Managing multi-channel communications within a single corporate marketing function is challenging enough. But if your organization has a corporate marketing entity that also supports local or regionally distributed marketers, you know it’s exponentially harder to manage brand consistency and the customer experience in this environment. Unfortunately, recent Gleanster research suggests that distributed marketing organizations are struggling to enable local autonomy with legacy marketing technologies. In fact, it was only over the last decade that a new and emerging class of technology called “marketing asset management” or ”local marketing automation” emerged to address the unique nuances of a distributed marketing environment.
There are a myriad of technologies available for managing back-end marketing processes and customer engagement. In a distributed marketing environment where a corporate entity oversees the brand and local or regional marketers share in customer communication, managing the marketing value chain can get quite complex. Gleanster defines the marketing value chain as the series of steps that marketers engage in to plan, create, execute, and measure communications with a target audience. Today the value chain is largely supported by a variety of different technologies, including spreadsheets. In fact, according to research from Gleanster, the average organization manages 3-5 different marketing technologies such as email marketing, web analytics, landing page hosting, marketing automation, etc.
In a distributed marketing environment the challenges of managing multi-channel execution are amplified by the volume of stakeholders who want to communicate with a target audience. Corporate marketing wants to establish a compelling and unified relationship with the brand, while local marketers want to deliver highly relevant communications with these same individuals to drive local sales targets. In a regional or local marketing environment, it’s not uncommon to see local marketers investing in their own marketing technologies for greater autonomy in communications with the local audience. That means the actual number of technologies utilized by the brand can be amplified by 2-3x to 10-15 marketing tools – and that’s a recipe for chaos.
Given the volume of different technologies that are marketed today (campaign management, marketing automation, marketing asset management, content management, digital asset management, etc.), it can be very confusing to understand exactly what each one brings to the table in the context of distributed marketing. Let’s explore some of the different technologies that are often utilized to manage marketing at a regional and local level.
Campaign management tools are designed to manage customer engagement across two or more marketing channels. These are more than point solutions for email or a landing page. Campaign management tools can be used to centrally manage customer preference and execute outbound or inbound engagement with a target audience. But a corporate-owned campaign management tool can be used to centralize all communications to customers. In order to use a centralized tool to execute campaigns, local marketers would have to submit requests for corporate marketing to execute campaigns on their behalf. Unfortunately, as demand for more relevant and personalized communications increases, corporate marketing becomes a bottleneck for engaging local audiences. Local marketers, in turn, seek disparate local-owned technologies to manage their own communications (email marketing, web analytics, social media engagement, local agencies, etc.). The real victim is the customer who receives inconsistent messages, who may be driven to opt out of communications.
Stand-alone email marketing solutions are very common in distributed marketing environments. According to Gleanster, four out of five distributed marketing organizations report the use of more than one stand-alone email marketing across corporate and local marketers. In some cases, local marketers will invest in their own on-demand email marketing tools and completely circumvent corporate marketing for outbound communications. While this does allow local marketers a greater degree of flexibility and autonomy in marketing campaigns, it creates bigger issues with the brand. Fragmented and disparate tools create issues with brand consistency. If local marketers are not diligent about updating brand standards in email templates, the brand can be reflected inconsistently across corporate and local marketing messages, leaving customers with a poor impression of the brand. More importantly, when prospects and customers opt out of communications, disconnected systems have no way of communicating a change in customer preference. Corporate or local marketers could inadvertently continue communicating with a prospect that has opted out, adding to the risk of real violations of CAN-SPAM and other global privacy laws. In addition, multiple stand-alone email marketing rarely give corporate marketing visibility into the overall brand communication strategy.
Marketing automation tools are designed to manage multi-channel engagement and determine a prospect’s propensity to purchase through lead scoring and CRM integration. B2C marketers are starting to adopt these tools to build more intimate relationships with customers through nurture marketing and inbound tactics. But these tools are not great at managing the front of the marketing value chain; asset storage/management and templates are generally very weak in marketing automation tools, and most are not capable of managing security or customer data for a distributed marketing environment.
Digital Asset Management
In a distributed marketing environment, marketers need a place to centrally manage brand-compliant graphics, text, and brand standards. Generic digital asset management technologies, also called content management and enterprise content management tools, have been widely adopted for brand portals that house the most current versions of logos, graphics, brochures, etc. These portals are critical to a distributed environment, but they typically fail to manage local iterations of brand-compliant materials. Eventually, shared drives, individual hard drives, and email replace these tools. digital asset management might address one piece of the problem, but it’s by no means a holistic solution for the distributed marketing technology stack.
Local Marketing Automation
There are a variety of ways vendors position these tools: marketing asset management, distributed marketing, multi-channel distributed marketing, regional marketing platforms, and marketing operations. In some sense, vendors struggle to market these technologies because most marketers don’t exactly think of their environment as distributed or local – or even something that demands “asset management.” That’s because distributed marketers have the exact same challenges as every other organization. How do you engage a target audience with just the right message, at just the right time, in just the right channel? The problem is, in a distributed environment there are two unique constituencies trying to meet this challenge: corporate marketing and local/regional marketers. Point solutions like campaign management and marketing automation are not designed to make the brand scalable for both stakeholders.
Few technology providers that address the needs of distributed marketers call themselves local marketing automation. (For a complete list of local marketing automation providers and analyst perspectives on each, visit the Gleanster.com Marketing Asset Management vendor landscape.) Gleanster is using this term to define distributed marketing platforms because of the growing popularity of marketing automation. At the core, local marketing automation provides all of the benefits of a multi-channel marketing automation platform while augmenting the tool with capabilities that are essential to distributed marketers. As such, local marketing automation technology is fundamentally different than marketing automation or campaign management.
The defining characteristic of local marketing automation technology is the ability to uniquely support an environment with a centralized corporate marketing function and a network of regional or localized businesses with their own local target audiences. These “distributed” organizations have the following needs and requirements:
- A need to manage marketing communications via a corporate entity that oversees the brand and executes marketing campaigns.
- A desire to provide regional, local or field business operations with corporate-branded and approved materials that can be personalized for the nuances of a local target audience.
- A need to globally manage customer preference for communications from corporate and local marketing.
- A need to manage multi-channel engagement across email, the web, and offline locations.
- A need to centrally manage brand compliant templates, logos, graphics, and standards to ensure that the brand is consistently represented across all regions and channels
- A need to segment customer data or customer lists for use by field marketers.
- A desire to customize marketing communications (print, digital, signage, etc.) for local audiences but still ensure compliance with the brand.
- A need to reduce or manage redundant relationships and costs with agencies and technology providers.
- A need to manage shared financial investments across corporate and local marketing efforts.
Features that are typically included in local marketing automation tools are designed for both corporate and local marketers. For example, dynamic templates (digital or print) allow corporate marketing to create branded templates and lock specific aspects of the template that are critical to brand compliance (such as the color scheme, use of the logo, a header or footer, etc.). But a dynamic template allows local marketers to customize certain elements of the template, such as a picture or text, to more intimately reach the local target audience. The workflow, security, and centrally managed customer data in a local marketing automation tool give markets much more autonomy and flexibility than a traditional campaign management or marketing automation tool that is owned and managed exclusively by corporate marketing.