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  1. Technology
August 27, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

By Kenny MacIver

Peter Tierney has spent his career selling and marketing software at IBM, Oracle, Ingres and most recently as CEO of customer service software vendor Inference. But, he says, he has never before experienced a lightning-bolt appreciation of a product’s full potential. The first time I saw it, I absolutely got it, says Tierney. The product he ‘got’ was MarketFirst’s eponymous software suite, an offering that promises to automate many of the marketing functions of medium and large companies. According to its well-positioned backers, MarketFirst could trail-blaze a new software sector in the same way that PeopleSoft defined the human resources market and Siebel established enterprise sales force automation. With my background, I really identified with the pain marketing organizations go through because of a lack of products that address their needs, says Tierney. ERP software companies such as SAP, Oracle, Baan and PeopleSoft have helped automate processes in accounts, human resources and manufacturing. A newer group led by Siebel, Vantive and Clarify offer products for managing sales activity, help desks and other aspects of customer care. Now, MarketFirst, alongside early competitors Rubric, Epiphany and DataMind, are trying to bring some of the same kind of automation to the less-than-empirical science of marketing. Although the perception is that marketing organizations are paid to be creative to run campaigns and events that are ultimately meant to generate sales leads, they spend as much as 80% of their time on purely operational tasks and a mere 20% on that creative process. While there have been ‘point solutions’ designed to ease those discrete tasks, contact managers, direct mailing packages and non-specific data mining software products are only now emerging that tie together all the main functions of marketing in a single suite. Importantly, these are underpinned with workflow technology and a repository that holds common data. Although the sector is still only defining its requirements, the initial companies, such as MarketFirst and Rubric say they can automate what they identify as the key elements of marketing: response management, lead qualification, event logistics, and campaign management. Their approach to the market differs from that of already established suppliers, such as DataMind and Epiphany, which are more focused on applying data analysis technologies to the task of getting a better yield from vast data silos. The market, though, is still in its infancy. Since it shipped the initial version of its product in March, MarketFirst has chalked up a dozen customers for its $250,000 suite, mostly in the technology industry, financial services and in so-called ‘considered purchase’ dealerships, selling cars, stereos or similar highly-priced items. Sun Microsystems, the first company to go into production with MarketFirst, is using the software to manage training events for its 2,500 sales employees. It is also about to use the product for a direct mailing campaign. Another big technology name, application distribution management company Marimba, is also an early user, as is the direct marketing company, Times Direct. In all cases, the aim is to provide a better ‘return on marketing’, although the metrics for measuring that are not very precise, admits Tierney: Ultimately, they boil down to cost per sales lead.


Some of the early backers of MarketFirst should be well-placed to judge if marketing automation will have a big impact. Aside from a minor, undisclosed investment from one of the big ERP software vendors, MarketFirst has raised $6m from ‘angel’ investors and a round of venture funding led by the Sprout Group, the venture arm of Wall Street firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Private backers include Katrina Garnett, the CEO of middleware software company CrossWorlds; Kevin Calderwood, the president of Baan Americas; Nimish Mehta, until recently senior VP of Oracle’s industry applications division; Chris Roon, VP of market development at PeopleSoft; and MR Rangaswami, former VP of worldwide marketing at Baan. They have all been hit by the same lightning bolt, says Tierney: The way to sell this stuff is not to give a presentation. Marketing people know about presentation tricks; all the sales force has to do is show them it in action. That kind of buzz has not gone unnoticed at major ERP and front-office software vendors. Most are working on their own marketing software that will tie in with their other business packages. That suggests that the pioneers of standalone marketing software are just as likely to end up as part of one of those organizations as they are to blaze the new applications trail.

This article appeared in the August 1998 issue of Computer Business Review.

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