Many companies now outsource parts of their service very successfully, allowing them to concentrate on their core business. The secret of successful outsourcing is that the hassle of non-core activity is taken away from you but you can maintain control efficiently.
If you are looking to outsource a service for your company for the first time, then it can be quite daunting . You will no doubt be setting SLAs (Service Level Agreements) but how do you ensure that they are being upheld? In addition how do you ensure the valuable marketing stock is used wisely and is not treated as a free for all? Below are some areas you should look at to help remove some of the uncertainties involved in the outsourcing of your marketing material distribution and to help choose the appropriate outsourcing partner.
The main areas you will want to control are the following:-
With ever increasing demands on Marketing budgets making sure that your stock is only ordered by the right people for the right opportunity is essential. For ease and efficiency of ordering many companies now use e-commerce websites to list their marketing materials but how do you restrict access?
The first essential restriction is access on to the website which is easily achieved by password protecting. As with all passwords care must be given to ensure that they are secure enough and cannot be guessed.
The next restriction that should be put in place is that each type or section of staff should only see the stock that is relevant to them. For example Sales staff will need access to point of sale and product brochures, while Marketing staff will need access to exhibition and corporate material. Many outsource partners/fulfilment houses will rely on a manual check, however this can lead to mistakes. The best and safest way is to restrict the view of the stock on the website by the type of staff and their login so they can only order relevant stock.
At PMSG our e-commerce websites can be set to allow certain groups or individuals access to certain stock ensuring there is no possibility that the wrong stock is ordered.
To ensure that there is enough stock to support your company’s activities you need to have access to real-time information on your exact stock status, what is physically held, what is on “purchase order” (waiting to arrive) and what is on “sales order” (waiting to be despatched).
Therefore your outsourcing partner will need fully integrated stock and order management systems that ideally can link in with clients procurement systems as well as the e-commerce website. In addition the client will need access to real-time reports so they can interrogate the live system databases.
As an example, PMSG gives its clients access to an online password protected
client area where there are a range of standard and bespoke reports written in Crystal that are produced from the live data. Reports can be produced in all the major formats including, excel, pdf, html, csv, xml, jpeg.
To ensure deliveries are made on a timely basis from placement of orders, there are several methods of keeping control.
The first and most widely used is the order and despatch acknowledgement email. The order acknowledgement is usually produced by the e-commerce website when an order is confirmed. The despatch acknowledgement email is usually produced by the systems back office on despatch of the order and should contain the tracking information of the parcel(s). It can normally be set so that the person placing the order receives the email as well as a central email address, which can be used to check timeliness.
The second method is to use the real-time reporting systems to check the difference between order receipt and despatch.
One thing to check is that you should be able to write notes against orders with delivery instructions or order reasons; and you should be able to choose between delivery services i.e. urgent and standard.
To ensure that staff do not stock pile marketing material and that they get value out of its use, it is often important to restrict quantities or values ordered.
The two main methods of doing this is either to set up staff with budgets or to set them up with limited / allocated stock i.e. once its gone, its gone.
With budgets, each item of marketing material will have a value which will show on the e-commerce website and on “check out” payment will go against their budget. Once the budget is used no more orders can be placed.
Allocated stock would work with the restricted access to the website, so a particular staff member or section can only see their stock.
Budgets and allocated stock can be monitored via an online reporting facility as described above
Outsourcing is effective and can be very cost-effective, however to ensure you do not loose control of the stock and finances it is important to choose a partner who has the right systems capabilities.