Fulfillment: Continuous Improvement
Over time, fulfillment programs can grow complicated and unwieldy, becoming less efficient if marketers do not carefully assess the impact of incremental changes to materials and processes.
To keep a program running in Olympic form, marketers should invest in regular audits that take into account the full spectrum of operations and materials needed to achieve the desired goal - balancing cost with response.
"What's key to this audit process is helping to meet the audience's communication preferences and make future contact based on the activity that has taken place and what the lead has indicated is the best next step ... ," says David Lowndes, director of product development for Iron Mountain Fulfillment Services, a fulfillment solutions firm based in Milpitas, Calif.
Finding the Leaks
The biggest challenge marketers struggle with is identifying their true costs in the fulfillment process, especially if they handle any of the work in-house, explains Mike Moroz, president of Archway Marketing Services, a fulfillment solutions company with headquarters in Rogers, Minn. And that makes it all the harder to determine where opportunities for improvement exist.
From a supply chain perspective, Moroz advises marketers to take a closer look at freight, labor and print/manufacturing costs. These areas are the most likely to spring leaks as your program evolves. Obsolete inventory and related storage costs, printing/mailing from too-distant locations, overstaffing at nonpeak times, are just some of the inefficiencies that Moroz says need to be rooted out and addressed.
"We have clients that are literally destroying tens of thousands of dollars worth of material because it's become obsolete," Lowndes agrees, adding that marketers also should consider lost-opportunity costs. While they're difficult to quantify, he allows, it's not hard to see that if marketers' materials are out-of-date, not appropriate or not addressing the needs of the audience, then they're not going to be doing their jobs in terms of generating sales.