The Impact of Digital Asset Management
Improve direct marketing processes with a content management system
It’s not every day that technology disrupts how direct marketing is done. The 1980s, for instance, was the decade of word processing and desktop publishing. The early 1990s ushered in breakthrough tools for merge/purge, sorting, printing, addressing and delivering direct mail. More recently the Internet spawned a whole new medium—e-mail marketing.
The next new thing is digital asset management. Digital asset management, or DAM, refers to software that enables you to store and retrieve—quickly—all types of files, including design, copy, word documents, spreadsheets and more. The difference between DAM systems and simply storing files on a server is that DAM offers users a more secure environment for content and the ability to share documents, perform full-text searches and maintain control over the different versions of assets that can be used in direct marketing campaigns.
You may be surprised by what you find out when you ask the members of your direct marketing staff how many files they manage. According to industry averages, each marketer typically manages more than 5,000 files spread across a number of storage mediums.
Then ask your staff members how often they search for files. Marketing professionals report that they spend a great deal of time searching for, filing, retrieving, organizing, backing up and sharing digital assets. On average, the typical marketing professional performs more than 10 searches a day. And more than a third of searches are failures, resulting in wasted time and, potentially, the beginning of a “redo.” Creative professionals spend 10 percent of their time performing file management activities, of which one third is spent on searches alone, according to Gistics, a leading consulting firm specializing in digital asset management.
Obviously, companies have an opportunity to make measurable improvements to productivity.
Improve the Creative Process
More promotional opportunities with prospects and customers means greater demand for letters, inserts, e-mails, logos, brochures, images, photos, fliers, catalogs, etc. Every piece takes time to create. Or, if you use an agency for design, you have to pay for them. Copy needs to be written, edited, formatted and proofed, too.
The creative process starts with either a completely original concept or a revision of existing work. In both cases, the first draft of the piece needs to be routed and reviewed. It may take weeks to get everyone to look at the piece, make suggestions and give his or her approval. The finalized piece is sent to the intended audience, and the results are tallied. Then the process starts again with an analysis of the results and the decision to test a new idea or revise the current effort to improve response.
A DAM system improves this process considerably. First, the DAM system is a database containing all prior efforts—all their proofs, edits and results. Users can leverage past successes and avoid failures. Second, DAM systems typically also include functions for routing and approval, which helps shorten the review process considerably.
Direct marketing is a repetitive process with a good deal of trial and error. DAM systems help capture all the information in each loop of the campaign management cycle.
DAM systems don’t just house copy and designs; they can store licensed photos, contracts, quotes, invoices and even results. This means you can create an electronic file containing all the information about a direct marketing campaign from soup to nuts—an extraordinary value.
Now everyone can look not only at the package, but also at its costs and results. The true ROI of the campaign becomes apparent to all staff involved with the project. For example, print buyers can review and compare quotes, estimates and invoices. And list buyers can see which lists were used, response rates, merge/purge results, nixies, undeliverables, etc.
With access to the full performance history of a direct marketing effort, each contributor to the creation and execution of the campaign will gain insight on how to improve his or her area of contribution.
Make the Business Case
DAM systems may be popular, but they are not cheap. At a few thousand dollars—up front—per user, a DAM system is costly enough to make you pause and think before you jump in and buy. The high price tag means that you’re going to need approval from the corner office.
The cost justification for a DAM system typically revolves around three key areas: productivity enhancement, cost savings and reduction of time to market.
Take a step back and tally up how much your team spends on digital asset creation. How many people are devoted to creating digital assets? How much of your time do you spend managing these assets? Don’t forget the costs of the Macs running Quark Express and Photoshop; the servers where the files reside; the CD-ROMs and Zip disks used for file archival, etc. You probably spend more than you think.
Take, for example, the 12-person marketing department for a leading software company. The department’s staff includes two graphic designers, two copywriters and a four-person Web design team. Of the 12 people in the department, eight spend much of their time creating digital assets. Everything they create needs to be routed, edited and approved. In this example, the payroll costs alone for this software company’s marketing department exceeded $700,000 per year; hardware and software spending was about $25,000 per year. It would be hard to argue that the $725,000 spent creating digital assets in just one year isn’t real money.
Research indicates that the payback from a DAM system can range between seven to 15 times its costs. And that payback comes fast, too. Most savings from digital asset management come from time saved:
• Searching for assets;
• Organizing assets;
• Backing up assets;
• Securing assets; and
• Avoiding recreating assets that can’t be found.
There are additional benefits, too. DAM systems can:
• Help identify the most effective creative.
• Enforce a consistent workflow, avoiding errors and wasted time.
• Ensure that only approved brand elements and versions are used, and that they are used in the proper context.
• Foster better collaborative relationships between workers by facilitating the sharing and dissemination of assets.
• Provide the ability for clients or other departments to observe creative works while in process.
The Bottom Line
The good news is that DAM systems are becoming more widely used, stable and mature. As digital asset management becomes mainstream, it’s being incorporated into other integrated systems, from contact management to CRM to marketing information systems. This means the user doesn’t have to purchase, install, customize, support and maintain a stand-alone DAM system.
Don’t let the ever-changing DAM technological landscape immobilize your decision-making. The benefits and ROI from DAM systems are very real, very high and very now.
Ken Kornbluth is CEO of MarketingPilot Software, a vendor of marketing systems in Evanston, IL. He can be reached at (847) 864-4777.