Magazine article Marketing

FIELD MARKETING: How to Hire a Field Marketing Agency - to Get the Best from an Agency, You Need to Know What You Want, Says Robert McLuhan

Magazine article Marketing

FIELD MARKETING: How to Hire a Field Marketing Agency - to Get the Best from an Agency, You Need to Know What You Want, Says Robert McLuhan

Article excerpt

As a purely tactical activity, field marketing used to be treated as an afterthought, and was usually sourced through sales promotion agencies.

But as marketers become more familiar with its brand-building potential, they naturally want to make their own decisions about who to employ.

'The old-fashioned approach was for the field marketing agency to be contacted once the brand strategy had been decided, and given a very prescriptive brief,' says Ross Urquhart, managing director of field marketing agency RPM. 'Now, companies are realising that they will get more value if a field marketing agency is involved early on.'

So how do you identify the right agency? For above-the-line needs, most companies will go through the AAR intermediary service or its equivalents.

But with field marketing they are often on their own, and it is a mistake to think that the two disciplines have much in common.

'With ad agencies, you tend to be swayed by how they present themselves, their line-up of clients, and the ideas they come up with,' says Kathryn Smith, managing director of Ellert Field Marketing, speaking from her previous experience at Mars, Guinness and Adidas.

The emphasis in field marketing is more on the service and the delivery, she continues, and an agency's ability in this regard is ideally probed by a rigorous procurement process.

Nick Fennell, director of consultancy Archway Management, thinks both sides could raise their game when organising and taking part in pitches.

A former senior executive at CPM Field Marketing, he helps companies find field marketing solutions, and represents the AAR for the sector.

Agencies should offer alternatives to the client's ideas and provide a metric, he argues, while clients need to describe their strategic aims and be open to creative suggestions.

A problem for both agencies and their clients is the continuing ignorance as to what field marketing is about. Brand managers do not always grasp the split between traditional services such as merchandising on the one hand, and the brand-building activities associated with events and roadshows on the other.

'The client needs to define very early on in the pitching process what its objectives are,' says Sharon Richey, managing director of MHP. 'In the case of brand experience, we need to know if they intend to evaluate on the rate of sale, which would be very challenging for a field marketing company to deliver, or a more qualitative type of process.'

A willingness to take advantage of field marketers' expertise is an important ingredient of success. 'Agencies should come to the pitch with innovative ideas, as sometimes the client will say they want one thing and not be aware of what else is available,' says David Lazarus, business development director of Endacott RJB Marketing. 'For its Anais Anais perfume brand, L'Oreal wanted a sachet in a magazine, but we came back with a roadshow, text messages, and a viral campaign. That was more than the client expected and they were thrilled with the results.'

Nor should companies be satisfied with an agency that simply agrees to everything they ask for. 'If the agency doesn't challenge your brief, it may not know what it's doing,' argues Lynda Asquith, vice chair of the Field Marketing Council and managing director of Fizz Marketing. …

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