Effective Marketing - A Key Success Factor for Enterprise GIS


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This paper and presentation was presented at the 2004 URISA Annual Conference. It describes how GIS managers can effectively market their enterprise GIS programs to help build and maintain a viable GIS program and enlighten potential users of the benfits of implementing GIS

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Effective Marketing - A Key Success Factor for Enterprise GIS

  1. 1. Greg Babinski, Finance & Marketing Manager King County GIS Center 201 South Jackson Street, MS: KSC-NR-0706 Seattle, WA 98104 Voice: 206-263-3753; Fax: 206-263-3145; Email: greg.babinski@metrokc.gov EFFECTIVE MARKETING: A KEY SUCCESS FACTOR FOR ENTERPRISE GIS Abstract: A key challenge for city, county, and other local agency GIS operations is to promote the use of GIS services across organizational boundaries, in order to maintain the institutional support that results in adequate and reliable funding for enterprise GIS. This paper outlines the King County GIS (KCGIS) Center’s strategy and methods to market enterprise GIS services for King County, Washington. It also illustrates how these methods can be applied by small local agency GIS operations. KCGIS Center methods used to identify and describe the specific ‘service offerings’ that provide value to potential customers are outlined. KCGIS Center techniques used to identify the technical, business operations, and management level decision-makers within a target market are described. Finally, tactics used to get the KCGIS Center marketing message to decision-makers and effective methods to ‘close the deal’ are reviewed. Branding, customer relationship management, and the importance of developing a marketing focus across the enterprise GIS organization are explained as well. INTRODUCTION Gaudet, Annulis & Carr describe the products and services that GIS organizations deliver to customers, clients, or coworkers as ‘outputs.’ Examples of GIS outputs include digital maps, data updating, data storage management, and training. Within a GIS organization, employees perform a variety of ‘roles’ that are each typically responsible for delivering a subset of those outputs. They identify a dozen key roles, including data management, applications development, visualization (mapping), training, marketing, and management. Within almost all GIS operations each person typically performs multiple roles, as in a theatrical troupe. Only the very largest GIS operations enjoy the luxury of assigning staff to specialize in just a single role. Very small operations (one to three staff) require each member to be ready to step into any role at almost any time.
  2. 2. Gaudet, Annulis & Carr describe marketing as “the role of identifying customer requirements and needs and effectively communicating those needs and requirements to the organization, as well as promoting geospatial solutions.” They describe a number of technical, business, analytical, and interpersonal competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) needed to perform the marketing role effectively. But what is an effective marketing strategy for GIS and how can it best be implemented? This paper will describe how the King County GIS Center, a medium to large sized GIS organization, has developed an effective marketing strategy as well as successful marketing methods and techniques. It will also describe how the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in Washington State has used many similar techniques to market a very small GIS operation successfully. KING COUNTY GIS CENTER The King County GIS Center is the enterprise GIS service provider for King County, Washington. The KCGIS Center is organized as an internal service fund, responsible for providing GIS services to internal clients and external agencies. As an internal service fund, the KCGIS Center is responsible for its customer base and to obtain all necessary operating revenue and capital funding. The KCGIS Center has a current staff of 31 GIS professionals. Other County departments are free to establish and maintain their own department specific GIS operations. The County ordinance establishing the KCGIS Center also explicitly empowered it to provide GIS services to external customers. GIS MARKETING STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT Effective marketing starts with knowing your agency’s business goals and success indicators and defining specific marketing goals to support the agency goals. In general terms, marketing strategy development centers around three parallel processes. One is the process to define GIS outputs that may be of value to potential customers and packaging them as service or product offerings. The second is the process to identify potential customers and to communicate information about existing GIS service offerings to appropriate decision makers. The third process is to develop business intelligence by learning the priority business needs of potential customers and developing new GIS outputs or services if required by the target market. This section describes the components of the KCGIS Center Marketing Strategy. KCGIS Center Business and Marketing Goals: The business goal of the KCGIS Center is to develop, maintain, and distribute a variety of GIS resources and services that meet the business needs of customers who are willing to pay the full cost of those GIS services. GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  3. 3. The marketing goal of the KCGIS Center is to maintain the financial viability of KCGIS Center operations and the products and services provided. Key marketing objectives to meet this goal include: • Maintain the existing base of internal and external customers • Identify and develop new internal and external customers and business opportunities • Collect, analyze, and internally disseminate business intelligence related to customer needs for GIS services and products to help guide the development of future KCGIS Center capabilities Description of KCGIS Center Products & Services: The KCGIS Center provides a broad array of GIS services and products (GIS outputs). Each of the individual services we offer is built around the concept of providing value to our clients to help them use GIS more effectively and/or economically to meet their unique business needs. Our services and products are organized into three distinct but complimentary lines of business: • Enterprise Operations: Core GIS resources or services, including GIS data warehousing, system administration, and enterprise GIS data maintenance and access applications. • Matrix GIS Staffing Services: Providing dedicated GIS staff to agencies at negotiated services levels. • On-demand GIS Client Services: Providing short term or highly specialized GIS services. Description of KCGIS Center Target Market: Each of our three business lines is characterized by slightly different, but overlapping communities of current and potential customers. Some current customers use two or even all three of our business services. Typical current and potential future customers for each business line are outlined below: • Enterprise Operations: Current customers consist of 30 county departments or divisions. Average annual revenue per customer is $46K. We project a potential for 40 to 60 additional customers, including other county agencies, local cities, utilities, and districts. • Matrix GIS Staffing Services: Current customers consist of six county agencies, with average annual revenue of $203K. We project a potential for 10 to 15 additional customers, including other county agencies, local cities, and special districts. • On-demand GIS Client Services: Current customers include county agencies, local cities, special districts, utilities, state and federal agencies, tribes, private firms and individuals. Last year 160 distinct customers each generated an average of $2,235 in revenue. We project a potential base of 250-750 customers, including county agencies, local cities, non-profits, targeted business communities (recreation, health, retail, etc.), and out of area customers. GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  4. 4. Description of KCGIS Center Target Market Business Decision Makers: Because most of the KCGIS Center target market is comprised of public agencies, understanding the typical procurement decision-making process in such agencies is critical for successful marketing activity. Enterprise Operations & Matrixed GIS Staffing Services customers are procuring higher-cost services and typically for a medium or long-term commitment. A key objective of this business segment is customer retention – ideally keeping each customer committed to at least the same level of service year after year. The decision to acquire and renew either or both these services requires a positive decision at three levels in the customer organization: • Technician and/or business end-user: Typically, this group will be asking ‘do the KCGIS Center service offerings provide value to me on a business and/or a technical level?’ • Business operations management: This group will typically be asking ‘do the KCGIS Center service offerings help me meet my business operation’s goals within the context of my department/city budget and goals and within the expectations of my elected leadership/board?’ • Agency elected leadership or board/city/cabinet-level manager: This level typically controls organizational strategy, procurement policy, and agency budget environment. A marketing trump card with this level can be the question ‘can outside services allow me to save money in the long-term while I retain overall control and credit in the eyes of my constituents for the GIS-enabled services my agency delivers?’ GIS Client Services customers typically procure lower-cost services with a short- term commitment. Because of the short-term project oriented nature of these services, the overall efforts for general marketing, focused sales, and on-going CRM are more important and comprise a higher portion of the total cost of these services. Except for unusually large Client Services projects, the procurement decision making process will occur at the technician/business user level in most cases and only more rarely at the business operations manager level. Business Intelligence Development Business intelligence development is important to ensure that an agency’s marketing strategy remains both current and forward focused. The development and processing of KCGIS Center business intelligence relies on everyone in the organization to provide appropriate feedback to management on potential marketing and service delivery opportunities with existing and new clients. It relies on information about the GIS service and projects that the local competitors are providing. It relies on key information from customers related not only to their satisfaction with the KCGIS Center services provided, but also on how successful they were to use those services to meet their business goals. GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  5. 5. Business intelligence development also relies heavily on learning about new GIS services via professional conferences, literature, educational programs, and user groups. It relies on analysis of emerging GIS technologies that could be used to provide new GIS outputs or services to customers. Based on management judgment about the potential for emerging technology or new services to meet potential customer needs, a small ‘research and development’ effort may initiated to turn the concept or technology tool into a new GIS service offering, that then becomes another aspect of the KCGIS Center marketing strategy. KCGIS Center management uses a number of tools and methods to manage business intelligence gathering. MS Outlook Team Folders is used to record and share information about current or potential customers and competitors. Weekly team meetings for each of the three business lines processes and filters information from or about clients. Monthly client services business meetings focus on the more variable aspects of this group of service offerings. Customer or new services information is also netted during monthly all-staff meetings, with a focus on ensuring information exchange across all three lines of business. Ultimate processing of business intelligence and action-related decision-making occurs at weekly management team meetings. Other Marketing Strategy Considerations: A major factor in developing a marketing strategy is the potential competition. The KCGIS Center faces real or potential competition for each of its business lines, which influences our operations and marketing. Even our Enterprise GIS services, which seem inherently safe from competition, are a potential target for outside competition. For example, the elected leadership of a jurisdiction can mandate a benchmarking study, to compare the cost and effectiveness of internally provided services with a private, outside service provider. Matrixed GIS Staffing and On-demand GIS Client Services are even more subject to potential competition. A key question to ask is ‘can another provider deliver specific GIS services better or cheaper to potential customers?’ If the answer is yes, an attempt to market such services may be doomed to failure. Legal or business environment is another marketing strategy factor. Some states or local jurisdictions may prohibit public agencies from providing services to other outside entities. While this appears to be rare, it is prudent to verify before embarking on a marketing effort. Likewise, in some areas there may be a strong local prejudice against providing such services in competition with private firms. A key question to ask is if providing such services to outside agencies would be in the best interest of the taxpayers. The answer is usually yes. Lastly, much marketing can be done economically, but there should be recognition that the effort will require a commitment of both time and money. GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  6. 6. KCGIS Center Marketing Strategy Components: The link between marketing strategy and marketing program implementation is comprised of various marketing tools, material, activities, and events. A key component of the KCGIS Center marketing plan is a matrix that illustrates all the various marketing tools and activities that have been identified, along with the target market and services offerings for which each is intended. Outline details of each tool or activity is also described, along with an indication of when it is to be used (schedule) and who in the KCGIS Center has lead and supporting roles for using the tool or implementing the activity. The marketing strategy matrix is as important resource for planning the strategy and communicating the details to those in the organization responsible for implementation. Branding is another key strategy component. Branding helps create an image of quality and value for current or potential customers. Branding is appropriate for the service organization itself, or for individual service or product offerings. Prior to 1999, the KCGIS Center was known as the ITS Division GIS Technical Resource Center. It was sometimes referred to as just the TRC, while at other times the TRC referred to itself on maps and applications as the Department of Information and Administrative Services, Information and Telecommunication Services Division, Geographic Information Systems Technical Resource Center. In 1999 GIS staff consciously chose the name King County GIS Center. This name brands the operation for both internal clients and external customers. Each component of the name conveys a marketing message. The words ‘King County’ distinguish it from other GIS groups or service providers (Transit GIS Group, Records & Elections GIS Section, Cascade GIS Associates, etc.) for customers within the county and indicate its countywide focus for customers outside county government. ‘GIS’ of course refers to the technology related services and products provided. ‘Center’ again distinguishes it from department specific GIS operations and indicates its special enterprise GIS services and functions. For both internal and external clients, ‘Center’ also conveys the idea of a convenient and efficient place to get a variety of services and products. In addition to its name branding, the KCGIS Center also utilizes a standard logo for maps, applications, web sites, and other media. A ‘tag line’ is also used to reinforce the branding of the KCGIS Center. The KCGIS Center tag line, is ‘We Put GIS to Work for King County.’ This tag line reinforces the business goals of the KCGIS Center and shows potential customers that we are not just technology enthusiasts, but providers of business solutions. Other KCGIS Center products and services have their own branding or tag lines. For example, a pre-packed service providing 100 hours of GIS staff time at a GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  7. 7. reduced rate is known as ‘GIS Services Express.’ Our GIS training program tag line is ‘Visualize Your Data – Better Decisions – Superior Public Service.’ A third key component of a successful strategy is to include all professional GIS staff and support personnel as an important marketing resources. At the very least, a customer service orientation should be a key non-technical characteristic or expectation for all staff. A customer who has a negative experience (or who merely hears of a negative experience) with a GIS service provider will result in the undoing of a tremendous amount of marketing effort. Beyond that, each member of the GIS team should be educated about the importance of appropriate and effective marketing as opportunities arise. This includes using GIS staff as key providers of business intelligence about potential new clients, unmet business needs of existing clients, what the competition is doing, and potential new service offerings. In summary, we find that successful marketing depends on flexibility, imagination, and sensitivity on the part of KCGIS Center staff to the unique character and personality of the specific decision-makers who represent our the target market. KCGIS CENTER MARKETING PLAN IMPLEMENTATION The KCGIS Center marketing plan is comprised of dozens of individual tools and activities. Some are aimed at the target market for just one of the three business lines, while others are appropriate for all three. Some are one-time annual events, while others may be monthly, weekly or ad-hoc. Some activities are appropriate for only certain limited KCGIS Center staff, while any team member can use others effectively. The following section provides a sampling of the marketing tools and activities used. KCGIS Oversight Committee and Technical Committee meetings: These activities are formal meetings held quarterly (Oversight) or twice monthly (Technical). They are mandated as part of King County’s technology governance environment, but provide a valuable venue to market new or enhanced Enterprise Operations services. At present only internal customers are represented, but when external customers for Enterprise Services are found, they will be included. Technical Committee members tend to be at the technician/business end user or business operations level of decision makers. Oversight Committee members are at either the business operations or cabinet management level. Typical attendance ranges from six to 20. KCGIS User Group meetings: These monthly meetings are open to all internal and external KCGIS Center services users. Attendees tend to be technicians or business end users. They provide a forum for discussing technical problems, sharing new techniques or how-to tips, or showcasing projects. KCGIS Center staff and outside vendors (GIS software and data providers) often do presentations on new or upcoming projects, service offering, and developments. GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  8. 8. The marketing message at these meetings is not overt, but they tend to enhance the reputation of the KCGIS Center as a quality technical resource and a reliable service provider. Typical attendance ranges from 20 to 40. King County GIS Center’s National GIS Day Event: This all-day event is structured like a small GIS conference. Held in a large conference room and open to the public, it includes about a dozen booths like in a vendor hall, in which the KCGIS Center, county departments, and outside agencies can showcase their projects and activities. The event kicks off with a keynote speaker in the morning. In recent years the King County Executive and the King County Assessor have been keynote speakers. Two other small nearby conference rooms are used, one for GIS project presentation and the other where attendees can ‘ask the GIS doctor’ for advice or help with technical or project related problems. Recent attendance at these events has been more than 200 people, representing the entire range of the KCGIS Center’s target market, both internal and external. Two years ago the event was ‘covered’ by the Seattle Journal of Business, resulting in a favorable article the following day. Annual Budget Development Process: This is a very narrowly focused but high value activity. Primarily the responsibility of the KCGIS Center Finance & Marketing Manager, it targets business operations and cabinet level managers to commit to service and funding levels for the following year for all three lines of business. The activity involves extensive verbal and written communications, as well as coordinating support at the technician and business end user level within departments, when increased service levels are being proposed. Other peripheral stakeholders in this process include department finance managers, budget office staff, Executive Office management analysts, and Council staff. Cold calls and ‘Howdy Meetings’: Cold calls are most often initiated when some credible business intelligence suggests that a potential new client may be receptive to learning about KCGIS Center services. These may be initiated by the Finance & Marketing Manager or by other GIS Client Services staff as well. A key objective for our cold calls is to arrange a follow-up ‘Howdy Meeting.’ Howdy Meetings are designed to present some basic information about the KCGIS Center and the services and resources we provide to clients, along with providing an opportunity for us to learn about the business needs and state of GIS use by the target agency. Ideally, a Howdy Meeting includes decision makers from all three levels in the agency. We try to emphasize the initial data and resources we can provide for free, but we also try to identify key business needs to follow-up on that may result in significant future business. Within the past few years this process has resulted in a significant increase in Enterprise Operations and Matrix GIS Staff Services customers. GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  9. 9. An important business-marketing tool is an effective web site. However, most GIS operations use their web site for little more than a showcase for their web mapping capability. While web mapping provides a valuable tool for the agency and its customers, alone it does little to attract new GIS customers. The KCGIS Center provides additional valuable information on its web site to try to keep potential decision makers coming back to visit. Examples include weekly news items: New GIS training classes, new product or service offerings, client projects started or completed, meeting announcements, conference presentations by staff, etc. Other examples include a whole section devoted to GIS Client Services with sample projects and products; an entire section on the KCGIS Center GIS training program, with course schedule, course descriptions, and enrolment forms; and an entire section on GIS Data CDs. Visitors are also attracted to the site by the KCGIS Spatial Data Catalog (metadata) and Knowledge Base. The Knowledge Base is an on-line collection of GIS-related tools, technical advisories, procedures, standards, and best practices that both enhances the technical reputation of the KCGIS Center and provides potential clients with a wealth of free information to help keep them communicating with us. Other marketing tools used by the KCGIS Center include our annual GIS Operations and Maintenance Plan, GIS Best Practices document, targeted and mass mailings, client services customer satisfaction surveys, an old KCGIS Newsletter (KCGIS.Today), KCGIS Center Posters, a KCGIS Map-a-Month Calendar, a standard Statement of Qualifications, service description sheets, and staff biographies. Other marketing activities include sponsoring a booth at the annual Washington URISA Conference, attending and speaking at local GIS user groups, attending and presenting at local business-specific conferences and events, and advertising in business specific trade journals. Recently KCGIS Center has also begun partnering with private firms to submit proposals for major GIS service contracts. A final Marketing Plan component is an annual evaluation of effectiveness. This includes development of quantifiable success indicators, including number of new customers, proportion of repeat business, and revenue growth. Other evaluation tools include customer satisfaction surveys, feed back forms, and unsolicited customer complaints (few) and testimonials (many!). MUCKLESHOOT TRIBE GIS The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is located in Pierce and King Counties. It manages approximately six square miles of land, including a major regional casino and entertainment venue. One person provides all Muckleshoot Tribe GIS services. Muckleshoot GIS initiated an early branding program. A standard logo and descriptive title block appear on all map products, to both establish the brand and enhance the technical stature of the program. A key challenge for GIS GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004
  10. 10. program development was to identify the target market (department managers and business operations staff) and to educate key decision makers about basic GIS concepts and specific GIS products. To broaden and solidify market support, the GIS program worked with the Tribal Council to develop a large-scale general locational map of the entire Tribal area. This map had wide interest and potential use by many in the Tribal Government and served well to demonstrate the type of services GIS could provide for more narrow business needs. To help educate Tribe members, Muckleshoot GIS uses an intranet site that focuses on educating people about GIS itself, as well as showcasing most GIS maps and much aerial imagery in both JPG and PDF format. The web site also describes the individual GIS projects that have been completed and how they have benefited both GIS and business users. Maximum use is made of branding projects, with descriptive acronyms. This serves to help decision makers remember past projects more easily and enhances the approval process for future projects. For example, JUMP, the Joint Utility Mapping Project was successfully completed recently. That record was used to help with the proposal for SNARE, the Survey Network Across the REservation. Lastly, GIS Certification has been a key marketing tool for Muckleshoot GIS. The GISP certificate on the GIS Manager’s door has significantly enhanced the stature of the program with many key Tribal decision makers. Unlike KCGIS, the marketing of Muckleshoot GIS services, products, and projects must be extremely focused and economical in its use of time and resources. A small GIS operation does have some inherent efficiency though in marketing its program and services. For example, the time needed to collect and process business intelligence from many people and the effort to coordinate marketing plan implementation by a large staff is eliminated with a one or two person shop. Basic marketing concepts and the development and use of powerful marketing messages for Muckleshoot GIS have been key factors to develop and maintain support for an outstanding small local GIS program. In conclusion, for agencies large or small, an effective marketing strategy is key for successful development and ongoing operation of enterprise GIS. REFERENCES Gaudet, Annulis, Carr: Workforce Development Model for Geospatial Technology. University of Southern Mississippi, 2001. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I appreciate the information and assistance provided by Mr. Tim Leach, GIS Manager, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, 39015 172nd Ave SE, Auburn WA, 98092. GB: urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing) August 25, 2004 GB: gb:kc:urisa2004:urisa2004paper(Gbmarketing).doc September 8, 2004