Thoughts on the Forrester Wave and campaign management

In my view of things, as a (semi) professional in software product marketing focused on the needs of direct marketers, with the possible exception of “CRM”, there may be no term more abstract, than that of “campaign management”. Seriously.  I help market and sell campaign management software, yet very few know what that really means. Why is that? We all get mail, some of it actually targeted, some more of it unfortunately mistargeted, doesn’t anyone think about how that stuff makes it to our house?

Even Wikipedia, my go to source on all things abstract, has one entry on political campaigns, and a separate entry with only a few paragraphs on the term, mostly dealing with automated dialing systems (I'll be fixing that shortly).

So the experience of reading Forrester Research biennial gospel of what it calls, the “Forrester Wave: Cross-Channel Campaign Management (PDF),” is like experiencing a glass of water after months in the desert (or in my case, a cold beer before Super Bowl kickoff). Beyond Forrester and Gartner, few independent voices are really talking these days about campaign management in a substantitive way, what with all the chatter around “SOCIAL”, “CRM”, “INTEGRATED MARKETING” (OK, admittedly some of that is my own). For any of you, who like me, used to work in direct marketing, and actually, managed campaigns, do yourself a favor and read this report.

Forrester's process is actually pretty interesting. Imagine you are a software vendor, and have to do the following:

  • Explain in great detail, what it is that makes you exceedingly qualified to be in this space
  • Prove it with references who will talk about their experience using your software to solve real problems
  • Prove it with more references who will fill out surveys about how they use your software to solve real problems
  • Prove it by articulating a vision of the future of campaign management using your best “thought leader” voice
  • Prove it by showing real software, working through real marketing scenarios, delivering real results, in a live on-site session

It don't want to say its grueling, but I am currently lacking a synonym more apt than grueling. Regardless, by going through this process, Forrester simultaneously educates the greater marketing community on essentially the state of campaign management, while also delivering what is in essence, an evaluation of how each software company is doing relative to its peer group. Here’s an analogy: They are like the annual Consumer Reports car issue, but instead rating new cars, they are rating campaign management software.

I won’t spoil the story (OK a hint, I'd be writing about something else if we did poorly), but in reading through the research, here are some themes I observed:

  1. Campaign Management, ain’t just about managing campaigns anymore – The sheer breadth of capabilities they researched shows they weren't evaluating companies in their ability to pull lists of customers, they were evaluating how software could help run every aspect of a marketing organization's operations. Apparently, if you want to compete in today’s cross-channel campaign management marketplace, you need to account for setting up marketing plans, consolidating customer information, being able to analyze it, being able to manage offers, across channels, optimally, in real-time. No one in interested in hiring staff to glue a dozen different systems together to help a marketing department run. So helping a company pull a list of households from a postal code and orchestrating the blast of a catalog isn’t really going to cut it anymore to compete in this space.
  2. Conversations must be managed centrally, in a…you guessed it, Cross-Channel Campaign Management platform – I am paraphrasing that bit, but the point is the same. Many of the customers polled as the basis of this research, say that newer channels such as social and mobile, need to be centrally managed, to ensure consistent communications cross channel. And what all of that means, is that campaign offer can be a direct mail, or it can be a tweet, or it can be a text message, or it can be a call center representative soliciting with a specific offer. All must be accounted for in one system of record.
  3. Campaign Management is still not mainstream – One stat jumped out at me.  Only 40% of marketers surveyed by Forrester were using some sort of campaign management system. For all of talk about 360 view of the customer, enabling 1:1 dialogs, having personalized offers for your customers, the reality is, most marketers have no such system to pull this off.

These were some of my takeaways, but again, feel free to draw your own conclusions by reading the report.

To close, I’d be remiss in not mentioning how truly humbled and excited many of us at SAS are by the validation much of this research means to our own, nearly ancient history (in the technology world time) in this space. In many ways, tracing SAS’s advancement in this space, parallels the ever increasing importance of Customer Intelligence being the glue which binds the integrated marketing management processes of some of the best run marketing organizations on the planet. For those of us Customer Intelligence lifers who have been preaching the gospel of customer centricity, Forrester’s research reads like a solid “Amen”.

tags: Campaign Management, customer analytics, customer intelligence, forrester, research

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