Staking Your CLaiMS On Sales Leads

Is Marketing Intelligence An Oxymoron?

Sales people learned long ago that "leads" from theMarketing Department are often a waste of time. Management is left in the dark as to theeffectiveness of their marketing investments. Which marketing events ultimately producethe most revenue? How can we improve our marketing and sales processes?

Marketing invests in campaigns to generate leads, the leads are inconsistently andoften informally distributed and nobody really knows what the sales force does with theleads. Marketing is left to focus on metrics for interim results like the number ofseminar attendees and anecdotal evidence -- "Bob in Sales said, 'five are hotleads.'"

HUNGER FOR FEEDBACK

The underlying reason for the broken process is a lack of feedback loops. Total QualityManagement (TQM) principles have taught us the necessity of gathering and incorporatingfeedback into our production efforts. The challenge is to build a series of feedback loopsinto the Marketing and Sales processes to provide comprehensive, end-to-end feedback onthe process.

Since 1994, HP has used the Closed-Loop Marketing System (CLMS) from MelilloConsulting, Inc. (Somerset, N.J.), to facilitate ROI measurements for its marketinginvestments. According to Clark Straw, general manager, Worldwide Solutions ResellerOrganization at Hewlett-Packard, "Melillo delivered great value to HP with CLMS.[Their team] invested the time to understand our business and consistently provided rapidsolutions to meet our evolving business processes."

When a marketing event is initiated, campaign information is recorded in CLMS and, asleads are entered into the system, they are associated with the corresponding event. HPuses a set of tele-marketing organizations and CLMS receives data feeds from them. CLMSretains the detailed notes taken by the tele-marketers and interfaces with HP's internalsystems for the latest sales force territory assignments.

LEAD ON

With a large sales organization selling a variety of product lines, determining theright sales person may involve rules for company size, geography, application, verticalindustry or location of the company's headquarters. Using its flexible distribution rulesengine, CLMS determines which sales representative or HP Channel Partner should receivethe lead and sends an e-mail to that representative. The e-mail provides a hot-link to theCLMS Web site on HP's intranet which provides the representative with contact informationand detailed notes.

Getting the lead to the right representative is important, but only part of the battle-- gathering feedback is the next effort. Whenever a sales organization is involved, thechallenge system designers face is to make the user interface as efficient and friendly aspossible. When the sales force becomes frustrated enough to start asking their management--"Do you want me to spend my time wrestling with this system or withcustomers?"-- usage and, therefore, value of the system will steadily decline.

The CLMS user interface has evolved through the years and features a very dense,efficient set of screens that minimize the number of clicks and typing required. Checklists and pull-down menus enable sales people to rapidly record opportunity details,forecast potential revenue, specify target dates, update the customer profile and capturecompetitive information.

CLMS provides a variety of reports that support the different user groups on thesystem. Sales managers gain visibility into their team's sales funnel with reports onunactioned leads, key deals with the largest revenue potential and revenue forecasts.Marketing personnel have reports that track leads associated with a marketing event allthe way through the sales cycle -- from raw lead counts to actual revenue. Not only canMarketing compare a marketing investment to the actual revenue generated, but they canalso use CLMS to study competitive results, time-to-closure on product lines and performanalyses of customer buyer trends.

CLMS started as a fax-based system with Melillo Consulting handling the data entry andoperations of the centralized database. Next came a fat e-mail client approach withattachments mailed back and forth. Today, CLMS is a Web-based solution running on an HPNet Server with Microsoft's Windows NT Server, Internet Information Server and SQL Server.

CLMS has been deployed to over 500 users at HP with Melillo personnel providing theday-to-day operational support, database and system administration. The success of thesystem is due to the responsibility that Melillo Consulting has demonstrated in developingthe CLMS software as well as the support it offers to HP's business processes andorganization.

-- Matt Jacobson is the director of software development at Melillo Consulting andleads a software development team specializing in electronic commerce and Internetdevelopment projects.

WHAT ABOUT CLMS AND ROI?

Even in the older technology stages, there were immediate, strong returns with the CLMS system. Based on the number of attendees, HP was planning to invest in a number of seminar events but with CLMS providing end-to-end process visibility, they discovered that although the attendance was strong, the results in the sales funnel and ultimate revenues were poor. With that insightful information, HP redirected their marketing investments away from the seminar program.

HP received another payoff by learning that 81 percent of the qualified leads provided by telemarketing to the sales force were rejected as non-leads. Using CLMS to provide regular, structured feedback, HP has improved the productivity of their telemarketing efforts so that less than 5 percent of the leads are rejected. Now, with close to four years of HP marketing and sales history in its database, the CLMS solution has withstood the test of time and delivers the information to make business decisions for marketing investments.

-M.J.