If you ask ten shopper marketers what their mission is, you will likely get ten different answers. The lack of a common mission statement reflects the state of anxiety the CPG industry feels at being drastically disrupted by market forces, in particular, the shopper marketing domain that is still forming its identity.
Like I’ve said before, shopper marketing is experiencing growing pains and facing numerous obstacles, but those awkward teenage years aren’t going to last forever. It’s only a matter of time before shopper marketing reaches its full potential and sustainability. And that potential starts with knowing what the shopper marketers’ mission and purpose is.
One of the my recent conversations with a senior shopper marketing leader helped illuminate this problem because of the refreshing way he thought of his team’s mission. Their number one mission, he suggested, was to bust the silos between Brands and Sales. The larger your organization, the taller its silos, and the more work you, as a shopper marketer, have ahead. His insight spoke to me because our goal at Shopperations is to create transparent and collaborative marketplaces, and there can be no transparency or collaboration inside a silo.
Signs Your Brand-Sales Silos Are out of Control
More than likely, your organization has a few silos of its own, but how do you know your organization is suffering from Brand-Sales silos? Look for these signs:
- AOP brand planning never ends in time for effective retailer sell-in.
- Innovation plans are kept secret from Sales until the end, and little or no Customer input is offered in the process of new product development.
- Brand teams are not invited to Customer JBP meetings.
- Retailers-specific marketing plans are not part of the “volume bridge” for your Brands.
- Only “chosen” people know where the latest FSI calendar is.
- Stacking of coupon offers due to duplicative efforts of consumer promotions and field shopper marketing teams is a regular occurrence.
- Buying retailer-specific, co-marketing media via a centrally approved media agency is so hard that you’ve given up and gone direct.
- You don’t know half of the brand managers’ names due to frequent rotations. They feel the same about your shopper marketing team.
Do you recognize any of these signs? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Brand-Sales silos exist in nearly every CPG, but it’s time to break those silos down.
Forget Bridges, We Need Superhighways
So, how do you conquer Brand-Sales silos? One thing is for sure; “building bridges” won’t be enough. Neither will attending annual planning meetings, visiting customer calls once a quarter, creating a “SharePoint site”, or putting together a cross-functional task force. Because that’s not enough to fix the inherent problem with silos. Brand-Sales silos form because they lack a common footprint, they are risk-averse and territorial by nature. Instead of relying on tiny bridges with low information exchanged throughput, bust the silos completely. Build high-speed railroads or superhighways with an automated, constant, seamless information flow.
The Four "T"s to Building a Brand-Sales Superhighway
There’s a lot that goes into building a superhighway between Brands and Sales, and it’s the shopper marketers mission to get it done. All good foundations start with what we like to think of as the four Ts of shopper marketing: talent, trust, transparency and technology.
Bring up a new breed of marketers. Hire balanced brains that can understand analytics and data-driven sales, yet get the visceral nature of shopper and consumer insights and won’t butcher brand equity. If you’re looking to find these qualities in a new hire, you may be looking for unicorn. Very few such people exist, so train your own. Rotate people from sales to marketing and back to drive cross-functional empathy.
Empower teams to do the right thing and to make decisions on their own. Train them well, set a purpose and “the rules of the game”, give them the right tools and let them sail free. Micromanaging may feel good to you but will kill morale and productivity, costing you a lot more in sales and lost headcount. Setting a common definition of goals, common metrics and spending principles will help build trust
Instead of micromanaging, demand accountability or full transparency from both sides. Share information early and always, not just intermittently. Transparency means that budgets, high level plans and detailed assumptions that feed those plans are open to those who need to know and are fully auditable.
To make complete transparency easy, establish a common language, goals and metrics. Connect planning and reporting systems and provide collaboration technology to let teams work together any time new information arrives, not just during standing meetings or via email.
Shopper Marketers: Silo-Busting Superheroes
As a shopper marketer, you are uniquely positioned between Brands and Sales. You can empathise with both sides and facilitate strategic conversations. Instead of struggling with your identity, trying to tag your role with a familiar label or figuring out whether you belong with Sales or Brands, why not become a silo-busting superhero, an organizational connective tissue that transforms the way your company goes to market?