Unlike many of the topics Gleanster covers, the software offerings in the Localized Marketing Automation (LMA) landscape don’t map so nicely in terms of features and capabilities across different providers. In fact, it’s entirely likely you may end up short-listing providers that rarely deal with each other from a competitive standpoint. That’s partly a byproduct of education about the space and the nature of the economy, which at times can stall operational investments. However, there are certainly signs that the pressure is lifting and organizations are realizing legacy platforms simply cannot scale 3-5 years from now.
FLASH Vendor Rankings: 2014 Localized Marketing Automation
The solution landscape has evolved considerably, even over the last five years. Much of this evolution was stimulated by the rapid growth in digital channels, which caused early entrants to layer multi-channel engagement capabilities on top of existing asset and brand management capabilities. The exponential performance improvements in smartphone computing and network connectivity over the last decade also altered consumer behavior. According to ForeSee, 70% of shoppers used a mobile phone while in a retail store. That makes brand consistency between corporate and local critical for the customer experience. These trends are bucking the notion that distributed marketers can rely exclusively on traditional channels like they have in the past. The vendor landscape for LMA is peppered with technology providers, print providers with technology offerings, agency partners with technology offerings, and sometimes digital asset management based solutions. The one nuance that makes LMA solutions unique is a focus on distributed marketing environments. Almost all LMA providers will offer the ability for local marketers to customize or personalize corporate-managed templates in one or more channels (print, email, landing page, social media, etc.). They also usually include workflow, approval, reporting, MDF and co-op fund management, and role-based security features. LMA tools come with a variety of core features, but it’s easiest to segment capabilities by functional requirements. So here’s what you might expect to find when researching solutions. Providers may offer core capabilities or hybrid capabilities around the following: Marketing Asset Management: LMA tools that are heavy on asset management look and act like a digital repository of documents, images, and copy. It’s akin to a digital asset management (DAM) solution built exclusively for the nuances of distribute marketing environments. These may also be marketed with terms like “Brand Asset Management.” Local marketers access a “repository” of brand approved marketing materials that behaves a lot like eBay or Amazon. Assets can then be customized, ordered, and fulfilled from this centralized portal. Focus on Digital: Some LMA tools exclusively focus on digital marketing for local marketers. That might include search advertising management, email, microsites, organic search, mobile, or retargeting. These solution providers can offer best practices by industry through packaged technology and service offerings for local digital marketing efforts. Multi-Channel Campaign Execution: Today it’s very common for LMA providers to reference terms like multi-channel campaign management, marketing portal, and marketing automation in marketing communications. This can be confusing to buyers because they may already perceive themselves to have these capabilities internally. But the complexity of managing multi-channel execution at a local level calls for a very different animal. Multi-channel LMA capabilities will allow corporate marketing to create and disseminate customized brand-approved templates to local marketers. But they may also allow local marketers to just plain opt in to corporate managed communications on behalf of the local entity. The workflow, list management, and role-based security required to do this in a distributed environment requires an LMA tool. In general, multi-channel is defined by providers who offer two or more of the following: print, email, paid search, microsites, web, mobile, social media, and direct mail. Manage Services: More and more providers are offering full service technology platforms and managed services to support localized marketing efforts and reduce the burden of managing the initiative at the corporate level. These solutions are a great fit for organizations that want to rapidly adopt LMA but may lack the resources or expertise to support the initiative in marketing, IT, or the channel. On-Demand and On-Premise: Most solutions are on-premise, but providers will offer hosted capabilities. Naturally, you need to deal with hardware costs and software upgrades for on-premise dedicated solutions. There are a few LMA solutions that are on-demand and offer very rapid implementations. The tradeoff is generally the complexity of features in the system, although the best practice these days is simplicity. Just because you can offer 45 different permutations to customize a piece of collateral doesn’t mean you should! Dynamic Template Considerations: Today, Adobe InDesign remains a de facto platform for content production. As such, many LMA providers have integration with InDesign to customize business rules for template customization. Generally this is the most robust form of template customization you will find. But some providers offer proprietary dynamic template capabilities, which can offer an advantage for organizations seeking multi-channel personalization rules for a single campaign. For example, print collateral, a microsite, and an email could all be customized with an offer and the customer’s sales rep contact information. Marketing Operations: Some providers use terms like “marketing resource management” to describe capabilities that help support back-office marketing processes. These tools will include capabilities such as centralized marketing calendars, MDF and co-op fund management, lead scoring, lead routing, integration with other back-office systems like CRM or ERP, and more robust reporting packages. Again, the one nuance to LMA marketing operations is a focus on distributed marketing requirements.