Field marketing is expanding its area of influence and increasingly being used to ensure that the brand promise is kept at the point of sale. As part of this trend, field marketing agencies are undertaking different activities, and incorporating capabilities from other areas of marketing.
The expanding scope of field marketing in the competitive IT sector was one of the reasons why EMS Chiara decided to become part of the Mosaic Group.
EMS Chiara chairman Richard Thomson explains: “Our plan was to develop a European network. Many North American brands look at Europe as one territory and want to make one field marketing decision, not 20.
“Since we’ve been part of Mosaic, we’ve made acquisitions in Scandinavia, Benelux, France and Iberia, and we’re just about to close in Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. We’re anxious to have the first network in Europe where we own the whole resource.”
The need for consistent service is a major driver, admits Thomson. “A printing company may use 20 agencies to do its demonstration work throughout Europe and it is unacceptable if the quality varies from country to country,” he says.
Achieving this is not easy in a fragmented market, and makes many new demands on field marketers.
“We’ve got teams now that manage everything, including direct business, dealer and distribution networks and the consumer business at retail. Many of the IT brands we represent are products that need to be sold, rather than ones that can be bought, and a lot revolves around what brand values mean,” he says.
Headcount Field Marketing sales and marketing director Richard Finch says: “Marketing directors are diverting more money into field marketing because they are beginning to see the benefits. We are being asked increasingly to get involved in customer service facilities.
“Clients also approach us for mystery shopping campaigns. They ask us to design the leaflet that will be sent to outlets to advise them of the campaign, and then go to those outlets and pose as customers to see how a manufacturer’s product is being portrayed by the retailer. We may even be asked to educate retailers if we’ve identified that they aren’t presenting the product properly.”
Finch says Headcount is also asked to improve supply chain efficiency. “With a lot of our selling activity, we are required to provide the paper stock and distribute it to our people. Or we work with the wholesalers to make sure the stock is there at the start of the promotion.
“This means pulling stock through from the cash-and-carry to the individual outlets, and educating the outlets about where the stock is available. This provides an important link between the retailer, the wholesaler and the manufacturer,” he says.
Another company getting more involved in meeting supply chain demands is Brann Ellert. Client services manager Stewart Craig says: “The thing that’s changing is that our clients know they have to take a more co-ordinated approach to the push-pull strategy. With increasing centralisation of inventory management, there has been a lowering of the level of contact at individual depot level, with the reps not actually involved in the process of ordering. The result has been a lowering of the information level that gets into the cash-and-carry branches.
“Lower stocks are being held at branch levels and manufacturers’ representatives are covering less. Field marketing is taking a more important role in dealing with the relationship at the point of purchase within the wholesaler and cash-and-carry areas. We’re getting more involved in the level of management that’s required to do that.”
Tom Preece, managing director of Omnicom-owned CPM (UK), says CPM is becoming more holistic in its approach as a result of its acquisition of Intelmark late last year: “We can get to retailers through the Internet, the telephone or face to face, depending on what the most appropriate channel of communication is. Intelmark is now a division of CPM and this has allowed us to put two Omnicom companies together to broaden our range of services.”
As a result, says Preece, CPM is extending field marketing well beyond face-to-face work: “We’re able to contact retailers and cash-and-carries, or whoever they want us to communicate with, in a variety of ways. Telemarketing and the Internet both substitute for and complement face-to-face contact. We use whichever combination makes sense to the client.”
FMCG client services director Russell Green says the increasing number of skills required by field marketers is an inevitable response to increasingly complex products.
“We’ve been working with Kodak for about five years. Initially, our role was to gain distribution in the independent photographic sector and, more recently, the grocery multiples and high street. We now spend far more of our time on calls working with the supply chain people in the store to get the theoretical stock levels right.
“We do a lot of on-entry/on-exit work, and two years ago started to deal with out-of-stocks. When a brand spends a great deal of money on trying to pull consumers into the store, our job is to make sure that when they get there, they can find the product.”
New products quickly go out of stock if the rate of sale is higher than expected because it takes time for retailer computer systems to adjust ordering levels, says Logobrand Retail Solution Strategists sales director Alison White.
“For manufacturers, out-of-stock issues can mean wasted advertising spend, so it is vital that a specialist field marketing agency monitors the product in store to ensure that order levels are adequate. This is where we can play a vital role. Suppliers often fail to ‘close the circle’ by not explaining to stores the logic behind a new product and the support package that will deliver profit to those stores. Trained personnel from specialist field marketing agencies can close this loop,” she says.
Logobrand cites its involvement in Van den Bergh Foods’ launch of Chicken Tonight Sizzle & Stir. “We were at the heart of a comprehensive support campaign, run within the multiples, to ensure fast distribution and low out-of-stocks. This delivered profit to our client and the retailers,” says White.
In response to the new demands on field marketers’ time, Logobrand will later this year introduce a proprietary Web-based service for suppliers, called LaunchTrack, which will enable close monitoring (on an hour-by-hour basis if needed) of a new product launch. Clients will be able to log on and see a detailed record of performance, problems and projections.
Field marketing company Milton Pdm has extended its activities into several diverse areas for different clients. One of these is Adidas, which demands several key skills in store, says managing director Carol Haigh.
“At the point of purchase, the store staff must be able to speak about the product features and display products to meet consumer expectations.
“In addition to product training from the Adidas sales force, retailers receive visits from our merchandisers throughout the promotional period to ensure that window and shop floor displays are set up according to the Adidas brief. Merchandisers are also fully briefed on Adidas product features so that any store staff queries can be handled professionally,” she says.
For Superdrug, Milton Pdm was asked to provide demonstrators for in-store promotions in the health and beauty sector.
“Two demonstrators in each store had the responsibility of delivering the brand promise for all these supplier products. They undertook detailed face-to-face briefing and training for all staff, including application of make-up products and explanation of the product to customers,” says Haigh.
The key to field marketing’s new adaptability is the need to work smarter, not harder, believes FMCG’s Green.
He says: “Field marketers have lots of calls to make and a limited amount of time on each call, so they have to make the most of that time. As an integral part of the service they buy, clients expect us to be able to negotiate, so we’re indirect-selling all the time. When we go into a store we have to have a story to tell, otherwise we’re wasting our client’s money.”