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FORUM;BIG IDEAS LIVE OR DIE IN TRANSITION TO THE SHELF

By Published on .

That the road to brand growth must pass through the retail trade is no longer a subject of debate. The recently concluded Association of National Advertisers convention, with all its talk about "co-marketing," confirms this. Thoughtful observers are turning their attentions toward the next logical question: How do we get the job done?

Some believe that big creative ideas are the silver bullets of success. They think that marketing locally is not much different from marketing nationally; that it's simply a matter of drilling a big idea down into a series of small executions.

EXECUTING IDEA

The importance of strategically based creative marketing programming goes without question. But it is even more important to understand that a big idea is only as good as its execution. When dealing with a widely diverse pool of retailers in a marketplace fragmented in terms of media and consumer lifestyles, the obstacles to successful execution must not be underestimated. More often than not, execution is the big idea, and it's not as easy as some people seem to think.

Elements of successful execution essentially break out into two phases.

SELL-IN PROCESS

Phase one is the sell-in process, during which the retailer and manufacturer negotiate the terms of the program.

Too often the manufacturer's home office makes the mistake of simply providing its sales force-be it direct or brokers-with a menu of promotion options to be presented to the retail trade. This totally ignores the fact that it's the sales reps and retailers who know best what their customers want locally.

At the same time, reps typically lack the marketing savvy to make recommendations independently. It's imperative that the sales organization take a consultive approach, to ask the right questions to determine the best possible program for each account.

It's also incumbent upon the manufacturer to conduct sales meetings-locally, regionally and nationally-to ensure that the sales organization fully understands the sell-in process. It is particularly essential that the sales rep recognizes that success depends on communicating with the retailer at a higher level than buyers.

They must reach the heads of merchandising and advertising, who are more concerned with strategic marketing objectives as opposed to negotiating discounts on cases.

Coming out of phase one, the sales representative must complete a checklist documenting each detail of the agreement. At that point, the program enters phase two, during which the elements of the program are executed (e.g., media buys are made, prizes bartered, events planned, displays created, product shipped, etc.). Again, every aspect of the program must be documented and tracked to ensure everything turns out as planned.

MEASURING RESULTS

Ultimately, all this planning and tracking and documenting has a purpose greater than just ensuring successful execution. It also allows the manufacturer to fully measure and evaluate the results.

Accountability, after all, is the magnet that is drawing so much attention to local, account-specific marketing. Absent a framework to calculate the return on investment, even the biggest idea is rendered very small indeed.M

Mr. Amershadian is exec VP of Inmark Services in Greenvale, N.Y.

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