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Pete Kroth’s recipe for field marketing

Posted 9 Thu Sep

Field marketing is a mix of, what I’d call, ingredients. It’s traditionally merchandising, which means making sure products are on the shelf. It can be anything from point of sale placement in stores – when you go in and you see cardboard units in shops like Sainsbury’s that are filled with products – to making sure products are out on the shop floor. It’s all about brand activation and also includes services such as field sales and sampling.

In my eyes, brand marketing is very much what a client, whether that’s a brand or a retailer, actually requires. Essentially, it is hiring people to elevate your brand’s visibility. Now, many field marketing companies in the UK tend to pigeonhole this. They say: “These are our services and this is what we do as a field marketing company”, and if something comes in that’s outside of those services, they look at it and go: “Yes, we can we do that” or “Yes we will give it a go but we don’t quite know how to do it”. This is where I think that we are different at Instore.  While we do have a core offering and range of services, we actually look at a customer’s every need and we will use our experience within our senior team, and across our business, to build an effective campaign tailored for them.

The best thing for me is when a brand comes to me and says: “Pete, we’ve got a problem with rate of sale on our product in this particular retailer and we need to fix it”. What I love about field marketing is going away and thinking about how I can use my experience as a grocery manager and a store manager within that arena, to find a solution for them – not only fixing their problem for the short term, but also making sure we are dealing with it for the long term. A brand will not want to spend money on a visit, potentially every week (although some brands do, particularly the bigger ones), fixing the same problem. You should be doing your job effectively and fixing that problem once by successfully getting that product back on the shelf and ensuring that all the measures needed to get it on shelf are correct and able to work.

Field marketing is also about building a campaign for a brand. Brands don’t always see the benefit of field marketing; some see it as an over-priced expense that they don’t need to do. Others see brand marketing as the responsibility of the retailers and feel that they should be the ones to make sure that products are on the shelf as they should be. However, what many brands have come to see over time, and it has taken the pandemic to do this, is that retailers have to cut their cloth now too by reducing the number of people they have on the shop floors. This means there are more opportunities for field marketing teams to go in, fix problems, and put merchandise products on shelves.

Field sales also falls into field marketing and this is something that we specialise in here at Instore. Most brands come to a field marketing company like us because they want to get their brand into a retail environment that they’re not currently in, such as independent newsagents. You’ll tend to find a lot of companies will do field sales by sending a field sales rep in to speak to an owner, who will educate them about a brand; get the agreement for an order; then either sell that order from the back of a van or have it fulfilled in a different way. What that does for the brand is give them a new point of distribution and a new point to engage their customers.

What some brands don’t do particularly well is that they focus on doing this as a single hit. They go in and do the education and get four of their products in the local newsagent, then move on – while in reality, that shop will sell out of those four products and not reorder them. At Instore, we understand that it’s actually important to focus on how to replenish and maintain those sales moving forwards.

This is where Instore benefits from being part of the Smiths News business. For 364 days of the year, Smiths News is consistently delivering newspapers and magazines to its customers, providing us with the opportunity to include something else in those newspaper and magazine totes at the same time. Effectively, it presents us with a wholesale opportunity for brands and for independent retailers. The cost of doing that, compared to having a man in a van repeatedly doing those same visits, is significant. We can provide better longevity for a brand if they come to us for field sales, and it will be cheaper than in the traditional way. From that point of view, we like to challenge the status quo.

Now, it is a challenging market right now. The pandemic has hit businesses in different ways. Some have gone bust or been bought out, some have had to reduce their teams right down. We’ve had to renegotiate contracts and reorganise our team, but a challenging market place has also presented us with the opportunity to be able to showcase the real difference we can make to our clients.

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