Hi-tech field marketing is out on its own

Your feature “Trading Places” (MW November 26) makes for an interesting read. But anyone who knows the sector, knows that field marketing companies specialising in technology have always had a different offering to the traditional packaged good merchandising companies. This situation hasn’t changed.

When EMS started with the opening of the first PC World in November 1993, we were offering a combination of staff training and in-store demonstrations as well as traditional merchandising. Our clients demanded it. For them, having their products on shelves was important, but it wasn’t enough.

Given the low penetration rates of PCs in the home, staff and potential customers also needed to understand how that product worked and what it could do for them. To meet this need, our clients wanted field marketing teams who understood technology, could train retail staff and provide the in-store customer support their brands required.

Over the past five years, this need for training has continued to escalate. More than ever, staff in both specialist and non-specialist retail outlets need to understand how a product works before they can sell it. And given that the average shelf life of hi-tech products is 90 days or less, it is a need that is unlikely to diminish.

It is partly this pace of change that has led us to develop far more sophisticated data collection methods than the paper-based methods that continue to work for packaged goods field marketing companies.

If there is a problem with a technology product, we need to respond within hours, not days. Because of this, we now use the Windows Retail CE operating system for palmtops, which EMS developed with Microsoft, to collect and manipulate in-store data in real time.

For clients, this means having critical market intelligence at their fingertips. For us, it means if there is a problem with a product, we can respond by getting out the necessary software patch before irreparable damage is done to our client’s brand. Door-to-door field marketing is one of the only truly emerging new services your article mentions. But in our experience, this does not mean cold selling.

It means adding value to our clients’ customers through installation and home coaching to ensure customers get the most out of their purchases. Because our field agents are already training people about the client’s products in-store, it’s becoming a natural extension to put our people in homes as well.

Your article is right in its main argument – field marketing in the technology sector is changing. But it is an evolution not a revolution for those of us who have been at it since the beginning.

Richard Thompson




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