The following article was written by Kate Regan, our Group Client Services Director. It was first published in B2B Marketing and is part of a series of blogs she has written – you can read them all here.
In my last blog I talked about the importance of positive client relationships. The ways in which you work together will have a major impact on how these relationships work in the long run.
Finding ways to combine (often quite traditional and long-standing) client processes with the new technology and systems you are able to offer impacts on relationships in a big way; there are lots of factors you must consider in order to get it right.
I’ve previously discussed the importance of engaging client stakeholders across all areas of the business. There are many reasons to do this, but the information gathering aspect is a particularly important one. You need to find out who holds what information, at the same time being mindful that the technology you’re putting in place will benefit each of them in different ways. As part of our set up phase we take time to establish where all their (highly valuable but often under-utilised) information is held. Once you know where it is you can start to make the most of it.
Large Retailer Challenges
Take large retailers as an example. It’s surprising when you walk into a new relationship with them how little control or transparency they sometimes have when it comes to their POS marketing collateral. This can be for a variety of reasons, but rapid growth without the system changes to match is often a factor. Whatever the cause it is a problem that can (and must) be solved.
Once we know what data they have and where it is, we can use our system Delta Workstream to help them utilise it more effectively, facilitating everything from dynamic store-specific allocations to personalised, localised marketing campaigns. The ‘one size fits all’ approach no longer works, but these days suppliers have the technology in place to meet the enhanced needs of clients and their customers.
There are always change management elements to this type of activity. Surprisingly, many large organisations work very manually. There are practical reasons for this, but there are also new technologies and systems that enable clients to move on.
These days, our technology goes into both head office and in-store environments. Online approval mechanisms, coupled with full audit trails, have the power to revolutionise the levels of control and transparency seen in head office, while in-store integration allows for real demonstration of value. Training and coaching is of course important, but that’s now standard when it comes to any system integration piece of this type. As well as increasing efficiencies, it really helps with colleague buy in, if they understand the system and can immediately see the positive impact it’s having.
Problems with dated technology and connectivity, while obviously not universal, are more common than you might think and the possibility of encountering them must be factored into your plan. Working closely with clients’ IT infrastructure teams means we are able to align our technology with their systems. Just make sure the long-standing, people-led processes are accurately mapped out in detail first. That’s a key step in the process.
Collaboration is a much used term, but I think for good reason. Old school processes and cutting edge technology both have important roles to play, and as long as you approach system integration in a truly collaborative manner right from the start, you’ll be well placed to deliver game-changing results.
Clients’ needs have evolved drastically over recent years, and the systems that have been developed to meet them can transform everything from costs to efficiencies to control. Integrating them, and adapting your own technology in line with their processes, is a challenge well worth embracing.