What characterizes a decentralized corporate structure?
Decentralized companies are companies of a brand that operate independently in various locations. This can best be visualized using a sales landscape - in the middle is the head office, which makes all general decisions for the brand and passes it on to local entrepreneurs. Each additional building on the map leads through road links to such a local sales partner, who usually has relatively great freedom in the management of his location. Nevertheless, there are regulations that will be passed on from the headquarters to each decentralized location, which creates a uniform corporate image despite the spatial dispersion.
Central or decentralized marketing
The question of whether a company's centralized or decentralized marketing structure is the right one depends in large part on how the company is generally structured. In companies with a high degree of centralization, the decision-making competencies are usually in the central corporate governance. This provides the important guidelines for the products, the leadership and the responsibilities. This results in a simple control and coordination of the individual activities, but decisions that affect only parts of the company can take a long time. In addition, the expansion of a large headquarters, the customer proximity to the decision makers is lost and the company runs the risk of unrealistic decisions to make. In a decentralized company structure, on the other hand, there are many independent business units that make their own strategic decisions; the head office only plays a coordinating role. Strong decentralization thus allows rapid adjustments to the local market and greater motivation of site managers, as they are given more responsibility. However, it may occasionally happen that decision-making powers are not clearly distributed. This distinction is also transferred to marketing. In decentralized marketing, the central marketing department plays only a trend-setting role, the competence is ultimately mainly at the local level.
For whom is decentralized marketing relevant?
Decentralized marketing is relevant to all companies that are decentralized, but still get local marketing guidelines from headquarters. Industries in which this predominantly applies are:
- Trading company
- Tour operators
Because all of these industries and corporate structures thrive on being represented in many different locations but still want to act as a unified brand, it is very important to have centralized, but locally adapted, decentralized marketing.
Why is decentralized marketing becoming more and more important?
Due to the ever-increasing digitization and globalization, the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and interconnected. The Internet not only makes friends across different regions or continents possible, but also the corporate and working world is adapting to this trend. Location-independent work and projects that operate across different locations of a company are becoming more and more commonplace. So also in marketing. With the ever-cheaper online marketing, many different channels and platforms can be used. In addition, many companies are no longer represented in a single location, but are increasingly decentralized. However, these individual local partners should still implement a unified marketing strategy. To make this possible, they too need constant exchange and good networking.
Together or everyone for yourself?
Especially with decentralized companies, the question often arises, to what extent marketing can be adapted locally in order to still leave a uniform impression. Should all locations pull together or fight for each other? The brand itself should of course be known nationwide and cause a clear brand image. However, products and services are usually purchased locally. The local sales partner must therefore also be findable for the end customer (above all online). In this dilemma, companies have to decide themselves to what extent they give their different locations a free hand. General decisions such as running your own account on social networks must be made by the head office. For example, some major brands such as Apple or BMW operate only one corporate account, others let their sales partners decide for themselves whether they want to use this platform for themselves. The head office also provides guidelines for the correct use of the corporate design. This adherence and the right mediocrity between common and individual benefits in particular from decentralized marketing.
What challenges arise?
In decentralized marketing, digitization in particular is changing the requirements more and more rapidly, making processes faster, more networked and more technical. The target groups that are addressed with the marketing are becoming more demanding and are more enlightened than before. This means that marketing must also be more innovative, direct and target group-oriented. In addition to external pressure, companies and local partners are exposed to enormous cost pressures from within. It should be made more and more marketing, which ideally costs less and less. All this should be ensured in the decentralized structure at the local level. In some cases, however, employees do not have sound marketing knowledge. This and the international mergers of large companies make it increasingly difficult to deliver efficient decentralized marketing. In addition, the question of the overall measurability of marketing success remains unanswered in retrospect.
- Target groups are more enlightened and demanding
- High cost pressure
- Little marketing expertise at the local level
- Missing measurability
- Faster time-to-market
- Uniform brand appearance
Networking and support
In order to simplify the exchange between the head office and the local sales partners, a uniform communication software is available. These can be used for consultation or general information can be forwarded easily and in a structured way to all involved. A uniform system offers the advantage that the communication always follows the same pattern and is regulated. In addition, past information exchanges can be traced back in retrospect and used for any queries. Another advantage of communication software would be the ability to share with each other. This allows them to talk about the current situation in their environment as well as general challenges and to find common solutions. Ideally, this exchange is easy and without additional overhead. This is ensured by a uniform company-wide communication software.
Efficient operation at various locations and with different contact persons also means that as many as possible have the same access to the existing systems in order to make possible the same starting points for all local sales partners. Interfaces mean that the established systems can be consolidated and therefore the least possible restructuring and training of the users has to take place. The use of interfaces thus means that the individual systems, such as databases and communication systems, can be combined and integrated. This facilitates the work of all partners and allows them to access the connected systems directly. Work steps, such as importing data and copying from different systems, are completely eliminated. This means that work can be carried out particularly efficiently and error-free at all locations.
CRM / PIM
In decentralized marketing, it is important to provide all local partners with access to relevant customer data and product information that is important to them. Through the use and maintenance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Product Information Management Systems (PIM), this data and information can be easily and clearly structured for the responsible employees. These central databases form the complete information overview of the company. In order to be able to access certain information in the future, local sales partners do not have to first inquire at headquarters, but can access the data and media at any time. This means that each location can be given the same data basis. This generally leads to a very time- and cost-efficient way of working, in which the individual locations more authority is attributed. Especially in decentralized marketing these management systems offer the possibility to provide pictures and media files and to store customer data centrally for the whole company.
By using a marketing portal, all these functions, such as communication software, integrating databases through interfaces, and sharing information in a portal, can be done. In addition, it is also possible here to provide the marketing materials and make them customizable for the respective partners. By adapting the marketing materials in the system, the corporate design of the company is automatically maintained. Nevertheless, the local sales partners at the various locations can adapt the materials in such a way that they are most successful for their customers (local marketing). In addition to the fixed templates that are already created in the corporate design of the company, marketing portals usually offer the opportunity to publish a brand guide to point out all important design guidelines. Thus, especially in decentralized marketing, a marketing portal is a successful overall concept, which considerably simplifies the work of the marketing-leading partners and the head office.