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Is Your Marketing Supply Chain “Prepped” – Three Questions to Ask

The concept of preparedness is a hot topic but it’s nothing new. Anyone who was ever in scouting or the military is familiar with the practice of being prepared. It’s simply more in the public eye today. Between public service campaigns urging every household to have a basic survival kit ready for common emergencies and documentaries on “extreme preppers” outfitted to survive and thrive in the face of just about anything man or nature can conjure up, being prepared has become part of mainstream culture. Being prepared is a great idea. Whether you choose to have a box with some basics to make it through a bad storm or a bunker to survive doomsday is up to you; but logic and history tells us that you go wrong with being prepared. However, when most of us think about being prepared, we think in terms of home and family not business.

True, many organizations have a general crisis plan for when they are directly impacted by the unforeseen. Disaster preparedness and recovery plans are also common to most IT operations. But what happens when the unforeseen strikes others you depend upon and the situation is beyond the scope of internal plans? What happens when the printer who is producing materials for a critical product launch campaign is impacted by a hurricane, tornado, wildfire or earthquake? The idea here is not to wish for such a tragedy; but rather to point out that even your marketing supply chain is vulnerable to the effects of disaster at many levels. Something as simple as a major power outage in the vicinity of one of your vendors has the potential to impact your marketing operations. In many parts of the United States, the late summer is prime time for nature-related emergencies; which leads to the question of whether your marketing supply chain has been prepped for disaster? Here are three questions to consider:

Is your vendor pool deep, and well-qualified, enough that you have multiple options available?

If you rely on a very small pool of vendors you are putting your marketing initiatives at risk. If one of these vendors becomes unavailable, even temporarily, your projects may take a hit that can be hard to recover from. Solid vendor qualification is equally as important. Even if you have a fair number of vendors who can pick up the slack from an out-of-commission competitor; if they are not clearly and objectively qualified as equals you could end up with less than acceptable results. A well-prepared marketing supply chain has vendor redundancy not only in numbers, but in capability and capacity as well.

Do you have easy access to all of your project assets and specifications?

In order to be able to work around unforeseen circumstances in your marketing supply chain you need to be agile. In the midst of a situation where a vendor is unable to operate in their normal capacity, you need to be able to take all assets, files, details and specifications for a project and shift them to another vendor. Any time spent searching for assets, recompiling information and getting it out to substitute vendors is time wasted. A robust project and workflow management regimen with provisions for management of project assets, tracking of all actions and the ability to directly connect with your vendor pool is a key element of having a well-prepared marketing supply chain.

Do you know where your projects are in the production cycle?

Suppose that a direct mail project is being printed and assembled by one vendor who will send it to another vendor for processing and mailing. An unforeseen circumstance has taken the print vendor temporarily off-line sometime after you sent the project to them. If you don’t know where your project is in its production cycle, you don’t know if it has been impacted. If you knew where it was, you would know whether it needed to be routed to another printer, or if the printer finished their part before they were impacted and it’s already at the mail house. If you don’t know, you’ll need to spend precious time finding out. Having a solid grasp of where your marketing materials are in their production cycle is another key part of a well-prepared marketing supply chain.

Like being prepared for the unforeseen in any other portion of life, ensuring that your marketing supply chain is prepared for circumstances beyond your control certainly isn’t limited to three areas. However by asking yourself the three questions above and thinking about your answers you are off to a good start that is likely to lead to more considerations. Can you think of any others? If you do, be sure to share them with us!