Sharp Electronics Corporation's business products division was in an enviable position at the forefront of a new technology. It was the industry leader in a market with just four or five competitors, and it sat in the driver's seat for eight years before the market became more competitive.
In the economic and market shifts that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Sharp found itself in a competitive industry that now had almost 50 rival companies, which resulted in new challenges. Management executives realized if Sharp wanted maintain its competitive advantage, it needed to make changes.
"We were competing primarily on price point and needed to find new ways to edge out competitors. That's when we decided we needed to communicate with our customers a lot quicker than the competition," said Sharp's Jerry Ganguzza.
Becoming More Efficient
Ganguzza understood the challenges: managing communications with a complex dealer and distributor network; weak lead qualification, distribution, and management and reduced resources. The team spent four months developing a strategic plan and researching solutions before selecting CDC MarketFirst, a sophisticated marketing automation and lead management system from CDC Software.
"We finally came to the realization that we needed some type of marketing automation system that does more than just send out e-mail," said Ganguzza, who is now Sharp's associate director of trade shows and events. "We needed something that could also track and monitor all of our marketing activities."
"We needed a solution that could build on our business and do the things that we wanted to do, and CDC MarketFirst is the only software that did that for us."
Complex Dealer Network
Sharp's business products division focuses on high-end LCD projectors and professional flat-panel monitors, and it markets primarily to dealers, distributors, resellers and consultants — not consumers.
Dealers are authorized based on the products or product line they sell, as well as by territory and market. It's a complex network that creates problems when it comes to distributing leads. When a lead comes in, Sharp uses a list of criteria to determine where to send it.
"We have to match the authorized dealers to the industries and the territories because we have different markets that our dealers sell to — not every dealer sells to every market — and they are also only allowed to sell within a certain territory within the United States," Ganguzza said.
Right Leads to Right People
To make this process less challenging, CDC MarketFirst workflows were built to ensure the right leads are distributed to the right dealers automatically. This reduced the chance for error and the amount of time it takes for a lead to get to a dealer.
Prior to implementing CDC MarketFirst, two people were in charge of qualifying and distributing every lead that came in, which at times meant it took more than a week to process a lead. Inevitably, that resulted in some leads falling through the cracks.
"We found that we had inadequate lead follow-up — about 58 percent of the leads sent to dealers and resellers were never followed up on," said Ganguzza. "We also had inefficient lead qualification and ranking. Around 60 percent of leads we had initially ranked as `cold' ended up purchasing a Sharp LCD product within six months of contacting the company, indicating that we were misinterpreting lead quality."
Using the new marketing automation system, the process has changed dramatically. "When a lead comes in, the information is put into CDC MarketFirst and the software determines the dealer that matches the criteria," said Ganguzza. "It will link the dealer to the lead and then disseminate the lead information to that dealer automatically."
Approximately 85 percent of Sharp's leads come from its telemarketing team, which asks prospects a series of qualification questions from a script provided through the marketing automation system.
"The script is dynamic; as the caller answers a question, the following question is generated based on the previous response," said Ganguzza. "CDC MarketFirst captures the data from the response and assigns leads based on the information."
While sales teams are busy working with hot leads, CDC MarketFirst automatically nurtures the other leads. The software is configured to remind the telemarketing team when it is time to follow up with people who have requested product collateral.
Since implementing CDC MarketFirst, Sharp's lead follow-up has increased to 100 percent. Not surprisingly, Sharp's repeat business rate has also increased 20 percent.
The key to making Sharp's business model work is delivering information to dealers quickly. The communications range from time-sensitive pricing and promotions, to training sessions and product information.
"We required the ability to quickly and accurately communicate product and pricing information to increase the volume of communications to our distributors. We also had to personalize communications with the proper price list and products for each distributor," said Ganguzza.
Electronic newsletters and smaller e-flashes are sent out three times per month, up to 100,000 at a time. CDC MarketFirst's ability to send out multiple communications quickly allows Sharp respond to the marketplace as well. For example, it can quickly send out a new promotion when a competitor drops its prices.
In less than one year, Sharp Electronics' business products division increased its number of qualified leads ten-fold, decreased its cost-per-lead by 85 percent, and reduced advertising costs by 28 percent using CDC MarketFirst. And within the first three weeks of using the software, Sharp had collected a volume of leads equivalent to 96 percent of the previous year's total leads.
In addition to providing Sharp with powerful campaign-management capabilities, CDC MarketFirst has also enabled the company to completely realign the manner in which sales leads are captured, ranked and distributed to its resellers.
"I think we are the only manufacturer in our industry that does this type of lead dissemination and generation," said Ganguzza. "If we did not have CDC MarketFirst, I don't think we would see the amount of sales that we do now."
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