In a distributed organization marketing efforts are jointly owned by local marketers and corporate marketing. The nature of distributed organizations largely places corporate and local resources at odds; local resources must adapt to local conditions and customer preferences with respect to communications, but corporate marketing must somehow manage overall brand consistency - which demands control and centralization. But, the real challenge for distributed marketers stems from fragmented investments in multi-channel technologies. This Deep Dive will explore how Top Performing distributed organizations are investing in technology that actually unifies corporate and local marketing objectives and aligns the brand in a consistent world-class customer experience
Gleanster uses 2-3 key performance indicators (KPIs) to distinguish “Top Performers” from all other companies (“Everyone Else”) within a given data set, thereby establishing a basis for benchmarking best practices. By definition, Top Performers are comprised of the top quartile of qualified survey respondents (QSRs).
The KPIs used for distinguishing Top Performers focus on performance metrics that speak to year-over-year improvement in relevant, measurable areas. Not all KPIs are weighted equally. The KPIs used for this Gleansight are:
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Eight out of ten distributed organizations indicated multi-channel marketing was powered by separate investments in the same technologies between corporate and local marketers. The most common redundant technology among distributed organizations is Email Marketing. Multi-channel marketing isn’t about sending disparate messages across multiple channels; it’s about unifying the communication strategy to maximize conversion and sales. After all, the customer is channel agnostic- the customer interacts with a brand experience.
A recent study from IBM (“Stretched to Strengthened”) captured feedback from 1,700 CMOs across 65 companies. The findings eloquently validated trends that Gleanster Research has been capturing for years. CMOs from across the globe struggle with four common themes in marketing: data proliferation, emerging marketing channels, channel proliferation, and shifting consumer demographics. Social media and the availability of digital information have given consumers power and influence over purchase decisions. These days, relevance and personalization drive share of wallet for Top Performing organizations. Traditional marketing techniques are becoming less and less effective as consumers are bombarded with multi-channel messages from companies, colleagues, friends, family, and everyone in-between. There’s no shortage of data inside organizations; the challenge lies in effectively transforming customer data into better customer experiences, engaging multi-channel communications, and increasing revenue.
But the aforementioned trends have a far more profound impact on distributed organizations; managing the customer experience is extremely challenging when both corporate and local marketers have conflicting objectives for engaging target audiences. Corporate marketing is tasked with managing the brand and supporting field marketing efforts. But local operations, franchises, and independent agents have objectives of their own, not the least of which are revenue targets. The brand, while important, can’t stand in the way of sales for local marketers. Local marketing and sales have to be flexible and agile; they have to engage customers in personalized communications across a variety of mediums in which the customer chooses to interact. Waiting for corporate marketing to approve messages and marketing channels can cost them valuable sales. Perhaps that’s why 93% of the 135 distributed organizations participating in the Gleanster April 2012 study on campaign management indicated one of the biggest challenges they are faced with is “balancing the conflicting needs of local marketers and corporate marketing.” In fact, a variety of key challenges are inherent to distributed organizations, and solving these challenges has become so difficult that many organizations are slow to change, and particularly slow to adapt to the changes in customer behavior.
In the proceeding sections we will explore major challenges for distributed sales and marketing functions, as well as the associated opportunities.
The single biggest challenge inherent to a distributed marketing business model is the balance between corporate control and local autonomy. Local sales and marketing functions have intimate knowledge of local target audiences – the messaging, positioning, channels, and market conditions. The field needs flexibility, and autonomy with respect to communication strategies. However, corporate marketing must manage brand compliance and the overall communication strategy with customers. Ultimately, the customer doesn’t think about brand interactions from a channel or corporate or even local perspective. That leads to challenging tradeoffs for the brand with respect to the communication strategy. When customers opt out of local channel communications, do they also opt out of corporate brand communications? How do we manage communication frequency and message fatigue? How is preference management managed? How do we maximize offer optimization? The list goes on.
Solving the conflicting needs of corporate and local marketers is critical because customers have little patience for fragmented and generic interactions. Share of wallet is awarded to organizations that build dialog-based relationships with their target audience, through a mix of inbound and outbound marketing tactics. Top Performing organizations report that more effective alignment between corporate and local marketing actually earns market share at the expense of competitors. In fact, Top Performing distributed organizations are 7x more likely than Everyone Else to have invested for more than 5 years in technologies that are designed to address distributed marketing challenges.
Most distributed organizations approach customer engagement challenges from a top-down structured standpoint. Corporate technologies are implemented in a shared service model to support local efforts. Local marketing and sales resources submit campaigns for corporate approval, download corporate-approved creative, and, if they are lucky, get performance and reporting metrics from corporate. But it’s very common to see local marketers adopt their own marketing technologies to circumvent long cycle-times on corporate approvals or for more flexibility in personalized messaging. Eight out of every ten distributed marketing organizations surveyed indicated that corporate and local marketers had redundant marketing and sales technologies. Forty-two percent (42%) of distributed organizations actually used three or more technologies in corporate marketing alone.
Multiple technologies means fragmented data, and often a fragmented customer experience. In a situation where corporate and local marketers are using separate technologies for customer communications, data is fragmented, customer preferences are fragmented, and generally it’s extremely difficult for corporate to control brand compliance. This lack of visibility in overall measurement cripples marketers and causes ineffective communication strategies to be pursued far longer than normal because the metrics don’t exist to prove they don’t work.
Emerging channels like social media, mobile, and rich media (video, audio, etc.) have become remarkably effective ways to augment the customer experience. Yet only 16% of distributed marketing organizations actively engage in social media (Gleanster, Social Media Engagement Survey, 2012). For some organizations, it’s still difficult to tell if social media is even appropriate. Ultimately, social media and other emerging channels are effective if an organization considers two things. One, do your customers actively engage in social channels? (Remember, companies don’t buy products, people buy products.) Two, can you add value with your communications and give target audiences a compelling reason to interact? This is how Top Performers win with social media. But for distributed organizations there’s another layer to the onion: where should social media communications come from, and how do you control what is and is not appropriate when representing the brand?
There’s a new breed of multi-channel campaign platform that’s been growing in adoption among Top Performing organizations over the last 5 years. Gleanster defines these systems as Distributed Marketing Platforms. Distributed marketing technologies are designed to specifically address the challenges associated with marketing and sales in a distributed organization. Over the years, one of the biggest challenges with multi-channel marketing as a discipline has been message consistency. It’s all too common to see organizations executing campaigns across multiple channels as separate disparate communications. Sure, the organization has a “multi-channel” marketing strategy, but campaigns are not orchestrated to reinforce each other across channels. Ultimately, that’s because multiple technologies usually support the multi-channel process.
Top Performers are 7x more likely than Everyone Else to invest in distributed marketing technologies. Having said that, research from 2011 suggested that less than a third of Top Performing organizations had actually invested in distributed marketing technologies. Naturally, there’s something more than technology that propels organizations to superior performance. As is typically the case, technology is only an enabler for an organization. Superior performance in distributed organizations also has to do with people, process, and the willingness of corporate and brand marketers to embrace emerging marketing tactics. Friction, bickering, and lack of communication are catalysts for mediocre performance. Figure 2 demonstrates the value drivers Top Performers indicate are the top ways to maximize multi-channel campaign execution in a distributed marketing environment.
Note that the heart of extracting value from marketing and sales efforts for Top Performers is increased marketing relevance and personalization – with or without a Distributed Marketing Platform. But it’s far more challenging to manually link multi-channel messaging without a unified platform; it’s possible, but extremely cumbersome. Technology can in fact provide a unifying medium for aligning corporate and local marketing goals. A centralized multi-channel distributed marketing system ultimately leads to more autonomy at the local level, which speeds the marketing cycle time – addressing the third value driver for Top Performers.
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