Complexities of the Marketplace

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Centralized marketing organizations no longer compete -- demand chains do. Marketing effectiveness is a struggle. Marketing is measured in declining impact, poor sales conversion and inability to measure return on investment.


In financial services organizations the creation of customer demand is fundamentally distributed. Marketing takes place at many levels within the organization and beyond; multichannel, multilevel and multiperson communication with customers is the norm. Marketing is not an island; it links to many different individuals and organizations.


The complexities of financial services marketing. Financial services organizations are anything but simple. Separate business units are involved in investment and research; direct-to-consumer fund sales; and institutional sales funds through direct and indirect channels of independent financial advisers. Customers may have a mix of products across those divisions: 401(k) accounts, brokerage accounts, insurance products and banking accounts. In addition, multiple marketing organizations exist across and within each division.


Adding to the chaos are the many communication channels that exist - direct mail, e-mail and telephone, to name a few. Furthermore, financial services companies may have tens of thousands of channels of interaction. Financial advisers, brokers, agents and skilled call center personnel are unique conduits for delivering a marketing message to the customer. For example, Allstate has more than 40,000 agents across the United States and Canada. Far from being replaced by the Internet, those knowledgeable "human" marketing channels present a unique opportunity to communicate with customers.


Financial services organizations are a complex demand chain environment. With its diversity of people, organizations, processes and interaction channels, a complex demand chain defines the financial services marketing environment. This environment differs from companies that sell directly to the consumer, where purchases are impulse-based and frequently made over the Internet.


This differs dramatically from financial services organizations. Financial services products are a "considered purchase." Customers may interact directly with an agent or financial adviser at some part of the sales cycle. In these cases customer demand is neither created nor fulfilled by marketing alone - the entire demand chain of an extended enterprise is involved: sales, finance, call centers and independent agents.


Marketers face a unique set of challenges in a complex demand chain:


· Customers are inundated with more marketing messages/offers than desired.


· Messages and offers are often conflicted throughout traditional, online and person-to-person channels.


· Agents and advisers are in the dark about messages and offers sent to customers.


· Customer interaction data are caught in "silos" around the organization.


· Lack of marketing ROI statistics hurts marketers who are trying to keep, and perhaps grow, their budgets.


Complex demand chains need unique solutions. To market successfully in a complex demand chain, marketers must take control of and manage the entire demand chain. Marketing must synchronize activities across its own departments as well as sales, service, accounting and customers. It must serve prospects, sales channels and customers 24/7, creating opportunities to cross-sell and upsell at every point of contact. Only by coordinating every customer interaction at every touch point in real time can marketing drive revenue through the complex demand chain.


A different kind of marketing solution that leverages technology is required to address the unique problems of complex demand chain marketing. Marketers should look for software systems with a robust distributed architecture that supports all participants and systems that integrate a diversity of applications and have a process-centric approach that coordinates the diversity of people and processes in the demand chain.


Distributed architecture. Fidelity Investments has more than 80 branch offices across the United States. Look for software solutions that can directly connect your message to the many individuals in distributed locations.


· No client code. The widespread, collaborative nature of the complex demand chain requires the freedom of browser-based clients. The use of standard Web browsers dramatically lowers the cost per seat and the IT headache of distributing, updating and maintaining client software.


· 24/7 real-time access and scalability. Because the demand chain implies large numbers of people within and beyond the boundaries of the corporation, the marketing solution must provide 24/7 services to agents, customers and call centers. The infrastructure must establish the sense that marketing is available at all times to satisfy every need.


Support for all participants. The financial services demand chain touches marketers, agents, certified financial planners, call center personnel, brokers and independents.


· Create a shared record of interaction. In a complex demand chain, marketers manage messaging through all of the traditional channels of mass marketing - print, Internet, e-mail, etc. - and in person. Therefore, the solution must give everyone a way to record successful or attempted contacts, along with any resultant events or actions.


· Accommodate thousands of users. To manage and support all demand chain activities, the marketing solution must be able to support thousands of users with task-specific interfaces for all participants.


· Protect participant privacy. The marketing solution must prevent infringement of all participants' privacy rights and preferences. Look for systems that secure customer data and allow the customer to give permission for the time, place and content of marketing.


Application integration. Make sure your marketing investment can leverage your growing IT infrastructure.


· Integration among marketing applications. To drive the end-to-end marketing process, the application should provide a deep, seamless flow of processes and information that begin with campaign development and continue through evaluation and improvement processes.


· Integration with enterprise systems. In addition, the solution must coordinate all aspects of demand chain management through complete, bidirectional, real-time integration with other enterprise systems, including sales force automation systems, call center applications, legacy systems and centralized customer data marts.


Process-centric approach. Financial services customers are demanding consistency across every interaction channel. Whether they have just visited a Web page, talked to a call center agent or met their stockbroker, they want the same treatment. Place business process at the center of your marketing infrastructure.


· Distributed business process management. To drive operations along the demand chain, marketing must create and deploy cross-enterprise business processes without depending on IT for implementation.


· Data coordination. Often, the knowledge base of customer behavior and preferences is scattered across the organization, sometimes in separate databases and often inside the heads of the sales or channel representatives who know the accounts best. The software application must coordinate people and processes to leverage individuals' knowledge across the extended organization.


Take charge of your demand chain. Marketing organizations that work in complex demand chains -- such as financial services organizations -- have a unique set of challenges.


They must create awareness, interest and demand through planning, campaign management and programs that involve and coordinate the activities of all members of the demand chain, including direct sales, distribution channels, service organizations and the customer.


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