DOWNSTREAM PROBLEMS CAN SINK THE PLAN

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It may be that some of your best advertising is being squandered because of downstream problems in marketing programs execution.

The foremost downstream marketing execution tasks that affect your advertising payoff include the handling of "inquiries" generated by the ads, sales lead management, incorporating database management, the administration of critical marketing program tactics, and fulfillment of the marketing material.

Consider the following debacle which cost an agency millions of dollars:

An agency for a Fortune 500 company developed a national campaign incorporating TV, radio, print and sales promotional support. Response was far above expectations.

Unfortunately, the marketing services company taking the 800 number phone calls ineffectively handled a large percentage of the incoming inquiries. The higher the response rates generated by the powerful advertising, the more exacerbated the problems became.

In the meantime, a fallacious "qualification criteria" was employed in the sales lead management function to identify genuine prospects. Thus, many ready-to-buy prospects were ignored, while those with low buying potential were rated A's and B's. The sales organization received only a fraction of the genuine sales leads available, but did receive a large percentage of "trash" leads. Also, program rebates were processed too slowly, checks were inaccurate.

Another company, responsible for sending out the marketing literature in response to inquiries, was consistently late and material was mismatched with requests. Instead of a 24-hour turnaround, it took weeks to get literature to the prospects.

Not surprisingly, then, the final results from the ad program showed precious little success. The client company president had no patience with sorting through the many details of why the advertising really did work but the marketing program failed. "Success like this will kill us," he said. The ad budget was cut 50%, the current program axed.

Most everything went wrong in the preceding tormented case study. This is unusual. It can take, however, only a single critical marketing program breakdown to seriously contaminate the success of an ad campaign. This being the case, agency people cannot abrogate their responsibility to understand and work closely with marketing support vendors.

Some agency folks are reluctant to get involved. Sales lead management, fulfillment, program administration, etc., are prosaic irrelevancies to the creative advertising process. This is myopic and a mistake.

When invited to tour the marketing program nerve center that supports the execution of a major ad campaign, the agency VP passed on the opportunity. "This is not my job," she commented. "I do advertising. I am big picture." A picture so big, it turned out, she was no longer even in it. Her ad program flopped, due, in part, to execution problems that could have been avoided.

Making this part of her job would have allowed her agency to provide more added value service to the client. Indeed, isn't this just what agencies are being asked to do to day-provide more for the money? Here, then, is a way to do more. In many cases, agencies and marketing service vendors already work hand in hand as partners. Together they produce enhanced results for the client. This partner ship also produces more opportunity for themselves.

It is unlikely, and unnecessary, that agency professionals become experts in the complex disciplines of marketing support. It is critical however, that they understand the key needs and expectations associated with downstream marketing support functions. The client, agency and various downstream service vendors should come to the same table to share information on program requirements. The earlier the better.

Make the choice: Be an added value hero via downstream marketing support, not an ignorant victim. Build a relationship with effective, talented vendors and see your agency successes and budgets grow.

Mr. Burke is UP-marketing at the Hibbert Group, Denver, a marketing services company.

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