“Even as it attempts to move into this brave new world of Web-based e-commerce, JDE faces many challenges. Since November 1998, the vendor has racked up a series of losses that now total $64 million. It was late jumping onto the e-business bandwagon.”—Computing Magazine, Oct. 2000
Going into 2001, J.D. Edwards was in a “funk.” Sales were falling steeply; its product offering was viewed as incomplete and lagging behind competitors. And further, J.D. Edwards was running “fifth in a four-horse race,” facing larger competitors with formidable budgets, including SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and i2.
J.D. Edwards teamed with Fleishman-Hillard to transform the company’s marketplace perception. A strategic approach – including product media relations validated by technology industry analysts and reference customers – cultivated the trade media to tell a compelling story not only about J.D. Edwards’ products, but the company as a whole.
Fast-forward to the end of 2001. J.D. Edwards was widely lauded as “back on track,” having credibly reestablished itself as a dynamic and customer-focused player in collaborative commerce. The company was been praised for completing its product offering by acquiring customer relations software vendor YOUcentric, recognized as a leading provider of supply chain software. No longer a marginal figure in an industry dominated by four giants, J.D. Edwards emerged as an industry leader combining the strength of tradition and its well-integrated product offerings with a capacity for innovation. In short, within a year, the company was perceived as being on par with, even ahead of, competitors.
· Increase coverage of J.D. Edwards by developing relationships with and educating key trade media about J.D. Edwards’ offerings.
· Broaden perception of J.D. Edwards as collaborative commerce software provider and differentiate from competitors.
· Alter the communications program to enhance marketing and revenue streams.
To ensure J.D. Edwards was pursuing the most effective strategy, FH conducted intense research of competitors including giants such as Oracle, SAP and PeopleSoft as well as niche players. Primary and secondary research included review of over 1,000 media and analyst articles as well as in-depth interviews with over 20 key J.D. Edwards’ executives. Analyst research and competitive intelligence indicated that J.D. Edwards’ historical strength in the mid-market was a key differentiator, providing it with a unique and credible message to the marketplace. In addition, its reputation for long-term relationships with customers was an important differentiating message. Media analysis also indicated that among key audiences, there was little recognition of J.D. Edwards’ collaborative capabilities and non-ERP products.
J.D. Edwards maintained a good reputation based on the strength of its ERP products, so the company decided to engage in an unusual strategy, devoting almost all its product communications budget to product offerings outside its flagship product (ERP) and focusing its resources on supply chain management (APS), XPI (eXtended process integration) and customer relationship management (CRM) products.
FH began by enhancing and unifying the messaging supporting each of J.D. Edwards. All messaging and tactics emphasized the collaborative capabilities inherent in each product and why this mattered to customers. Every pitch, message, and press release stressed that J.D. Edwards’ products worked with other companies’ software and the existing “legacy” systems of customers. Additionally, all messaging and related documents stressed the company’s expertise in meeting the needs of mid-sized enterprises and companies seeking cost-effective, innovative solutions that leverage existing investments. Additional messages highlighted the company’s long-term relationships with customers. FH also developed PR plans for key products – separate from but integrated into the overarching corporate plan.
To go beyond simply obtaining positive news coverage for each release, FH set out to build relationships with key reporters from the inception of the program. FH identified appropriate reporters from key tech publications and set out to educate them on J.D. Edwards’ collaborative-commerce vision and demonstrate that the company should be on their radar if they wanted to have a full scope of the enterprise software industry. The team also relied heavily on third-party support, namely, customers and technology industry analysts. FH set out to uncover the customer success stories buried within the organization and unearthed those where the use of J.D. Edwards’ technology saved the customer money and helped them realize increased value. In particular, customers using J.D. Edwards’ (XPI) middleware – the backbone to its collaboration strategy – were going to be key to establishing momentum in the collaborative commerce market. FH also built a strong analyst outreach program and identified “ally” analysts, lining up their participation before, during, and after news releases were distributed.
Analysts – early meetings with analysts generated positive reports that were marketed to media.
Customers – The FH-generated customer leverage program garnered 20 new customer references within its first 90 days of inception. Journalists’ requests were filled quickly and efficiently as their demand for customer proof intensified.
Almost every press release included an analyst and/or customer quote, corroborating J.D. Edwards’ messages.
Media tours: Two multi-city media tours served to build relationships with key trade and business journalists. A spring tour set the stage for J.D. Edwards to play in the collaborative commerce arena and focused not just on its ERP offering, but on its APS and XPI technologies. A tour in the fall updated journalists on the company’s progress and highlighted its recent acquisition of a customer relationship management vendor and the integration of its technology with J.D. Edwards’.
User group event (FOCUS 2001): J.D. Edwards used its main user group conference to put customers and key partners (including IBM) on stage, gaining important third-party corroboration of key messages, and providing a stage to announce significant new products targeted at the mid-market.
News Bureau: Created a steady stream of press releases focused on key products outside the ERP suite. Each release focused on three key messages that were mid-market friendly: low total cost of ownership, flexible integration with the company’s existing and potential partners’ technologies, and the right features and functions “out of the box.” Editorial calendar and feature pitch opportunities supporting key messages were also aggressively pursued.
Increased coverage of J.D. Edwards by developing relationships with and educating key trade media about J.D. Edwards’ offerings:
· Over 450 IT trade media articles mentioned or featured J.D. Edwards in 2001.
· At least half a dozen trade media outlets, including CRN, InfoWorld, eWeek, Computerworld and InformationWeek, assigned reporters to the J.D. Edwards “beat” for the first time in the company’s history.
Broadened perception of J.D. Edwards as a collaborative commerce software provider, not just an ERP vendor; and differentiated from competitors:
· From January to December 2001, J.D. Edwards’ share of voice, a key measure of message pull-through and coverage volume as compared to competitors, increased from 1% to 10%. The company emerged from the pack as a leader in story favorability and in messaging related to collaborative commerce. J.D. Edwards’ key message pull-through is now equivalent or superior to the Company’s larger competitors - SAP, Oracle, and PeopleSoft. Since May 2001, the Company has had the highest percentage of positive coverage - nearly 70% - among its competitors.
· J.D. Edwards received positive analyst coverage for a variety of products (AMR: “On Target with Integration & Process Management—the J.D. Edwards XPI Strategy”; Hurwitz: “JDE Makes a Bold Move Toward CRM”)
· Positive news coverage was generated throughout the year for non-ERP products. Emphasis on c-commerce and the mid-market came through strongly in coverage.
Supported marketing and revenue goals:
· XPI customers increased from 0 to 43 in 2001
· 36 customers were secured for Enterprise Content Manager from the time the product was made generally available in April. ECM product sales and services accounted for $11 million of revenue in 2001.
· J.D. Edwards maintained the same level of success with their Advanced Planning product line despite the overall decline in supply chain spending. 40 new customers were added in 2001 bringing the total to 280. Advanced Planning application sales made up 18% of total revenue.
· One day after announcing its general availability, the Advanced Planning Value Calculator website demo received 1,100 hits (up from 200 hits prior to the announcement). Nine strong sales leads were generated from these hits in the first week alone.