In part one of my conversation with Mac McIntosh, CEO of Mac McIntosh Inc., we talked about how better marketing fulfillment practices can boost ROI. In this post, Mac talks about the ways fulfillment impacts critical aspects of your overall marketing program.
Jeremy: Mac, let’s talk about the role fulfillment plays in a company’s marketing programs. How important is it?
Mac: In my experience, a company’s fulfillment practices have a huge impact on overall marketing success. That’s true whether a company’s strategy involves inbound marketing, outbound marketing or both.
Jeremy: Can you give me some specifics?
Mac: Sure. Let’s start with lead response.
A direct request from a prospective customer is often the best lead you can get. You can gain a real competitive advantage by responding faster than your competitors. One medical equipment supplier I work with recently optimized their inquiry fulfillment processes, which allowed them to respond to inquiries days before their competitors. As a result, they started closing sales before their competitors’ information ever got to the prospect.
Marketers should ask themselves: How well does your company respond to new leads? If you want to find out, play the part of a customer and ask for some information from your own company and your competitors. Are you happy with what you receive and how quickly it gets to you? Are your competitors beating you to the punch? If so, it might be time to talk to a marketing fulfillment expert to improve your responsiveness.
If you get a lead through a digital channel, have an automatic reply mechanism to acknowledge the inquiry immediately and link back to a customized landing page with links to additional relevant information. If you’re mailing printed materials get them in the mail the same day! If you respond too slowly or your materials arrive too late, your prospects will probably look elsewhere – if they haven’t already done so.
Jeremy: So fast response time is the first thing you want in fulfillment. You also mentioned relevance.
Mac: People want to do business with vendors who are responsive – e.g., quick to acknowledge them and address their needs – and customer-focused. So, in addition to speed of delivery, you want to provide content that resonates with prospects and customers. These two characteristics are the essence of good customer service, which starts with lead response and continues throughout your relationship with your prospect or customers.
How do marketers deliver relevance? Instead of sending a generic brochure, consider using digital printing to add elements of personalization – name, address, any additional details you may have in your data base or have gleaned from your lead generation campaigns. You might also decide to tailor text and images to match recipient demographics – for example, by industry, region, job function and so on.
Yes, variable data printing costs more per piece than offset. But, in my experience as a B2B marketing consultant, this kind of customization greatly improves response rates. Plus, digital printing allows you to print on demand, so you’re only printing materials as you need them. That eliminates the cost of storage, as well as waste due to obsolescence, which puts the total cost of the piece more in line with offset printing.
Jeremy: What other marketing-related activities rely heavily on good fulfillment?
Mac: Don’t forget your sales force. Whether you use inside sales people, dealers, agents or distributors, they have no way of knowing about your latest and greatest marketing content unless they have it on hand. Remember, your sales team should be busy closing deals, not keeping track of available marketing materials or, worse, making up their own. Make sure you push new materials out to the field as soon as they become available. Give your sales force the same quick turnaround and relevant materials you give your customers, because – in a sense – they are your customers. If you want them to represent your brand well, you need to treat them well.
Jeremy: On the subject of brands, would you say fulfillment makes a difference in how a company’s brand is perceived?
Mac: Absolutely. Fulfillment represents the last mile in the marketing journey – the process that delivers your marketing content to customers, prospects, partners, investors and anyone else you do business with. So it has a pretty significant impact on your brand. When you’re evaluating your marketing fulfillment program, look at your responsiveness, relevance and quality and ask yourself whether it consistently demonstrates your brand promise.
Jeremy: What do you mean by “brand promise?”
Mac: The definition I like best comes from Dr. Jean Wilcox, one of the authors of the book AbuLLard’s ABC’s of Branding: “A brand promise is the statement that you make to customers that identifies what they should expect for all interactions with your people, products, services and company.” Given that your marketing fulfillment program is a key link between you and your customers, you want it to be nothing less than outstanding.
Jeremy: So, taking into account all of the points you’ve just made, what should a company look for in a fulfillment services partner?
Mac: To get the speed, accuracy, and relevance you need to be competitive in today’s multichannel marketing environment, you need a fulfillment service provider who can deliver:
– Online systems for order processing, status and tracking, as well as inventory control, in real time, 24/7.
– Service level agreements that include getting your marketing materials out the door (and on their way to prospects, customers and sales people) the same day.
– Detailed reporting on fulfillment activity and results: how many of which pieces were ordered by whom and for what?
– Digital printing capabilities for personalization and just-in-time printing, saving you from creating and storing a huge inventory of materials, then disposing of significant quantities of out-of-date materials.
– Locations near your prospects, customers, sales people and channel partners, to speed up shipping times without paying extra for expedited service.
Jeremy: To sum up Mac’s advice, keep in mind that marketing fulfillment done right can improve your customer service, drive more leads and sales, and enhance your brand. Don’t treat it like an afterthought. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to chat with you, Mac. Thanks again for sharing your experiences and marketing wisdom with our readers.
Do you have a related tip that wasn’t included here? Please join the discussion by adding your comments below.
For more on getting the most for your marketing dollars download our eBook, 7 Steps to Optimizing Your Print and Fulfillment Program.