PeopleSoft: Marketing under fire

Marketing doesn’t get much more challenging than it did for PeopleSoft Inc. in 2003. The firm faced the task of integrating its operations with a former rival, J.D. Edwards. At the same time, its management was busy fighting off a hostile

takeover bid from another rival, Oracle. All this activity was taking place amid a market for business applications that has never been more competitive.

Pipeline recently spoke with Linda Lazor, vice-president, global product marketing at PeopleSoft Inc. during its Vision user conference to get a sense of how it tailored its marketing strategy to changing conditions.

Pipeline: What were some of the marketing issues PeopleSoft dealt with as it integrated J.D. Edwards?

LL: Let me start off by saying I think the integration from a marketing point of view, I would say, happened over six months ago at this point. It was done pretty much during the first couple of months of when the merger was announced.

I think the big thing was when we first integrated, when we first merged . . . was we had two major events that came up very quickly. One was an analyst event in September that was really announcing what the new company would look like. And then right on the heels of that we had our major North America user group conference, Connect, two weeks later. And of course that had been scheduled for weeks in advance of when the merger was even known about.

So really you had to come together as a combined integrated marketing organization to put together the information around what the road map, what the product lines with the new company, would be. For instance, with the Connect meeting that happened for all the users, we created a special track for what were the previous J.D. customers. We created a track for Enterprise OneWorld. And we had to create all of the session content. So not just the main stage discussion, but all of the session content, to make sure that there was really strong balance content for all of the people who would be coming in the new company.

It made the marketing organization merge extremely quickly, because immediately within one week of when the merger was announced, all the people who were Pleasanton-based flew to Denver for three days and had working sessions. And then the following week, all the product marketing team from Denver flew to Pleasanton, where we had another two or three days of working sessions.

I had a pretty detailed plan for that integration that we tracked against major milestones like the analyst event, like the Connect conference, like the kick-off of the fourth quarter of the new company of last year, which is a very big quarter for the company in terms of having all the marketing materials ready for the field organization to be used in Q4.

Pipeline: Does your marketing budget change when you merge two organizations?

LL: Well, it depends. If you look at some things that work at corporate level, obviously before the merger each company had a different ad agency they were working with. Each company had a different PR agency they worked with. There are opportunities obviously to combine that and go now with just one firm to do different things, to get some synergies and cost reductions from that.

But in terms of a product marketing spend or the specific spend in terms of things that are creating deliverables, that didn’t change very much because you still have multiple product lines and multiple product families that need to be supported. So the budgets around those stayed very intact.

Pipeline: How much does PeopleSoft spend globally on marketing?

LL: I don’t think we release that number.

Pipeline: Is it hard to market in the midst of a hostile takeover bid?

LL: There were some dollars in marketing that did need to be diverted relative to some of the things we had to do for Oracle last year. So I think one the things this year is that we’re now able to focus all of the marketing dollars back on the core PeopleSoft business.

There is a very small number of people working on (the Oracle bid). The majority of the organization, including myself, really doesn’t interact with this. I really spend zero time even dealing with it because the focus of the product marketing team is 100 per cent focused on making sure that, relative to the solutions we have, that we’re really getting the information out to make sure that people know what those are.

Pipeline: How do PeopleSoft marketing plans differ from region to region?

LL: One of the things that PeopleSoft made is a major shift about year and a half or two years ago (where) we had moved to what we call a theatre-based model. We’ve got . . . different general managers running those theatres. We have not only field marketing that’s in theatre, and in- country actually within theatre, but you also have a very global, a very distributed product marketing capability, which was a very big investment for people to make.

When I first came in to global product marketing about a year and a half ago, the majority of the product marketing was close to corporate. It was in Pleasonton. And of course with Enterprise One and World now in Denver.

Now in the case of Canada, we work very closely with (Jeff Hayward, Canadian marketing manager), just like we do with the rest of the North America team. We meet, I would say, on a formal basis once a quarter, and we have a lot of conversations in between. And we do this as a very tight, very integrated joint planning activity.

But when you look outside of North America, like in Europe or Asia-Pacific where you’ve got just a much greater geographic distance going on and big time zone differences, I’ve actually got product marketing teams on the ground in Europe and product teams on the ground in Asia-Pacific. Those product marketing teams, again, are focused by business area, and they are dotted-line backed to the global teams in North America.

From an awareness point of view, there is extremely high global consistency. From a brand image and global point of view. So it’s great right for me as PeopleSoft. When I walk into an airport in many parts of the world, when I’m in London Heathrow or I’m in Germany or Paris, or I’m over in Australia, it’s the same advertising, obviously translated.

But will we tailor the content we talk about to local market issues? Absolutely.

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