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Shopper Marketing Vendor Management 101

Shopper Marketing Vendor Management 101.pngIs your desk buried in vendors' capabilities presentations? Did you stop picking up your phone because vendors inundate you with requests to meet and try their new marketing vehicles? Do you seek clarity on what tactics actually work for your brands in the context of your retail partner environment? How do you stay productive and focused yet find energy and time to experiment with new shopper marketing capabilities?

Welcome to today's crazy world of shopper marketing! The number of new vendors that popped up on our horizon increased dramatically, mostly due to new digital technologies that are drastically re-shaping the marketing and retail industries. To make sense of it all, you will need five things:

1. "Speed Dating" Screener

When anyone on your team comes across a curious new marketing capability, ask them to take the new vendor through a semi-formal screening process. Think of it as "speed dating" of sorts. This simple step will help ensure that no one's time is wasted and relevant opportunities gain due traction within your team. Come up with a short list of questions to quickly qualify or disqualify each opportunity. For example, you can ask all new vendors the following five questions (and see what their responses can reveal):

  1. Who is your ideal target client? What sort of companies use your services and why? (See if they describe someone like you)
  2. What is your geographic coverage? (Do they play in your retail partners' RMAs?)
  3. Can you target shoppers who shop at specific retail chains?  (Do they even understand what shopper marketers do?)
  4. Do you partner with any of my retail clients? Are you on their preferred vendors list? (Do they understand how important retailer buy-in is for shopper marketers?)
  5. How are you different from another company we are already using for [...] ? -- insert the type of capability (Do they have a strong point of difference?)

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's important to keep it short and not get bogged down by too many details.

2. Mini-RFI Template

If a vendor passes the initial screening test and looks like a good fit, a natural next step may be to schedule a capabilities presentation. To help the vendor prepare for that meeting and make the most of your time, ask them to fill out a mini-RFI template (RFI stands for Request for Information). Even if you end up skipping the meeting, the mini-RFI will help you gather essential data for future consideration. In the template, focus on the executional details, for example: 

• Revenue model -  is it variable cost per impression, per engagement/click/download..., a fixed fee or something else?
Typical size and cost of engagement for a company your size - can you even afford a meaningful engagement?
Metrics and KPIs that are tracked and benchmarks for your product category. It's important to see how your campaigns perform relative to peers and what success looks like.
Typical cost per impression (CPI), if applicable - this is a useful metric to compare across various tactics or competing solutions, although should not be the only one.
• Turn around times from estimate to in-market - some of these tactics may become your go-to choice for lightening-fast pre-emption or response to competitive entries.
How results are shared, how fast and in what format. Demand instant, raw data instead of pretty PowerPoints, unless you trust them to evaluate their own work and put a spin on it.
Case studies or examples of past work that would be inspiring for you and your team.
Contact info for account manager and their boss to escalate any issues.
References from other clients.
Gather all of the responses in one easily accessible place, share with the team by sending out "new capability alerts". Consider carving out portion of your budget to "test and learn" initiatives to make it easy to say "yes" to new ideas.

3. Evaluation Framework

Shopper Marketing P2P vs. Brand Funnel Tactic Framework.png

Once you screen vendors and gather more details about their capabilities via a mini-RFI template, it is time to take a step back and think how this new capability fits into the bigger picture. There are many ways to organize complex information into a useful framework, the one we find most appropriate is P2P x Brand Funnel Matrix, because it combines brand and retail marketing thinking. 

In this framework, the path-to-purchase steps, from pre- to post-shop, are laid out across the top of the matrix, while brand funnel metrics, from awareness to loyalty, are listed along the side. Each tactic can be placed into one or multiple cells to illustrate what brand objectives it drives best and where its most appropriate use is.

Some of the tactics will appear on the matrix more than once because they are versatile enough to be used in various situations or drive multiple objectives. Others will be firmly rooted in one particular cell. This sort of thinking can be used ad-hoc, as new capabilities emerge, or on an on-going basis, for large scale shopper marketing promotions, to help organize your plans and streamline shopper communications.

The P2P x Brand Funnel Matrix can be used as a foundational training for new team members. In fact, it is a good idea to assign a junior team member to be in charge of this process, as it helps them get very good exposure to the breadth and depth of information all at the same time.

4. Data Management System

Frameworks can help you categorize and simplify complex information for easier understanding, but they will fall short when you need to step up your game and apply analytical methods to optimize your vendor and tactic investments. To deepen your understanding of your relationship with existing vendors, to monitor success of emerging capabilities, to benchmark tactical results and to continuously improve through iteration, it is essential to track all your team's activities down to a tactic level and link activities to specific vendors. This may seem like a huge undertaking if your team still plans and tracks their activities in Excel. However, this information is likely already collected by individual team members in the trackers they built for themselves. Consider investing into modern marketing planning technology, not only to manage vendors, but simplify and streamline your overall marketing operations and let the information flow freely between team members.

5. Engaged And Curious Agency Partner

Lastly, it's worth noting, that an engaged and curious agency partner will be an important ally in your pursuit to gather, evaluate, sort and test new marketing capabilities. Give your agency a central role in building up your vendor and tactic library and supporting your analytical capabilities. Strong agency support in this journey will not only relieve some of the burden for your team, but also engage both sides in higher-level discussions, offer opportunities for joint exploration and co-creation, ultimately strengthening and ensuring the success of your relationship.


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After more than 15 years in Consumer Packaged Goods industry, I became a software entrepreneur. Today, I design and sell Shopperations, a web-based, collaborative planning software for Marketers on both CPG and Retail sides, to enable transparency, accountability and stronger Shopper Marketing promotional analytics. I am passionate about all things Retail and Shopper Marketing, love reading about Neuroscience progress as it relates to shopper research, and care about process improvement and marketing automation technology.
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