If you’re like most marketers, this is the time of year when you’re being asked to take a sharp knife to your marketing budget for 2012. To get better results without spending more, think distributed marketing.
The more customer-facing employees who have the ability to tailor the communications they send out without jeopardizing brand and regulatory compliance, the better. How do you do that? By giving local, field, and individual sales and marketing reps access to approved content that they can personalize with a few mouse clicks.
Why does this matter? Because distributed marketing technology has been proven to increase marketing response rates while reducing costs. The truth is that most buyers are drowning in unwanted messages. Forrester Research says that 70% of the buying process is complete before buyers are willing to engage with sales or marketing – and that percentage may be higher for B2B purchasing decisions.
The technology to improve relevance through one-to-one customer communications is available through distributed multi-channel marketing products – and it’s applicable to print, email, digital collateral, social media, and other web-based communications. One mid-sized business that has adopted the technology is a network of youth sports uniform and equipment retailers run by a sports-mad family in Texas.
“The key is to manage the process, so that a decentralized sales environment doesn’t become an unmanaged communications environment,” says the company’s president, Don Richey. “We sell products under over 500 local identities — and our average sale is a set of uniforms for a youth sports team of about 20 players. Every single uniform is personalized, and we have to compete on price. For us, profits come from parleying that basic sale into a way to sell other team merchandise like water bottles, booster club shirts, bumper stickers, T-shirts for parents and kids, warm-up jackets and a host of other logo products to the players families. It could be an impossible task without marketing automation.”
Richey’s company relies on a corporate marketing team backed by a creative agency to develop the message, and deliver it through an online portal to branches, franchisees, agents, and retailers, who select the best messages and communications channels to reach their local customers. “The beauty of it is that it’s much less expensive and far more effective to do it this way than it would be for every franchisee to run their own campaigns,” he says.
“We can control some things – like layout, design, and main messages – while giving the audience close to the end-customer the ability to add locally relevant messages, branch-specific communication, and add the most audience-appropriate photographs. They get great creative and an easy to use system, and upload their own contacts to run their local campaigns.
“Headquarters gets closed-loop reporting in real-time – and both sides get assured compliance. Everybody makes money, and everybody saves money. When we first looked at a distributed marketing automation solution, we were hesitant about investing in the system, but after using it for nearly two years it’s clear that we’d never have weathered the economic downturn as well as we did without it.”
The four benefits Richey cites from his distributed marketing solution are:
- Increased sales and revenue. “About two-thirds of our customers are volunteer coaches in youth sports organizations or coaches or extracurricular activity sponsors at public or private schools. They’re drowning in paperwork, unwanted marketing messages, and the demands of doing what is essentially a second job on top of their main job. My delivering our marketing & sales pitches to them in the communications channel they want us to use we make it easy for them to buy from us. Two years ago, less than a third of our sales were online – now it’s nearly 55%. I think that the customized landing pages we offer – so that parents can buy team merchandise online – are the reason. It’s faster, easier, and so automated that it takes very little time to implement.”
- Happier customers. “Some of our customers like email, some are really into social media, and some rely on printed catalogs and flyers. We can deliver the same message through the channel each customer likes, and that makes for happier customers. It’s faster and cheaper, too, with anytime, anyqhere access to centralized assets.”
- Controlled vendor relationships and costs. “We have a system that lets us deliver print-on-demand solutions to all 700 of our franchise and branch locations with just a few mouse clicks. Local sales or marketing can pay with a credit card, promo points, or co-op funds. Corporate picks the vendors and negotiates prices, so we’re sure of the quality and prices we’re getting.”
- Measurable return on marketing investment. “I can tell you what messages we sent, how much they cost, and what the results were – and I can compare performance by region, by message, by communications channel and a host of other metrics, all from a single platform and all in real-time. I never knew what we were missing until we got a system that delivered this kind of monitoring.”
If you are considering a marketing automation solution for your distributed marketing organization, Richey says to look for a vendor who has industry expertise in your business as well as a technology platform that offers a complete, integrated solution for your needs. “We used to have one vendor for email, and multiple print vendors for different purposes. We had one agency designing landing pages and web content, and a different one designing print collateral. And a number of our local or regional offices had their own vendors or agencies, too.
“Now we have a single agency, a single platform, and a system that makes it possible for us to create bid books, catalogs, and localized sales kits on the fly by assembling pre-approved PDFs stored on the system. It’s much simpler and more manageable.”