What can marketers possibly learn from financial reporting?
If you’re like me, you probably thought there was very little in common between financial reporting and marketing collateral. So like me, you’ll be surprise to discover that applying financial reporting practices to marketing content and collateral can reduce the time and cost to produce your marketing collateral, improve the effectiveness of your marketing collateral, and gain you data on marketing content and collateral performance.
First three ACT/SAT type associations to establish a few links.
1. Financial data are to financial reporting as images, copy and other marketing assets are to marketing collateral.
2. Report designers are to financial reporting as content designers are to marketing collateral.
3. Financial reporting principles are to financial reporting as brand guidelines are to marketing collateral
With these associations made, we can explore how practices that ensure accurate reporting of financial data across an organization can be applied to ensure accurate, on brand, easier to produce and more effective customized marketing collateral.
Start with Valid Core Assets
Financial reporting starts with data. Those data need to be accurate and approved for distribution and use. A small group is responsible for validating the data before the data are formatted or shared.
Marketing collateral starts with marketing assets like: logos, images, color codes, copy, etc. Those marketing assets need to be accurate and approved prior to use. Their usage is determined and controlled by a small group.
Financial reports follow external and internal rules on how the core data assets are used. Which numbers, which calculations and how to display and share for various purposes.
Marketing collateral follows brand guidelines that determine how marketing assets are used. Where to place the logo, how to present the logo, approved fonts, approved color codes, approved images and how to use.
Here’s where it gets more interesting to marketers.
When you think about financial reports, you probably think about consistency rather than customization. But financial reports need to be used across an organization to support multiple users, use cases and applications. The ability to share versions or subsets of data that can be customized to satisfy a variety of user groups and use cases without harming the integrity of the data is a critical requirement of financial reporting.
A closed system that restricts which users receive which data but provides tools to permit sorting, filtering and presenting data within that subset are how financial reporting maintains data integrity while permitting a range of local customization. All without having to produce a unique report for every situation.
You’ve probably worked with customizable financial reports like these. You can only see the data for your group, dept or business unit. You are given multiple options to see different views, to graph, to drill down, to rotate or filter. But the data are locked as are formulas and other cells. And you can use the tool even though you are no financial reporting expert. You get an easy way to see the numbers for your business unit in several ways. What you have is freedom within a framework.
This closed, freedom within a framework approach to customization, usable by users who are not financial reporting experts, is where marketing can benefit the most by borrowing financial reporting practices.
Instead of producing one fixed piece of marketing collateral for each marketing situation, create customizable templates that follow and enforce your brand guidance. Let any user select from your core marketing assets and use within the template in ways that follow your brand guidelines.
Using a closed system with rules, any user can create multiple versions of collateral based on an approved template that follows all brand guidelines and uses only approved marketing content without any need to engage expensive corporate designers. A different user can customize the same template using account and event information from their market to create a different but also compliant piece of marketing collateral. And there you have freedom within a framework applied to marketing.
Bonus! Reporting for Marketers
Since all this happens within a closed system, marketers gain reporting data on user activity and uses of marketing content and collateral. Financial reporting usually doesn’t capture data on the performance of the financial reports.
That user and usage data can be used to determine the value and impact of various pieces of marketing collateral and content. These data contribute to continuous improvement of your marketing collateral and coaching of your users on which collateral to use.
The freedom within a framework connection between financial reporting and more efficient and effective marketing collateral is one I only recently discovered. Even though Elateral has been using this freedom within a framework approach to help major brands produce more relevant and effective marketing collateral more efficiently for decades.
Both freedom within a framework approaches solve similar issues of consistency, accuracy and content integrity. And in an interesting twist, unlike financial reporting, the marketing approach generates user data and reports to help understand the value of marketing assets and collateral.
Contact me to discuss how a freedom within a framework approach to customized marketing collateral can make your marketing more efficient and effective.
Chief Revenue Officer, Elateral