Collateral Obsolescence: the challenge, and the solution.
Every company has some amount of obsolete print marketing collateral. This hurts your marketing effort in several ways, and ultimately costs you a lot of money that could be used much more effectively. Yet many marketers have no idea of the scope of their obsolescence problem.
Happily, modern technology can help you completely tame the collateral obsolescence beast. One technology is particularly compelling in this regard: Marketing Asset Management, or MAM. In fact, MAM is already helping many companies effectively eliminate this problem, letting them run much more efficiently, with much less waste.
This guide will detail the problem, describe what MAM is, and explain how MAM is uniquely effective in reducing or eliminating collateral obsolescence.
Obsolescence happens faster and faster these days.
In today’s fast-paced, Internet-fueled world, if you’re not ahead, you’re already behind.
Technology updates happen in real time. Collateral must keep up. The pace of technological development is so rapid today that to remain competitive, companies must constantly innovate and release new and improved products and services. That means that collateral that was current a week ago may already need to be changed today.
Personalization. The Internet and social media have fueled the need to personalize communication with your customers to better gain their attention, interest and trust. Customers now expect communication to not simply address them by name, but to provide content that is directly relevant to them. Such tailored content should only provide information for products and services that the recipient would be interested in based on his/her demographics, needs and wants. In many cases, print marketing collateral is too generic to satisfy this new reality, becoming obsolete the moment it is printed!
Obsolete collateral costs a lot.
One of the biggest hidden costs in marketing is that of collateral obsolescence. In other words, we’re throwing a lot of collateral away. Estimates suggest that from 10% to 30% of collateral is obsolete at any given company. This cost is hidden because a lot of marketers simply don’t know how much of their collateral is obsolete, nor where that obsolete collateral is – in the warehouse, in the back room, in someone’s desk or in a salesperson’s trunk.
Marketers may not realize it, but obsolete collateral is costing their companies quite a bit. When you add up all of the costs associated with collateral that gets thrown away or simply collects dust in a warehouse, it gets to be pretty substantial. Costs can be broken into three categories: marketing supply chain costs, branding costs and carbon footprint.
Marketing Supply Chain Costs
These are all the costs associated with producing a collateral piece which eventually becomes obsolete:
- Creative costs: writing and designing the piece – when the piece becomes obsolete, it must be revised, incurring additional costs for creative resources.
- Fulfillment costs: responding to requests for the collateral piece, and taking all the required steps to deliver the collateral to its requester
- Printing costs
- Warehousing (storage) costs
- Inventory tracking costs
- Shipping costs
- Disposal costs
Every obsolete collateral piece represents money that’s been wasted on printing, storing, tracking, shipping and disposing of that piece. The total of these costs typically far outweighs any price breaks for printing larger quantities.
Now, multiply these costs by the number of collateral pieces in your marketing library, each in varying states of obsolescence; and also by the number of locations receiving your collateral. The costs can mount quickly. In fact, managing your marketing supply chain costs could be one of the biggest ways for you to trim needless marketing expenses and free up budget for important marketing initiatives you might otherwise have to abandon.
The strength of your company’s brand depends on your ability to deliver a consistently good user experience to your customers at every touch point. Old marketing collateral threatens that user
experience and your customers’ trust in your brand:
- Out-of-date information: the customer receives information that is no longer accurate.
- Imagine how you’d feel if you had your heart set on certain product features, only to find that this product doesn’t exist anymore, or that the features you wanted have been removed from
- the product.
- Old look and feel: the customer receives a collateral piece that features your old branding. Then he/she drives by your building and sees your new logo and color scheme, or receives a separate piece of collateral with the new branding. The mismatch contributes to a feeling of doubt. The customer will ask: “Why did you send old collateral to me? Does your company truly have its act together? Can I trust the information in the collateral? Can I trust you?”
- Ancient copyright date: with the pace of change these days, a one-year-old piece can be ancient. Product updates occur monthly or even more rapidly nowadays. An old copyright date can send multiple bad signals to a customer: “This collateral is old; I can’t trust it.” “This company hasn’t made any changes in a while. They’ve fallen behind. I need leading edge products, not trailing edge.” “This company must not be doing very well if they can’t afford to keep their collateral or product offerings current. I need to buy from a company that is more stable.”
If you’ve got obsolete collateral out there, you could be doing incalculable damage to your brand and your sales.
Imagine the irony of having the recycled logo on your printed pieces to show how environmentally conscious your company is, while at the same time printing and throwing away reams of obsolete collateral pieces. If your company is serious about going green and marketing yourselves as such, then you’ll need to walk the walk with a conscious effort to minimize waste and that means starting with environmentally friendly printing.
Marketing Asset Management
An effective blend of obsolescence-ending technology
Over the past decade, three technologies have matured to the point that when they are combined, then can effectively tame collateral obsolescence. Those technologies are:
- Digital print on demand: enables fast, short runs of print collateral with very high quality and at cost-effective price points that aren’t possible with traditional offset printing.
- Web-to-print: allows users to send artwork to print facilities through a web portal and receive high-quality, digitally-printed pieces on demand.
- Deep personalization: new variable data technologies enable hyper-flexible customization of print collateral to meet individual customer needs.
MAM (Marketing Asset Management) combines all three technologies into one platform that makes it very easy to create customized collateral on demand.
What exactly is MAM?
MAM is an online platform (SaaS or “cloud” service) which allows you to upload and store templates of your company’s marketing collateral in an online portal. Such collateral includes flyers, brochures, catalogs, ads, direct mail pieces, business cards, stationery, signage and more. You can then make these templates available to your outside users, enabling them to customize and order collateral materials on demand. MAM lets you set which text and graphic elements in the templates are locked – unchangeable by outside users, so your brand stays protected – and which elements can be freely customized.
Authorized users can then log into the online portal from any Internet-connected computing device with a web browser to select the collateral they want, make changes allowed by the templates, and place orders for the customized collateral. Orders are quickly fulfilled by a digital print-on-demand service or made available for immediate download as high-resolution PDFs. The process is completely self-service, allowing outside users to quickly and easily do everything themselves without having to involve your internal marketing team.
The MAM platform tracks order history and collateral consumption so you can see at a glance which materials are getting the most use, and correlate that data with actual sales to gauge the marketing ROI of your collateral.
MAM can help you reduce if not eliminate collateral obsolescence if your company has some or all of these characteristics:
- A distributed sales and marketing organization with many members
- Multiple target markets (by geography, demographics or other relevant characteristics)
- A need to customize marketing collateral to meet the needs of local markets and even individual buyers
- Collateral pieces that change often
- A large variety and volume of collateral pieces
How MAM solves the obsolescence challenge.
MAM lets you quickly and affordably deliver short runs of custom-tailored collateral to your sales channels to meet their just-in-time sales and marketing needs.
• On-demand printing. With MAM, your organization can print the exact quantities of collateral that are needed, as they’re needed, rather than print excess quantities that have to be thrown away later because of erroneous use forecasts.
• Reduced warehousing / inventory costs. With on-demand printing, you essentially have a just-in-time collateral process that reduces if not eliminates the need to store and track significant amounts of collateral for later use. You also avoid the costs of disposing of those excess collateral pieces that become out-of-date.
• Customization. Your sales and marketing staff can custom-tailor collateral to the specific needs and interests of individual customers, and print only the quantity they need for specific sales situations, so no collateral pieces have to go to waste. Flexible online templates and a library of assets let your staff tailor collateral with minimum effort, so you won’t have to pay professional creative costs every time you need to revise a collateral piece.
• Inventory tracking. With MAM, you never lose sight of collateral that could become obsolete without your knowledge. The MAM system tracks orders and costs of all collateral produced through the system, letting you instantly see which collateral is getting ordered the most, how often, in what quantities, by whom, and in what regions. You can also see how collateral is being customized. This data lets you cull the under-performing collateral, keep only the most effective pieces, and fine-tune online templates and assets in the MAM online portal to best meet the needs of your distributed sales organization.
• Fulfillment and shipping. Every time you have to pick, pack and ship a quantity of collateral that eventually becomes obsolete because it wasn’t used fast enough, you are incurring needless costs. Thanks to MAM’s just-in-time collateral capability, you’ll only pay for shipping collateral that will actually be used. You’ll also eliminate fulfillment costs, because collateral will be shipped directly from the print production facility to sales staff as soon as its produced, rather than being shipped to a warehouse, stored, then located, picked, packed and shipped again later.
With MAM, you can easily keep your company’s collateral always up-to-date.
If a MAM system simply eliminated your obsolete collateral costs, it could pay for itself in a matter of months, depending on the size of your organization and the amount of collateral you produce. MAM offers many more benefits though which can substantially expand its ROI for your organization, including:
- Automated collateral fulfillment: the MAM online portal is self-service. Your distributed sales and marketing staff can log in and place orders for collateral without having to involve your internal marketing team. This is a huge time saver for your team.
- More effective collateral because it’s customized: the more personalized a collateral piece, the more effective it will be at meeting the needs of an individual customer, and the more likely that customer will buy from your company.
- Brand control: MAM’s templates let you lock core branding elements, preventing outside users from being able to alter or move them within collateral layouts. This saves you from having to police what your users are doing, keeping your brand protected automatically.
- Speed to market: a MAM system lets you very quickly customize and deliver fresh collateral to wherever it’s needed in your sales channels, giving you an edge in competitive sales situations when time is of the essence (and isn’t it always these days?).
Learn more about the benefits of MAM, the ROI that MAM can deliver for your company, and other topics with our free MAM solution guides here.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.