Web Portals: Open the Door

For any traveler who has been on the road for an extended time, there is a sense of comfort when you come across a trusted restaurant chain. After all, the menu and environment are familiar. Almost everything about the restaurant is consistent – the decoration, the menus, the messaging – despite having different owners. It would take a lot of traveling for a parent company to visit every franchise to ensure the brand is accurately represented and communicated.

Fortunately, new tools simplify the process of controlling a brand while tailoring the message for maximum targeted effectiveness. Web portals are online solutions that allow access to digital on demand printing, letting the user control consistency in all communications. This makes Web portals an ideal product for any marketer with staff, franchisees or distributors in various locations who need to implement multiple campaigns and media programs.

Web portals are easy to use. They are secure sites accessed via the Internet, simplifying the creation and production of customized marketing materials. Their online capabilities let all decision makers review and approve materials in real time, reducing time, paperwork and costs associated with the coordination of marketing documents. Though corporations have to adjust their marketing processes to accommodate a portal, the platform is user friendly and service providers offer technical support and training to ensure it is being used to capacity.

Here are examples to illustrate the variety of industries that can use this type of technology:

Companies seeking a total print management services solution. You are an insurance company with thousands of agents nationwide offering various types of health, dental and group life insurance. You want your company to be a trusted brand and thus need to ensure all company agents not only communicate directly to current and potential customers, but also that the messages are consistent across all communications.

However, agents have complained about the costs associated with these campaigns and the constant need to update content with new government regulations. Web portals make it possible to review copy online to ensure accuracy and implement any last-minute edits. This eliminates the need and expense associated with reprinting materials.

Companies seeking a marketing on-demand solution. As the owner of a pizza franchise, you are responsible for expanding the business in your area as well as increasing the brand awareness that the parent company has worked hard to build and maintain. To do this, you rely on the marketing materials provided to promote the store. Also, you place an order to customize the content to include details on a special offer for the residents in your area in an effort to compete with the new local pizza parlor.

Approval of materials and delivery could take a few weeks. However, with a Web portal, orders can be placed and approved in one simple step. Furthermore, marketers can track orders to ensure a timely delivery of materials and review transaction reports to analyze material usage by all franchisees.

Companies seeking a variable data printing solution. You have been hired as marketing director for a luxurious casino opening in Las Vegas. Though your plan is to launch the casino’s grand opening, you recognize that your ongoing challenge is the existing competition for lifetime customers.

To engage these consumers you turn to one-to-one marketing using a variable data printing (VDP) solution. Direct marketing documents created through VDP use a combination of variable text and images taken from information in a database. This system lets content be targeted for a specific audience using messages that resonate with consumers.

Though this process may sound long and complicated, it is as simple as uploading a database to the portal, customizing content and images and placing the order.

There are five steps when using a portal such as the one described above. The first is to establish a login for the person overseeing management of the portal. This gives you access to your own corporate-branded site. The second step is to browse the product catalog to review the type of marketing materials available for customization. Once this is selected, the third step consists of customizing the content with your messages, images, layout, etc. During the fourth step you can review the proof and, upon approval, upload the appropriate mailing list for distribution. The final step is placing the order and waiting for the e-mail confirmation.

Ensuring a brand is portrayed consistently in all marketing material can increase brand awareness and recognition. Also, personalizing communications and tailoring the message to a targeted audience can strengthen a relationship between the brand and the consumer. Both these elements are key ingredients in a campaign. With Web portals, selecting, ordering, customizing, proofing and fulfilling marketing materials has become as easy as accessing the Internet.

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