Web Ordering Can Be 'Brand Police'

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I recently met a vice president of procurement for a large national bank who was frustrated with his company's process for ordering branded communications materials. We were at a trade show, and he handed me his business card - which he had printed on his home color printer the day before.


Ordering business cards was a cumbersome and unreliable process, he said, and while he had ordered them weeks before, his official corporate business cards had not shown up before he had to leave for the show. Here was a senior member of this major bank's management team, and he was handing out homemade business cards that did not comply with the bank's own corporate identity standards!


A company's brand identity is one of its most important assets. It represents who the company is and what it stands for - both to the public and to its customers. Business cards and other stationery products such as letterhead often are the first contact in the sales process. They form a large part of that all-important first impression.


So, how does the bank's brand manager ensure this type of ordering snafu will not happen in the future?


Today's marketing professionals can look to Web-enabled solutions to be their virtual brand police and help them manage their brand assets. These customized and secure Web sites provide a digital catalog of a corporation's branded business materials, which can be made available to any desktop with a Web browser. They empower corporate marketing managers to control their companies' brands by digitally locking in graphic standards and business rules. As a result, branded stationery and marketing materials are always printed consistently within corporate identity guidelines and with fewer errors.


Print e-procurement systems also offer increased operational efficiency because they dramatically streamline the ordering process. Any authorized employee with access to a personal computer and a Web browser can order her own business cards and other branded materials.


The days of calling someone in human resources who, in turn, calls someone in purchasing, who requests a graphic file from the pre-press department and then faxes the requisition to the local printer just to order a box of business cards are quickly ending. This tedious process allows too much room for error - and, more often than not, a company's brand standards are violated somewhere along the production line.


On average, corporations spend more than 3 percent of their total annual revenue on the execution of printed branded communications materials. A company's brand appears on everything from letterhead and business cards to annual reports and signage. Often, corporations spend more than they realize on excess administrative costs, errors in printing, rogue buying, wasted inventory and time spent managing multiple vendors.


Web-enabled print processes can reduce the industry-average error rate of 7 percent to 20 percent to less than 0.5 percent, thus saving both hard and soft dollars that would have been spent managing the print and reprint process. And e-procurement solutions can optimize buying power: Centralized print purchasing generally means lower overall pricing for the corporation.


Fortune 1,000 companies often have relationships with many different print vendors. For instance, the printer that the marketing group uses to print its brochures may be different from the one used by the accounting department to produce invoices. Managing these multiple vendors can be time consuming and tedious because the vendors have to be monitored constantly to ensure consistency and quality across all printed materials - meaning they must juggle multiple contacts, approval processes and printing methods.


Often, a brand manager may not even know how remote offices or various departments obtain printed materials. A Web-enabled printing system gives the brand manager ultimate control over printed material production by streamlining the process from each individual order through the approval cycle and to physical production.


In maintaining distribution from a central, Web-based location, a corporation can control the quality and consistency of its brand, designate which individuals are authorized to order certain materials and monitor how much is spent on these materials.


An invaluable tool of a Web-enabled print procurement solution is sophisticated reporting functions. Managers have 24/7 visibility into the corporation's print spend. They can tell which employees placed orders for materials, view order status and track shipments from one location. These reports can be downloaded directly into back-end legacy and enterprise resource planning systems to reduce the manual reconciliation of printing and shipping invoices.


Managing a corporate brand can be a daunting and unwieldy task. Even well-intentioned employees will occasionally violate a company's brand guidelines - just look at my banking friend. Traditional print procurement processes are becoming outdated because they often lead to costly mistakes, unauthorized purchases, obsolete inventory and excessive spending - unnecessary expenditures that companies no longer can afford.


When corporations embrace the technology available via Web-enabled print procurement, they can reduce administrative and overhead expenses, improve brand consistency and manage an ordering process that is simple, cost-effective and convenient for all employees.

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