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Start-up wants to wed sales, marketing with new software

Software start-up Promptu wants to help build a bridge between two parts of companies that don't often communicate: marketing and sales.

Software start-up Promptu wants to help build a bridge between two parts of companies that don't often communicate: marketing and sales.

The San Jose, Calif.-based start-up, which launched this week, is now shipping its first product, Promptu eMarketing 1.5. This Web-based software creates extranets, hubs where sales representatives along with a company's partners and resellers can share information in real-time.

Problems crop up, Promptu executives say, when companies don't deliver all their latest marketing information to salespeople on the road or resellers marketing products worldwide. Without shared marketing tools, these salespeople and resellers must establish their own sales programs.

Alan Chase, Promptu founder and chief executive, said the company's clients include Apple, 3Com and Shell.

Analysts say Promptu is trying to solve a problem that a growing number of companies face--by narrowing the communication gap between large corporations and their often far-flung salespeople. Promptu's portal also helps cut the time it takes to update advertising campaign and marketing materials.

"If you're in sales, you feel like you're a day late and a dollar short," said Bob Thompson, analyst at research firm FrontLine Solutions. "By the time a lot of the information the company produces gets to you, you needed it yesterday."

Other companies targeting Promptu's space include Menlo Park, Calif.-based On Demand and Boston-based start-up Cojoin.

Network equipment maker 3Com said the company used Promptu software to help cut the time it takes to update artwork and advertising materials it provides its partners from a week to an hour.

Before using Promptu's software, a programmer would post and update all artwork and advertising using HTML code, a process that usually took a week and was somewhat complicated, said James Peters, a 3Com marketing manager. Now, 3Com is able to publish images, templates, tools and other content on a Web site designed exclusively for 3Com marketing and its partners. Instead of building from scratch, 3Com users can now easily access the advertising and artwork materials from the Promptu system and then modify them on the fly.

Thompson said the market Promptu is entering has potential to grow quickly as companies explore "clever" ways to link themselves with their partners, their customers, or even other companies.

Promptu, founded earlier this year, recently nabbed a $5 million round of funding from Discovery Ventures and Trinity Ventures.

By partnering with Qwest Communications for data center space, Promptu will host its applications for customers--with prices starting at $12,000 per month. Companies can also buy the software directly from Promptu with license fees ranging from $150,000 to $200,000, plus a $500 monthly hosting fee. The company said it takes about eight to 12 weeks to get its applications up and running.