Consider your objectives
Before you make any decisions or spend any of your budget, you must be sure of your objectives. Ask yourself: what am I trying to achieve with this campaign? It may be that you want to raise awareness of a new product or reinvigorate interest in an existing product whose sales are flagging.
Alternatively, field marketing might be needed to support a TV campaign or boost a brand association with a sponsorship property. Take time to clarify your objectives, so you can communicate them clearly to your team.
Ambiguity dilutes a campaign's effectiveness.
Choose an agency
Once you've set your objectives, you should look to appoint a field marketing agency as early on in the process as possible. Agencies often complain they are hired at the last minute, but argue they can do a much better job if they're involved in the planning stages of the campaign. Agencies can turn around campaigns in a few weeks, but at least six weeks' notice is preferable and from 10-12 weeks during busy periods, such as Christmas, when locations such as shopping centres require booking well in advance.
If you don't know the market, which is complex and disparate, there are intermediaries such as AAR Group that can help. They act as the middleman between agencies and clients and can save you time by cutting through the clutter of agency credentials.
Often agencies will say in their marketing literature that they offer the entire range of techniques, but field marketing is a broad discipline and intermediaries will know their true strengths and weaknesses. They can whittle the possibilities down to a short list of suitable candidates, from which you can make the final call. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) also has details of suppliers on its website and tips on hiring an agency.
When picking an agency, you need to consider intangibles such as chemistry and culture. But you also need to think about practical details, such as whether you want to work with a large network as part of an integrated campaign, or a small independent which might be more nimble.
You also need to be aware of the emergence of a new strain of field marketing called 'brand experience' or 'experiential marketing'. Agencies who specialise in this variety of field marketing believe their campaigns better reflect a brand's personality and values. This route is often more personalised than the traditional approach, focusing more intensively on an in-depth experience for a selected group of consumers.
Draw up a brief
Writing a good, clear brief is vital. A lucid brief, which leaves nothing to chance or misinterpretation, will make implementation much easier and more effective. Even if you've already drawn up a brief for the pitch process, debating and tweaking it with your chosen agency is time well spent.
Agencies have much experience of many campaigns across differing brands and sectors, so will be able to ensure that your goals are realistic and achievable within your allocated budget. If you have a fixed budget, make sure that you take into account the cost of requirements identified in your brief, such as the building of stands in shopping centres, the hiring of particular promotional staff and the product sample itself. Decide whether, in fact, you are even going to give out a free trial sample.
Alternatives which reduce the cost of the campaign could be to hand out leaflets with information such as the web address for purchase, money-off coupons or details of a competition to raise awareness of the brand.
By this stage too, agencies should be crystal clear on how they are going to be remunerated. If you're honest and fair in your negotiations with agencies, you will get the best out of them. And, as with all markets, you get what you pay for.
Who are you aiming for?
With field marketing becoming more and more targeted as a medium, it's essential you identify the profile of the consumer you are trying to reach.
Are you trying to get your message through to the young, cool and trendy set? Or the busy mum on the school run? Or do you want to get your product in the hands of those lucrative, retired 'greys' or the suited and booted professionals? This customer profile will generally inform where and when you run you campaign and how long you spend in any given location.
When marketers think of 'field marketing' it often conjures up pictures of promotional teams dishing out samples at supermarkets and train stations.
And, while these are heartland locations for the discipline, it has evolved considerably to incorporate some highly targeted and niche environments.
Campaigns are now run at high profile exclusive events such as Goodwood, as well as in offices, sports clubs and castles which have been pre-vetted for sampling.
There's also been a resurgence in interest in door-to-door field marketing.
While traditionally associated with the beauty industry largely because of Avon's iconic 'Avon calling' advertising, it's proving a popular route for telecoms and utilities clients since market deregulation. The advantage of approaching a consumer at home is that it can allow promotional staff to spend more time explaining how their products work. This is helpful in complex product sectors, like telecoms and financial services, where consumer understanding is often low.
Campaigns also might be more effective if they target a specific geographical area. Many agencies have databases that can help identify where your target audience is most prevalent in the country by tapping into national demographic information.
But to get the most out of these key planning stages and reduce wastage, savvy clients know they have to share as much brand information and customer insight as possible with the agency. Ask yourself: what sales and marketing data can I give to my agency to help them better understand the business context for the campaign? The more specific you can be, the better your results are likely to be.
Return on investment
Before a campaign goes live, clients must specify exactly what return on investment (ROI) they are looking for, and decide how they are going to measure the effectiveness of the field marketing. Also, if your campaign is more about the brand experience than handing out a certain number of samples, this must be reflected in the way you measure success.
Agencies blow the trumpet for the discipline as a measurable part of the marketing mix and many offer their own proprietary measuring tools.
Often for these agency measurement tools to be used successfully, you must be prepared to share data such as instore sales figures before and after the campaign. However, there's a growing trend for clients to take on a third party auditor or researcher to analyse the effectiveness of a campaign, rather than allow their agency to self-assess.
As a guide, experts advise allocating 2 per cent of your overall budget into assessing ROI. Whatever method you decide, develop a process of reporting on campaign results which suits the time you have available and the way you like to work. Consider, for instance, what information you want and how often you want it. Also, how would you like to receive this feedback.
By email? By fax? By post?
Timetables and deadlines
Make a timetable and stick to it. The best campaigns create a strict timeline which, once agreed, is adhered to by everyone. Some clients think it's fine to miss deadlines because they're the ones paying the agencies.
This attitude is not only detrimental to the smooth running of the campaign, but is also demotivating for the agency.
Good clients realise the implications of failing to deliver samples to their agency in time, for example. If a slip is unavoidable, then try to make up for lost time elsewhere. Field marketing timing is often crucial, especially if constructed around specific events or other media going live.
Timings should always be set around the product, not individuals. You may have more time to devote to your campaign in winter if you're an ice cream marketer, for example, but only very hardened consumers will want to try your wares outside the local supermarket in the bleak midwinter.
Decide what you want your promotional staff to look like and how you would like them to act. They are representing your brand, so getting your frontline right is vital. Field marketing is famous for its colourful and imaginative staff attire; Mexicans in sombreros, men in drag, cartoon characters, hunks in suits, and girls in snakeskin are just a few examples.
But it may be that a straightforward, conservative brand is more appropriate for you.
Think about whether a workshop for your chosen staff on your brand and your target market would be worthwhile. This will be costly, but it may be the difference between a good and a great campaign. If you decide to run a seminar, ensure it's specific to the campaign and not a general briefing on your company, otherwise you will be wasting your money. If you decide against face to face briefings, generally accepted as the best way to brief staff, then consider good alternatives such as briefings via DVD, which can also create a buzz around the campaign.
And finally ...
When the campaign is over, take time to analyse the results and methodology.
How could you improve it for next time?