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Making the Most of Collaboration in Today’s Competitive Retail Market

There is more to shopper marketing than coupons and samples, and if you wait until your shopper is in the store, you’ve already lost the battle. Technology has changed the way people learn about and acquire everything from socks to real estate. You have to meet them where they are, with information relevant to them, at a time when they are receptive to your message. The “best practices” ground is always shifting. You need to stay nimble, connected, and aware. On March 12, 2019, Supplier Community brought together a group of shopper marketing rock stars from a variety of suppliers, agencies, and service providers to help participants do just that.

Our featured speakers included Aki Technologies Sales Director Cassie Murray and Saatchi & Saatchi Client Marketing Leader for P&G and Walmart Mary Callender, who discussed the importance of collaboration and ways in which teams and agencies can work together without giving away the “secret sauce.”

Working Smarter Through Collaboration

When vendors, agencies, and shopper marketing managers sit down together to collaborate, no one wants to feel like they’re being taken advantage of. But according to Callender, taking advantage isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, taking advantage of the knowledge and experience others bring to a conversation can make us smarter collectively so we can reach common goals and win collectively.

Through collaboration with vendors, our teams, our peers, our colleagues, and even out clients, we can share information and learning that may not be available to us otherwise. However, Murray says, that’s often easier said than done, especially in today’s omnichannel world.

Seventy percent of the U.S. shops at Walmart. But Walmart, which is the primary retailer for many companies today, has a lot of competition out there, so it’s going to take working together to keep moving forward and continue reaching these consumers in the best, most efficient, smartest way possible.  

Murray admits that as a vendor she would love to be the one who gets all the business. But she knows that her technology isn’t always going to be the best solution, and that there may be better support out there for a client, and that’s where collaboration can be invaluable.

Collaboration allows you to help clients or colleagues reach out to vendors or others in the industry who, for one reason or another, they may not have been able to have conversations with on their own. It can shift your role from that of just another vendor to a strategic partner who offers a lot of value for your client.

It also allows you to work smarter. By working together there’s no need to work harder, because you’re not setting yourself or others up to compete with one another, which, according to Murray, not only hurts the client, but the entire program as well.

Everyone’s goals should be specific to the retailer in an effort to bring up the category as a whole. Today’s market is highly competitive and there’s a lot of talent and intelligence out there. So, if you can sit down and compare notes and help one another succeed, then everyone wins. Conversely, when a program fails, we all fail.

When dealing with clients, it’s all about honesty, understanding your capabilities and having the hard conversations. When the client gives you a goal, it’s important to sit down with them and explain where you can help them meet that goal and where you can’t, then put them in touch with someone who has whatever capabilities you may lack.

According to Murray, it’s time to move beyond the transactional and look at a long term plan rather than just one sell and done.

The Practice of Efficiency

Whether you’re working with partners or not, efficiency is key. Murray says one of her pet peeves has always been wasted meetings. If something can be handled through an email or a phone call, let’s not waste one another’s time with a meeting. And while we can still enjoy the benefits of a relationship, people today are extremely busy, so it’s important to be efficient with everyone’s time.

We should also try to be understanding. There’s a lot of pressure in the retail world, so if someone doesn’t get back to you, don’t take it personally. Understanding the stress most people feel today is of value and something we can all do better.

There’s more to business than just sales or meeting the terms of an RFP. If you don’t set a program up for success, you’ve failed your client, you’ve failed your retailer, you’ve failed your program, and most importantly, you’ve failed your shopper. With increased inflation, peoples’ dollars aren’t going as far as they used to so it’s important to be able to say you did the best that you could and that your program drove the most difference.

The Strength of Many

Murray says there have been times they have worked with five to six vendors on a campaign to take advantage of the different capabilities each had to offer. Each one was treated differently to hit different spots with shoppers and each was successful, both individually and as part of the whole program.  

Murray says her company is considering the need for collective kickoff and brainstorm sessions. But she also says it’s important to talk to those involved and figure out what’s right for each program, because it all goes back to efficiency.

You want to see your vendor partners talking together about what’s happening – not to give away your “secret sauce”, but to get in the room and dig deep and bring everyone’s diverse background and collective knowledge to the table.

And it’s the same for social. Murray always asks her social vendors if they have a problem with working alongside other vendors on different parts of the program. As in other areas, this allows them to provide a more complete program, because different people offer different strengths when it comes to reaching the shopper in the most appropriate way.

Callender says that from both a vendor and client perspective, even where they have partnered with other people who have similar capabilities, the sales lift analysis shows they actually performed better together. This can be especially important when working in the club channel where budgets are very small and expectations are very big.

According to Callender, that’s a testament to the power we have when we work together to really optimize and practice efficiencies. It clearly shows what those can bring to the table for the client and the end game in the campaign.

Building Relationships

It’s impossible to know everything about what’s going on in the market, and Murray says she relies on her vendor partnerships and long-standing relationships with these people and agencies to provide her with information on what she doesn’t know.

If you build the relationships, Murray believes people want to help you be successful, not just in the program but in everyday life as well. Those are the type of relationships you want to build, and if you hear someone say something you can relate to, link in with them, go meet with them. These meetings are important because you may also find a friend in the process. Everything’s not about business.

Callender says Bentonville, Arkansas is the biggest small town you’ll ever be in. A lot of the people are local and have been there for a while, but there are a lot who are new to the area. So, it’s important to be honest, be transparent, and remember everything you say will get back to the person or company you’re saying it about.

Callendar also points out that she has an NDA with the majority of her clients, but these conversations and these relationships go beyond that. You can still have strategic conversations about what you’re seeing in the marketplace without infringing your NDA contracts.

There’s a lot of experience out there and that’s why Callender says people attend events like the Supplier Community Shopper Marketer’s Toolbox– to network and to build those relationships that in the end lead to more successful programs and create a win-win situation for everyone.

Click here to view the full video.

You can also find more information or sign up for future Supplier Community events here.