Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Choose the Right Marketing Asset Management Solution

Implementing a marketing asset management solution is a big step for most companies.  Not only does it represent a significant financial investment, it also requires you to change the processes you use to acquire, manage, and distribute marketing materials.  In some cases, it can change how you execute direct marketing campaigns and programs.

To select the right MAM solution, you need to determine what capabilities and functionality you need and then make sure you ask prospective solution providers the right questions.

There are four key issues that all companies should address when evaluating potential MAM solutions.

Solution Use and Scope - How will the MAM solution be used?  Put another way, what kinds of materials will be included in, and managed through, the MAM solution?  How you answer this basic question will determine how many and what kinds of individuals need access to the solution, and it will greatly influence what functional capabilities you need in your solution.  The obvious answer here is marketing materials (marketing collateral documents, promotional items, point-of-sale materials, etc.).  When you're evaluating potential MAM solutions, however, consider what other kinds of materials your solution could be used to manage.  Some examples would include:
  • Direct marketing campaign materials
  • Sales support materials (presentations, proposal templates, etc.)
  • Administrative/technical/human resources documents
  • General business supplies
Solution Reliability and Responsiveness - How reliable and responsive must the MAM solution be to meet your needs, and will prospective solution providers offer appropriate service level guarantees?  For most companies, the two most important performance attributes of a marketing asset management solution are system uptime and order turnaround time.  These attributes are critical because the success of your MAM deployment ultimately depends on the willingness of your users to rely on the MAM solution for their needs.  If your users know that the solution will be available when they need it and that the materials they order will be delivered quickly, they will be more likely to use the solution consistently.

Incorporation of Business Rules - Can the MAM solution be customized to incorporate and enforce your business rules and control mechanisms relating to the acquisition and use of marketing materials?  A capable solution provider should be able to customize the MAM solution to incorporate the control mechanisms you need, but this issue should be addressed early in your evaluation process.

Reporting Capabilities - Does the MAM solution provide all of the reporting capabilities that your company needs?

Of course, your evaluation process should not be limited to these four issues.  Your company's particular characteristics and needs will point to other issues that you should address when selecting a marketing asset management solution.

To help jumpstart your evaluation process, we've just published a white paper that contains twenty-three critical questions you need to ask when choosing a marketing asset management solution.  If you'd like to review a copy of our new white paper, send an e-mail to ddodd(at)pointbalance(dot)com.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's Time to Combine Marketing and Sales

Suppose you were hired to design and implement an entirely new demand generation system for a large or mid-sized B2B company.  The board of directors and the CEO have given you a free hand to develop whatever kind of system you believe will produce the best results.  There are no pre-conceived ideas about what tactics should be used or what organizational structure the demand generation system should take.

When I work through this mental exercise, I can identify several things that would be part of my ideal demand generation system.  It would certainly contain a robust lead management process (lead nurturing, lead scoring, lead routing, etc.) that is supported by the right technology tools.  Content marketing would play a prominent role, as would social media.  I would also include processes and tools for demonstrating the value/ROI of my products or services.

However, one of the biggest steps I would take is to combine marketing and sales into one organizational unit.  Not that long ago, having separate marketing and sales departments caused few major difficulties.  The traditional roles and responsibilities of marketing and sales in most B2B companies were distinct, and the people in both departments could perform their jobs fairly effectively without a huge amount of day-to-day interaction and collaboration.  In other words, having marketing and sales in separate management "silos" didn't significantly impair company performance.

Times (and circumstances) have changed, and it's now critical for "marketing" activities and "sales" activities to be closely coordinated.  Buyers expect their potential suppliers to speak with one, consistent voice, and they expect everyone they deal with in an organization to know what interactions have already occurred and what information has been exchanged.

Both marketers and sales professionals now recognize the importance of aligning the efforts of marketing and sales.  This has become a hot topic at marketing and sales conferences, and it's been written about in numerous venues.  Many experts are advocating that marketing and sales should spell out their responsibilities and relationship in a formal service level agreement.  That's a good idea, but why not take the next logical step?

The American architect Louis Sullivan said that "form" should follow "function."  Marketing and sales are interdependent components of a single demand generation process.  Therefore, they should be part of a single organizational unit for management, planning, and budgetary purposes.

In lean management terms, marketing and sales are components of the same value stream.  A value stream is the set of activities that are required to produce value for customers.  Lean management recognizes that it is the output/performance of complete value streams that creates value for customers and profits for a company.  Therefore, mature lean organizations manage their operations by value streams rather than by traditional functional departments.

In the case of marketing and sales, the "customer" is the company itself, and the "product" is revenue dollars.  The sole objective of the demand generation value stream is to produce revenues for the company, and achieving this objective requires an integrated set of marketing and sales activities.  Having "good" marketing and "good" sales is important, but what really matters is the performance of the entire demand generation value stream.  To optimize that performance, it must be treated and managed as a single process.

Combining marketing and sales may be a controversial idea, and it would be difficult to implement in many companies for cultural and "political" reasons.  But the logic is compelling, and just because something is hard to do doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done.

What do you think?  If you had a free hand, would you consider merging marketing and sales in your company?