• July 20, 2009
  • By Scott Richardson, cofounder, president, and CEO, Longwood Software

When Sales Calls for Support, How Does Marketing Answer?

More than at any other time in recent years, marketing and sales professionals are working under pressure to achieve big goals with tight deadlines and tight budgets. Sales teams and sales channels such as distributors, dealers, and independent reps simply can't succeed without marketing support. Unfortunately, marketing and sales often have to operate without adequate systems for communication and collaboration.

A typical salesperson has a sales force automation or CRM tool to manage account information, but also must access an assortment of company Web sites for mission-critical data. A lot of information is sent as email attachments, and salespeople have to submit account updates, reports, and requests through disparate tools. In extreme cases, salespeople need to call or fax requests for marketing support.

Selling partners such as agents, reps, distributors, resellers, and dealers get support that is even less efficient. They may access an extranet site but it often provides only basic support. They must call, fax, or email to get critical information -- and they struggle to keep up with announcements, memos, product updates, and requests coming at them.

Sales channels are annoyed. Worse, they make mistakes representing the product line -- and that leads to upset customers and urgent, productivity-sapping requests for home-office intervention.

Getting Help

One possible solution: an enterprise marketing portal with which marketing assets are accessed and managed centrally. Such portals, when implemented via software-as-a-service (SaaS), help marketers deliver the goods to sales and other constituents in the face of budget constraints.

Forrester Research's Lisa Bradner, in a 2008 report addressing the marketing asset management (MAM) space, said, "As marketing channels proliferate and organizations go global, marketers no longer able to store images, sell sheets, and catalog layouts on a file share are beginning to realize the importance of marketing asset management."

She went on to list what MAM could do for marketers:

  • Prevent duplication and rework. By capturing photos, videos, logos, and other creative assets in a central repository -- and controlling how, when, and by whom these assets are used --  a MAM system can provide a single source of information that minimizes mistakes and enhances brand consistency.
  • Lessen dependence on outside agencies. For many marketers, "asset management" means calling the agency and asking it to burn a CD with the missing files. Thus, they hop from crisis to crisis, waste time, and become hostage to their suppliers. A MAM system moves those files in-house and allows users to search directly for what they need.
  • Enhance collaboration inside the organization and out. MAM systems can route work-in-process files to participants and approvers. In the meantime, the system captures comments and changes, reports project status, and provides email notification of project updates, reducing marketers' dependency on emailing large files and hunting down project participants.

Marketing portals that manage all of an organization's marketing and sales assets are a hot topic. Marketers see portals as an avenue to streamline communication between marketing and sales, so both departments operate more efficiently. The marketing portal is a destination where salespeople find the right information at the right time for each selling situation, and where each salesperson benefits from best practices and companywide expertise.

10 essentials to look for in a marketing portal

An effective marketing portal should have the following 10 characteristics:

  1. Unites your electronic and print marketing assets in one system.
  2. Manages assets easily and from within the marketing department.
  3. Unifies access from multiple sources, including sales teams, brokers, and creatives.
  4. Gives salespeople solutions, not just data.
  5. Combines push and pull, including self-service and automated notification of new materials.
  6. Manages components and finished goods within the same system.
  7. Is reconfigurable for promotional programs, new products, and new marketing materials.
  8. Collects data continuously from the field through a self-service library, surveys, usage tracking, and submission of customer success stories.
  9. Protects the company from the risks attendant with using unproven vendors.
  10. Is a complete system, not just a Web site.

MAM solutions, implemented via a Web portal, help marketers more-effectively manage increasing quantities of marketing programs, materials, and assets -- often on a global basis with a diverse set of constituents -- yet do it all with decreased budgets and a lean staff.

And they may just be the best answer to a salesperson's call for help.

About the Author

Scott Richardson (scott@tagteam.com) is cofounder, president, and CEO of Maynard, Mass.-based Longwood Software, the developer of TagTeam, an on-demand technology solution for marketing and sales. Richardson has over 20 years' experience in marketing asset management, and has worked with hundreds of companies to help them optimize in this area.

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For the rest of the July 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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