If you’ve heard the term ‘distributed marketing’ but want to see if this model is right for you, look no further.
What Is Distributed Marketing?
Distributed marketing is the collaborative process of marketing a company’s branded products or services from the central, corporate level, down through a network of local partners who customize marketing materials for their particular markets. It literally distributes the responsibility of producing and implementing marketing across an organization’s distributed network. For example, the company can be a regional whisky distiller, a national insurance company, or a world-renowned tire manufacturer. If that business sells through a network of intermediaries, known as channel partners, then that business is what’s known as a distributed organization, and a distributed marketing strategy can drive local sales.
That sounds more complicated than it is. Here’s how distributed marketing works:
Rather than selling directly to consumers like, say, Warby Parker, distributed organizations sell through dealers, agents, retailers, resellers, distributors, branches, and franchisees. Countless companies do business this way. Look around and you’ll see channel partners everywhere. Kellogg’s sells its cereal through grocery stores, rather than through a branded Kellogg’s store, and Nationwide sells its insurance through agents. Consumers don’t know channel partners by that name. They know Kroger and insurance agencies. Distributed organizations’ complex operational structure benefits from a distributed marketing model because it moves marketing material and branded messaging from the top down to local channel partners. It also enables companies to cater to local markets while keeping content consistent and on-message at all points in the network. If distributed marketing sounds like channel marketing, that’s because they’re the same thing. People use the terms interchangeably. People also call this “national-to-local” marketing. Marketers love hyphens.
That’s the gist. See? It’s complicated but not incomprehensible. The challenge is taking the national brand to the local level and communicating the brand message consistently.
How Is Distributed Marketing Good for Business?
Distributed marketing is useful because it enlarges the pool of talent from a single centralized marketing team and tailors messages to distinct, niche demographics. By recognizing the value of local partner knowledge, this model empowers partners to innovate, execute, and problem solve for their market, while providing them support, funding, and structure from leadership. Sharing brand assets
and marketing costs means everyone wins. Comparing distributed to centralized and decentralized marketing models yields other insights.
Distributed Marketing vs. Centralized Marketing
In centralized marketing, a single individual or team at one location handles all marketing activities and ensures a unified brand image for the entire business. In decentralized marketing, multiple individuals or teams handle marketing for different aspects of the business. Distributed marketing combines the best of both models. In centralized marketing, corporate handles everything. In distributed marketing, corporate has a marketing function—which can include creating templates, advertisements, fact sheets, and emails — and channel partners have a marketing function—which often involves co-branding and customization. Sharing marketing responsibilities allows for collaboration between corporate and local retailers, distributors, and agents. This combines the power of corporate’s resources and know-how with partners’ invaluable local market knowledge in a way that centralized marketing cannot. Under optimal conditions, distributed marketing becomes the sum of its many dissimilar parts.
But even as roles, resources, and marketing skill levels differentiate company headquarters and local partners, shared goals unite them. Everyone wants to generate new revenue and reduce operating costs. The trick is to harness this complex network’s mutual interests and collective marketing power. As the old saying goes, sometimes there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and the dish gets ruined. Other times, a large, diverse team is more creative, more knowledgeable, and more effective because of its size.
Who Uses Distributed Marketing?
The benefits of distributed marketing are not limited to particular industries, such as food and beverage or manufacturing. This model is beneficial to all businesses who sell their products or services through a vast network of intermediaries and whose brand message can be customized at the local level.
Examples of companies that use a distributed marketing strategy include:
- Leading Telecom Company
- Financial Services Company
- Clinical Research Company
To get the most from a distributed marketing strategy, you need strong central leadership and sophisticated brand management
software that manages the complexity and makes it easy to harness hyperlocal insights. Many distributed marketing programs leverage a co-op marketing platform
to streamline the approval and reimbursement process for local advertising.
What Is a Distributed Marketing Platform?
A distributed marketing platform, also known as a through-channel marketing automation platform
or TCMA, provides a comprehensive way for companies to scale customized, brand-compliant advertising and local messaging through their distributed networks. This can include digital and traditional marketing, such as direct mail, TV, radio, outdoor advertising, and involve everything from managing local marketing analytics to funding co-op advertising
strategies. Marketing through such a large partner network inevitably creates challenges. Corporate assets become outdated. Partners use old logos in local ads. The brand gets misrepresented. Messaging gets diluted. Although channel partners have important, first-hand insight into local demographics, they don’t always have much time to think about or execute marketing. They are sales people, distributors, shop managers. Even if their job includes marketing duties, marketing is one of many hats they wear, something they may only do in their spare time when they aren’t managing clients’ portfolios or running their busy resort hotel.
Distributed marketers need ways to keep the branding consistent across all channels, while also capitalizing on opportunities to customize the messaging for local events and audiences. Distributed marketing platform software addresses these issues by making marketing easier for partners.
How Do Distribution Channels Influence Marketing Strategies?
Each distribution channel touches a different point in the customer journey. Since each holds the potential to reach a very local audience, it enables an ad campaign or brand message to be customized
Local partners intimately know their region, their town, their neighborhood, as deep into the topographical minutia as their individual street. Even if they don’t live where they work, channel partners move to the local rhythm of life, and they talk to locals every day. That means they often understand their particular market better than anyone at headquarters, because they’re in the proverbial trenches. If there’s a way to tap into unique aspects of a locale and demographic, local partners can help identify and deliver it as hyperlocal marketing: an annual parade; the birthplace of a local celebrity; a high school football game; a regional dish; a seasonal flower bloom. Distributed marketing pulls those partners into the mix, enlarging the marketing team. That collaboration also builds corporate oversight into the process while fostering creativity from regional partners. In theory, that’s the best of both worlds: room for innovation and originality, but with guardrails, so local partners don’t dilute messaging or misrepresent the brand.
Distributed Marketing Best Practices
According to the industry’s most comprehensive study on local marketing, successful distributed marketing programs generally have these best practices in common:
1. Provide Marketing Education, Guidance, and Investment
The most important drivers of distributed marketing success are local partners’ marketing knowledge and willingness to invest their own funds in marketing. In fact, partners who reinvest 1% or more of their annual revenue into marketing achieve 30% more revenue growth
. Enable partners by providing education and guidance to build confidence in their ability to make smart marketing decisions.
2. Activate Your Channel Partners
Create incentives to encourage partners to commit time and resources to optimizing their local marketing strategy. Prioritize the most effective tactics so partners can see an immediate return on their investments. Promote the program so all your partners are aware of the opportunity and how to access it.
3. Improve Your Distributed Marketing Program
A distributed marketing strategy is only successful if partners are fully utilizing your program. Listen to your local partners’ feedback to understand what may be holding them back and what else they may need from your program that it doesn’t currently provide. Then, focus your efforts on improving your program and eliminating barriers to entry so that more of your partners can become mature marketers.