Thursday, January 17, 2008

Aprimo 8.0 Puts a New Face on Campaign Management

Loyal readers will recall a series of posts before New Years providing updates on the major marketing automation vendors: SAS, Teradata, and Unica. I spoke Aprimo around the same time, but had some follow-up questions that were deferred due to the holidays. Now I have my answers, so now you get your post.

Aprimo, if you’re not familiar with them, is a bit different from the other marketing automation companies because its has always focused on marketing administration—that is, planning, budgeting, project management and marketing asset management. It has offered traditional campaign management as well, although with more of a business-to-business slant than its competitors. Over the past few years the company acquired additional technology from Doubleclick, picking up the SmartPath workflow system and Protagona Ensemble consumer-oriented campaign manager. Parts of these have since been incorporated into its product.

The company’s most recent major release is 8.0, which came out last November. This provided a raft of analytical enhancements, including real-time integration with SPSS, near-real-time integration with WebTrends Web analytics, a data mart generator to simplify data exports, embedded reports and dashboards, and rule-based contact optimization.

The other big change was a redesigned user interface. This uses a theme of “offer management” to unify planning and execution. In Aprimo’s terms, planning includes cell strategy, marketing asset management and finance, while execution includes offers, counts and performance measurement.

Campaigns, the traditional unit of marketing execution, still play an important role in the system Aprimo campaigns contain offers, cells and segmentations, which are all defined independently—that is, one cell can be used in several segmentations, one offer can be applied to several cells, and one cell can be linked to several offers.

This took some getting used to. I generally think of cells of subdivisions within a segmentation, but in Aprimo those subdivisions are called lists. A cell is basically a label for a set of offers. The same cell can be attached to different lists, even inside the same segmentation. The same offers are attached to each cell across all segmentations. This provides some consistency, but is limited since a cell may use only some of its offers with a particular list. (Offers themselves can be used with different treatments, such as a postcard, letter, or email.) Cells also have tracking codes used for reporting. These can remain consistent across different lists, although the user can change the code for a particular list if she needs to.

Complex as this may sound, its purpose was simplicity. The theory is each marketer works with certain offers, so their view can be restricted to those offers by letting them work with a handful of cells. This actually makes sense when you think about.

The 8.0 interface also includes a new segmentation designer. This uses the flow chart approach common to most modern campaign managers: users start with a customer universe and then apply icons to define steps such as splits, merges, deduplication, exclusions, scoring, and outputs. Version 8.0 adds new icons for response definition, contact optimization, and addition of lists from outside the main marketing database. The system can give counts for each node in the flow or for only some branches. It can also apply schedules to all or part of the flow.

The analytical enhancements are important but don’t require much description. One exception is contact optimization, a hot topic that means different things in different systems. Here, it is rule-based rather than statistical: that is, users specify how customer contacts will be allocated, rather than letting the system find the mathematically best combination of choices. Aprimo’s optimization starts with users assigning customers to multiple lists, across multiple segmentations if desired. Rules can then specify suppressions, priorities for different campaigns, priorities within campaigns, and limits on the maximum number of contacts per person. These contact limits can take into account previous promotion history. The system then produces a plan that shows how many people will be assigned to each campaign.

This type of optimization is certainly valuable, although it is not as sophisticated as optimization available in some other major marketing systems.

I’m giving a somewhat lopsided view of Aprimo by focusing on campaign management. Its greatest strength has always been in marketing administration, which is very powerful and extremely well integrated—something Aprimo’s competitors cannot always say. Anyone with serious needs in both marketing administration and campaign management should give Aprimo a good, close look.

No comments: