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Cleaning House On Outdated Practices In Channel Marketing

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“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” goes the old saying, but as with many old sayings this one has its limitations.  For example, if you never changed the oil, filled your gas tank or checked the tire pressure for your car, how long would you be able to keep receiving value from that vehicle?  Business is all about adding and increasing value for our customers and so it follows that we must always be looking for points of leverage that help us to do just that.

Making innovation a priority is winning the game for companies all over the business world right now but in a lot of organizations, their channel marketing and rebate programs are not getting a place at the table when it comes to updating practices.  Fair enough: nobody necessarily wants to become more efficient at giving away marketing dollars.  But let’s look at the efficacy of these practices.  Are your programs driving the desired behaviors in the channel and with consumers?  Can you easily attribute your incentive spend to real business growth?  For how long do you expect you can keep getting positive results?

I’m going to challenge the above ancient wisdom in two ways:

  1. If you proactively keep improving your programs, they never need to break and can sustainably keep giving you lift as you keep refining them.  In the old world of all paper, mail-in programs it was enormously difficult to bring continuous improvement to your channel marketing.  Now it’s actually fun.

  2. By inactively running static programs that operate using outdated business practices, you are actively building vulnerabilities that leave you open for competitive displacement at the channel and consumer levels.  As the consumer marketplace evolves into one of evermore tech savvy customers, innovative marketing practices are becoming as important to the buyer’s experience as the products themselves.

Outdated Functionality

Channel marketing and rebate fulfillment is at least a one hundred year old business and when it comes to processing and fulfillment of programs, brands are faced with a decision between the traditional paper mail channels and the much newer digital methods. The tactical decision a company makes when faced with this dichotomy is what will determine the way each incentive program contributes to or saps an organization’s bottom line.  Yes, channel incentives can become a profit center, complete with end-to-end attribution of sales lift.

Invisible process vs. visibility at all stages

Here’s another old proverb, this time from the world of computer programming: garbage in, garbage out.  Looking back on the history of the reporting side of channel programs, there is a really bleak range of accuracy that varied from non-existent to simply terrible.  The problem has always been that the paper load of traditionally run programs is not manageable and even when manual data entry started to become slightly viable, data integrity has always been a problem.  The natural business consequence of this is that reporting on bad data gives bad reporting and bad reporting leads to bad decision-making, driving costly errors in strategy and tactics. 

Creating programs on a digital platform with data accuracy baked in right from the beginning ensures cleaner datasets right from the claim entry phase on through, propelling a much more virtuous and useful version of the cycle described above.

With data accuracy taken care of, digitization also makes it possible to view accurate real-time reporting of program performance.  With the old way of doing things, program performance information was not available until well after the program ended, making it impossible to make optimizing program tweaks along the way.  Digitization allows us to know in real time what is working where and with whom.

What Is Driving Your Sales?

I’ve referenced attribution a couple of times as well because attribution for channel marketing spend is another facet of what makes digitization so appealing.  In the old world, it was nearly impossible for marketing or sales operations folks to look their CEO or board members in the eye and say with certainty that their spend had made a difference in sales.  Capturing all data relevant to every claim, right from the claim entry phase gives us the power to test and measure different scenarios, see what is working, see what is trending up and what is going away.  We get to know our customers better – find out who they are, where they came from, what made them choose our products and what would entice them to buy again next time.  It gets us closer to being able to predict what will work in the future by test modeling our new programs against vast datasets from previous programs and by doing so empowers us to improve continuously, selling more product and gaining ever more market share.

Next week I’m going to talk about leveraging the touch points of your incentive programs and how that can grow sales by improving brand experience.

For more information about this sponsor, visit: http://www.360incentives.com.

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