EXTRANET SITES DELIVER EXTRA EFFICIENCY AND VALUE TO CLIENTS
PASSWORD-PROTECTED SITES OFFER PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS, RESOURCES AND MORE
by Dan Kirkpatrick
If you view the World Wide Web only as a tool for doing business better and more efficiently with your customers, you're really only seeing half of the picture. Through the use of password-protected extranet sites, the Web can also streamline and enhance your operations with other key constituencies such as employees, suppliers and business and marketing partners.
"Extranet sites are by no means a total e-business solution for your organization, but they can be a vital component of a complete e-business strategy," notes Ted Priebe, president, Meyocks & Priebe Advertising. "Decentralized operations and outsourcing are becoming the norm, rather than the exception in today's business world. While providing definite benefits, these practices also create significant challenges in communicating and sharing information.
"We've witnessed these firsthand with some of our clients. And that's why we've tasked our agency's digital division to develop solutions to these challenges and not just design Web sites that present a positive image to the public," Priebe adds.
The result for at least two Meyocks & Priebe clients has been extranet sites.
"We felt both Farm Credit Services (7th District) and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board were excellent candidates for this technology," Priebe comments. "We thought each could benefit greatly from having password-protected sites that enabled them to give their key constituencies 24/7 access to information and materials that would help them do their jobs easier and more effectively."
Let's take a little closer look at the extranet sites the agency developed for each of these organizations.
TURNKEY MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS
When AgriBank shifted its focus strictly to wholesale lending a few years ago, the marketing communications burden was placed squarely on the shoulders of the various Farm Credit Services associations. Obviously, this meant each field office would have access to resources that were far more limited compared to those of a centralized marketing department.
Meyocks & Priebe worked with a consortium of five states - Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin - to develop an online marketing resource center that gave each field office's marketing professionals access to more tools than they would have individually.
The password-protected site contains hundreds of high-quality images, and templates for promotional materials that help marketing managers develop targeted, turnkey communications that support each organization's individual marketing objectives.
Consortium members can do image, copy and template searches based on the specific parameters they outline. The site includes an easy-to-use, 10-question worksheet that helps users define product, target audience, budget, delivery method, timeline and expectations. The system provides a summarized report based on the information entered and the materials currently available.
The site is continuously updated with new images and new creative - from print pieces to radio scripts. And because all participating states earmark funds for the resource center and share all the materials created, it exponentially expands the resources available to each individual association.
"The sharing of resources and materials is really an important benefit of the site," says Jean Johnson, marketing communications manager for Farm Credit Services of Grand Forks. "I also like the fact that the images and materials are proprietary to the five participating states. Our competition doesn't have access to these."
Priebe understands that some agencies might have significant concerns about creating a comprehensive, turnkey marketing communications system for their clients. "We realize, though, that in the digital age we have to move faster, and we have to help our clients move faster, or we'll both be out of business," he says.
BEHOLD THE POWER OF WISCONSIN CHEESE
The critical mission of the checkoff-funded Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) is to help grow the demand for Wisconsin raw milk. The greatest opportunity for growth can be found in cheese. Approximately 90 percent of milk produced in Wisconsin is used to manufacture world-class cheese products - from Asiago to Mozzarella.
Obviously, the Wisconsin dairy industry has a heavily vested interest in seeing the state's cheese manufacturers not only survive, but also thrive. It's this stake in the cheese industry that led to the creation of the WMMB extranet site WisconsinCheese.org.
The goal of this site is to provide Wisconsin cheese manufacturers quick and easy access to best-of-class marketing and publicity materials and tools, high-quality images, recipes, and market intelligence. The site also includes an extensive locator feature that helps buyers find suppliers who can meet their exact specifications - for private-label products, as an example.
In this particular instance, the site Meyocks & Priebe developed was comprised largely of images, materials and creative that already existed.
"We have a vast array of resources that can help Wisconsin cheese manufacturers market their products more effectively," says Linda Funk, WMMB vice president of marketing support resources. "But we needed to put a system in place that gave Wisconsin cheese companies easier, more immediate access to all these materials and information so we could support them in their marketing efforts."
Funk would emphasize one bit of advice over all others for any organization that may be weighing the development of an extranet site. "Be absolutely sure your site is incredibly easy to use - even for the person who is turning on a computer for the first time," she says. "Our goal has been to get people who come to the site to say 'WOW! What a great marketing tool. There's terrific material here that we can use immediately.' Meyocks & Priebe has helped us make that impact." AM
Dan Kirkpatrick is a senior public relations manager on the Meyocks & Priebe Advertising team.