1999 Jun 01
Annuncio Annuncio Live
by David M. Raab
DM News
June, 1999

Although “marketing automation” systems are used primarily for business-to-business lead management, they can also be applied to relationships with consumers. This is possible because consumer and business marketers have broadly similar requirements: to define contact sequences, execute interactions over the Internet, and administer the related details. Moreover, when business and consumer requirements diverge, the consumer requirements are generally simpler. For example, business marketers must often store a hierarchy of relationships among businesses, sites and individuals, while consumer marketers can generally treat each household independently. This means a system built for business marketing tends to have more than enough capability for consumer applications.

Of course, consumer marketing does have a few needs of its own. Most obviously, the volumes are higher, often involving millions rather than thousands of customers. This requires heavy-duty technologies such as the Unix operating system and Oracle or DB2 databases, rather than cheaper but less scalable Windows NT and SQL Server. The larger volumes also lead consumer marketers to use formal testing capabilities, such as random samples and champion/challenger splits, that are impractical with business marketers’ small universes. Similarly, consumer marketers are more likely to want advanced segmentation tools, integrated statistical modeling, complex response analysis, and automated data cleaning and preparation. Privacy and permission-based communications are also more important when consumers are involved.

Annuncio Live (Annuncio Software, Inc., 650-314-6000, www.annuncio.com) takes a more consumer-oriented approach than most marketing automation systems. Annuncio still provides the basic marketing automation functions: it lets users create Web pages and e-mail messages, use these in multi-step marketing campaigns, assign the campaigns to customer and prospect lists, execute the campaigns, and report on results. Like other marketing automation products, it can capture data by providing Web forms for customers to fill out and return, and can measure campaign results by counting e-mail reply messages and hits against campaign-specific Web pages.

Annuncio does have its own strengths and weaknesses. While some systems let marketers manage their Web sites by themselves, Annuncio only generates blocks of HTML code that must be loaded into templates created outside of the system. Nor does Annuncio provide automated workflow to manage Web page approvals, deployment or expiration dates.

On the other hand, Annuncio gives users unusually precise control over campaign design. Audiences can include both names from the internal database and replies from external sources such as Web banner ads or trade shows. The internal lists can be selected and frozen, or reselected at regular intervals using the same logic. The campaign can apply different treatments based on audience members’ behavior, replies to questions asked during the campaign, information on their database record, or random sampling for tests. The treatments can include multiple messages drawn from the pool of e-mail and Web forms created in the system. Timing can be based on specific dates, elapsed time since a previous message, or events such as customer replies, and can vary for different treatments.

This is a richer set of functions than found in many other marketing automation systems. In fact, it is roughly comparable with traditional, consumer-oriented campaign managers. But Annuncio is more similar to other marketing automation products in its query and segmentation functions, which are limited to relatively simple logic rather than the highly complex functions found in traditional campaign managers.

After a campaign is designed, Annuncio lets users test it by checking that all the messages are available, dates are internally consistent, and segmentation logic is valid. They can then execute it against internal users before releasing it to production.

Once a campaign is under way, the system automatically records all communications with each customer. Standard reports provide up-to-the-second information on response rates by list, distribution of responses over time, and responses to any survey questions. These can be shown in tables or graphs and can be exported to Excel spreadsheets. Users can also see the individual customer records underlying a report by clicking on a table line or graph segment.

While report information is continuously updated, Annuncio does not automatically alert users when specified results occur–for example, when a campaign is substantially ahead or behind of forecast. This capability is particularly important in managing interactive campaigns, and is found in several other marketing automation systems. Annuncio plans to add it in the near future.

In fact, the standard version of Annuncio does not store forecasted results, cost or revenue information, except as text fields that are not easily used for analysis. These could be added on a custom basis. Nor does the system provide project management tools, such as standard task lists, to help plan marketing programs, or keep track of physical inventory such as preprinted brochures that might be sent in response to a customer request. These functions are fairly common among marketing automation products although they are generally not part of traditional campaign managers.

Annuncio runs against its own data structures, although information can be imported from other systems via batch updates. The vendor is working on real-time integration with several popular sales automation and call center systems, although this is not yet available. Some data structures are fixed while are adjusted for different installations.

Data gathered through campaign surveys is automatically stored in the campaign history table, and can optionally be posted to a customer’s main profile record. This allows the system to provide both quick access to results for a particular campaign and easy views of customer-level data when appropriate. Annuncio provides a special set of functions to manage permission-based marketing, permitting customers to opt out of many different types of communications on a case-by-case basis.

Annuncio works with either an Oracle or SQL Server relational database. The application itself runs on a dedicated server, separate from the database and Web or e-mail servers, helping it to handle large volumes. Marketing users can access the system through a Web browser, but generally load some of its software onto their workstations to get better speed.

Annuncio Live was officially introduced in April, 1999 after test installations at six companies. Pricing is based on the number of customer transactions per year, and a one-time license starts at $135,000.

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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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