Marketing: Apria gets up close and personal

Friday, June 30, 2006

LAKE FOREST, Calif. - Apria has rolled out a new Web-based program that allows its hundreds of sales representatives and branch managers across the country to tailor the company's marketing materials to better reach referral sources.
Apria hooked up with Irvine, Calif.-based software vendor MyPrint in early May, in a move that the company says will automate the process of customizing and ordering everything from branch capabilities brochures to sell sheets.
"Sometimes our branches had to attach local stickers or business cards to (marketing materials)," said Lisa Getson, Apria's executive vice president of business development and clinical services. "Now we've got a way to customize a little more directly."
Using MyPrint's eTools, sales reps and branch managers can tailor marketing materials online to include their "exact services," phone numbers, hours of operation and any "special capabilities" that their branches may have, Getson said.
While it recognizes the need to customize the message it sends to the various communities it serves, Apria also plans to maintain a standard message and brand identity.
"They can customize materials--but only according to some pre-determined corporate standards," Getson said.
At the end of the day, Apria foresees the new software increasing the effectiveness of not only sales reps and branch managers but also the two full-time employees who head the company's marketing and communications department.
"Imagine fielding fax orders from more than 500 branches for a pack of brochures here and a sell sheet there, and they all need to be done by the 15th of June," Getson said. "For a $1.5 billion company, we have a small in-house marketing staff."
Joe Groden, owner of JG Consulting in Penfield, N.Y., said automating the process of customizing and ordering marketing materials makes sense for a company of Apria's size, especially with national competitive bidding (NCB) coming down the pike.
When NCB hits next year, more than ever, efficiency will mean everything, he said.