p>It drives marketers crazy when a salesperson or channel partner takes something done by Marketing, changes it and creates their own content, says Bryan Bogensberger.

That’s the tip of a massive iceberg currently hobbling many marketing programs. That iceberg has created a wave for companies like Bogensberger’s to ride. A former marketer himself, Bogensberger, now president of MarketingIsland.com, a marketing resource management (MRM) solution provider, regularly analyzes chronic pain points in myriad marketing organizations.

“People may produce their own marketing materials that don’t match brand guidelines established by Marketing,” Bogensberger says. “It gets as bad as salespeople changing colours on the logos of companies that have been around for 100 years.”

For example, a national real estate firm rebranded five years ago, and wanted to safeguard their creative and strategic efforts – in other words, to ensure brand consistency. In the past, 500 versions of business cards served 300 brokers. “Some had two or three different business cards depending on who they saw,” Bogensberger recalls.

Who’s to blame? “People in the field might not be armed with the right tools,” says Bogensberger, “or they don’t know how to get them.” As a result, they source materials themselves, risking brand equity along the way.

A lack of support to salespeople and retailers is a problem Bogensberger sees almost everywhere he looks. “Ten to 20 per cent of retail outlets don’t get the materials that they need when a program is launched,” he figures.

During a marketing diagnostic for a leading telco, for example, Bogensberger found that many dealers across Canada did not receive in-store marketing materials that they were supposed to get. He blames debacles like this on a lack of profiles for each individual store. In addition, “The logistics behind printing, kitting, distribution, delivery, and receipt acknowledgement is complicated,” he says, adding that Marketing has few tools to handle distribution.

Problems aren’t limited to the link between marketing and the sales channels. “Many CFOs see Marketing as a financial black hole,” says Bogensberger. “They don’t know what happens. When ad hoc processes dominate the financial management of marketing, no visibility exists.”

Purchasing provides a common example. In typical systems, purchasing orders (POs) should precede invoices. Yet POs can sometimes show up after the invoice. “Some clients say that the only reason they’re implementing MRM is to make sure purchase orders are cut before marketing materials show up,” Bogensberger says.

Several marketing VPs have told Bogensberger that the financial aspect is the most contentious in managing Marketing. They don’t know where they are against plan or what POs are open. They loathe spending hours each month to determine accounting accruals.

Approvals, an often nebulous process, typically cause one of two results: “Either people ignore the rules or the process causes pain,” Bogensberger says.

More subtle, but no less painful, is the process itself. Process drags marketers away from strategy and into tactical. “You’re hiring people to develop the next great strategy,” notes Bogensberger. “Meanwhile, they’re busy signing invoices, running spreadsheets to track spending, doing accruals, getting quotes from suppliers … They become administrators and buyers and bookkeepers and clerks.”

Even partial MRM solutions don’t always help. Not all systems link to Finance or follow established workflows or business rules. At one bank, a fax arrives weekly at each branch, somebody writes what the branch wants, and sends it back. Somewhere, there’s one person whose sole responsibility is to pick up the faxes, arrange shipping, accounting, and so forth.

Bogensberger isn’t surprised. “There’s usually somebody behind the scenes cranking the wheel.”

One senior-level marketer lets invoices to be approved sit on his desk for three or four weeks because he doesn’t have the time to deal with them.

“It takes plenty of time out of a very well-paid person’s life,” says Bogensberger.

Perhaps the worst aspect of ad-hoc systems is that individuals often own the process. “The company should own the process,” says Bogensberger. “When people leave, the knowledge of how to do something shouldn’t walk out the door as well.”

Power marketers, like advertising agencies, may run 50 programs at once. The attendant details quickly overwhelm. “Each one of those programs has a budget, many GL codes that can change daily,” says Bogensberger. “An MRM system provides the visibility marketers need to properly manage their programs’ operations.” Dashboards, for instance, show power users information like total numbers, spend by program, by GL code, open POs, and so forth, from one central information portal.

Can MRM provide the fixes marketing needs? One marketing VP told Bogensberger that some entry-level marketers define themselves as buyers. They welcome reps, get golf shirts, and so on. This isn’t surprising, since up to 75 per cent of what they do can be done by MRM instead.

The VP looks forward to letting his people be marketers instead of clerks.

Luigi Benetton is a Toronto-based technical and business communications writer. His Web site is Luigi Benetton.

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