By Julia Collis, MD of The Bailey Group
While Field Marketing is a powerful tactical tool it is still too often treated as a commodity that can be bought at the cheapest possible cost.
Field Marketing is about more than just mystery shopping and putting tins on shelves, it’s also about providing quality brand ambassadors that are the front-line representatives of brands and retailers.
When you’re buying people like this, the old maxim “you get what you pay for” becomes painfully clear: get the wrong people in place and you can seriously damage your brand image.
While most brands’ procurement processes are moving away from simply driving down cost, too many marketers still view Field Marketing as something that can be bartered for – taking the approach: “we want 100 people for three days and we only want to pay x”.
However, brands need to think beyond this obvious cost-cutting if they are to really capitalise on the power of the discipline. It is important to understand the pricing models offered by agencies and what they are including in a particular price, and why.
Better agencies will include recommendations such as working some extra time in store, so that the field staff can carry out value added activities such as checking the compliance of any campaign, or ensuring the relevant stock and signage is there and priced correctly, and sometimes even briefing store staff as to how to handle the promotion effectively.
In short, they will be ensuring that everything possible is done to give any campaign the best possible chance of producing a good return on investment (ROI).
Where procurement can play a key role is in weeding out less experienced agencies who can’t demonstrate thorough infrastructures with robust procedures. Good agencies will have a transparent infrastructure, but most importantly they will have a solid vetting process in place for the field staff they provide.
The more reputable agencies will not have staff on their books unless they have been seen and interviewed them during a set period – such as in the past six to 12 months.
Certainly, there are staffing agencies and bookers out there that can supply staff at very cheap rates, but they invariably have little or no vetting process in place. While this may suit those that are focused totally on the upfront cost, the reality is you’re playing Russian Roulette with your brand.
For this reason, finding out what sort of checking process an agency has in place should be a key criteria when brands are looking to choose a Field Marketing agency.
Our discipline is now a recognised, value add marketing discipline. When treated as a strategic partner, Field Marketing agencies can deliver enormous value.
Agencies can offer brands and Retailers state-of-the-art knowledge, expertise and technology in areas that they wouldn’t normally spend their cash, and this can complement and enhance their own skills base.
This value is enhanced the closer brands work with their agencies. We have, for example, dedicated interns based in the offices of key clients.
Relationships like these enable agencies to get to grips with the client’s business, and in return share the full range of their knowledge and experience that maybe the client didn’t realise they had. They are able to connect better with the brand, learn more and give more at the same time.
Although brands are becoming more and more risk averse in the current economic climate when it comes to where they place their marketing spend, this sort of relationship can prove a powerful and cost-effective proposition.
While Field Marketing is still a mystery to a lot of marketers, there are younger people coming through who have had direct experience of working in the field.
Many of these people will have been involved with Field Marketing campaigns as field staff while at college or university, and as such they have a far greater understanding of the impact and potential of the discipline, so it is being taken more seriously.
The reality is that Field Marketing is more than leafleting, sampling or stacking shelves, it’s about how to execute promotional campaigns effectively.
It should be recognised as a powerful form of marketing that can drive ROI, and not something that can be commoditised and churned out at the lowest possible cost.
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