Quality Sales Materials on the Fly
Thompson West reveals details behind its new online collateral-ordering system where sales reps can customize, get estimates and order sales promotions from their desktops.
Thomson West is a leading provider of integrated information solutions to the U.S. legal market, selling legal books and online services to law students, lawyers, and law librarians. It has 2,000 sales representatives, tasked with promoting the company brand and selling a wide range of legal products.
As in any company, each sales representative relies on marketing material to help him achieve his sales goals. These materials can include: direct mail, product collateral, and event invitations and signage that is customized for their target audiences and product lines.
Traditionally, the sales representatives would work with Thompson West's creative services department to create marketing pieces that were manually tweaked and customized. Consequently, the creative services team spent a great deal of time managing the creation of different marketing materials to meet the changing needs of each of the 2,000 sales representatives.
This system was obviously time-consuming and expensive. The creative services team was spending too much time tweaking existing materials and not creating new design projects. The sales representatives felt challenged because they were not able to respond quickly to competitive marketing efforts.
While looking for solutions to these problems, the creative services department faced an additional challenge. The internal IT department said it would be a two-year wait before they could provide the technical resources needed to develop an online collateral system. The creative services department's goal, however, was to get a system launched much faster in order to free up the staff to work on more design-intensive projects.
The department turned its search for solutions outside the company. It decided to invest in Pageflex Storefront, a turnkey Web-to-print application for collateral management, document customization and digital printing and e-commerce. Using Storefront, the staff was able to launch an initial pilot program in less than three weeks without any formal training on the application.
"Unlike most online literature management systems, which can be cumbersome and technically challenging, Storefront has been simple to implement and very effective," says Arlene Berensen, technology lead at Thomson West. "It took us just one day to get up and running—and that was without training."
Once the system was in place, the Thomson West creative services department began offering sales representatives online collateral customization and ordering services. To streamline operations further, they developed unique portal sites to serve sales representatives from different divisions of the company. For instance, the Westlaw Academic Collateral Store enables sales representatives to customize collateral for specific promotional events and sales opportunities that target law students.
The sites are available to sales representatives behind a secure firewall or via remote access for approved staff. Online help is accessible from within the sites, and a Microsoft Word document was distributed to serve as a simple reference guide.
HOW IT WORKS
When a sales representative logs into a Thomson West online collateral store, the sales representative can select document templates from various categories, such as documentation, law review and events. The sites provide collateral as static PDFs and customizable templates. Sales representatives can view all the pages of a document online.
The sales representatives can customize and order a whole range of documents—from postcards to event banners—through the collateral store. The most popular documents include:
• Direct Mail. The sales representatives can choose from a series of letters targeting potential customers. The letters range from introductory letters to follow-up letters and sales letters that describe the benefits of working with Thomson West. The sales representative's signature is automatically added to the letter. A mailing database can be uploaded and merged with a letter for addressing and personalization.
• Event Banners. A sales representative can enter a custom headline and subhead to create a 3-foot by 8-foot banner.
• Event Flyers. The sales representative can choose the background image, headline and an optional subhead. The system controls the number of characters the sales representative is allowed to type for these text options.
• Invitations—to parties, events, and training sessions. The invitation can be customized with the date, time, location, and RSVP information. In some cases, the sales representative can even upload a mailing database for personalization.
• Letters. Sales representatives can customize the greeting and write the body of the letter by typing directly in a document view within the Web browser, and can customize the contact information and add (and crop on screen) his or her photograph.
• Postcards. Seven templates promote online continuing legal education (CLE) classes offered by Thomson West. The sales representative selects a template online and customizes the postcard for a specific class with information such as date, time and the number of California Law Examination credits the participant will receive upon completing a specific course.
When creating the customizable templates, the creative services staff "locked" some items on the page in order to maintain the Thomson West brand identity and design standards. An online approvals process can route customized documents to supervisors to handle quality assurance issues—such as looking for typos—in advance of the document being digitally printed.
The sales representative indicates online the desired quantity to be printed and gets an estimate of the UPS shipping charge. A notice appears on the ordering page explaining the paper or fabric the item will be printed on.
Thomson West extended the Pageflex Storefront product with a module that sends an ordered file to a specific printer in the print queue through an Open Prepress Interface (OPI) server. Documents are digitally printed in-house at the Xerox print center located in Thomson's facility. Wide-format inkjet printers located in the creative services department are used to produce banners. Printed documents are sent to the sales representative via UPS.
The ability to rapidly launch a system, maintain the system in house, and minimize ongoing creative labor hours spent on simple template customization will enable Thomson West to recoup their investment in less than a year.
The additional benefits of the new system became obvious as soon as sales representatives began utilizing it. According to Berensen, "Our purchase of Storefront has been easily justifiable. One project alone this year will pay for it, while we will utilize it for a number of projects."
BENEFITS OF THOMSON WEST'S NEW ORDERING SYSTEM
Some specific benefits of the new online collateral ordering system, noted by Arlene Berensen, technology lead at Thomson West:
1. The turnaround time between when sales representatives request printed materials and when they have them in-hand has been reduced to 48 hours. Previously the turnaround time varied widely depending on the complexity of the order and the current workload in the creative services department. In was not unusual for orders to take more than a week or even a few months to be designed and produced.
2. The process for getting printed materials is no longer a hindrance to rapidly responding to a competitive selling situation.
3. Sales representatives are empowered to develop collateral and signage as needed.
4. The Thomson West brand identity and quality standards are being rigorously maintained.
5. Sales representatives order documents ranging in size from 9 inches by 3 inches to 8 feet by 3 feet that are digitally printed on both paper and fabric.
6. Simple site navigation leads sales representatives through the online customization and ordering process regardless of whether they have had training.
7. The Creative Services staff has the time to work on new, design-intensive projects that would have previously been out-sourced.
ABOUT THOMSON WEST
Thomson West was founded by John B. West in 1872. The company produces many leading-edge products and services focused on the successful practice of law, including:
• The West Topic and Key Number System, the master classification system of U.S. law;
• Westlaw, the industry-leading service, with 16,700 legal, financial and business news databases;
• KeyCite, the citation research service.
Today, Thomson West provides its customers with legal, regulatory and business information, and the most innovative technology tools to manage it. In addition to being the home of Westlaw, Thomson West annually publishes over 66 million books and 500 CD-ROM libraries.
The company leverages its knowledge of the legal market with solutions for client development and legal office automation, provided by affiliated Thomson businesses, Thomson Elite and Findlaw. In addition, Thomson West offers a number of legal education components, including online continuing legal education (CLE) courses and preparatory materials for the Bar review.
West has been part of Thomson Corp. since 1996, and now forms part of the Thomson Legal and Regulatory market group.