1998 Apr 02

Rubric Inc. Rubric EMA
David M. Raab
DM News
April, 1998

Lead management is one of those glamour-free chores that are important but often done poorly. Part of the problem is political: leads are commonly generated by a marketing department and then turned over to a separate sales organization. The relationship ranges from awkward to downright hostile.

But the mechanical challenge is also significant. Leads must be collected, evaluated, sent appropriate materials, distributed for follow up, and later tied to eventual sales. This has traditionally involved moving a great deal of paper, which can easily be lost, misrouted, or ignored. Computerization has helped in some cases, but many firms still lack convenient connections with their field salespeople or distributors.

This looks like a job for the Internet.

Rubric EMA (Rubric, Inc.; 650-513-3870; www.rubricsoft.com) provides a Web-based system to acquire, distribute and manage leads. The system has grander aspirations–the “EMA” in its title stands for Enterprise Marketing Automation, and its workflow mechanisms could handle on-going campaigns to current customers. But it does not integrate directly with sales automation, customer service, call center or other “front office” systems, and lacks the sophisticated query, segmentation and response tracking of a traditional database marketing campaign manager. So its definition of EMA is tightly constrained.

Rubric offers three interrelated sets of capabilities. At its core is a campaign manager that lets users define sequences of events, set rules to govern the flow of prospects from one event to the next, assign start/stop dates and budgets to each event, and keep a record of contacts generated by the system. Campaigns are set up on a graphical tree and can take advantage of prebuilt plans (such as setting up a seminar) and rules (such as routing leads to the nearest dealer).

Events can send a message, assign a task, branch the tree, calculate a model score, wait for a specified period, execute rules, or connect to another workplan. Trees can branch as many times as desired. Rules can be defined by end-users with an expression builder or, for more complicated tasks, by a programmer writing Java code with calls to other languages. Global rules can limit total contacts in a period of time or set priorities among campaigns. A scheduler can execute campaign steps automatically.

Records are selected for campaigns using a simple fill-in-the-blanks interface, or a more sophisticated nested query builder. But even the advanced query tool cannot do random sampling, calculations within queries, or other functions beyond standard Structured Query Language (SQL).

The second capability provided by Rubric is direct customer interaction. This is done primarily over the Internet, using campaign events that record the responses to a survey, enter a user in a contest, respond to user input with messages, or produce customized Web pages. Interactions can be governed by information in the Rubric database or in “cookies” on the individual’s PC. The system can also provide simple branching scripts to guide telemarketers or customer service reps, although it lacks advanced functions such as computer-telephone integration. The ability to execute real-time customer interactions distinguishes Rubric from traditional campaign managers, which typically generate lists or transactions that are sent to other systems for execution.

Rubric’s third set of capabilities relate to the mechanics of lead fulfillment and distribution. The system maintains a detailed database of available materials, including physical items, word processing files, e-mail messages, faxes, and Web pages. For physical materials, Rubric can track the quantity on hand by location, reorder points, standard distribution quantities, and consumption charges. It lets users define kits with multiple elements and treat these as a unit. It can require management approval before an item is released for distribution, although it does not store expiration dates. It can generate physical or electronic output or send requests to in-house and third-party fulfillment operations. Users can define batch sizes for efficient production of physical materials. Integration with vendors could extend to electronic transfer of invoices.

The system also lets users set up complicated distribution lists and rules to pass leads to appropriate salespeople or dealers. Security ensures that each recipient sees only his or her own leads.

Rubric supports these capabilities with a fixed data model. The structure, similar to most sales automation products, stores organizations, individuals, sales opportunities, and events. Users can add an unlimited number of data elements to the “profile” of an organization, individual, opportunity or user. All profile data is stored in the same record type, with an identifier on each record to indicate the kind of data it contains. This approach, which is common among sales automation systems, allows great flexibility and gives quick access to data about a single individual. But it yields poor performance on queries that scan the entire database. Rubric lets users add new data tables to the system, but discourages changes to the structure of existing tables.

Data can be imported into the system via batch processes. Rubric will standardize addresses and do name/address matches against the existing database, following user-set parameters. Users can review near-matches manually and determine whether to accept them. Special processes, such as storing month-end historical information or calculating complex model scores, require custom programming using Java or SQL.

Rubric has also prebuilt routines to exchange and synchronize data with several major sales automation and contact management systems. Sales data imported from these systems feeds Rubric’s campaign evaluation reports. Users cannot currently create their own data exchange routines.

The Rubric system runs as a Windows NT application, hooked to an Oracle or SQL Server relational database and Microsoft or Netscape Web server. Users need a Java-enabled browser, such as Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.X, although external users can use any browser. The basic system costs $150,000 per server. Optional modules include “closed loop marketing (a package of 50 campaign analysis reports for $50,000) and “automated services (automated collateral fulfillment, inquiry response management, and marketing event templates, for $75,000).

The system has five beta sites and is scheduled for release in mid-April 1998.

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David M. Raab is a Principal at Raab Associates Inc., a consultancy specializing in marketing technology and analytics. He can be reached at draab@raabassociates.com.

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