Manna Rises Above Conventional 'Net Marketing

As the Internet matures, so do the needs of the businesses that have come to rely on this technology for the distribution of information and products. Such is the sentiment behind Internet Relationship Management (IRM); a technology designed to enhance the way online businesses build long-term relationships with their customers.

Stepping into this market with a cross-platform approach is Manna Network Technologies, an Israeli-based company with offices in Boston. Manna’s initial IRM offering – scheduled for general availability during the first quarter of 1999 – "will be targeted at the high-end, Fortune 1000 market when it’s initially released, but will eventually scale down into smaller-sized organizations," says Ellen Rubin, Manna’s VP of marketing.

"Those familiar with the state of e-commerce know that up until now companies have been concerned primarily with making a large quantity of information about their organization available to the Web-browsing public," Rubin says. While this model has been successful, she expresses a concern that wallpapering the Web with such varied information has limited effectiveness. "The market is past the point of simply posting information and counting traffic."

The concepts of Manna’s IRM product are not new to business, but they are new to e-business, according to Rubin. Manna’s goal is to bring together marketing and technical departments within organizations to understand how they can "meet each other’s needs," she says. "We want to empower non-technical business people to have real-time control over their company’s Web site."

IRM technology has found a snug fit with Streamline Inc., a Westwood, Mass.-based service company currently beta testing Manna’s product on a Microsoft NT platform. Streamline uses its Web site to "serve busy suburban families, providing a way for them to streamline their lives," according to Gregg Kaplan, director of interactive marketing for Streamline.

Rather than perform "monotonous tasks over and over," Streamline enables families to shop for items such as groceries, pet food, video rentals and photo developing service online, Kaplan says. Once an order has been submitted online, Streamline then delivers the goods to the consumer’s home.

Streamline found Manna’s IRM technology is a "wonderful opportunity to market to people in an online environment," Kaplan says. "We know our customers and what they’ve purchased before." In fact, he says the average Streamline customer uses the service 47 times per year, spending an average of $5,000 per year.

Manna helps Streamline use the information about its customers to create promotions based upon buying patterns. "Customer don’t mind being marketed to if the information is relevant to them and fits within a certain context," says Kaplan, who points out that, though Manna approached Streamline, he has investigated other IRM products. "Manna allows us to create flexible business logic and business rules," a trait Kaplan did not see in competing offerings.