Are You Using the Right Marketing Technology?

Marketing. It’s just advertising, social media and email campaigns; throw in the occasional printed flyer or tradeshow and you’re good, right?

As a marketer, you know that the role of marketing is far more complex than a list of tactics. You need to think about data, websites, engagement, SEO, SEM, automation, personalization, email, social media, programmatic advertising, A/B testing, affiliate and through-channel marketing, and eCommerce. Did we mention content? Blogs, case studies, whitepapers, video, podcasts, webinars and the list goes on. Suddenly the 168 hours you have in a week don’t seem like enough.

The good news is that while marketing continues to progress, the technology you need to support your marketing strategies continues to advance as well. Some call the group of technologies that marketers use to execute, analyze and improve their marketing a “martech stack.” However, with so many different marketing technologies, tools and programs available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and inefficient. This is where the IRIS platform can help.

First, let’s consider some facts.

As marketers, you’re tasked with strategically implementing and deploying the necessary technologies in a way that produces significant results. According to a MarTech Stack Optimization Survey conducted by Ascend2,  in February of 2020 marketers shared the following:

Top 3 Key Priorities for marketing technology

  • Improving marketing efficiency 55%
  • Increasing marketing ROI 45%        
  • Improving the customer experience 51%

Top 3 Capability Improvements marketing technology should optimize

  • Ease of use and greater utilization by the team 52%
  • Integration with other technologies           38%                
  • Ability to customize to specific needs  37%                         

Top 3 Most Important Features of your marketing technology:

  • Data insights and analysis       51%
  • Systems Integration   46%               
  • Real-time processing           40%     

Now, the good news.

IRIS – with our Gearbox platform – has got you covered. We can deliver on these priorities, capabilities and features. This means you can consolidate and unify your technology to become far more efficient, informed and effective.

IRIS delivers…

  • An interactive, integrated marketing calendar
    • Coordinated national initiatives with local campaigns for maximize ROI
    • Complete visibility with automated notifications
    • Structured to manage and monitor campaigns, assets, communications and visibility
  • A vendor management system
    • Completely vendor agnostic – manage and communicate with all your vendors in a single, automated environment (each with their own portal)
    • Full visibility to vendor activities, process times and service levels
  • A robust analytics tool
    • Real-time data retrieval
    • Completely interactive channel partner dashboards
    • Integrated with internal POS systems
    • Trend analysis reporting
  • A content management system that helps support and protect your brand
    • Customizable resource library
    • Connected to the appropriate users with the content they need to amplify your story
    • Real-time management and control of assets that enables the right messages to the right users
  • A channel management tool that efficiently equips and enables your partners
    • Access to everything required to execute a national to local campaign
    • Fully integrated tool that manages all aspects of co-op and MDF fund
    • Instant ROI tracking and real-time measurement of marketing spend at every level
    • Automated sales tax management that ensures compliance

In summary, technology that empowers you to be an effective marketer doesn’t have to mean disparate systems. A single platform that brings efficiency and intelligence can also be simple to use and have the flexibility to grow with you. For more than 20 years, our team at IRIS has been supporting clients across a variety of industries – manufacturers, franchisors, restaurants, distributors and more.

Let’s talk about how we can help your team optimize its marketing in 2021. Contact us to schedule a demo, 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com.

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Time is Money

According to Gartner’s Marketing Organization Survey 2020, functional, centralized and agile marketing organizations are the most common team structures. Across industries, two-thirds (66%) of marketing leaders reported that their organizations are now centralized and nearly half (49%) are shared service teams.

Why? There’s a growing push to scale efficiency, leverage capabilities and control spend.

Add to this, that one-third (1/3) of the marketing work that had been done by an outside agency, has shifted back to in-house teams as a result of unexpected changes in the 2020 economy (brought on by the pandemic) and we’re seeing a greater level of priority being given to technology. Fully utilizing marketing automation can be a game changer;  after all, automating administrative tasks will allow you, as a marketer, time to focus on the essential work of developing and deploying engaging programs and promotions, creating assets, researching new channels and attracting and interacting with prospects. 

While marketing automation can mean a lot of different things to different people, at IRIS, we deliver complete through-channel marketing automation – a single platform (GearBox) that

  • integrates processes, goals and metrics
  • protects and ensures brand consistency, and
  • enables marketers to scale their marketing program execution and customer engagement to and through local channel partners.

We do this because we understand that you need a strategic partner to help you multitask and broaden your reach. As you know, marketing is no longer simple as just B2B or B2C; today it’s essential for national brands to empower and influence regional promotions. And of course, you also need to measure results in order to drive your future decisions.

So, here’s the functional resources you should expect from a through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) platform partner (Heads-up! It’s important to note that some TCMA platforms only offer a few of these, but you need them all!):

  • Funds/budgeting: management of budgets, allocations submissions and approvals (co-op and MDF)
  • Campaign management: complete access to and distribution of co-branded marketing and communications campaigns of all shapes and sizes – including permissions and approval workflow
  • Digital syndication: automated publishing capabilities including email content, web updates, social media posts, landing pages and microsites, CTA buttons, etc. and the ability to publish
  • Asset management: organization and access to digital and physical marketing assets that are automated and branded
  • Interactive Marketing Calendar: coordination and scheduling of events and programs; and, a real-time comprehensive view of all marketing activities
  • Process management: automated campaign capabilities and multi-user workflows with customizable conditions, triggers, alerts and approvals
  • Business intelligence: tracking of partners’ marketing activities, reporting on campaign results and partner participation and performance tracking
  • Seamless integration: easily connects and assimilates with existing service providers, vendors partners and financial systems
  • User-friendly: simple to use and navigate from anywhere and any device, with as-needed on-call service and support

If you’re not already using (and taking full advantage of) through-channel marketing automation, it’s time to get started and set your team up for a productive 2021. We’d love to help. To schedule a demo contact us at  info@IRISnow.com or 913-749.4100.

Making 2020 a Come-from-Behind Win.

Companies nationwide continue to work hard to stay in business in the ongoing wake of the COVID-19 downturn. According to a June Census survey, 44 percent expect it to be at least six months before “normal” business operations might resume and in July, the National Federation of Independent Businesses reported that one-third (1/3) of the business owners they surveyed were at 50-75 percent of last year’s sales levels (with one-fifth saying they were only at half of their 2019 sales levels).

So, what can manufacturers and suppliers do to help? How can they (you) create a win-win for everyone?

Maximizing co-op budgets is a great place to start.

In a “normal” year, a big portion of co-op money goes unused – often because dealers don’t have the bandwidth or knowhow to manage it correctly. This is where brand managers can step in to make co-op easier to use and ultimately increase participation and boost sales for their brand and their dealers.

There’s still time to make it happen in 2020.

Get creative. Produce an all-inclusive marketing campaign for your dealers. Instead of depending on your channel partner to create a promotion (while trying to run their business), devise a plan for them that consists of both online and offline components. Include elements like emails, social media posts, pre-designed advertising, a co-branded website (optimized geographically), in-store promotions or other print material.

Providing dealers with this – including all the materials it will take to pull it off, will make it easier for everyone. As a supplier, you can have confidence that your brand standards are in-tact, dealers can more easily gain pre-approval on their expense and you’ve removed the barrier of the claim process.

Be deliberate. Co-op is a big piece of a brand’s budget, so it’s essential for these funds to be used intentionally, as part of the overarching marketing strategy. Instead of tasking your dealers with the responsibility of guiding customers to your brand, create tools that align with your objectives, only leaving them with the task of adding their contact information. If possible, incorporate seasonal promotions or special financing options – all with the intent of leveraging market activities to execute your strategy and reach your goals.

  • Communicate thoroughly.  Once your strategy or campaign is established, confirm the details with your dealers and provide them with regular updates.
  • Confirm brand guidelines. Even though you may be providing them with the above-mentioned resources, also give them access to the resources they need to easily and effectively represent your brand (logos, photography, product details, etc.)
    • Be flexible but clear. Seasonality or other local factors (even weather!) can impact a campaign. Reinforce start and end dates…but be aware of regional difference and pivot or provide options where it makes sense.
    • Track and measure. Set key performance indicators and success metrics up front. Follow your progress along the way and provide updates.  Sharing the results with your dealers will give them visibility to the value they received from your joint effort.

Everybody Wins!

Getting the most out of your co-op budget – and your dealer’s allowance – is possible with a well-planned agenda.  Developing readymade options for the 4th quarter of 2020 (and beyond) that puts minimal demand on your dealers and yields maximum results, is possible (& repeatable).

At Iris, we’ve got your back every step of the way. Our GearBox system can manage assets, track budgets, expedite campaign execution and provide real-time program metrics.  This tool is easily deployed and integrates all your marketing programs onto a single platform (and it’s vendor agnostic).

Planning now for 2021? Let’s talk! Contact us to schedule a demo, 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com.

Supporting Your Channel Partners During Times of Crisis, part 2

Most manufacturers don’t sell their products directly consumers. Instead you rely on channel partners to get your “goods” or merchandise into the hands of consumers — it’s these resellers, distributors and wholesalers that extend your reach. And in return, they look to you for support by way of programs, promotions and incentives that make it easier for them to get the job done.

Unfortunately, 2020 has thrown nearly everyone a curve ball; you’ve likely had to “huddle,” evaluate your line-up and outline a new strategy to overcome the unexpected challenger, and win.  In part one of this series, we looked at channel sales and suggested ways to align your front-line team with the needs of your channel partners.

Next-up channel marketing and enablement.

Channel Marketing

How should we adapt our partner communications? 

  • Adjust current messaging and automated communications to more authentically represent your brand and relay sensitivity to the current environment.
  • Establish a messaging cadence for partner manager outreach. 
  • Maintain up-to-date partner platforms (such as intranets, portals, etc.).
  • Keep you in-mind, you can’t over-communicate.

How should I approach planned or existing marketing programs?

  • Shift sales meetings and event budgets to digital programs.
  • Continue with partner award programs with understanding of the current environment.
  • Consider new ways to motivate and provide incentives.

What new marketing tactics should I put in place?  

  • Leverage digital offers and spiffs to encourage engagement and participation. 
  • Create a COVID-19 Partner Resource Hub. 
  • Develop an advisory council that meets digitally to collect feedback and deepen relationships. 
  • Maintain an agile approach.

How should I approach co-op?

  • Provide partners with easily personalized messaging for the customer.
  • Look for synergies across your partner ecosystem to build time sensitive joint go-to-market plans and co-marketing programs.  
  • Shift budgets to innovative digital co-marketing programs.

Channel Enablement

How do I ensure my enablement programming is still relevant?

  • Work with sales, marketing and customer success to update your target segments and accompanying buyer personas and buyer’s journey.  

How do I onboard new partners in this environment? 

  • Schedule virtual onboarding sessions with key channel partner stakeholders. 
  • Build, leverage and promote self-service capabilities/ tools.
  • Make it simple with a direct mail checklist.
  • Be flexible with onboarding requirements.

How do I ensure my existing partners are continuing enablement initiatives?  

  • Schedule virtual enablement sessions.
  • Use spiffs to encourage engagement.
  • Update joint dashboards with additional enablement-driven metrics. 

What’s most essential in these unusual times for manufacturers and corporate teams, is to be responsive, act quickly and consider how the current environment may be uniquely influencing your various channel partners and apply the right tactics to each situation.

Your channel support will be rewarded with future loyalty, and long-term partnerships.

Iris is here to help simplify your channel strategy. For a demo of how we’ll do that, contact 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com.

Supporting Your Channel Partners During Times of Crisis, part 1

This year has brought unexpected changes to how we work and collaborate, which has caused disruption to nearly every industry. Many of us are in uncharted territory and channel partner relationships are no exception. If your business is a channel-first business, you may be looking for ways to prioritize the needs of those partners.  Failing to respond appropriately could result in the reduction of customer engagement, the loss of new business and have a negative impact on the future health of your channel; partners could seek to align with a more supportive supplier.  It takes time and resources to foster effective channel sales and pulling back now will likely set you back and places at risk the prior investment you’ve made in channel sales. 

It’s smart to remember that channel partners are not a homogenous group. Post-crisis, each has been impacted differently and this requires you to craft a strategy that enables them to succeed in an environment of remote selling and virtual engagement.  The key is to balance the needs of your business with the demands of your partner community. 

To successfully navigate the new normal, you will first need to seek answers to some core questions, assess COVID-19’s impact on each partner and then apply the right tactics. 

How will our channel partners be affected by the “next normal?”

Don’t assume that you know what’s impacting your channel partners’ business. While the two most obvious dynamics are revenue decline due to spending cutbacks and operational challenges related to remote working, we recommend asking your partners directly how their businesses are being affected. The type of partner and their size, region and industry will all play major roles in the depth of impact on each partner’s business. They may be experiencing unique productivity and operational issues, supply chain slowdowns, and are likely impacted by the lack of in-person selling. 

How can we effectively help our channel partners in the next normal?

Your partners are a direct extension of your brand, therefore it’s essential to provide them with appropriate support. Channel programs have the best chance to weather disruptions when the partnerships are healthy. Your channel team will need to actively engage to ensure that your channel remains productive and that your brand is perceived appropriately during this crisis.  

In our two-part series, we’ll elaborate on the three primary influencers that need to be considered for promoting strong channel health: channel sales, channel marketing and channel enablement.

This week’s article will focus on Channel Sales.  

How should we focus our channel selling efforts during this crisis?  

  • Double down on existing opportunities. 
  • Align strongest talent and partners to highest value opportunities.  
  • Prioritize strategic customers.
  • Reinforce expansion and renewal plans. 
  • Conduct global sales scenario planning.
  • Update your joint selling playbook. 
  • Sell indirect over direct when possible to support your channel’s topline.

What support systems and tools can we put in place to maintain partner productivity? 

  • Ensure leadership support is readily available.
  • Make full sales cycle support easily accessible. 
  • Open real-time communication channels.

How do we encourage partner support and outreach internally?

  • Authorize direct rep and partner collaboration.
  • Initiate activity-driven metrics to ensure regular touchpoints.

What financial and contractual measures can we adjust or develop to better support our channel business?  

  • Offer payment grace periods and accounts receivable flexibility.
  • Expand discounting guidelines where possible.
  • Extend or introduce proof of concept, trial periods and pilot programs.
  • Increase the number of seats/users for free.
  • Review performance-based compensation requirements.
  • Ensure prompt and in full commission payment to partners.

The best way to overcome the challenges of today is to collaborate and ask the right questions; after all, partnership and community are especially critical in long-distance sales relationships.

Iris is here to help you effectively support your channel partners. For demo of how we do that, contact 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com.

Becoming Valuable: How Your Response to COVID-19 Can Change Your Channel Partnerships for Good

The how and “why” of partner and customer communications has changed in 2020.

In fact, according to a study conducted in May 2020, more than 75 percent of marketers say they’ve had to adjust their focus, content and messaging strategies due to the impact of COVID-19, with another 18% claiming they’ve made drastic changes to the way they do business. So, if you’re reading this, you’ve likely had to modify your plans or pivot and become more agile and tactical in your day-to-day operations.

Stop Being a Thought Leader, Start Being a Problem Solver.

Your channel partners and customers need you to be helpful, useful and responsive as they shift and respond to unpredictable conditions and react to requests. It’s during these demanding times when you have the opportunity to cultivate long-term loyalty by demonstrating the unique value you deliver and the ways you can help them maximize profitability.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you support your channel partners and customers:

  • Enable them: Identify ways to help them easily and quickly cross tasks off their to-do list. Do they need to update their website with the most up-to-date operations information? Is it easy for them to onboard a new local vendor or supplier?
  • Empower them:  Give access to the brand consistent tools and materials they need, when they need them to communicate new product offerings. Produce the tools they need to easily train their employees on new policies and procedures.
  • Educate them: Make it easy to track activity and results so they can confidently make business decisions.

At Iris, our Gearbox solution equips you with the ability and functionality to meet the needs of your channel partners, creating loyalty and profitability for both you, and them.

Shelly Niolou, Director of Partnerships, Anytime Fitness says,

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to react quickly and provide thousands of our location managers and staff with weekly – sometimes daily – updates on local mandates and, new resources regarding necessary precautionary measures. Our Iris platform gives us the tools we need and empowers our entire enterprise to seamlessly communicate internally and deliver updates to our members.”

To learn more about how we can help your team, contact Iris at 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com.

5 Tips to Successfully Manage Vendors

Essential to the operations of any business is the quality of its relationships and some of the most important, yet often discounted, are vendor (supplier) relationships. As a marketer, or other business leader, it’s normal to rely on these outside partners for their involvement in the implementation and management of everyday operations, campaigns, launches or problem-solving.

Check out these five tips for creating efficient, long term partnerships with your vendors.

Understand their business and the cost of doing business.

Before committing or signing an agreement, and to better understand their values and priorities, a working knowledge of a suppliers’ operating procedures, service offerings and fees or billing practices is important. This will keep you from paying for services you don’t need and help to ensure the services you do use are being tapped to their fullest potential. Also, verify details like auto-renewal dates and the risk of possible add-on fees or service charges. Lastly, in some situations, your supplier will be expected to function as a seamless extension of your team, confirm expectations and discuss how these services will be executed.

Be transparent about your business priorities

Confirm with your vendors that they recognize your business needs and priorities. When vendors understand your expectations, managing them is easier during the ups and downs of business. Inform and educate them on the information they’ll need to manage your account, such as times when your business may require an increase (or decrease) in the level of service or supplies based on seasonal surges, product launches, industry challenges, promotional campaigns, process changes or expansion.

Invite your account rep to provide input on your strategic planning on processes relating to their service. Incorporating their help and experience can be a valuable resource for your business. Incorporating your vendor’s first-hand experience and working knowledge will give you insight and demonstrate how their services can provide the most benefit for your business.

Manage performance

Track the spend and services provided by each of your vendors. While you may be satisfied with your vendor program, it is essential to track how well each vendor is meeting their contract terms. Make sure your vendor consistently provides quality services, corrects issues in a timely manner, meets delivery times and is available and able to help during business emergencies.

Consider using a supplier management software, such as Gearbox from Iris.  By actively managing and evaluating the performance or your portfolio of vendors, you’ll discover the volume of business you do with each of them and will likely uncover opportunities for budget and process efficiencies

Communicate

The quickest way to grow or damage a relationship is communication, and this is especially true in vendor management. Communication is key to avoiding mistakes, meeting timelines, troubleshooting problems and identifying contingency plans. By sharing critical information with your partners and avoiding assumptions, everyone can be successful. Make sure you have a designated point of contact for your vendors whether that’s a vendor portal or primary point of contact (or both!).

Along the way, encourage open discussions, ask for feedback and seek process improvement. Maintaining an open line of communication will help to form a long-lasting, trusted partnership.

Coordinate between vendors

It’s typical for teams, their projects and even their customers to require the expertise or collaboration of multiple vendors to meet a business objective or to execute strategy. By providing a common system or mutual platform like Iris’ Gearbox, you help streamline processes, facilitate communication and better equip and enable both your suppliers and your internal team to get the job done.

Iris is here to help you with tools and resources that will transform and actively manage your vendor relationships. Reach out today, 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com. We’re ready when you are.


Solving the Marketing Challenge of Cross-Functional Teamwork

Today’s marketing teams are the ultimate multitaskers. And, according to several surveys, you spend at least one third (1/3) to half of your time on administrative tasks.

Your successful collaboration with other functional departments — responding to their requests or satisfying their requirements — can be a “tall order” and time-consuming.

Aside from contributing creative genius, your role in the cross-functional team typically involves:

  • Sales support and enablement. Equipping the field team with the information, content, and tools that help them to sell more effectively and consistently reinforce the brand strength and value.  
  • Financial reconciliation, reporting and accountability. Partnering with accounting on real-time financial management such as gaining budget approvals, forecasting, monitoring spend status, reimbursement tracking and reporting. This list is long.
  • Vendor management. You rely on a broad mix of outside partners to generate and deliver products and services on-time, on-budget and with accuracy.
  • Executive communication. Managing up is a top priority. Internal marketing and merchandising of activities and results to leadership, matters. Doing so keeps them informed and instills confidence that we are prioritizing growth. 

In other words, you’re positioned squarely at the center of your company’s activities and processes; and your colleagues are relying on you for efficiency and responsiveness.

Consider investing in an automation platform. Doing so will empower your marketing team and equip your cross-functional partners — sales, procurement and finance — to, in real-time, track campaign results, monitor spending, update branded tools, support channel partners, manage events, and the list goes on.

Choosing a centralized tool like Gearbox® can help streamline operations — bring order, accountability and clarity to your list of administrative to-dos and give you more time to spend on marketing strategy, communications and brand development.

If you’d like to ask questions or see a functional demo, we’re happy to help, contact Iris at 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com

How to Create Efficiency in Your Marketing Operations

A common obstacle to the efficiency and success of today’s enterprise marketing teams is managing the sheer volume and variety of their workload. In fact, more than 60% of marketers say that they are taxed for time.

On the front end, growing and sustaining a brand or launching a product through multiple campaigns, projects and events brings exciting challenges and the opportunity for creativity. Meanwhile, these also require behind the scenes administration and time-consuming management of budgets, multiple vendors and logistics. The quest to streamline and organize the details and processes is a daily mission.

It’s likely that you’re looking for a simple, automated solution to this daily puzzle.

The use of an integrated platform for managing your marketing operations will be especially effective during busy weeks or when “issues” crop up. Often multiple or distant vendors blame each other rather than taking ownership and solving the problem. On the other hand, however, a single, cohesive resource provides a fast, efficient and cost-effective way to address these inevitable situations.

And, what’s more, you can expect to gain both quantitative and qualitative ROI by investing in a comprehensive, single-source support platform:

  • Less time spent managing multiple vendor relationships
  • Process consistency       
  • Optimized workflow
  • Efficient troubleshooting/problem-solving
  • Simplification and automation of reporting and communications
  • Streamlined implementation of new programs
  • Confident brand consistency
  • Less time spent procuring vendors for multiple services or products
  • Minimized technology compatibility or service issues
  • Less time spent on supplier service agreements, performance monitoring and evaluations
  • Heightened security with limited access to systems from outside applications
  • Enhanced partnership development and cooperation
  • Favorable pricing as a result of multiple services
  • Management and organization of locally based, customized campaigns, assets, reporting and vendors

If you’re looking for a way to help your marketing organization function more efficiently and gain consistency in process, execution and accountability, then a single source marketing operations platform that is tailored to meet their needs is a smart move.

For more information on how the Iris Gearbox® solution can be that comprehensive tool for your team, contact us at 913-749-4100 or info@irisnow.com .