In today’s retail environment, field marketing is an essential arrow in any supplier’s quiver. Take the right approach: you have nothing to fear and everything to gain. In addition, the retailer you work with also benefits. However, don’t use or misuse it, or you may both end up paying dearly for it.
Why is a field marketing strategy so necessary?
If you’ve spent time reading our category management blog, you’ll know we’ve written a few articles on field marketing. Most of them deal with the basics, why you and other suppliers should adopt it, and how it can boost sales of your products.
What you won’t find, however, is an article on field marketing strategy. And yet, you could easily argue that it’s your strategy that should underpin everything else.
There is also the fact that your investment (or lack thereof) can have an impact on your relationship with a retailer, which can also have an impact on your reputation.
Here is an example to illustrate this.
Suppose your field marketing team visits a store and you want to increase the futures market share of your products but have not yet decided how you are going to get there. You also did not give them instructions. But it turns out that there is a space in the shelf so your team quickly fills it with your products without telling the store manager. Problem solved ? Not quite.
Since there is no strategy or mutual agreement behind what your field marketing manager has done, you are working against the best interests of the category. What could worsen the situation is if you later find that the additional term you have given to your products contravenes the approved planogram for the category in question.
Key elements of a successful field marketing strategy
1. Think about what you want to achieve
The first step in developing a strategy, whatever its purpose, is the most obvious: you need to decide what you want to achieve.
Now, any discussion of what you want to accomplish should automatically lead you to the very reasons why you and other providers should invest in field marketing.
Let’s say you want to understand how consumers engage with your products in store. Alternatively, you can get in touch with buyers personally and find out what they need from your product. You may have already asked them what they expect, in which case you want to check with them to find out if you have been successful. Or you can simply promote your message for a new range of products.
With a field marketing software, you can quickly and easily check the conformity of the planogram of a store.
While we will go into the details of how your field marketers can achieve all of these goals as well as others in the next section, it is important to emphasize that it all boils down to understanding your strategic intent.
By understanding your intention, you will at least know if you are going in the right direction, because everything that follows should support your strategic intention.
2. Determine how you will achieve your goal (s)
Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to determine how you are going to achieve those goals.
Fortunately, there are many different ways for a field marketer to achieve either of the above goals. A look at their responsibilities will tell you. They are responsible, among other things, for ensuring compliance with the physical standards of a store and for correcting any errors in order to improve the in-store shopping experience.
But how does this allow you, as a supplier, to achieve your goals?
Let’s say that one of your goals is to promote a new range of products. It may be that the store does not have it in stock yet and you want to test the interest of buyers. You could set up an in-store promotional stand , which will allow your Field Marketing Manager to connect with consumers.
If, on the other hand, you want to monitor store compliance, you can send your marketing staff to the stores in the field with a planogram to verify compliance. If they find errors, they can fix them quickly.
Of course, you need to be aware of your situation when you decide how you want to achieve these goals. For example, the resources you have, the size of your field marketing team, and the number of stores you need to cover will influence how you approach your marketing efforts in the field.
3. Equip your field marketing team with the right technology
Even if you have goals and you know how you will achieve them, it does not matter much if you do not have specialized software to help you.
Before proceeding, it is important to note that it is not a question of using technology for pleasure. Rather, it’s about choosing the right technology. So how do you know if you’ve chosen the right technology and that it will point you in the right direction and, most importantly, help you achieve your goals?
All of this diminishes functionality. Below are a series of features that your field marketing software should include:
First of all, the software must be able to automate your sales reps’ store visit cycles. This is fine if your team is currently small enough that you can handle this without software, but you have to think long term. What if your team is growing and you need to plan and track store visits for 10 or even hundreds of field merchandising managers? It will end up being a nightmare for you.
With software to automate this process, this is no longer a problem. This becomes even less of a concern if the software can also track the location of your staff throughout the day.
Improve the efficiency of your mobile workforce with field marketing software
Second, you need to have access to an ability that will help your field marketers examine your store brands and see how they appear on the shelves alongside those of your competitors. This means that whatever software you choose should allow you to design in-depth questionnaires so that you can gather the information you need to execute a better brand and field marketing strategy.
Third, the software you choose must have real-time compliance reports. One of the responsibilities of your merchandisers is to correct any errors in the store during the implementation of the planogram.
While you can trust them to finish their job, it’s still worth the opportunity to verify compliance yourself. Once your merchandisers are done, they can upload the evidence to a centralized dashboard so you can check it in real time.
4. Measure your results against your initial goals
If you’ve made sure your goals weren’t too ambitious and you’ve put in place specialized software, the final step shouldn’t be daunting.
You might even argue that this is the best part since you can find out if what you have done has helped you achieve what you first set out to accomplish.
It all comes down to the merchandising software chosen. Since your field marketers and merchandisers can collect data while they work and feed it into a centralized database, you’ll know what’s going on in the store.
You will also know what you need to do to resolve the issues that your staff have highlighted. For example, you can make suggestions for ordering inventory if your sales representative or merchandiser notices that inventory in the store is decreasing. Additionally, you can perform an inventory control audit, checking both on-shelf and in-store inventory.