How Closed Loop Reporting Speeds Year-End Tasks

by | Dec 9, 2011 | Blog, Blog Archive, Distributed Marketing | 0 comments

If you’re a marketer, and you haven’t finished your 2012 marketing budget, then it’s probably number one on your to do list.  And that, inevitably, means you’ve been looking at all of the marketing metrics and reporting available to you in order to make your case for spending.

We’ve been doing that in my office, too.  But I’m lucky:  I have a closed-loop reporting system that aggregates the data that matters to my management, so it’s easy to find the information that supports the marketing department’s contribution to revenue.  In fact, the closed-loop reporting system is part of the product that Distribion sells, and I just worked with a customer on a new case study that showed me even more clearly how important closed loop reporting really is.

The customer is a Tier 1 U.S. insurance carrier.  Corporate marketing creates the campaigns, which are executed by Third Party Administrators (TPAs), Managing General Agencies (MGAs), Local Agencies (both captive – that is employed by the company – and independent), as well as individual agents or producers who work for one of the other companies in the carrier’s distributed marketing organization.

Once upon a time, the biggest headache for the carrier was collecting the data on which campaign materials were actually being used, and what kind of results were being achieved with those campaigns.  It was more than a full-time job just to find out who was using which marketing asset – and getting any kind of results was practically impossible for two simple reasons. 

First, the carrier’s distributed marketing partners were (naturally) very protective of their contact database.  Giving corporate marketing access to their results, they felt, would also give them access to their data – and that was viewed as little to no value to the agencies and producers.  Second, each link in the distributed marketing chain used its own marketing solution. Some were completely manual, like printing labels that were sent to a fulfillment house for direct mail, while others had signed up for a small business email marketing system to send emails to prospects and customers.  The problem was that here was there was no centralized place where the data was collected.

Two years ago, when they became our customer, we showed them that the key to improving their ROI was to measure the right things.  Measuring the wrong things – just because you can – wastes time and can lead you to the wrong conclusion.  Back then, the carrier used focus groups and test campaigns at the corporate level to measure the effectiveness of campaigns.  The assumption was that if the campaign worked with their list, and their audience, then it would work equally well at each of the other levels in the marketing organization. 

Testing showed, however, that the results varied widely depending on a number of factors – not one being whether or not the agency used the campaign as intended, or edited it before sending it out.  Once the entire organization was on a distributed marketing platform that allowed them to modify selected parts of the marketing message, so that it was personalized, and localized, things got a lot easier.  First, it was easy to see which campaign elements were being used, because the system tracked marketing assets (print, email, presentations, flash cards, proposals, sales kits, landing pages, ads, collateral, etc.) Second, since the results were reported in a way that didn’t compromise the agent’s data, they were willing to share their campaign results with the carriers.

This allowed the carrier to quickly identify messages and campaign formats that worked – and just as quickly modify them and deploy them to all of their producers.  Within a year, they were able to achieve several key objectives:

  • Better prediction on pipeline and sales, because they knew exactly what kind of conversion rates they could achieve.
  • An accurate view of what they spent on each campaign – and how that tracked with sales from the campaigns.
  • A better idea of how their strategic resources – people and dollars – could be allocated better.

For me, the biggest benefit of the closed-loop reporting system is that it quickly allows me to identify how a marketing lead made its way through the sales pipeline.  So at budget time, when I have to make the business case for next year’s spending, I can point out what worked, what didn’t, how much each cost, and what kind of return on marketing investment we actually got.  For some campaigns it was as little as 150% of spending — but it was much higher for others. 

Without a closed-loop system, putting together my year-end reports and budgets would take a lot longer, and I suspect that the meetings with the executive team on budgets would have been a lot less pleasant.  How about you?  How do you handle reporting on your campaigns and marketing expenses?  Got any best practices or ideas to share?  Please let me know! 

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Deb McAlister-Holland is Director of Marketing at Distribion, Inc.  Follow her on Twitter: @debmcalister.