From interactive touchscreens to virtual reality, experiential marketing firms are on the front lines of adopting new technology as they deliver unique brand experiences. However, in the back-office agencies often still depend on the traditional expense management methods used for the last several decades: printed forms, stapled receipts, and physical signatures. While time-tested, check systems and manual data entry can be unwieldy and prone to error.
Modernized expense management platforms are simple, sophisticated tools to bring your back-office process up to speed with the rest of your operation.
Here are five ways technology can help experiential marketing firms streamline expense management processes and reduce administration time:
1) Smart Payments
While petty cash and check systems can be difficult to track and introduce the risk of overspending, smart payment tools can enhance security and efficiency as employees make event purchases.
Virtual credit cards are randomly generated numbers that correspond to a physical credit card. Used for online purchases, virtual credit cards offer control over where your information is shared, and protect customers in the event of data breaches or hacks. Users can create individual virtual credit cards for different e-commerce platforms — for example, one for Amazon and one for Walmart — for an extra layer of accountability and security. While effective, virtual credit cards cannot be used at businesses that require a physical card swipe.
Corporate prepaid debit cards are another example of a tool that can help control and secure employee purchases. If employees setting up an event need to pick up last-minute supplies, administrators can transfer money instantly for limited and efficient spending power. Administrators can control spending with daily or transactional limits, as well as block online or mail-order purchases for further fund protection.
2) Real-Time Transaction Tracking
Many small marketing agencies rely on Excel spreadsheets to track and record monthly expenses. But manually entering data into spreadsheets can be tedious and time-consuming, and also introduces the risk of errors.
Automatic transaction tracking improves the accuracy and efficiency of expense reporting. With advanced expense management platforms, businesses can automatically record expenses every time an employee makes a purchase during an event. With geotagged and timestamped records, it’s easy to reconcile purchases at the end of the month. More available data also can help you analyze budgets and look for ways to trim overspending. Timely transaction tracking also improves your ability to capture billable expenses on the ground, so you can create accurate client invoices.
3) Mobile Receipt Capture
Mobile receipt capture simplifies the expense approval process and makes it easy for employees to handle on-the-go expenses as they organize remote events. With expense management apps, employees can take photos of receipts with their smartphone cameras and upload them to the platform. Platforms can then “scan” the images and automatically populate fields with transaction data, essentially creating expense reports for you. Mobile receipt capture can also help identify and prevent fraudulent purchases immediately. Employees don’t have to worry about lost receipts, and you have better expense documentation.
4) Cloud Storage
Cloud storage makes data more available and easier to update by allowing users to access files on any device. Especially for experiential marketing firms that run events in multiple locations, keeping your expense reports and transaction records on the cloud gives administrators more flexibility in when and where they can review their expenses. Cloud storage also enables employees to review their own transaction histories in one place on their mobile devices, so they can self-regulate their spending and add digital notes for greater insight.
5) Open-Source API Access
Application program interfaces (APIs) can connect websites, allowing one to use elements of another and improving the user experience. APIs are what allows you to share online articles on Twitter or use third-party apps on Facebook.
With open-source APIs, expense management platforms can integrate with your existing systems to automate routine tasks specific to your process. For example, say your agency organizes sampling events for new food and beverage products. When you enter a new event into your system, it will trigger an API call to transfer a set amount of funds to the brand ambassador for that event, and reconfigure spend controls so that employees can only make purchases at grocery stores. After an event, APIs can be used to clear any leftover funds to prevent brand ambassadors or on-site employees from making inappropriate purchases. Automation through APIs can eliminate many repetitive tasks and free up capacity for higher-level planning and oversight, overall ensuring that events go off without a hitch.
PEX is a next-generation expense management solution that helps experiential marketing and event production firms manage cash flow, control budget and ensure security — all of which improves your bottom line. With the full capability of the platform on your mobile device, it’s easy to manage events both on the ground and at the office.