If your marketing budget is typical of most companies, you spend 20% to 30% of it on “consumables” like sales literature, point-of-sale materials and promotional merchandise. Unfortunately, you also waste a good portion of that spend and don’t even know it.

The problem is inefficient sales literature fulfillment, which can waste 10% or more of your total marketing dollars.

Marketers often have a blind spot when it comes to producing, storing, managing and delivering the materials they work so hard to create. They focus most of their attention on strategy, creative and campaign design, without recognizing how significantly back-end fulfillment operations affect their costs and results.

 


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Here are seven key areas where poor literature fulfillment practices increase costs and undermine results.

1. STONE-AGE ORDERING AND INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

sales literature fulfillmentThanks to the internet, we live in an age of almost instant gratification. If you’re still using slow, manual ordering processes, you’re probably losing business to more nimble competitors.

To make your sales literature distribution more efficient, switch to an online marketing portal that connects ordering (the “front end” of your business) to your warehouse inventory systems (the “back end” of your business).

An integrated marketing portal allows users to place orders for sales literature around the clock and speeds order delivery because orders are received by the warehouse immediately. This also allows you to track inventory in real time and capture historical data to accurately forecast future reprint needs.

Online portals are also budget savers. You can configure the portal to control access and order quantities, charge orders back to specific cost centers, set up automatic reorder points, and switch to print-on-demand or electronic delivery when stock runs out.

 

2. OVERSPENDING ON PRINT

Fulfillment-Fail-2Marketers consistently spend too much on print. Some of that overspend stems from lack of visibility into inventory levels and usage – something an online marketing portal can help you remedy.

But production inefficiencies also play a role in wasting your print budget. These include:

  • Using the wrong print process for the job. While offset is cost-effective for large quantities of sales literature, digital printing (DP) is less expensive for smaller quantities because it eliminates expensive prep charges. Choose DP for pieces that change frequently or have a short shelf life, as well as those requiring customization.
  • Decentralized production. Multiple printers and storage facilities create duplicate charges. Consolidate print and fulfillment to lower your costs and make it easier to manage these functions through one point of contact.

 

3. DUPLICATE AND OBSOLETE MATERIALS

Fulfillment-Fail-3With sales literature fulfillment, producing duplicate and overlapping materials waste marketing dollars you could have spent on revenue-generating initiatives. Those extra pieces also increase your storage costs.

Additionally, materials that sit on the shelf long enough become obsolete and have to be trashed – another big waste of budget. In fact, the CMO Council estimates that 20% of all marketing materials are thrown away because they’ve become obsolete.

But don’t make the mistake of continuing to use outdated materials, instead of discarding them. Distributing outdated or inaccurate information can result in poor customer experience, leading to complaints, lost market share and damage to your brand. In some scenarios, it could result in your company being fined or sued.

Avoid these costly mistakes and take positive steps to better sales collateral management by:

  • Performing an inventory audit and weeding out duplicate materials and redundant content.
  • Establishing a regular review schedule for current materials and refreshing them as required.
  • Banning the creation of new documents unless you can truly justify their need and expense.
  • Digitizing your inventory to make updating faster and easier.
  • Using digital print to produce only the quantities you need, as you need them.


4. GENERIC PACKAGING

Fulfillment-Fail-4You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. So stop sending your customers sales literature and other collateral in a boring manila envelope. Think of the envelope as your introduction. What will make recipients want to open it?

If you’re sending multiple items to one recipient, consider using fulfillment kitting services to create customized packaging for your materials. By organizing literature and forms in a folder, binder or booklet, you prevent loss and damage and also help guide recipients through your materials in a logical sequence. Kits also allow you to include three-dimensional elements like DVDs, flash drives and promotional items.

Complete your kit by enclosing it in packaging that’s unusual in size, shape or material. Add teaser copy and inviting graphics, and your materials will beg to be opened.

 

5. NON-COMPLIANT MATERIALS

Fulfillment-Fail-5Marketers pride themselves on their creativity. But sometimes they get a little too creative and ignore the finer points of regulatory compliance – like requirements for disclaimers and restrictions on who is allowed to distribute what. Those transgressions can come back to haunt the unwary.

Branding is another area where marketing materials can stray into unauthorized territory. It’s not uncommon for sales people, franchisees, affiliates and others to create their own sales literature if they run out of collateral or feel that corporate materials don’t address their customers’ needs. These rogue marketing initiatives can put a company’s brand at risk through misuse of logos and other graphic elements or by distributing inaccurate information.

With the right capabilities (available through your marketing portal), you can avoid marketing compliance nightmares and ensure that your materials meet regulatory demands and adhere to brand standards. Your marketing portal can be programmed to:

  • Control access to specific materials by job/function, title, location or similar parameters, to prevent users from disseminating information on products they aren’t authorized to sell.
  • Control design and content by creating a preapproved digital library of templates, images and text available for customizing materials.
  • Ensure that all required disclosures and disclaimers are automatically added to applicable documents.
  • Link materials that must be distributed together, so that an order for one of those items automatically orders the same quantity of the associated documents.
  • Issue pop-up messages concerning authorized use of sensitive materials and require acknowledgement of the message before orders can be completed.

 

6. HANDLING FULFILLMENT IN-HOUSE

Fulfillment-Fail-6You may be handling sales literature fulfillment in-house because you think it gives you better control over the function and its costs. But fulfillment requires specialized equipment, considerable square footage, trained personnel and the flexibility to adjust to changing demand. It also takes a lot of time and effort to produce, inventory, ship and track your materials. Ask yourself:

  • How many vendors, systems, processes and procedures are involved?
  • Are materials consistently getting delivered quickly and accurately?
  • Can you get the inventory and usage data you need to make good decisions going forward?
  • Do you have the space and budget to scale up quickly if your business experiences a sudden surge in demand or ongoing rapid growth?
  • Is managing this function a good use of your time?

Instead of tying up capital on space, equipment, staff and systems to keep your sales literature fulfillment in-house, consider the benefits of leveraging the infrastructure and expertise of a third-party fulfillment provider. You’ll pay a fraction of the costs associated with do-it-yourself operations and free up valuable time to better focus on your core marketing responsibilities.

 

7. IMPERSONAL, IRRELEVANT MATERIALS

Fulfillment-Fail-7A Silver Bullet Group compilation of 10 years’ worth of survey data found that less than 50% of marketing and sales communications are relevant to the customers who receive them. No doubt, the majority of those materials end up in the trash.

Consumers are individuals, with different demographic profiles, lifestyles, needs and aspirations – all factors that drive purchasing choices. They crave personalized buying experiences and want materials and messaging that speak to their current situation. If they don’t get it, response rates take a nose drive, plunging an average of 83%, according to Constellation Research.

The solution is to personalize marketing materials. Use data and digital print to customize sales literature and personalize messages as much as possible relative to the value of the sale and your available budget. Include content and images targeted to a buyer’s interests, location, job, age, past purchases and other elements that are important in the context of the offer. That takes work on your part, but the payback is worth it.

  • Materials personalized with text and images based on customer knowledge can lift revenues by 5% to 15%.
  • Personalized materials also reduce customer acquisition costs by as much as 50% and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10% to 30%.

CONCLUSION

In today’s competitive business environment, it’s not enough to build a better mousetrap. You have to let the world know it exists, convince buyers it really is better and let them know where to get it. That takes time, effort and money – probably multiple touches, through a variety of channels. You can’t afford to let inefficient marketing production and sales literature fulfillment interrupt the buyer’s journey to the sale.

Assess your company’s fulfillment practices in these seven areas – on your own or with the help of a fulfillment specialist like Amware. Our fulfillment experts would be pleased to discuss how our experience in producing and distributing sales literature and other marketing collateral can help your business grow.