Centralizing Retailer and Distributor Marketing Programs

Last Updated May 2, 2007 7:25 PM EDT

As with any marketing campaign, consistency is key when you are implementing marketing programs with your retailers or distributors. Managing these programs centrally helps ensure consistency and efficient use of funds, so that you communicate your message—and your brand—as strongly as possible.

What You Need to KnowWhy can't local outlets develop their own advertising?

Though it's often simple for local outlets to develop and run advertisements on their own, this often leads to inconsistent messages getting out into the world. This inconsistency dilutes the company's brand. Managing advertising programs centrally helps ensure consistency and generally makes more efficient use of advertising dollars.

Is it necessary for all outlets to run the same marketing campaign?

It's not necessary for campaigns to be identical. They can be modified to suit the local market's needs. However, though some variation is acceptable, consistent messaging should be employed across all outlets to reinforce the company's brand values.

Should funds for marketing be allocated centrally or locally?

Though local outlets may know their markets best, they likely will not possess the skills to run an efficient marketing campaign. Managing marketing programs centrally in consultation with local outlets may be the best way to ensure maximum impact nationally, regionally, and locally. In addition, local outlets will benefit from receiving professional advice and guidance from a centralized source.

What to DoProvide Assistance to Local Outlets

It is useful to produce a comprehensive support guide for local outlets, which allows them to select programs in line with their promotional goals. The guides should include a discussion of individual programs' scope and benefits; a description of available support material; information on ordering support material; and guidance on program operation.

Develop a Centralized Customer Database

An understanding of local customers is important to the success of any local marketing program, so that offers and information can be tailored to individual market needs. For this reason, you should develop a centralized customer database for organizing mailing lists on the local level. The database should include customer names and addresses, information on purchasing patterns, and other relevant data. Centralizing the database function is more efficient than managing it locally, and it also offers a benefit to local outlets that may not possess the resources to develop a database themselves.

Maintain Current Records

There are many sources from which you can gather information for your customer database. These include local sales records; replies to advertisements, special offers or invitations; membership applications; and market research results.

Building a database is an ongoing task, and it is important to continuously add and update information. Sometimes it is useful to run direct marketing campaigns or other special programs whose primary purpose is gathering new customer data—examples include a prize drawing or reception invitation. Local outlets should receive training and guidelines on how to add appropriate information to the database. With current customer information added continually, your database offers a valuable direct marketing service to outlets and facilitates tailoring of marketing programs for individual markets.

Allow for Local Customization

Though centralized guidance is necessary to ensure a consistent messaging, it is important to provide room for outlets to customize their marketing program for their local market. Some ways you can support local programs include:

  • Allowing local outlets to produce their own advertisements;
  • Sponsoring joint advertisements between the supplier and local outlets;
  • Sponsoring regional advertisements run by groups of outlets;
  • Producing national advertisements that incorporate local information; or
  • Supporting advertisements run in collaboration with regional radio or television stations.
Offer Funding Support When Required

Some local retailers and distributors will require financial support to run marketing programs. The level of support required will depend on other sources of support available locally and the outlet's own advertising budget. Some outlets may have substantial budgets of their own and only require supplemental support for specific advertising campaigns. Other smaller outlets or franchises may depend solely on the supplier for advertising funding. Be sure to be attuned to the funding needs of local outlets when developing centralized marketing programs.

Supply Advertising Support Material

Whatever sort of advertising support you can provide is helpful for local outlets running advertising campaigns. This may include full ads, logos, artwork, or photographs. Providing support and guidelines also helps ensure the consistency of your message and brand. You might consider offering an advertising standards manual that provides sample ads, layout guidelines, and other information.

Offer a Centralized Advertising Program

You may choose to offer a centralized advertising program as an alternative to other advertising support. The centralized program would provide advertising to all local outlets, with consistent messaging across the board. The program should incorporate local information, though, and allow for local contact information, price promotions, product variations, and special offers. One advantage of centralized advertising is that you maintain high-quality professional standards, and local outlets benefit from national advertising and solid brand communication.

Support Regional Advertising Efforts

Some suppliers establish cooperative advertising programs among groups of local outlets. These outlets pool their budgets so they can run larger or higher profile advertisements or advertise more frequently. Though some local information may be included in cooperative ads, generally they promote the group as a whole.

Cooperative regional advertising programs are only possible with a large amount of cooperation among group members. In addition, suppliers should be advised that in the United States the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may regard this type of advertising as a form of cartel, so it is important to seek guidance before proceeding with joint advertisements.

As with other advertising programs, it is important for the supplier to provide centralized support for regional advertising cooperatives. This ensures consistent messaging, solid branding, and efficient use of funds. Sometimes the supplier can negotiate better rates based on volume purchase with advertisers and is more able to coordinate media planning.

Conduct Direct Marketing

Direct marketing can be an extremely effective way to reach customers, and information from a centralized customer database provides a useful tool for running direct marketing campaigns. Suppliers should provide the same support for local outlets' direct marketing campaigns as other advertising, as here too it is important to maintain consistency and a high degree of quality. On the other hand, outlets should have the ability to tailor their campaigns to meet their market needs—they know their customers best.

Plan or Participate in Local Events

Events can be a great way to build customer loyalty. Some ideas include open houses, trade show participation, and customer receptions. Suppliers can help ensure the quality of such customer events by providing:

  • theme ideas
  • administrative or planning support
  • invitation design and production
  • mailing list generation
  • promotional and display materials
  • support literature
What to AvoidYou Allow Ad Hoc Spending

Allowing local outlets to run their own marketing campaigns can lead to poor branding and inefficient use of funds. It is important to provide clear standards and support for advertising that aligns with your company's brand values. Creating integrated campaigns also increases the value of local advertising dollars.

You Fail to Build a Customer Database

The centralized customer database effectively controls local marketing programs by supporting effective program administration and allowing companies to monitor and measure program effectiveness. A database allows you to compare data across different geographic regions and assess results from different levels of spending. The information gathered in a database also provides customer information for use in direct marketing campaigns.

You Handle Administrative Functions Poorly

Local outlets need good administrative support. Be sure to set up clear processes for ordering support material, booking ad space, and invoicing, so that local outlets take best possible advantage of the services you provide.

Where to Learn MoreBook:

Kotler, Philip, and Kevin Lane Keller. Marketing Management. 12th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005.

Web Sites:

Council of Logistics Management: www.clm1.org

The Supply Chain Council: www.supply-chain.org

American Marketing Association: www.marketingpower.com