• August 1, 2006
  • By Scott Richardson, cofounder, president, and CEO, Longwood Software

Avoid Marketing's Twilight Zone: Manage Your Materials

Business executives know that marketing materials are essential tools for all sales organizations. How would salespeople and channel partners sell without brochures, datasheets, price lists, catalogs, article reprints, direct mail pieces, trade ads, images, product samples, presentations, and sales guides? The list goes on and on, and multiplies with each product introduction, marketing campaign, corporate rebranding, special promotion, and sales program designed to boost sales and customer retention. There will always be print collateral, but the explosive growth of e-publishing and distribution via the Web, intranets, extranets, and email has significantly complicated marketing materials management. CDs and DVDs provide further options for sharing new types of rich content. In most companies the marketing materials supply chain remains a convoluted, complex workflow--a chaotic twilight zone of time and space that is subject to human error, inherent bottlenecks, and unwelcome surprises. Inefficiency in managing a company's marketing materials, sales tools, and digital assets can cripple sales effectiveness and profitability. One solution is an online marketing library (OML), a systematic, automated approach to managing marketing materials. The OML is a one-stop shop--a single, centralized repository for all marketing materials, regardless of format and content, which can also manage requests and fulfillment. It empowers marketing departments by providing an online portal that can be customized for use by authorized sales and channel partners. The business case for an OML is simply this: Cost savings and increased sales effectiveness result from placing all marketing materials in one central repository and providing rapid yet secure access for all authorized users. It's Hard to Get Arms Around the Problem Businesses have tried mightily to get to this point on their own, but marketing materials management still remains a collection of loose ends and disjointed pieces. Companies that still maintain a sizable print inventory, likely in multiple locations, may rely on telephone and email communications to fulfill requests manually for these marketing materials. When print materials need to be replenished, more are ordered from the company printer, and then are shipped to all sales office and branch locations. Non-print materials, such as CDs, DVDs, product samples, displays, and promotional items, often cannot be ordered through the intranet, so channel partners and sales personnel can only get them by calling, faxing, or emailing the marketing department. Since these items are not free, an invoice, purchase order, or charge-back notification must be created, and the items must be pulled from inventory, packed up, and shipped out. Delays and errors in fulfillment, shipping, and delivery are common--becoming lost in the twilight zone. Bickering and finger-pointing between field and home-office staff replace the well-oiled machine the company has tried so hard to create for the marketing and sales organizations. As chaotic as this access-order-fulfillment scenario can be, it's nothing compared with the complexity and twilight zone ramifications of revision control and change order management as new marketing materials are added and existing ones updated. Clearly, companies need a better way to handle all of the critical, time-consuming aspects of managing marketing materials. Why an OML Makes Sense
Rather than relying on tedious manual administrative processes, an OML is a portal that uses templates to automate and streamline the use of existing intranet, extranet, and public Web platforms. An OML enables all marketing and sales materials--written documents as well as spreadsheets, video, HTML content, product samples, posters, displays, animations, and more--to be centralized in one database for rapid on-demand online access and ease of updating. Thanks to database search capability, salespeople and channel partners can find all the materials they need fast, so there's no delay in fulfillment or need to contact colleagues for assistance. Materials can be emailed to prospects directly from an OML, and sales and channel staff can even receive alerts when materials are opened. When appropriate, customers and prospects can access an OML themselves for self-service applications. An OML can promote productivity by allowing customizable views of information in a format most important to each user. For example, a vertical or otherwise dedicated sales force could log on to an OML and see content and navigation specifically geared to their market, which would be different from the general sales force or another team. An OML can also include a shopping cart application for ease of ordering when materials requested are charged back or sold outright. A comprehensive, orderly solution to the often chaotic world of managing marketing materials, such as an OML, helps align marketing and sales teams more tightly than ever. As a result, companies can track marketing support for sales campaigns in one integrated view, and take coordinated, appropriate action right away to close more deals faster. Best of all, the twilight zone becomes a figment of the imagination once and for all. About the Author Scott Richardson is president/CEO and cofounder of Longwood Software. He has 20 years of experience in marketing, and has worked with hundreds of companies to help them find the best solutions for managing their digital marketing resources. For additional information, please visit www.tagteam.com
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