You’ve undoubtedly heard of the food chain, but have you heard of the marketing supply chain?
There a many natural food chains in existence on earth at one time and in each, one can follow the food supply of an ecosystem. Upset a stage in the system and the subsequent tiers reap the consequences.
The same logic can be applied to the marketing supply chain. If one link in the chain is weakened or disrupted, the entire system falls apart.
What are the links in the marketing supply chain? Let’s examine each and determine how they depend upon each other.
Responsibility: The project management team can be made up of a multitude of personnel in your company. These might be your marketing teams, your sales reps, upper level executives, or yourself if you’re a small privately owned business.
In every case, these personnel have developed a project that requires the use of marketing assets. Your marketing staff needs it for a campaign, or your sales reps want it for a trade show they’re attending, or the execs want it for a business meeting.
Whatever the reason, these assets need to get created so a request for them is sent off to the next stage in the chain, design.
Breaks in the Chain: The breakdown that can occur between design and project management is miscommunication. If the project managers fail to provide the design team with exact specifications for a piece of collateral, the designers will design an asset incorrectly which will decrease productivity and in turn, delay marketing, sales or business efforts.
Responsibility: At this stage, the graphic designers get to work generating the marketing asset requested. This process often requires multiple revisions and constant open lines of communication with the project management team.
Once the design meets the specifications that project management has set, it is placed as an order.
Breaks in the Chain: Often the designers are asked to make multiple revisions to a design well after it has been finalized. This is a cumbersome process requiring approvals and repeated work on the designer’s end that also can lead to style inconsistencies.
Responsibility: At this stage, the design(s) are sent to a fulfillment company who produces the requested amount of marketing materials.
Breaks in the Chain: Who does the ordering? Every company does it differently, but if it’s not clear who’s responsible, double the amount ordered may show up or worse, too little might show up. This might also appear as production’s mistake and can lead to a long process of back-tracking to decipher what went wrong, where.
If any sales rep or marketing manager can order marketing materials, in the long run, all these individual orders could break the budget.
Responsibility: It is at this stage the assets are generated. The fulfillment company producing these assets is responsible for ensuring quality, clarity and quantity standards.
Breaks in the Chain: It is often a good idea to see a final version of an asset before ordering hundreds. A fulfillment company should be able to provide examples of products prior to production so that the company can be sure of exactly what it’s ordering. Fail to do this and the company might end up with hundreds of assets that don’t meet its needs and now need to be stored since they will not be used. Who does this effect?
The designers for one. It is very common for a digital design to have variations when printed or produced – there can be slight disparities in color as a result of the printing process and due to different types of materials that the design is being transposed on. This can result in the end product, appearing inconsistent.
Responsibility: This one is simple. Get the marketing materials to their destination on time.
Breaks in the Chain: Will the fulfillment company be responsible for this or will another company ship? If so, add another link in the chain.
Did breaks in the chain prior to this stage delay your order? Can your provider ship on time because of those delays? Here’s to hoping.
Responsibility: Provide live updates on how much marketing material remains for each asset.
Breaks in the Chain: Does the company store its own assets? If yes, who’s responsible for keeping track of inventory? It’s likely no one is, and the project management team checks inventory on a need by need basis. Check too late and they may not get their assets on time.
If another company is responsible for storing marketing materials, do they provide notifications for when supplies are running low?
Responsibility: Which assets are worth keeping a constant inventory? Reporting is responsible for providing information on who is using marketing materials and when they were ordered.
Breaks in the Chain: If there is no system in place for managing this information, there is no way for a company to track how much collateral is in use at any given time and how much collateral it goes through over a period of time.
Having a system that can manage this information can aid in staying on budget and getting a better return on ROI.
Ask yourself how long is your chain? Depending on your industry and the size of your business, you may not have all the stages listed here, but that does not mean your marketing supply chain is short.
How many people and businesses are involved from idea to delivery? Try to shorten the list you come up with. This will decrease the amount of links that potentially can get broken.
Also, check for redundancies. Who can order marketing assets? If it’s everyone, that’s a lot of personnel all doing the same task. Try to whittle down the amount by implementing a process that makes sense for your business.
All in all, make sure you have a system that works and continually check up on your system to eliminate any areas that may be adding an unnecessary complexity.