From 1980 to 1990, I spent 15,000 hours developing a Marketing and Sales aid called 'Marketeer'. This was released first on an ITT 2020 (Apple II clone) in 1981. It was converted for the IBM PC/XT during 1985, and a multi-user network version was installed at its first user site in June 1986. It is a growing design which is continually being improved in the light of in-house research and suggestions from the field. It is currently being re-written as a Java applet to run within a browser window or on a Java-enabled operating system's desktop. An overview of Marketeer's main functions and their interactions is shown below:
Marketeer provides its users with automated help to:
- define a framework for organising his market information
- maintain and retrieve details of established and prospective customers
- communicate with them through a combination of media
- provide a dynamic statistical view of how his market is shaping up.
The database maintains 4 types of information on contacts within a company's marketplace:
- A Name & Address Card
- A Keyed Market Profile
- A Date stamped Diary of Contact Events
- A Dossier file.
In order to meet the needs of marketing and sales people receiving incoming calls, an achieved design requirement was to be able to retrieve any customer record by any access route within 1½ seconds (including the time required for searching, loading, decrypting and displaying) with at least 15,000 records on the database.
Entry, retrieval and maintenance of individual records is done through the Market Data Windows. In addition to normal indexed access, a cross-reference indexing facility is included which allows the user to link individual contacts' records into chained groups. A chained group may consist of contacts who have a given type of relationship between themselves as opposed to their individual relationships with the user company.
A hot-key facility is provided to swap the display back and forth between the Market Data Windows and a context-controlled on-line user manual window to provide easy self-tutoring for new users. This is in addition to context-controlled help screens. The manual can be printed out at any time in whole or in part. It is updated by diskette along with the software.
A viewing window is also provided which can pipe information in real-time from a file maintained dynamically by another package. This is useful for allowing sellers of fast-moving stock to see up-to-the-second stock levels so stock does not become committed to more than one customer.
Marketeer's targeting facility allows the user to specify the market profile (in terms of characteristics and attributes) of a subgroup of individuals or companies within his marketplace, and then extract from the main database a shortlist of the individuals and companies who fit this market profile. These 'target' profiles can define a wide variety of group-types. For example, a target profile can specify such groups as:
- everybody whom we should telephone today
- everybody we should write to this week
- everybody who has attended a seminar within the last 'n' days
- everybody within the Yorkshire and North-Central sales areas
- everybody who is a prospect for a specified product-type
- everybody who is at an advanced stage towards a sale
- everybody within a range of specified SIC classes
- everybody meeting certain user-defined trade-specific criteria
or various combinations of these.
Having extracted such a shortlist, the user may view the records of those on the list and cull out any individuals he specifically wishes to exclude. The members of a targeted shortlist can be presented in alphabetic order, postcode order, reference order, or various combinations of these. Any targeted shortlist can then be compiled as:
- a mailshot list
- a telephone session list
- an Email/telex/fax-shot list
for use by those respective subsystems.
Marketeer provides the user with several means of communicating with his market or customer base as follows:
Marketeer contains an on-board word processor specially written for producing sales and marketing letters. It provides a means of creating and maintaining a library of standard paragraphs. It also provides a means of creating and maintaining a separate letter library. Letters can either be written from scratch, or started off by copying-in selected standard paragraphs which can then be tailored and added to within the new letter. A variant of a standard letter can be produced by a duplication-and-edit feature which preserves the original letter.
The text of a letter is independent of its means of transmittal, so the decision as to whether it should be sent by post, Email, telex or fax can be taken after it has been written. In fact, it could be sent by post and repeated to the same or another addressee by fax, telex or Email later. Letters to be sent by post can be typeset fully justified or for printing in a proportional space typeface. Any finished letter text can be selected from the letter library as the current text to be use by the mail and communications subsystems for printing or transmission.
The mailing subsystem can print one-off letters addressed to any contact retrieved individually from the market database, or an entire mailshot based on the currently selected letter text and the currently designated target list. Style of salutation and signing is determined automatically from information within each addressee's market database record. Full monitoring and control of a mailshot print run is maintained with facilities and procedures built in for coping with paper jams and temporary loss of printer access.
The mailing subsystem automatically 'ticks off' each addressee as his letter is printed, and updates his database event key and diary entry with the fact that this particular letter has been sent to him. A mailshot report can be printed once the mailshot has been completed. This gives a skeleton letter showing the letter text followed by a list of addressees to whom the letter was sent.
Different types of printer can be used by Marketeer. This is made possible by a single printer driver which can be controlled by a printer control code template. Templates are provided for various printers, but the user may edit these to make use of added printer facilities as technology progresses.
Marketeer uses two logical printers which may be the same physical printer if necessary. One logical printer is a draft quality printer for reports, and the other is a correspondence quality printer for printing letters. Modern printers such as the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet can fulfil both roles well, although in high throughput installations a separate matrix printer and laser printer would be preferable.
The electronic mail, telex, fax subsystem is simply an electronic version of the mailing subsystem, except that the messages are produced in a 'telex or memo' style or format. A value-added network service [VANS] such as Mercury Link7500 is used as a store and forward facility so that operative's time is not wasted by busy subscriber terminals, and so that Marketeer can send the text to the type of terminal (Email, telex, fax, etc.) specified in the individual addressee's market database record.
It also means that multi-users can send messages independently of each other using only their normal telephone extension lines: no need for individual telex or fax lines, or the necessary pre-segregation of recipient terminal types required by a server-based telex or fax dispatcher. Subscription and protocol details for several VANS can be maintained so subscribers to different VANS can be contacted.
A terminal window is attached to the communications subsystem which can be used to send letter texts manually, receive incoming messages and capture them in an incoming messages library for later viewing or printing, or to allow a marketing or sales operative to check out the credit worthiness of a new customer or prospect via one of the VAN services such as Infocheck.
Marketeer's telephone subsystem can be used in two ways:
The market database can be used as a super telephone directory which reads the called customer's telephone number directly from his on-screen name & address 'card' and dials it automatically.
The currently-designated target list can be used to retrieve customer records in list-order, auto-dialling each customer in turn on command.
Both update each called customer's market database record with the fact that a telephone call event took place and the date on which it was made. Before, during or after a call, the user is free to enter or amend the customer's name & address, telephone number, market profile, diary notes and dossier file.
The following relates to the second use - the telephone session. After each call attempt has been made the user must select a 'call result' option as a measure of how useful the call was. Any call which failed is presented to the user again once the end of the list has been reached so that it can be retried as many times as is expedient.
A telephone session may be broken at any time and continued later. At the end of a session when all calls that can be made have been made, a telephone session report can be printed giving the name and company of each called contact together with the time, date and result of each call. A summary of the numbers of calls with each possible outcome or result is given for session evaluation.
On multi-user installations, a facility is provided to allow one user to expedite a telephone session on behalf of another - eg for a telesales operative to phone on behalf of a rep who is currently on the road. The auto-dialling software maintains full control of the call, providing visual indication of digits being dialled, and prompting the user upon dialling completion.
The Data Dictionary
Customer market profiles are stored in the database as binary selections. These are interpreted for presentation through a data dictionary as plain English names or descriptions. The plain English names and descriptions are placed in the Data Dictionary when Marketeer is installed and are updated infrequently and then only on management instruction.
When assigning a named or descriptive classification within the market profile of a specific individual contact or company, the user simply selects one (or more according to the nature of the key) of the name/description choices offered for that key. This minimises the wrong or non-categorisation of an individual or company due to the mis-keying of an indexed name or description.
Free-form textual descriptions can be entered elsewhere in an individual's or company's market database record.
Sales Area Map-Graphics
Marketeer's geographic key is based on the Postcode System. Sales areas are defined as the post areas they contain. Users define or plan their sales areas on a Postcode Key map by marking them on the map. (A plastic laminated map is preferred for this purpose.) The two-letter post area codes are then placed in the data dictionary along with suitable sales area names. Provided each individual's or company's address is postcoded, their sales area is determined automatically by the software, and is automatically re-determined if sales areas are subsequently changed without any need to alter individual or company market database records. A sample sales area scheme based on the IBA television transmission areas is supplied with Marketeer.
The user-defined sales areas can be displayed on a map of the U.K. (with an expanded inset of London) from which the user can check that the postcodes have been entered correctly. Incorrect post area assignments appear as disconnected fragments of sales areas in parts of the country where they should not be (although fragmented sales areas are perfectly valid if that is what is required). On the map graphics display is also provided a bar graph showing the percentage of all the people and companies on the market database who are located in each sales area. A bar showing the percentage of the U.K. 'population' (postal delivery addresses) in the same sales area is also displayed for comparison.
Marketeer has a market database statistics compiler which counts the numbers of individuals and companies in the database holding each setting of each key within the market profile structure. It can perform the counts either on the database as a whole, or on only those individuals or companies who are members of a specific target group. These counts can then be presented as either tabular displays or as graphics bar charts. They may also be printed.
Marketeer includes functions which import and export customer data into and out of its database. Export can be selective in that what is exported is a targeted list.
Although they are continually improving, PC networks have not been completely fault-free since Marketeer was first implemented on a network in 1986. Network errors can be caused by such things as power supplies and people accidentally tripping over signal cables and disconnecting them. If a network error occurs at certain critical times it can corrupt a database. Marketeer has a built-in function for reconstructing its database in such an event from 'redundant' or replicated data within its database. To date, this facility has never failed to regain full database integrity after a database corruption. A quicker facility is included simply for checking the integrity of the database if an event has occurred which could possibly have resulted in database corruption.
All customer/prospect information within the market database and dossier files is encrypted. This ensures that information cannot be obtained from the database by reading its files directly via a byte-picker of a word processor with an ASCII-literal view option.
One copy of the Marketeer software can support up to 40 users (or up to 100 by special installation). Each unified Marketeer database can hold up to 32k customer records. One copy of the software can drive an unlimited number of independent databases subject to hard disk capacity.
Below is a typical equipment configuration for Marketeer in a marketing/sales office with 5 telemarketing/sales secretaries supporting 10 sales reps around the country. The Marketeer software and database are held on the server and marketing and sales data is accessed and maintained by the sales secretaries from their individual PCs connected to the local area network (LAN).
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© 1998 Robert John Morton