Connecting with customers is an important part of an organization's marketing strategy. Even in this age of electronic communications, face-to-face interactions are still valued.
Behr is committed to engage with a segment of its B2B customers-professional contractors who use Behr's paints and wood stains on their projects. This customer segment is so important that Behr employs a marketing team solely devoted to the professional contractors market. Apart from designing and managing new product launches and developing targeted websites, the team also manages events organized as part of the BehrPro Experience Tour, which sends a team of professionals to500 The Home Depot locations in 34 states every year to connect with professional contractors to answer their questions and provide tips. The 11-strong marketing team plans and promotes activities around these stops.
According to Lisa Kudukis, the team's leader, successfully organizing such events requires several tasks, for example shipping materials, installing signage, and ensuring a consistent look and feel of the branding at each event. Initially the group used Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which she notes was an inefficient tracking system so the team was having difficulties managing all these activities and staying on deadline.
Especially since the team needed to keep track of various activities, several members needed access to the tracking sheets. "Only one person could get into the files at once," Kudukis notes. Further, improper versioning issued often occurred.
After a year using Excel spreadsheets, Behr's pro marketing team recognized the need to replace the spreadsheets with a collaborative tool that would simplify and create consistency around the process of tracking and managing activities and deadlines. Kudukis also pressed for a system that would generate comprehensive reports. "It needed to be easy to use to help us manage the ever-changing details of each activity as well as give us a holistic view of everything we were managing," she explains.
In looking for a new tracking system, Kudukis stressed the importance of an easy-to-learn system. "There's a lot of contact management software but the learning curve was more than we had time and energy for," she says. In 2012 the team implemented Smartsheet, an online project management tool that is helping streamline the process and also improve collaboration among different team members. The team worked with Smartsheet to create the template that would be used to track activities, meaning that every project would have the same look and feel to reduce the learning curve and avoid confusion.
Because the system is streamlined, it provides the necessary information when one person needs to take over from someone else. For example, Kudukis notes that when the person in charge of organizing the roadshows was out sick during one of the events, a fellow team member was able to step in and ensure that the tracking process continued seamlessly.
Further, the system alerts the team when something isn't going as planned. "If a project is running late, it turns red," Kudukis explains. This helps the team quickly identify problems and address them immediately. This system has encouraged everyone on the team to prioritize projects and collaborate-efforts that have improved exponentially. Kudukis notes that the team's productivity has more than doubled as a result of the system, and better planning means an improved satisfaction level among customers who attend events.