Magazine article Marketing

Fighting for a New View of Field Work

Magazine article Marketing

Fighting for a New View of Field Work

Article excerpt

Field marketers suffer from poor recognition of their range of skills. Robert McLuhan looks at how agencies try to redress this imbalance

Field marketers have expanded their activities beyond recognition in the past five years, growing their industry by 27% in 1999. But many marketing agencies and clients still have only the vaguest notion of what they do.

This finding emerges from research commissioned by the Field Marketing Council (FMC), which shows a number of their mainstream services failing to register on clients' thinking.

Take merchandising, a core activity for field marketers, yet one that is recognised as such by only 62% of the agencies polled and as few as 31% of Client companies. Even a service as fundamental as sampling only registers 49% awareness among clients.

Client confusion

This pattern is repeated in other areas, such as sales, mystery shopping and door-to-door visits. Comments from respondents suggest other alarming misconceptions. For instance, that field marketers do not handle business-to-business projects.

Last year, the FMC abandoned its status as an under-resourced independent association - the Field Marketing Association - to join the DMA. This gave it access to a treasure house of facilities, which it immediately used to check out its hunch that the image outsiders have of field marketing urgently needs updating.

The results shocked the FMC's 11 members. "We thought the survey would show something like this but we didn't think it would be so bad," says chairwoman Alison Williams. "If companies think we don't do sampling or business-to-business activities, what do they think we do?"

The main problem Williams recognises, is that field marketing has moved beyond stocking shelves and handing out cheese to customers.

As well as putting in transfer orders and performing audits, agencies can take care of every aspect of a company's external sales force, from recruitment, training and motivation, to transport and expenses.

Traditionally, the biggest demand has come from the FMCG sector. Trebor Basset, which has been using Headcount for tactical campaigns with independent retailers, is typical.

"A resource like this is a tool to draw on quickly, which we find valuable, particularly in London," says Finbarr Coffey, Trebor Basset general sales manager. "London accounts for 25% of sugar confectionery and it ensures that we are fully staffed."

Utility boost

But developments in other sectors have prompted field marketers to diversity. The deregulation of utilities has created anew market for door-to-door activity that has grown from zero to more than [pounds]25m in five years. Field marketers are also well equipped to handle the demands on staff support generated by high-tech products.

EMS Chiara, for example, works for Microsoft, training and motivating retail employees and is now planning a service to help new users learn the mysteries of their home PCs.

Agencies agree that face-to-face contacts are being recognised by clients. They are looked to for strategy as much as for tactical support. Having many strings to their bow enables them to meet those needs.

At Aspen, for instance, the aim is to be a one-stop shop providing tailored solutions. These range from sales staff training and new product briefings for Vodafone, to prospecting for Sony and new product launches for Nestle.

There is also a focus on services, such as web-based reporting systems and helpdesks. For Ericsson, the agency offers a dedicated call centre and by the summer will have a new interactive retail web site.

It's not unusual for field marketers to provide a complete sales force. Retailer Upland Group, which supplies mobile phones and accessories to third-party retailers on behalf of the four networks, appointed Creative Sampling in 1998. A team of 14 full-time sales reps visit 90 stores each week to provide training, merchandising and administration services. …

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