Bid4Spots hosts weekly online reverse auctions that enable advertisers to buy radio and cable TV advertising airtime at the last minute. The company has been doubling in size since its founding in 2005, but to continue to grow at the same rate, company executives saw that they needed more insight into customer preferences, the effectiveness of online advertising efforts, and activity in the sales pipeline. Bid4Spots engaged Infinity Info Systems to use Microsoft Dynamics® CRM and its xRM development framework to evolve an integrated, multifaceted line of business solution. Now, Bid4Spots can capture and take action on information related to Google AdWord response, details about customer contacts, and marketing and sales activities. These benefits position the company to continue to grow both in terms of profitability and in terms of auction volume each year. Situation
Radio and TV stations make money from advertising revenues, but many radio and television stations find they have unsold or “remnant” advertising airtime at the end of the week before the next broadcast period begins. To help media outlets make money on those unsold minutes, veteran advertising executives Dave and Patty Newmark started Bid4Spots, an innovative online auction system that brings radio and TV stations together with advertisers looking for last minute deals. Bid4Spots actually runs a reverse auction—so instead of advertisers bidding up the price they’re willing to pay for airspace on a TV or radio station, TV and radio stations bid against one another to offer a prospective advertiser the lowest rate.
|We intend to become a very, very large business...and the system that Infinity Info Systems built for us, based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the xRM framework, is the foundation that will help us get there. |
Dave Newmark, CEO, Bid4Spots
Bid4Spots started auctioning TV and radio space in 2005, and the approach has proven to be successful. The number of auctions taking place in a given week has doubled each year since the company’s founding. Advertisers are signing up to hold auctions at a rate of 100 per week, and more than 3,000 rated radio stations and one third of the country’s cable TV stations are bidding in those weekly auctions.
But with the company’s success have come challenges. “Originally we conceived of Bid4Spots as a self-service platform,” says Dave Newmark, CEO of Bid4Spots, “but we realized about a year into it that this was naïve. When it comes to offline media buys there's a lot of strategy involved in creating the auction formats. There are different kinds of radio formats, different ways to do copy testing, ways to split odd- and even-numbered markets into different groups, and more—and advertisers could use many of these tactics to optimize their auctions.
“So, instead of going self-service, we needed people to answer questions and help advertisers understand and make use of those strategies. What I soon came to realize was that the approach these people took when interacting with advertisers mattered. The number of phone calls, the number and frequency of e-mail messages—all this mattered, but we had no way to capture this information easily or make sense of what was working.”
The executive team at Bid4Spots’ realized that they needed a way to capture and manage all these interactions with advertisers and media outlets. They wanted to make the process of creating great auctions more efficient for advertisers. They wanted to make the process of bringing advertisers to the auction more efficient as well.
They realized all these goals with help from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Infinity Info Systems and Microsoft Dynamics® CRM. Solution
“When we first spoke to Infinity Info Systems,” says Newmark, “we already had Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We knew what all the touch points were with our customers. We knew what variables we wanted to measure—for what we can measure we can control. We wanted to know how, for example, controlling the frequency or type of interaction with the customer would influence a positive outcome. What we didn’t know was how to use a tool like Microsoft Dynamics CRM to show us this information. Infinity took a good hard look at our objectives and studied our processes, and then worked with us to come up with a complete plan for how to make that happen.”
The plan Infinity Info Systems proposed involved two key projects. One involved integrating Microsoft Dynamics CRM with the company’s .NET-based Web site, with Microsoft® Office Outlook® 2007 and, furthermore, with a ShoreTel unified communications system. By linking Dynamics CRM to the company’s Web site, Outlook, and the phone system, Bid4Spots could capture all Web, e-mail, calendar, and telephone call activity in the CRM system itself.
The second project involved using the xRM development framework behind Microsoft Dynamics CRM and iAnalytics, Infinity Info Systems’ custom dashboards for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, to create role-based dashboards and additional line of business applications that would help account managers and executives work more effectively. Bid4Spots also wanted to use the xRM development framework to integrate information and applications from external sources. For example, Bid4Spots uses Google AdWords to market its auctions, and it wanted to be able to integrate the information about AdWord campaigns with the information residing in its CRM system. By integrating this and other externally generated information, Bid4Spots could create of a comprehensive data repository that it could use to gain even greater insight into marketing campaign success, ROI, auction performance, sales trends and more. Benefits
For Bid4Spots, the benefits facilitated by Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the xRM development framework are quite tangible. Account managers can now qualify sales leads more quickly than ever. Company managers are discovering which promotional campaigns and AdWord strategies are producing the most leads. With the role-based dashboards and customized reports that Infinity Info Systems has developed, Bid4Spots is gaining deeper insight into its business processes and sales pipeline. Streamlining Sales
“A sales lead might come in from a Web site or a Google AdWord,” explains Pragnesh Shah, the Bid4Spots Project Manager at Infinity Info Systems, “and we’ve set up Microsoft Dynamics CRM at Bid4Spots to capture both the lead and the AdWord that generated that lead. Microsoft Dynamics CRM then alerts the Bid4Spots account managers who can qualify the lead and work to drive those leads to actual advertising accounts that will run regular auctions.”
The majority of the functionality for capturing the information that Bid4Spots wanted was already built into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The challenge for Bid4Spots lay in getting the right information out of the system, and that’s where the expertise of the Business Analytics team at Infinity Info Systems played a significant role. Infinity tuned the solution to capture not just the information about an advertiser expressing interest in setting up an auction, but also to capture the AdWord from Google that had prompted the advertiser to respond. That way, Bid4Spots can track which AdWords are generating the most successful leads and build future programs around proven AdWords. The system and processes set up can also be used to track which account managers are best at converting leads associated with different AdWord campaigns. This information lets the company know where to direct leads from different AdWord campaigns, enabling Bid4Spots to focus on revenue-generating keywords featured in their online ads—lowering the cost per click from $144 per AdWord lead in January 2009 to $75 per lead in December 2009.
|For our account managers and executives, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is helping us to create the most efficient process for bringing a client from the original point of contact all the way through to an auction.|
|Dave Newmark, CRO, Bid4Spots|
When account executives begin to qualify the leads coming into the system, Dynamics CRM provides a way to follow the lead as it develops into an ongoing relationship with the company. Because Infinity Info Systems has integrated Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Outlook and the ShorTel phone system, the CRM system tracks all the interactions that Bid4Spots personnel have with a client—so at a glance the phone calls, e-mail messages, and more are available to Newmark and his team. Monitoring Progress through Dashboards
Infinity Info Systems has used the underlying xRM development framework to create a crucial tool for account managers, one that links customer information in Microsoft Dynamics CRM with management information from the Bid4Spots auction site via iAnalytics dashboards. “When account managers log on in the morning,” says Newmark, “they can look at a management dashboard and see the latest auction activity for their accounts, the total dollars they’ve generated, and more.”
The iAnalytics dashboards do more than just report auction status. “The system now prioritizes the next steps that each account manager has to take that day,” Newmark continues. “It gives each advertiser a priority rating, and sorts next steps by priority, which is very valuable to our account managers. There are only so many hours in the day, so the system just tells them to start at the top of this list and go down, identifying each task associated with each advertiser.”
The application that drives the account management system not only helps prioritize the account manager’s efforts, but it also helps keep track of which advertisers an account manager is spending time with. “Occasionally, the account management application will tell the account managers to start from the bottom of the list and go up,” says Newmark, “for there are advertisers that are of lower priority but that should not be forgotten.”
For Bid4Spots, the iAnalytics dashboards, customized reports, and targeted LOB applications have had a significant impact on the number of auctions it runs, which in turn has a significant impact on the company’s revenues. Bid4Spots works with thousands of advertisers and has increased the number of auctions it holds each year by 106 percent since implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, while increasing the number of participating advertisers by 47 percent—and it has accomplished this with fewer than 10 full-time account managers. Other much larger companies have tried to jump into this space to compete with Bid4Spots—including Google and Softwave Media Exchange—but both have since given up.
“Microsoft Dynamics CRM , iAnalytics, and the experts at Infinity Info Systems are helping Bid4Spots to become as efficient as possible,” says Tim Anderson, Chief Strategy Officer at Bid4Spots. “We don’t need a huge marketing team to figure out what works and what does not work. We just track everything with Microsoft Dynamics CRM and use the tools and the integration that Infinity has put in place to figure out what works.”
For our account managers and executives, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is helping us to create the most efficient process for bringing a client from the original point of contact all the way through to an auction,” says Newmark. “Just as our marketplace delivers efficiencies in media buys to advertisers and media outlets, we wanted to create a process that was very efficient at getting them to those auctions. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM system enables us to learn what we can do, what variables we can control, to make that process as efficient as possible.”
“We intend to become a very, very large business,” says Newmark, “and right now we’re building the foundation of a company that can handle many thousands of customers and their account managers. We believe that there is nothing standing in our way, and the system that Infinity Info Systems built for us, based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the xRM framework, is the foundation that will help us get there.” For More Information
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