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Mail Fulfillment for B-to-B Mutual Fund Customers.

CARING FOR THE BROKER/DEALER CHANNEL

THE PAST FEW YEARS have seen the mutual fund industry awash in record amounts of new investments. Investment companies are spending heavily to recruit new brokers and retail investors through sophisticated branding, advertising, Web marketing and public relations campaigns.

Like many businesses, mutual fund companies have two sets of customers to satisfy: a business-to-business channel comprised of broker/dealers and the traditional consumer marketplace. This article's focus is on the broker/dealer channel. Consider the marketing investments your company makes in advertising, seminars, sales promotion, trade shows and public relations. Protect these investments by giving equal care to your broker-centric fulfillment operations. If you can't fulfill broker requests in a timely fashion, you risk setting off a cycle of attrition--one broker can influence numerous relationships. At the same time, you want to streamline the fulfillment process to achieve the greatest economies of scale. Executed wisely, outsourcing key areas of fulfillment can decrease printing, postage and labor expenses, as well as more effectively manage the ebb and flow of investor interest.

First, we'll look at positive results yielded through outsourcing and re-engineering. Then, we'll examine some success drivers that can be applied to all fulfillment operations. And while we provide examples specific to the mutual fund industry, many of these principles and processes apply to organizations with indirect sales channels.

FUND INFORMATION GETS A FACELIFT

An international fund company was distributing a monthly booklet containing time-critical fund information to its network of 5,000 broker/dealers. Produced on diskette, the piece was sent to a copy center, hand-stuffed and mailed first class.

This manual process lost both time and money. Copying 5,000 16-page booklets is more expensive and produced poorer in quality than offset printing. In addition, the mail had to be hand sorted at the post office. The process was costing the company millions in lost investments.

Reworking the booklet allowed for inexpensive offset printing as well as time-saving machine insertion. Perforations were added to the inside sheets so that broker/dealers could tear out funds of particular interest. More importantly, data support was provided so that its list was properly updated. Duplicates were removed and the list was run through postal software--speeding delivery and reducing postage costs.

THINK SCALABLE

Scalable outsource strategies help ensure consistency of service and communications. One mutual fund company's initial "lick and stick" fulfillment approach was ineffectual in building a brand. Under a new outsourcing arrangement, incoming inquiries were funneled into the fund administrator. These records were then transmitted nightly to the marketing services provider through a modem download. The results: Easy personalization of information, postal savings and expedition through ZIP+4 barcoding and postal presort.

Streamlining the process has paid off. In 14 months, the level of requests has skyrocketed from 25 to 30 requests per day to 300 to 400 daily requests. However, the size of the company's internal marketing team has remained constant.

Whether you're facing a fulfillment crisis, or fine-tuning your processes, here are some considerations to keep in mind.

* Establish goals and ask questions. Establish desired outcomes and apply them as you consider any major shift in direction, process or relationship. How will the decision save money? Get information out faster?

* Look for synergies. Many mutual fund companies outsource their custodial services and marketing services. Establish processes that facilitate seamless transfers between broker/shareholder data capture (custodial services) and production and fulfillment (marketing services). In a successful arrangement, these two providers should capitalize on each other's capabilities.

* Offer options, but standardize the customer's experience. Use the Internet, traditional print and mail fulfillment--or a combination. Make sure that any Web-based response and delivery mechanisms meet or exceed customer expectations. If it takes 24 hours to fulfill a telephone request, it shouldn't take two days to fulfill a Web request.

* Less can do more. Re-engineering your printed piece can result in tremendous cost and time savings. For example, some fund companies are re-working the standard investor welcome kit by creating an envelope/folder "hybrid." A pull of a perforation tab transforms the envelope into a folder. Adding a window to the envelope/folder allows for a personalized letter and facilitates postal savings and expedition through ZIP+4 barcoding and postal presort.

WEB-BASED SERVICE

The Internet has made the updating, distribution and mass customization of information much more seamless. One fund company's "virtual kitting system" allows broker/dealers to pull together order requests via the company's Web site. This information is transmitted to a marketing services company where kits are prepared and mailed the same day, with a personalized letter from the broker.

* Can you reap additional dividends? To support broker requests, one financial company communicated with shareholders on a personalized mail basis. Previously, customer information was stripped of all non-personal data and sent to a central word processing center. There, records were manually edited, data entered, printed and mailed.

Having streamlined its fulfillment system, the company's data are now transferred from its legacy system to the marketing services provider where a "rules-based" program strips non-personal data from each record and re-formats the information. It then inserts a salutation, makes address corrections and postal presorts.

You can't control market gyrations, but you can get your information to brokers and financial planners on time, and the way they want it. That's a key factor in creating good relationships that will weather any investment climate.

CURT J. BYERLEY is president of Harte-Hanks Marketing Services, based in Bellmawr, NJ.
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Comment:Mail Fulfillment for B-to-B Mutual Fund Customers.
Author:BYERLEY, CURT
Publication:Target Marketing
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:910
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