Marketing planning. This encompasses the process of setting marketing strategies, defining goals and tactics related to those strategies, specifying revenue and expense budgets, and linking these to specific marketing projects. In large organizations, the planning process may be very clearly, even rigidly defined. It typically involves assembling information about markets, competitors, products, objectives, strategies and tactics in standard formats, and then reviewing and refining these at different levels of the organization. Plans are later converted into detailed budgets and promotion schedules. Smaller organizations do roughly the same thing but are usually less formal about it.
Functionally, marketing planning is a combination of document and database management. The basic information gathering and review follows a document life cycle similar to other kinds of content management, with functions to control distribution, track versions, share comments and gather approvals. But the information itself is often placed in a database rather than simple text or spreadsheets. This allows automated checking for consistency between, say, strategic goals and specific promotions or between total budgets and allocations to projects. Marketing planning applications may also extend to recording revenues and actual expenses as these occur, allowing reconciliation with budgets. Some permit tight integration with corporate accounting systems, both to send and receive data. Because marketers often structure their data differently from the corporate accounting system, such integration allows marketers to work in their preferred structure while the marketing management system automatically translates between the marketing and carport charts of accounts.
Only a handful of the marketing management systems provide a full set of planning functions. A somewhat larger group, but still less than half, provide budgeting capabilities without the other planning components.
Execution. Just as marketing planning feeds into the core marketing management applications of project and content management, the core applications themselves feed into execution. The most demanding execution application is campaign management: a true campaign manager, complete with customer database, segmentation and selection tools, and contact history tracking, is so large that it would dwarf the other components of a typical marketing management system.
But this capability is very rare in marketing management products. A bit more common is campaign planning, which tracks the details of promotion campaigns such as target audiences, start and stop dates, media and components used, budgets and results. This sort of planning can include campaigns in many different media: broadcast, print, online, events (e.g. trade shows), mail, telephone and business partners (dealers, distributors, field agents, etc.)
Much of the campaign planning process involves creation and tracking of documents with key information. But, as with marketing planning, the information in these documents in placed in a database for easy access, analysis and reuse. This is what distinguishes the execution component of a marketing management system from the content management features.
In addition, several marketing management systems provide specialized features to support the purchasing process. These maintain databases of vendors, job specifications and past performance. They also include a workflow component that generates requests for bids, receives vendor proposals, issues purchase orders and tracks physical materials such as layouts, mechanicals, data files, proofs and finished goods. Purchasing functions are sometimes further extended to track inventory levels, issue alerts when stocks are low, and charge final recipients for materials they consume.
Evaluation. The final component of marketing management is evaluating results of marketing efforts. This requires integration of sales data from order processing and financial systems. But such data is often not adequate to measure the results of marketing efforts, either because specific sales cannot be directly attributed to specific promotions or because the marketing effort had some other objective such as product awareness, customer satisfaction or lead generation. Thus additional sources are often required. These may draw on internal resources such as a CRM system or external data vendors such as Nielsen or IRI.
Simply gathering such data is rarely enough. Evaluation almost always requires sophisticated business models to identify or at least convincingly estimate, the relationship between specific marketing efforts and observed results. Precisely two marketing management vendors (Veridiem and Sitaro Group) offer a truly sophisticated version of this analysis, and they are such a distinct breed that they do not also provide the core marketing management functions of project and content management. Building the required business models requires so much customized analytical work that they could be considered more as service firms than software vendors. They do overlap with the other software vendors in providing marketing planning, however.
Other marketing management vendors do provide some evaluation capabilities. These include various types of reports on the activities managed within their systems, simpler types of results analysis, and scorecards with customized metrics. Every system with a marketing planning function provides at least basic evaluation functions.