A customer calls with questions about the dimensions of a new product you are selling. It turns out the initial specs are nothing like the final product, and an update from their sales rep did nothing to clear up the confusion.
An ecommerce company wants to sell a product and needs an API for the listing on their website, but the manufacturer’s marketing team isn’t sure where to pull the information. The ecommerce company can’t wait for an answer and decides to go with another product.
A sales rep needs to answer product questions from a new prospect, but the rep isn’t sure where to get the information. She sends out questions to the engineer and marketing team, and reviews the initial design specs she received a few months ago. She got a different answer from each source.
An engineer has to make a change to a product to meet new regulations. The product is already being sold across the country, and the engineer isn’t sure who to talk to about the change. There’s no process to inform the channel partners selling the product.
A new marketing intern is pulling product data for a new catalog. Different departments provide different information. No one can agree on anything. The process takes significantly longer than it should, and it looks like the catalog will be late to the printer.
Sales Relies on Accurate Information
Problems like this may seem ridiculous at first, but companies across the country are dealing with these situations on a daily basis. Who controls the product information? Is there a single source of truth for a product? If a change occurs, how do you make an update across sales channels? Can a customer service rep or sales leader rely on the information they pass to a customer or prospect? Is the information they have even accurate?
The truth is, sales is just as much about information as it is a product or service. If you are selling a product, then you need to consider you are also selling accurate information about it. Your customers expect and demand accurate data. No longer can product information live in a spreadsheet, on a desktop or in an employee’s head. It needs to live in the cloud. It needs to be accessible. It needs to be accurate. Any change in the information needs to be made across sales channels. Business success requires pinpoint accuracy and control of information.
That requires a cloud-based Product Information Management (PIM) system.
What is PIM?
A Product Information Management system provides a single place to collect and manage all the information and data necessary to market and sell a product through multiple distributive channels. It provides tools like integration channels and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to connect with and update channel partners instantaneously.
Types of Data Handled by a PIM
As a business, you probably have multiple apps and systems supporting sales and operations. For example, you may have an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) for billing, accounting and HR (Human Resources). Depending on your needs, you’ll have a few marketing systems. Other departments will have their own systems.
So where does a PIM fit? Let’s look at the types of data that can be handled in a PIM.
- Technical data. Specifications and measurements for the product. Often the technical data will be provided to the businesses that will sell the product through other channels, or it may even be a resource for the end users. Examples include:
- Measurements and design plans
- Ingredients and materials
- Production instructions or assembly notes
- Style sheets or information from the designer
- Manufacturing data
- Usage information. Usage information and instructions are critical for the end user. Often, this information is used not only in customer service and processes after the sale, but also during the sale. This information could include:
- Warranty information
- Instructions for use
- Warnings and legal disclaimers
- Product data like UPCs and SKUs
- Taxonomy information like product variations and categories
- Sales and marketing content. Information is a critical part of the sales and marketing process, and can be collected and managed in the PIM. Once stored in the PIM, it is readily available to your website or an ecommerce system, helping to empower your sales process. Examples of this data include:
- Sales copy and product descriptions
- Sales collateral, sell sheets and customer stories
- Digital assets like graphics and videos
- SEO information, focus keywords and buyer personas
- Pricing information and customer reviews
- Other information. Often in sales there will be a unique need for product data. For example, data specific to a sales channel can be linked in the system. Examples of this information include:
- Multilingual copy
- Product information for Google
- Sales and ordering data for specific distributors
The Benefits of PIM for Business
An effective PIM makes it easier for the business to market and sell products. It improves the data quality, since users aren’t having to research and re-input data whenever a need arises. It increases productivity, as data isn’t being handled by multiple employees. With the entire company working from a single product database, sales, marketing and operations will see increased alignment.
Companies that move from a disparate, dated and disconnected information system to a modern, cloud-based PIM will see rapid benefits, including:
- Increased sales opportunities: With a PIM managing data, you can easily manage multiple sales channels, including ecommerce, retail, distributors and marketplaces.
- Eliminate errors: With only a single source of truth to manage for your product, you can better manage the data and identify errors quickly.
- Integration opportunities: Reduce the need for maintaining data in multiple locations. Look at integrations to your website, an ecommerce system or a configurator. Simplify the need to update and make effective use of product data.
- Eliminate redundancies: Stop inputting data multiple times in disconnected databases. Reduce overhead, eliminate wasted work and align output across teams.
- Better customer service: Answer customer product questions with confidence. When an information request comes in, distribute the right answer in just a few minutes.
- Optimized content: Rather than re-creating work for every channel, you are creating and optimizing rich, consistent content to provide a better customer experience.
- Increased productivity: Your team has instant access to the product information they need. You aren’t wasting time and resources finding data. Instead, you’re focused on higher priority tasks.
Selecting a PIM for Your Business
When looking at a PIM, there are a few things you should keep in mind for your evaluation:
- What information can it manage? You want a PIM that can freely handle many different types of data, from media files to raw data. Restrictions on the data you can link in the system will limit how you use the system.
- Is the system cloud-based? You need a PIM that is instantly accessible from anywhere. If your data isn’t accessible in the cloud, you may find that you struggle with the critical data that is simply out of reach.
- Is it easy to use? It is likely that the system will be collecting and providing information to and from multiple departments, different systems and people. Some of those departments and people may not be comfortable with complex systems, so you need to keep it easy. If it’s not easy to use, then people won’t use it.
- Is it robust and scalable? Many times when you purchase software, you purchase for current needs. Needs change, your business will grow, and you’ll be bringing on new products and selling to new customers. You need a PIM that is built for the future and will grow as your business grows.
Contact GO2 Partners today if you have questions or are interested in learning more about our PIM systems or business technology solutions. We’ve been helping companies solve problems and grow their business for more than 25 years. Let’s see what we can do to help you.