online reviewing) This module provides the capability to distribute items for review and feedback from a set of users. Common functions include the ability to set up user groups to distribute proofing requests and the ability to track and sort responses. Best-in-class solutions allow users to annotate files of all types (web pages, videos, audio files, etc.) and include an annotative toolkit with the ability to perform color separations, accurately measure components of the proof, categorize comments, and provide single-entry proofing across multiple pages or files. FOUNDATIONAL MRM MODULES Workflow (also called operations or production management) Marketing Calendar (also called planning or event management) An MRM calendar allows for the setup and management of marketing events. When creating an event, the user enters key information, including dates, intended audience, purpose of the event, type of marketing vehicle, distribution, and budget. Once in the system, events can be sorted and viewed by type, by event date or other time period, by audience, or by other identifiers. The calendar for many vendors serves as the home view for the user facilitating quick identification of upcoming marketing activities. Best-in-class solutions integrate workflows, reports, and other data into the calendar, creating a seamless integration of modules. Asset Management (also called content management or digital asset management) This module accommodates the upload, storage and retrieval of files of all types and sizes into a single repository. When uploading files, users are prompted to enter information about the asset, including an expiration date, version, appropriate usage of the asset, and other userdefined fields. Some asset management modules include a shopping cart that can distribute approved assets, order photo shoots, or request new creative pieces. Best-in-class solutions include extensive categorization and search capabilities. This module allows users to build templates to manage common activities. A workflow template includes ordered tasks, durations to complete tasks, connectivity to other modules for task completion such as online proofing, a mechanism to inform users of task assignment, due dates, and pertinent information to complete a task (e.g. a brief attached to the task). From an administrative perspective, workflow modules allow for the setup, management, and performance tracking of task completion. One of the major benefits of workflow is the ability to avoid duplicative activity by managing assets through the creative process and then pushing this same asset to a number of channels, such as print, landing site, and signage. Best-in-class solutions in workflow offer easy-to-use graphical interfaces to set up and manage workflows for the full scope of marketing activities and to bridge the divide with marketing s business partners. Reporting (also called performance management, analytics, or tracking) Reporting modules vary greatly across vendors in both output and intent. Most vendors provide a set of canned reports to track performance of MRM activities and dashboards to allow for immediate viewing of relevant marketing data. Data exports from MRM systems are commonly furnished through the creation of a report and the subsequent feed to the correct system. Best-in-class vendors integrate with other systems to produce a merged view of both MRM data and other data such as budgets, sales numbers, and product information. I S A N M R M T O O L R I G H T F O R Y O U R M A R K E T I N G D E P A R T M E N T? T H E I N S I D E S C O O P O N M A R K E T I N G R E S O U R C E M A N A G E M E N T S O F T W A R E P A C K A G E S 2

3 The list preceding includes the modules commonly provided by larger MRM vendors. Many vendors have developed additional modules that cater to other business needs of the marketing department. While these modules are not as widely available as those listed previously, in the future they may well creep into the foundational package. These other modules are detailed below. OTHER MRM MODULES Budgeting & Financial Tracking Many vendors purport to offer the ability to fully manage marketing spending, including the creation of purchase orders and invoices. From my experience, this is an arena where the vendors have overpromised and underdelivered. The budgeting and financial tracking functions are generally clunky and in most cases are inferior to the flexibility of spreadsheets. Offer Management (also called deals management) The ability to enter promotions, approve or reject submitted offers, and then to use the deal/offer in advertising vehicles is a rather new development in the MRM space. Vendors have varied approaches to offer management. Some vendors treat an offer as a marketing event and allow it to be placed on a calendar but allow the user to do little else. Leading vendors allow for the full entry, approval, and assignment of offers to promotional pieces. Vendor Management (including portals to collaborate and communicate) Data Management (includes versioning and copy management) Nearly every vendor will state it has the capability to manage large amounts of data and to version marketing materials. As the hood rises, such statements are exposed as misleading at best. While most MRM tools store a significant amount of marketing data, product detail and creative information are poorly managed by most packages. There are exceptions, though. A handful of vendors are adept at collecting, managing, and pushing large amounts of data to advertising vehicles using templates to automatically create the initial version of web pages, print advertising, and signage. Campaign Management s / Integration With Social Media With the proliferation of digital marketing, many vendors now allow for the management and linkage between the MRM tool and , mobile texts, and web pages. These capabilities are rapidly evolving, but at this time are inferior to standalone tools available today. Check back in a year or two and the answer will in all likelihood be different. Optimization Engine Similar to the capability demonstrated in Budgeting and Financial Tracking module, MRM vendors commonly state that they are able to manage vendors/suppliers. In effect, this functionality comes down to assigning tasks as part of workflow and some linkages to the Budgeting and Financial Tracking function. While this area is receiving attention and investment, it is in its infancy in the MRM space. In the near future, linking a company to its suppliers/vendors may well become a significant differentiator between MRM vendors. One of the hottest topics today in marketing is the optimization of advertising vehicles. This includes the selection of the right promotion for the right product at the right price at the right time. While there are a host of optimization engines on the market, the connectivity to MRM tools is in its infancy. To my knowledge, no vendor currently offers an optimization engine on the same platform as an MRM tool. With continued growth in the MRM market, the number of modules will continue to expand and evolve. In the future, a key focus is expected to be the integration of MRM packages into larger cross-enterprise platforms facilitating execution and information sharing across functional areas. That said, this vision is several years off. Rather than waiting, there are substantial benefits that make an MRM deployment appealing now. I S A N M R M T O O L R I G H T F O R Y O U R M A R K E T I N G D E P A R T M E N T? T H E I N S I D E S C O O P O N M A R K E T I N G R E S O U R C E M A N A G E M E N T S O F T W A R E P A C K A G E S 3

4 WHAT TO EXPECT DURING AN MRM IMPLEMENTATION In general, MRM tools are web-based applications capable of operating on most available browsers. The standard implementation runs between three and six months, although circumstances may increase or decrease this time. The timeline changes with the number of modules implemented, the level of integration between systems, and the amount of customization requested. Fortunately, most MRM packages are highly configurable usually minimizing the need for major customization. When it comes to pricing, MRM packages vary widely based upon the scope and details of the installation. Comparisons between vendors are further complicated due to different pricing approaches. Some vendors price per user; others price per module implemented. As a high-level estimate, an MRM installation typically runs somewhere between $100K and $250K and includes the technical and consulting work to get the solution up and running. After installation, annual fees range from $250K to $600K. While nearly every MRM contract includes basic customer service, storage space, and a base number of users; there are up-charges for onsite services, expanded storage space, and additional users. But even with this pricing structure, most companies capture significant hard savings often on par with the annual system costs. And those savings do not include the capacity freed up for other endeavors or the clarity uncovered on marketing activities and investments. Once a company opts to move forward with an MRM tool, an important decision is whether to install the application onsite or to buy the product as SaaS (Software as a Service). For most companies, SaaS is the preferred arrangement as it hastens the tool s deployment and greatly lessens the workload on an internal IT team. In a SaaS model, the vendor is responsible for upgrades and system maintenance. This arrangement may come with the occasional hiccup, but a clearly worded service agreement mitigates most issues simply by creating a shared understanding of issue resolution and maintenance processes. Regardless of the actual setup, the internal IT team will be heavily involved in the implementation. IT will either share or own the responsibility for user support, initial user setup including passwords and access to specific modules, system security, data transfers, and any other integration requested. I S A N M R M T O O L R I G H T F O R Y O U R M A R K E T I N G D E P A R T M E N T? T H E I N S I D E S C O O P O N M A R K E T I N G R E S O U R C E M A N A G E M E N T S O F T W A R E P A C K A G E S 4

5 Similar to the implementation of any packaged software, a substantial commitment is required of both marketing and its business partners. Outside of the time to train the users, the most significant contribution from the business is the translation of marketing s processes into the MRM package. Rebuilding processes in a software tool always entails a level of process adjustment. While MRM vendors bring to the table a solid level of expertise in this area, they cannot complete this work in isolation. To adequately address business challenges, the process design needs to be deliberate and specific. Making this happen requires the involvement of subject-matter experts with a ground-level understanding of how marketing operates. The commitment of these resources is the initial critical factor to getting a tool up and running. But even in world-class implementations, success is elusive if the vendor s offerings fail to align with the business s requirements. Therefore, the final and arguably most significant critical success factor is the selection of the appropriate vendor. SELECTING THE RIGHT MRM VENDOR A second critical success factor for MRM deployments is strong, active sponsorship. The cross-functional nature of marketing makes any implementation a collaborative venture between marketing and its partners. Crafting and communicating a vision to lead teams across the enterprise is the role of the sponsor. Once the solution is in place, compliance with the new processes is a major determinant of the implementation s success. Strong sponsors stay involved throughout the highs and lows of the deployment, building morale and commitment. The MRM market has stabilized to allow for a relatively standard base set of functionality. But the market remains a tempest with a myriad of competitive disruptions. Within the past two years, several major players in the software industry took notice of the growth of the MRM space, and a wave of acquisitions followed. The market leaders Aprimo, Assetlink, and Unica were snatched up by Teradata, SAS, and IBM, respectively. While in the long term these acquisitions may lead to synergies and expanded functionality across larger software platforms, the immediate effect is to thoroughly disrupt the competitive equilibrium in the market. With these larger players engaged in absorbing the MRM companies into their organization, their focus cannot help but be diverted from the rapid innovation that is so characteristic of this market. For the next year or two, a handful of nimbler independent competitors have an opportunity to pick up substantial market share. I S A N M R M T O O L R I G H T F O R Y O U R M A R K E T I N G D E P A R T M E N T? T H E I N S I D E S C O O P O N M A R K E T I N G R E S O U R C E M A N A G E M E N T S O F T W A R E P A C K A G E S 5

6 SELECTING THE RIGHT MRM VENDOR (cont) With the rapid growth and diversity of offerings in the MRM space, the path to finding the right vendor comes with its share of bumps. Like any software package selection, a formal request for information or request for proposal is appropriate. Although navigating the MRM terrain requires time and focus, there are several guidelines for identifying the right partner: 1. Begin by identifying the pain points in the marketing department. Do forest fires flare up regularly? Is the standard routine a rush job? Where do escalating marketing volumes stress current processes? Are there anticipated changes on the horizon? Are results consistent with expectations? Generate a list of current problems. 2. Identify the most salient and valuable processes in your marketing department. Is the focus on print advertising, digital marketing, signage, or direct marketing pieces? Build a list of these key processes. Focus efforts on not just supporting, but rather improving these processes with the deployment of the MRM tool. 3. Investigate a broad set of MRM vendors. Start with the vendor list provided in this paper. Then aggressively cull the vendors that lack the functionality to address the major pain points or support the major processes. Many MRM vendors will forcefully promote their tool s unique capabilities. Avoid getting blinded by the shiny features. Focus on your company s needs. Drive the solution do not let a vendor hijack your search for the right tool. 5. Once you whittle down the list of potential vendors, require the finalists to demonstrate their tools capabilities using your actual processes and data. The terminology for modules varies across vendors. What one vendor wraps together as a module may be vastly different from the functionality provided in a similarly named module from another vendor. A vendor s demonstration mitigates the name game and shows how the tool s functionality maps to your needs. A demonstration also identifies areas where the vendor needs to customize its tool. These customizations are time consuming, expensive, and risky. Always select the solution that minimizes the work to make it ready for deployment. 6. MRM tools commonly become the system of record for marketing activities. Simply having all the marketing activities in one place encourages the creation of an executive dashboard to display marketing activities against sales goals or even prior historical data. To create such a view (or similar reports) requires feeds from other data repositories. To confirm that this is possible, clearly identify the data to be shared across systems, including the system of record, integration points, and the way the data ties with existing processes and reports in the MRM tool. 4. Disregard or minimize the value attached to a vendor s portfolio of clients. The client list rarely reflects the depth of the services provided or the importance of the tool to a company. Many large companies use a number of tools, and rarely are their needs the same as yours. While these guidelines aid the search, the vendor selection process begins with the compilation of a list of prospective vendors. While the boundaries of the market are poorly defined, a good number of vendors play in the space we have defined as the MRM market. I S A N M R M T O O L R I G H T F O R Y O U R M A R K E T I N G D E P A R T M E N T? T H E I N S I D E S C O O P O N M A R K E T I N G R E S O U R C E M A N A G E M E N T S O F T W A R E P A C K A G E S 6

7 RECOMMENDED MRM VENDORS Not so long ago, the MRM market was fragmented and could be characterized as a loose collection of vendors that provided somewhat similar functionality for marketing organizations. Gradually these vendors increased the span of their software and a market formed. In the past year, the market s growth attracted the attention of large software companies that bought into the market. Other competitors accelerated their investment in their software tools and began to rapidly expand their capabilities. All this frenetic activity is muddying the MRM landscape but creating superior choices for marketing leaders. Table 1 identifies companies currently competing in the MRM space. TABLE 1: MRM VENDOR LIST* MRM VENDOR WEBSITE MRM VENDOR WEBSITE Adnovate adnovate.com IBM (Unica) unica.com Aprimo (Teradata) aprimo.com IntelligenceBank intelligencebank.com Brandmaker brandmaker.com Kodak Graphic Communications graphics.kodak.com Brandmaster brandmaster.com Marketing Pilot marketingpilot.com BrandProject (Leapfrog) brandproject.se MOM (I-control) mom.nl BrandSystems brandsystems.com MultiAd multiad.com BrandWizard brandwizard.com Orbis Global orbisglobal.com Capital ID capitalid.nl Paragon (MarketingOne) paragon.eu CDC Software (Pivotal) cdcsoftware.com PTI Marketing Technologies pti.com Code Worldwide codeworldwide.com Resolut MRM resolut.se Comrads comrads.nl Retail Sense retailsenseadvertising.com Direxxis direxxismarketing.com Saepio Technologies saepio.com Elateral elateral.com SAP sap.com Encode encode.dk SAS (Assetlink) sas.com Entegratecomms entegratecomms.com Sproutloud sproutloud.com Gabriel Group gabrielgroup.com Vyre vyre.com *Highlighting indicates recommended MRM vendors I S A N M R M T O O L R I G H T F O R Y O U R M A R K E T I N G D E P A R T M E N T? T H E I N S I D E S C O O P O N M A R K E T I N G R E S O U R C E M A N A G E M E N T S O F T W A R E P A C K A G E S 7

8 Depending on the marketing department s needs, only a limited number of these companies would be qualified for inclusion in your vendor selection process. If a comprehensive solution is required, there are four vendors that have separated themselves from the rest of the field. Aprimo remains the market leader in terms of size and appears to be avoiding the merger integration pitfall. Although now part of Teradata, it continues to advance its toolset. Aprimo offers a solid suite of modules to meet the needs of customers across industries. Its calendar and digital asset library perform admirably, and its workflow tool is best in class. Proofing is okay, but like most MRM vendors it lacks the full capabilities of packaged art proofing tools. Arguably the most innovative MRM vendor is Retail Sense. Launched from the print advertising space and focused initially on retailers, Retail Sense has already solved the challenge of managing a large number of promotions by connecting data across creative pieces and making the most pertinent information available at the click of a mouse. Its marketing calendar is best in class and provides a single location to integrate marketing data with sales and other performance data. Leaders who desire a quick snapshot of sales mapped against marketing plans will appreciate Retail Sense s user-friendly interface. Brandmaker and Orbis Global offer a base functionality similar to the above firms but without the breadth of functionality. Their packages are more plain vanilla, but sufficient for general marketing use. Both of these companies are enhancing their software and making great strides in the MRM market. They are solid candidates for consideration in most vendor selection processes. In addition to these vendors, a host of niche players provide some functionality, but not the full foundational set. These vendors are good options for companies seeking limited functionality, such as soft proofing and a digital asset library, while avoiding the expense of a full solution. THE MRM PATH The emergence of MRM tools heralds a renewed focus on the potential of marketing. In today s hypercompetitive markets, the ability to connect with customers in a manner of their choice is imperative to growing sales and building customer loyalty. MRM tools fill a major need for marketing providing the foundational processes and tools to plan, organize, execute, monitor, and track marketing activities. The benefits of an MRM investment including greater clarity of marketing activities and investments, efficiency improvements resulting in shorter cycle times, a reduction in duplicative creative efforts, the capability to track marketing performance versus projections, and an expanded capacity for the overall marketing function. Capturing these benefits requires a coordinated effort from the marketing team and its business partners. Active and strong sponsorship is critical to success: It not only builds commitment but also ensures compliance after implementation. But perhaps the single most important factor is the selection of a software vendor whose functionality aligns with the needs of the marketing department. And the key to the search is a methodical approach that starts with an internal assessment of marketing needs, continues with an investigation of vendor capabilities, and ends with a clear and specific roadmap to implementing the right tool. About the Author David Hamme is the Managing Director of Ephesus Consulting and an adviser to business leaders on myriad topics including innovation, strategic planning, operational improvement, process design & management, and cost reduction. Mr. Hamme recently completed his first book, The Forest AND the Trees Innovating Processes To Realize Strategic and Operational Advantages, which is due for release in Mr. Hamme can be reached at

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