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How to Choose the Right Omni-Campaign Management Solution

Walking the line of function and execution

Your organization has decided that it needs to select a new omni-channel campaign management solution and they have asked you or your department to lead the effort. 

But what’s really most important in making this decision?  What should you really spend your time and money on while assessing and evaluating the various campaign management tools available? 

Your organization must place a high emphasis on two often overlooked considerations:

  • How quickly can your organization deploy the available functions and features of today’s omni-channel CM solutions?
  • How well trained and skilled is your team in utilizing the new features and functions of today’s omni-channel CM solutions?

In Merkle’s 25+ years of CRM experience, we have been involved in numerous campaign management assessments, evaluations, and, more importantly, the actual deployment and ongoing use of many of the leading commercially available campaign management solutions on behalf of clients. In short, we know what the vendors claim their solutions will do versus what they actually can do and how easily they can do it. In many cases, we find that the client staff is far too often viewing this process as an “IT software purchase” and not as a key strategic marketing initiative. The campaign tool will most often be supported by your IT team, so traditional IT concerns do need to be considered. But with today’s customer-centric marketing demands, marketing cannot leave this decision solely to IT any longer. The choice your organization is making in selecting your new omni-channel campaign solution has much more to do with what marketing can accomplish with this software than with the traditional IT criteria (i.e. reliability, TCO, etc.) and any cost-effective procurement practice.

In our experience, the client’s IT team often focuses almost exclusively on the features and functions of the commercially available CM software solutions as it best attempts to meet marketing needs. Although these functions are important, almost all of these key functions are now available in some form within each of the leading tools. Perhaps some are designed and implemented a bit more intuitively through the user interface, but often there is not much that separates one CM tool from another. Why might this be the case, you ask? It’s because as consumers, we have caused the software vendors to “converge” on the same set of features and functions through years of issuing “Requests for Proposal” and other procurement documents. As a result, each CM software provider scrambles to quickly meet the buyer needs – some faster and a bit better than others, perhaps, but not with much differentiation. This tends to happen with all consumer-driven products like cell phones and automobiles – eventually every product has leather seats, coffee cup holders, reverse backing up cameras and sunroofs. Some are implemented a bit more aesthetically and ergonomically than others,  some at a better price point. Campaign management software is no different, as eventually each CM vendor has a way to provide email, social media, mobile computing, automated triggers, defined scheduling, marketing resource management, offer and contact optimization, and other marketing desired functions.  

We want to call your organization’s attention to two specific criteria that are often overlooked when making your decision on what CM solution is best for your specific situation:   

How rapidly can these features and functions be absorbed and utilized by your organization and integrated into your Connected CRM technologies? How quickly will the new features be made available to your organization?

How easily can your marketing users learn and take full advantage of these new features and functions?

Operationalizing and actually using the omni-channel technology creates the real advantage and value — not the actual technology itself. Unfortunately, far too often we have been asked to get involved because client IT teams have procured campaign management software that they really do not know how to install, configure or, most importantly, use. These poorly planned deployments can take months and even years with no effective use of the technology by marketing — too long to see their ROI on the technology investment. This happens far too often and mostly is due to the fact that IT teams will likely handle a project like this once in their lifetime while CRM agencies like Merkle provide these services over and over again, along with the expert, ongoing training and consulting to ensure maximum utilization for the technology investment.

As organizations evaluate CM vendors and options, we would encourage them to press their chosen supplier very hard on their professional services and technical support levels, inclusive of administrator and user training. Far too often we have seen organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their software but next to nothing on training their staff. All the newest tools have great capabilities available, but what biggest marketing impact is made by what your staff can accomplish using these technologies. When organizations shortchange their user training budgets, it is nearly impossible to get their omni-channel solutions executing correctly. All those envisioned and lofty goals stated in RFPs never materialize because no one knows how to get the most from the software investment. Allow us to make a small analogy here.

Seve Ballesteros learned to play golf at the age of eight on the sandy beaches near his home town in Spain with a single 3-iron club that his older brother passed on to him. Later in life Ballesteros went on to set the European record for most tournament wins in a lifetime (50) along with two Masters and three Open Championships. He once credited that 3-iron with teaching him everything he needed to know in order to excel at his craft, as he had to be creative and modify the angle and his grip in order to make the 3-iron act in the same way as a pitching wedge. This took years of concentrated practice and a complete understanding of what shot he was attempting to create while using a "limited" technology.

Your staff deserves the same time and training to also excel at the world of omni-channel marketing, especially if you are providing them with an "unlimited omni-channel" technology. In our opinion it’s less about the technology ("the clubs") and more about the skills and expertise of your team using whatever "clubs" you eventually decide to play with. So as you consider your CM software solution, focus on what training and professional development is available to your own staff or is possessed by the staff of your agency that will support your marketing organization. If you are going to spend hundreds of thousands on software, shouldn’t you budget an additional 10-20% to insure your team has the skills to really make it come to life and achieve your goals? Perhaps with the right skills and coaching behind your organization, they can win against your competitors even if they just have a "3-iron solution" available. 

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