Distributed E-Mail Offers Flexibility

The customer relationship is owned mainly at the local level for most companies, whether at a local retail store, dealership, bank branch, hotel property or even the local insurance agent. In these cases, it stands to reason that a “think globally, act locally” approach to marketing would be most effective. This approach would maintain corporate control of high-level branding and messaging while still using deep local customer knowledge and factoring in specific local and regional offerings or events.

However, most companies lack the tools and processes to distribute personalized marketing communications in a controlled way that still allows for the flexibility and timeliness required to develop and execute sophisticated marketing campaigns. But that situation is changing. New automated e-mail marketing systems provide distributed franchise operations and independent regional offices with everything they need to reach out to prospects and customers while meeting corporate standards for quality and managing marketing costs.

The dollars and sense of distributed e-mail marketing. As marketers become increasingly savvy about using e-mail to draw customer data through the Web, speed and efficiency are taken to a new level, enabling even more timely, relevant and personalized marketing. Also, it is easily integrated with other marketing vehicles including Web site marketing, online advertising, direct mail and telesales. But most importantly, e-mail creates a closed-loop environment that provides an online trail of customer behavior for better planning and execution, making each marketing campaign smarter than the last.

But to share these advantages across a distributed organization, marketers need a solution that enables central control of data, brand identity and compliance; provides automated, yet customizable, CAN-SPAM Act compliance features; and offers flexibility in system configuration to meet individual organizations’ process requirements and cost-benefit goals.

Solving the control issue. Corporate marketing traditionally has been loath to surrender marketing initiatives to its distributed offices or franchise operations for fear of losing quality and consistency in its brand identity. The fear is compounded when working with resellers – separate entities marketing and selling a firm’s products.

But newer systems give control to the people who need it most, when they need it. Corporate marketing can maintain primary control over the campaign, including design and process management, while giving the local properties, franchises and resellers the flexibility to deliver timely, pertinent information to the customer. With today’s distributed e-mail solutions, marketing executives can achieve the following:

· Quality data control. New e-mail solutions let corporate marketing maintain a central repository of data that updates dynamically from Web registration to response collection, with features such as master unsubscribe control to ensure timely and proper handling of requests from those customers wishing to be taken off company e-mail distribution lists. Companies can capture data from various sources in one database, and local marketers can pull lists based on geography or territory. With access controls built in, local sales offices and corporate headquarters can have instant and ongoing Web-based access to the data they need.

· Creative integrity. Corporate marketing can create a library of approved templates that lock down the key creative brand elements such as images, logos, taglines, colors and layout while giving local marketing representatives point-and-click ability to choose among approved elements and customize greetings, offers and call to action.

· Workflow productivity. Distributed e-mail systems are designed to support and help automate campaign workflow including approvals and compliance checks, simultaneously meeting corporate demand for accountability while drastically reducing execution time. These systems are scalable to hundreds of widely dispersed users and operations, delivering pre-approved, self-serve options from one platform. Because they are shared across the organization, costs can be distributed efficiently between corporate and field offices.

· Compliance management. CAN-SPAM compliance can be centrally defined and applied automatically to protect the parent organization from liability. Also, new built-in spam score tools help marketers avoid having their communications fall prey to spam and other content filters.

· Easy and flexible localization. Newer solutions give marketers the flexibility to create e-mail as personalized and varied as they wish, from highly customized content to e-mail address and first-name-only blasts.

· Testing and tracking. E-mail solutions provide incomparable campaign testing and tracking ability. Because campaign elements can be tried and tested cost-effectively online, marketers can test in real time which offers receive the best response before implementing on a wide scale. Then, easy-to-use reporting tools let marketers drill down into the data captured online, looking at results by campaign, customer profile, demographics and more.

The marketer’s take-away. For distributed organizations, a dichotomy long has existed between how marketing wants to communicate at the point of customer contact and what was possible. The emergence of automated technology-based solutions lets any franchise or distributed sales organization leverage effective personalized e-mail marketing at the local level while maintaining centralized branding and content control. This enables meaningful dialogue between customers and their local sales representatives, putting the power of personalized, data-driven communication in the hands of those responsible for maintaining those personal relationships.

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