International Business Machines Corp. is expected to announce today the acquisition of a target marketing software system from Customer Potential Management Corp.

The software, called Target, helps banks analyze customer data to market products and services.

Spokesmen for both companies declined to disclose the deal's value. But IBM officials said the software fits into their company's plan to shore up its roster of data mining and data warehousing services for financial companies.

According to Mentis Corp., a research firm based in Raleigh, N.C., only about 11% of banks have fully functional data warehouses, which are information repositories that form the foundation of many data mining applications.

That number, combined with the fact that data mining and target marketing are among the most talked-about subjects in banking, suggest a huge potential market for the software IBM has bought.

"To stay competitive, banks need to raise their wallet share," said William I. Levine, IBM vice president for banking, finance, and securities.

"Banks already know who you are," he said. "Now, they are going to market to you."

Two large banks already have agreed to use the software. Their contracts are worth $25 million combined, according to an IBM spokesman.

Another 12 financial institutions with assets ranging from $5 billion to $90 billion are considering purchases that could bring IBM an additional $75 million in revenue, the spokesman added.

"There are a lot of products that IBM will combine with this that will only make it better," said John N. Hallick, president of East Peoria, Ill.- based Customer Potential Management.

Customer Potential is a nine-year-old, privately held company with annual revenues between $5 million and $7 million.

"This is a fabulous area of opportunity for IBM," said Robert G. Gutenstein, an analyst at Kalb Voorhis in New York.

Data mining is in its early stages, he said, but since exploiting customer information is difficult, banks can use all the help they can get.

IBM and Customer Potential officials said Target is designed to let bank managers carry out rapid-response marketing.

When used in conjunction with bank transaction data bases, the software can identify events that might lead to new product sales.

For example, an unusually large deposit could prompt a thank-you message from a customer service representative. Or a son's or daughter's 18th birthday could prompt a student loan offer from the marketing department.

The software can even be programmed to send individualized messages to customers through automated teller machines.

Bank employees can coordinate their responses to triggers such as those using another program, called Visual Banker.

"Part of the solution is that we give the banks the paint, the brush, and the canvas," said IBM systems engineer Robert E. Gross, "but they have to figure out what they want to paint."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.