What is distributed marketing automation?

by | Jan 25, 2012 | Blog, Blog Archive, Distributed Marketing | 0 comments

I was talking to a prospective customer the other day, and he wanted to know exactly what I meant when I said that my company delivers multi-channel distributed marketing automation solutions for companies like his in regulated industries.  “Just what is distributed marketing anyway?” he wanted to know.

The simplest way to explain it is to say that distributed marketing is the business model where a corporation with one or more brands sells its products and services through a network of regional or local channels.  The channel might be a local branch, an independent distributor or reseller, a franchisee, or an affiliated company – or it might be some other model altogether.  What distributed marketing organizations have is common is that they face an increasingly complex series of challenges that revolve around brand standards, campaign management and ownership, and time to market.

He didn’t ask the question, but it seems to me that the next logical question might have been, “What’s distributed multi-channel marketing automation?” The goal for corporate marketers in a distributed environment sounds simple: to drive sales and revenue, keep the brand compliant, and implement seamless, effective, relevant campaigns. Of course, it’s a lot more complex than it sounds.

Traditional marketing automation solutions aren’t designed to handle the challenges of a distributed marketing organization.  They’re designed for a direct selling environment, where there’s no need for multi-branded collateral, customization and personalization for local sales, or compliance with regulations that vary from market to market and product to product, in a disconnected marketing communications chain.

That’s what distributed multi-channel marketing automation does: it connects corporate marketing with local sales, and both of them with customers. Put in its simplest terms, it’s a combination of technology, methodology, and services that simplify and improve a company’s ability to sell products and services, train their channel partners, agents, brokers, or dealers, and manage their brand’s message – all without slowing things down, adding complexity, or creating gaps where compliance issues can sneak in.

In its best form, a distributed multi-channel marketing automation solution optimizes the marketing implementation process by putting materials, campaigns and sales enablement tools at the fingertips of local sales when they’re needed.  These days, anytime, anywhere access from any connected device is expected, and so is the ability to easily find, select, personalize, and deliver marketing and sales messages to one or thousands of prospects with just a few mouse clicks.

Conflicting Priorities Divide Corporate, Local

 According to Surresh Vital of Forrester Research, corporate and local marketers are often on a collision course.  Corporate marketing has the task of preserving the brand image, enforcing communication policies, and managing strategy and spending, all while meeting management goals for lead generation, sales and revenue.  Local sales people – whether they’re independent businesspeople or “captive” but geographically dispersed employees or contractors – are focused on customizing marketing content to suit the needs of their local markets.  In other words, corporate has the vision, but local salespeople have the contacts and the in-depth customer knowledge.

Let me say right here that nobody knows better than I do that marketing isn’t easy.  The sheer number of communications channels is challenge enough, and new channels and tools seem to arrive every few months.  Add in the expertise required to create and execute campaigns in each of the channels, and it’s not uncommon to find a company that works with many local agencies, creative shops, and service providers.

So one of the challenges is just getting all the pieces in one place – whether it’s a marketing asset management system or a digital asset management system – so that creative resources can be found and used when they’re needed.

And then there’s the challenge of managers and measuring campaigns.  What communications channel works best?  Which message got the best result?  Which sales team used this message instead of that one, and how do their sales compare to the one that used a different campaign?

Distributed Marketing Automation Delivers Results

A multi-channel distributed marketing automation solution centralizes content, data, commerce, compliance and reporting.  The result is a process that takes less time, delivers seamless management, and connects the once disconnected organization into a smoothly functioning sales enablement system.

 What kind of results should you expect if you add a comprehensive distributed marketing automation solution to your marketing organization?  Obviously, the answer depends on your industry and your specific situation.  However, there are four benefits you should expect – and some specific goals you should have defined before you make a purchase.

The four key benefits of distributed marketing automation are:

  • Increased marketing efficiency.  We’re all being asked to do more with less, and the productivity gains you get by improving asset access and re-use, reducing rush and re-work fees, and getting your sales and marketing messages to prospects faster translate directly into dollars and cents.
  • Reduced support costs.  Doing things manually is costly.  Most of the companies I talk to have at least one, and usually two or three, legacy “point” solutions – that is a license fee they pay month after month, year after year, to a vendor who is solving just one pain point within the marketing department.  And many also have a high cost in staff time that is spent doing tasks that should be automated, managing all those separate solutions, and developing and supporting them.
  • Improved compliance.  A compliance problem of any kind can be costly.  The legal fees alone can be enormous, and if a fine or penalty is incurred over something as simple as a sales rep who drops a required disclaimer before hitting “send” those costs can be magnified.  Better compliance, without eliminating local choice and personalization, is attainable only with a distributed marketing automation solution.
  • Increased sales efficiency.  Every minute that a salesperson spends creating their own marketing materials (usually because they can’t find a corporate asset that fits their needs, and they aren’t able to customize or personalize corporate materials quickly) is a minute they aren’t selling. That time is costly, of course, but that isn’t the real cost of a manual distributed marketing process.  The real cost is the delay in getting information to prospective customers. So the truth is that increased sales efficiency translates directly into more revenue.

Last year, our professional services team worked with customers to put together a pro forma model that outlines the value proposition for multi-channel distributed marketing automation in regulated industries.  We found that, a year after switching from manual processes or a cobbled-together solution built on different point solutions, distributed marketing organizations in several industries, including insurance, financial services, telecommunications, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and even hospitality, travel, and casino gaming – all highly regulated, widely distributed organizations with multiple layers of sales and marketing – reported results like these:

  • 25% increase in marketing efficiencies
  • 15% reduction in compliance costs
  • 10% reduction in support and maintenance costs
  • 10% increase in sales conversions / revenue

Since those are averages, it’s important to note that some companies saw higher numbers, and some saw lower numbers.  If you think about what a 10% increase in your revenue would look like, or what you could do with savings in other areas, then suddenly the case for adding a distributed marketing automation solution seems crystal clear.

Edgar Rodriguez is Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Distribion, Inc.  He is a monthly contributor to this blog, and is a recognized expert on multi-channel distributed marketing automation and marketing topics.  A longer version of this blog post, with more detailed information on the results of the business case research referenced here, is available for download on the company’s website.  Click here to read more.