Why most foodservice sales intranets fail

Over the last few years I’ve peeked inside a few dozen foodservice company intranets while helping create sales communications content or training programs.

Most intranets are a sad state of affairs.  Neglected.  Cumbersome.  The forgotten stepchild of the company website.  Often evolving into a boneyard for outdated presentations, sell sheets and/or a directory listing of broker offices.

Frankly, most foodservice company intranets (or extranets out to brokers and such) are a significant waste of money.  Not because of the technology or the initial good intentions, but from a lack of focus.

The few outstanding intranet examples I have seen share a few commonalities:

  • Dedicated internal or outsourced staff that lives to find or create relevant content for the field sales force (or brokers).  The hope that folks will “volunteer” to post content is almost guaranteed to fail.  An internal sales communications platform is no different than any medium trying to attract an audience… it needs full-time care and attention.
  • A focus on modifying or creating actionable sales tools like product selection guides or quick videos on product prep instructions… not just being a repository for marketing brochures.  Have an off-the-record conversation over a beer sometime with a few reps.  Nearly every rep will tell you they keep their favorite presentations or marketing assets tucked away — even though the pieces are no longer “approved.”  Embrace these peccadillos because the assets must be important if reps hang on to them.  Then refresh and re-purpose the pieces in your next update round (you’ll be honored immensely).
  • Find a primary mission for the intranet.  The best ones, at least in the beginning, start by trying to solve one primary issue.  Maybe you need better sales funnel tracking.  Or easier sharing of best practices or customer applications.  Perhaps your broad foodservice portfolio requires reps go through constant product training.  The sales intranets that fail usually try to do too much too soon.   Solve one issue in a dependable way and you’ll create raving users… then slowly start adding other functions.

Adequately supporting an intranet will do more to build a brand, improve sales and create leadership than a customer-facing website.  I know many of my marketing brethren may not like that last statement.

But in a B2B relationship business like foodservice, an engaged sales force creates more brand touch points every day than anything else that a company collectively does.  So, the intranet deserves at least as much attention as the company website.

Next week:  How to create a video training library for foodservice products without busting your budget