Field marketing agencies and their clients know that the calibre of promotions staff is crucial to the success of their campaigns, so they must choose and train them carefully. By Steve Hemsley
There is something about the first week back at work in January that is fundamentally depressing. Miserable weather, festive debt and the feeling that we must get healthier can make even the most optimistic among us feel completely fed up.
This state of mind has not gone unnoticed by the marketing team at Innocent Drinks, which ran a new year sampling campaign for its smoothies last month, claiming its products were the perfect antidote for the winter blues.
Yet for the activity at mainline stations to be a success, it needed the promotional staff to have a clear understanding of what the brand stood for and what personality traits were needed to cheer up stressed commuters returning to work.
Innocent did not take any chances. The staff it selected in December with the help of MBA Field Marketing spent January 2 at the brand’s head office on a refresher course so they could talk authoritatively about the range.
If Innocent had not spent a considerable amount of time and money finding exactly the right mix of people and training them effectively, the whole creative concept might have failed.
Whatever the brand or the time of year, recruiting staff for core field marketing or sexy brand experience campaigns is something the industry has had to get to grips with as the discipline has become more professional and clients have increased their budgets.
It is the brand ambassadors, not the marketing director, that the customers meet in the field and poor execution of a creative idea can actually end up damaging the brand. So the selection process for suitable staff must be as water-tight as possible. Agencies will usually control a database listing hundreds of names with a profile of every individual, including details of everything from the colour of their hair and eyes to their skills and personality.
“Clients can be concerned about the quality of staff so agencies need to reassure them the right people are being matched with their brand. This means using proper interviewing techniques,” says Gekko Partners managing director Daniel Todaro. “If a client has certain expectations, it must be prepared to pay extra for the best people.”
Continuity and consistency
Some agencies, such as Geoff Howe Marketing Communications (GHMC), say it is better to have on their database a few well trained staff who can work consistently with the same brands. “Continuity is an important factor in successful field marketing,” says GHMC director Simon Marjoram.
Lucy Braybrook-Morris is a director at brand experience company Theatre’s staffing division, Cast and Crew. She agrees that finding the right staff is not just about searching a database for appropriate skills and characteristics but also ensuring suitable event managers are in place and the correct team of people is created.
“The people we use must be good communicators, energetic and trustworthy,” she says. “It is ultimately the promotional staff in the field who will dictate whether a campaign meets its objectives.”
There is an image of the stereotypical promotions girl that agencies have been determined to change. The key, they say, is to persuade clients to look beyond appearances and accept it is more important that a person can connect with the brand and empathise with the target audience.
LoewyBe is one agency that has recently started using psychometric testing, and even uses body language experts. Personnel director Louise Stacey says staff are given body language training because only around 7% of communication is verbal.
“For instance, staff will be shown, when approaching a group of people, how to identify the leader because that will be the person who needs to be persuaded in order for their peers to follow,” says Stacey.
Training is only part of the jigsaw when it comes to ensuring brand ambassadors perform to the best of their ability on behalf of a client. The field team must also feel valued and motivated.
“The secret is to identify which people on your database are the most suitable for your clients and to drive loyalty so they stay with you,” says Simon Couch, account director at brand experience consultancy RPM. “This could involve financial bonuses, summer barbecues, Christmas parties, a monthly newsletter or just paying people weekly.”
Effective human resources
The competitive nature of field marketing and brand experience recruitment has prompted many agencies to invest more in human resources.
One company in need of an effective HR resource is agency Raisley which puts all staff on PAYE contracts for each project they work on. Managing director David Foster admits this is an administrative nightmare but insists his clients benefit. “Our clients’ integrity is at stake and this approach offers guarantees about our service,” he says.
The employment status of workers in this discipline was discussed in detail with the Department of Trade and Industry last year. The Direct Marketing Association legal team and Field Marketing Council chair Alison Williams negotiated an industry exemption from the Government’s Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations.
Most companies boast that their people are their most important asset, but for field marketing agencies this really does have to be true or their credibility would collapse. That would leave them as miserable as a wet weekend in January.