Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Brief Lesson in Front Line Marketing

Absolutely brilliant!  An advertisement on the sports channel for free underwear, this weekend only!  All you have to do is go in, try a pair on, and keep 'em.  I dropped my afternoon yardwork project and headed over to the mall.

Awesome Sales Team!
Comparing notes with a colleague who got his free pair at a different location, the sales people did an awesome job of upselling, inviting us back, doing the feature benefit benefit overview, and making us feel comfortable in what was a definitely uncomfortable situation ("hi, I'm here for my free underwear!").   I was so impressed I purchased some other essential menswear while I was there. And by the way, the underwear are very comfortable.

And then...
A friend tells another story.  When he went in the sales team had no desire to see another mooch in for a freebie, and he ended up leaving the store without anything.  In his case the corporation spent a whole lot of money just to piss him off because the store team didn't deliver.  Pissed me off too, actually, since I endorsed the promotion.

It could happen in any of our operations.  A brilliant concept brilliantly executed, or not.  Here's a few tips to avoid front line let down.
  1. Buy in.  If we load too many promotions on our front line team, they grow weary.  They forget exactly what is the "promo de jour", see no value in mentioning it, or openly rebel against yet another added step that they see as getting in the way of their "real" jobs.  It's our job as managers to believe in it ourselves, demonstrate the value to the company and to themselves, and address any concerns - real or imagined.  And then we make it happen and follow up like crazy to encourage the right behaviour.  Lead the charge!  Make it fun!  Be visible and positive.
  2. State the goal.  There's nothing wrong with the brains at HQ telling the front line staff that the reason they are promoting X brand underwear is because a) we're doing a deal with X brand, b) the underwear really is good and supports our brand positioning and c) it will bring in new customers who will be back once they discover the other cool things we sell.  I'm not saying this didn't happen here, but I know it hasn't always in my work experience.
  3. Communicate!  It's damned embarrassing when the customer says "I saw your ad" and you have NO clue what they're talking about.  Sometimes it's our fault for not paying attention to the corporate communications, and many times that's because of overload, or because of a failure to communicate.
  4. Simplify it.  It was simple - try on a pair of underwear and leave with them.  Period.  One per customer.  Easy.
  5. Ease up.  I didn't have to actually try on the underwear.  Instead the salespeople spent that time telling me about the quality, and showing me where in the store I could find them when I came back for more.  Nicely done!  If we make the rules too cumbersome or overly complicated, our front line team will just avoid the whole thing in frustration.  No one wins.
  6. Listen.  Encourage open feedback from every member of the team.  It can be done anonymously, in a round table or even by electronic survey.  A few questions are all you need to ask - what worked, what didn't work, what did you hear from the customers, what would you change? 
  7. Act.  Once we know you're listening to us, up there in the ivory tower, we'll buy in to the next promo, we'll forgive you a few small missteps, and we'll be enthusiastic the next time something innovative and fun comes along.
And just fyi, they were Denver Hayes with Dri-Weave and the company was Mark's Work Warehouse and I also bought a really very nice tie which gets many compliments.  Bet you didn't know they sell ties, too.

Mission accomplished, Mark's!

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