Thousands of companies sell products and services through regional or local outlets. These outlets may be branch offices or company-owned retail stores, or they may be related but independent business organizations such as franchisees or independent agents. In many cases, the local organization or business unit shares responsibility for marketing with the corporate marketing department. When both corporate and local marketers make marketing decisions and perform marketing activities, we call this distributed marketing.
This is the first of four articles about distributed marketing. In this article, I’ll describe some of the major challenges facing distributed marketing organizations, and I’ll introduce a model that describes the components of an automated distributed marketing system. In the next two articles, I’ll describe how the right technology tools can make distributed marketing more productive. The final article will discuss why distributed marketing concepts have become important for organizations that don’t use a classic distributed marketing model.
Distributed Marketing Challenges
Organizations that use distributed marketing face the same marketing challenges as everyone else. They must manage communications across a growing number of marketing channels, create and deliver more relevant marketing messages and materials, and improve marketing productivity to maximize the return produced by every dollar invested in marketing.
These challenges are formidable enough on their own, but companies with a distributed marketing model also face challenges that organizations with centralized marketing operations don’t typically encounter. In a recent study by the Aberdeen Group, survey participants were asked to identify their top two distributed marketing challenges. By a large margin the top two challenges were:
- Maintaining the consistency of our brand (56% of respondents)
- Lack of marketing expertise at the local level (48% of respondents)
Because of these and other challenges, distributed marketing operations are often less effective and efficient than they need to be.
A Model for Distributed Marketing Automation
The good news is, technologies now exist that can enable companies to improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency of distributed marketing operations. As a practical matter, you simply can’t maximize the productivity of distributed marketing without the right technology tools.
In the marketplace, these technologies can be called marketing asset management, distributed marketing automation, or local marketing automation. I’ll refer to these technologies generically as distributed marketing solutions.
Distributed marketing solutions enable companies to:
- Streamline and automate the creation, procurement, customization, and distribution of marketing materials, including marketing collateral documents, promotional items, and point-of-sale materials
- Streamline and automate the creation, customization and execution of advertising and marketing programs by local marketers
To enable corporate and local marketers to achieve these objectives, distributed marketing solutions provide a range of functions and capabilities. The “house” diagram below depicts the major components of a distributed marketing solution.