At What Cost? Thoughts on Field Marketing

brand, "brand experience", conferences, "digital marketing", "engagement marketing", "entertainment marketing", "event marketing", events, experiences, "experience marketing", "experiential marketing", marketing, "social media", "trade shows"Field Marketing can be described as product sampling, demonstrations or assisted sales at retail or otherwise by brand ambassadors. While this tactic does indeed have value for some brands and retailers, it is important to understand the role of Field Marketing when considering investment. To this end, here are a few guiding thoughts and principles to consider.

Field Marketing will not pay for itself.

Field Marketing is an expensive tactic as it relates to ROI. Unless you are promoting a product which has a respectable price point, an unusually high margin, or a significant volume of sales, ROI will not meet expectations at the transaction level. There are several factors which influence this. These include whether or not a program is managed internally, through a staffing agency, or a shopper marketing / field marketing agency. The significant cost of labor, management, materials, and training, coupled with multiple levels of agency markup will negatively impact ROI.

Field Marketing builds awareness and consideration.

While impressions are typically measured in a range from thousands to millions, typical impressions are but fleeting glimpses of branded content by consumers. The advantage of a Field Marketing program, is consumers have an opportunity to look a brand in the eye, physically engage in a branded conversation, and have a deep interaction with the product. True, the number of impressions in a typical retail or pop-up environment is lower than general advertising, the quality of these impressions is exponentially higher, often resulting in an immediate improvement in consideration, or purchase. This can be especially effective for a new product launch with a need to disrupt a category. This approach works well in many categories, including home improvement, consumer electronics, grocery, liquor, etc.  As is the case in any measured media program, reach and frequency is critical. Higher frequency and length of store visits improves volume of engagements and ultimately product awareness, consideration and transaction.

Field Marketing increases market share.

For continuity programs, brands who deploy Field Marketing programs vs. competitors who do not, typically capture far more market share over time. This is not only true for growing categories, but in declining markets as well. If your category is shrinking or dying, Field Marketing can help ensure your business grows despite marketplace dynamics. One major consideration here is in categories where there are multiple brands competing for attention using the same Field Marketing tactics. Unfortunately, this drives commoditization, causes consumer confusion, and may drive consumers to leave the retailer or channel to pursue alternative products on their own terms.

Field Marketing improves loyalty and promotes advocacy.

Reach and frequency of store visits are also important for keeping customers. Brand Ambassadors in continuity programs often build relationships with the shoppers who frequent the retailer and keeps competitors at bay. This is especially true for those products which require frequent, repeat purchase (think grocery, liquor, pet, etc.). Customers feel validated in their previous purchase and may later increase share of basket via complementary products, accessories, etc. Regardless of category, Brand Ambassadors can also have a positive ripple effect on store associates through regular engagement, training and incentive programs. This amplification often results in increased sales outside of normal store visits as associate advocacy programs take effect.

Field Marketing needs help.

Integration with pricing and promotional strategies is critical to the success of any Field Marketing program. Additionally, Field Marketing needs air support from advertising, and should be integrated with digital, social and direct campaigns to ensure success. These tactics lift the performance of Field Marketing, helping bolster the ROI of the entire marketing mix.

Before investing in any Field Marketing program, first understand objectives, then ensure it is the right tool for the job. Also, ensure measurement is not based on transaction alone, or at the very least, set realistic expectations on program performance against sales objectives. From here, determine if your plans are best suited by a pulse or continuity program, and make sure the way (internal, staffing agency, shopper marketing / field marketing agency) in which you deploy the program matches cost vs. quality considerations.


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Just Say No!

brand, "brand experience", conferences, "digital marketing", "engagement marketing", "entertainment marketing", "event marketing", events, experiences, "experience marketing", "experiential marketing", marketing, "social media", "trade shows"Too often, brand / agency relationships are formed on weak foundations. The story often begins as a RFI or RFP. The brand has a specific ask and the agency has capabilities, real or imagined, that loosely fit the request. Similar to a middle-school dance, the brand awkwardly approaches the agency from across the gymnasium, and the agency coyly responds. The conversation is self-serving from both sides. Needs are poorly articulated, capabilities are inflated and expectations are unrealistic at best. While the first dance is clumsy, it may be good enough to get a first date.

While first dates are fun, both sides are more often interested in the second date, the third date, and the relationship that follows. In business, we tend to value partnerships over transient acquaintances. These partnerships yield better quality work for brands, and stable revenue streams for agencies. And, while the coveted “Agency of Record” role is increasingly rare, having trusted partners who address ongoing needs is invaluable.

So, how do we build more productive, sustainable relationships?

For brands, It starts at the beginning. While there are a number of tactics a brand may request, understanding the root cause of why that tactic is necessary is paramount to relationship success. Instead of stating, “We need a social media campaign.”, consider why a social media campaign might be necessary. Is it to engage with loyal customers? Launch a new product? Enhance customer service? Keep an open mind. The right agency partner will question your motives – this is a good thing. Also, set up your potential agency for success. Do not spend weeks or months crafting a detailed RFI or RFP and expect an agency to have a fully fleshed out response in days. If you are looking for a truly productive relationship that drives success and grows your business, make sure potential agencies have ample time (a few weeks) to effectively respond to your request. Finally, sending out something at 4:59 on a Friday, before a holiday week will not garner the best responses. Agency staffers are people with families and friends too, who appreciate the occasional weekend and holiday off.

For agencies, recognize you are not order-takers. This is a role that immediately sets you up as a commodity, and unless you are willing to do lower quality work, at a higher speed and lower cost, stop here. To achieve trusted partner status with your clients, you must have an informed POV. Study and learn the clients’ business. Be aggressive in sharing your perspective, and setting realistic expectations on the response. Don’t be afraid to say “No.” It is often better to decline the wrong opportunity and relationship to free up resources and funding to pursue the right one. “No” is one of the most powerful words an agency can use. “No” is risky. “No” means you are willing to sacrifice immediate revenue potential for a greater good. “No” causes clients to sit up and take notice. “No” separates you from the pack. “No” is not disrespectful, in fact, just the opposite – “No” means you respect the client, the work, and the partnership so much you are willing to do anything to ensure success.

Finally, semantics matter. Suppliers are warehouses full of stuff. Vendors are guys on the street selling hot dogs. Partners are what both brands and agencies should strive to be.


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The Art of Experiential Marketing

brand, "brand experience", conferences, "digital marketing", "engagement marketing", "entertainment marketing", "event marketing", events, experiences, "experience marketing", "experiential marketing", marketing, "social media", "trade shows"Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” The same holds true for any experiential or event marketing program. If you want to breed success, it is critical you create and work within a strategy.

Strategy means many things to many people. For some, its about the activities that are engineered for the audience to participate in. For others, its bringing the brand to life online. For others still, its about the right events or digital activities to participate in. I submit it’s all of these things and more.

Creating or adopting a strategic framework for the needs of your experience or program is a good place to start. From there, taking time to think about how you will approach each component lays the foundation for success. Here are some tips for creating a strategic framework that will help you rally the troops and march onward toward victory.

1. Clearly articulate and prioritize all objectives. What are you trying to accomplish with the event / experience / program? If you accomplish only one thing, what must it be? Because there are many lieutenants in the work we do, there are also many opinions on what the objectives should be. Try to foster agreement on as few objectives as possible. Honing the list down to no more than 1-3 objectives will ensure your squad focuses on the right things.

2. Think about measurement first. Now that you’ve established your objectives, it’s important to understand if, when and how you’ve accomplished them. Create a measurement strategy that reports on how these objectives are being met. no more, no less. Make sure all officers and troops alike are in agreement on success imperative and the measurement plan before the event / experience / program is launched.

3. Know how your battle contributes to the war effort. Always understand the input and outputs of what you’re doing. What other programs might influence your work? What contribution does your event make to the campaign? Understanding will also help ensure your are focused on the most important things.

4. Take time to get to know the target. Think beyond the demographics and psychographics of audiences. What are their interests? What are their triggers and inhibitors? What emotional and rational needs do they have that your brand can fulfill? What media do they consume and how do they consume it? This will lay the foundation for relevant experiences and build meaningful relationships.

5. Play to your strengths. Know thyself. Stay on brand and execute those tactics which are most likely to succeed. Apply the 80 / 20 rule for experimental activities and focus on tried and true methods first. Also know your weaknesses and be prepared to overcome them.

6. Survey the battlefield. What else is happening in the marketplace? What are your competitors up to? What socio-economic factors, marketing trends, business challenges, online and offline influencers need to be considered? Knowing the environment in which you are operating can help determine the types of activities executed at right time and place to maximize success.

7. Draft a comprehensive plan of attack. How will you attract an audience? What experiences will motivate them to act on your objectives? How are you representing your brand? What’s the sales strategy? What about follow-up? Promotions? Digital engagement? Ensure there are sub-strategies to your overarching strategy.

8. Develop contingencies for defeat and victory. Flexibility is key. Know what you will do if all or part of your program begins to fail before the event / experience / program is executed. Alternatively, know what you will do if the work is wildly successful. Sometimes an inability to support success can be more damaging than an outright failure. Make sure you have immediate, quick-strike plans in place as well as intermediate and longer-term ideas in your arsenal.

9. Remember measurement. Measure and diagnose your event / experience / program. Understand success, the degrees to which you were successful, and the reasons behind success or failure. Consider what successful tactics can be replicated elsewhere or improved upon. What were the reasons for failure? How can this be prevented next time? Create a plan for continuous improvement so each battle is won with fewer casualties.

Sun Tzu also wrote, “The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” By creating a strategy and calculating the outcomes before you launch your plan, you’ll be able to mitigate failure and drive overwhelming success.

originally published 5/25/10 www.experientialmarketing20.com

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