Channel marketing is a very competitive marketing game. When advertising subsidies are available, they often come with the need to match the spend by the retailer. That retailer likely has plenty of offers to consider, so it’s not as easy as taking the seemingly “free” money. It is important to realize that partially subsidized channel marketing is just as competitive as getting shelf space in the first place. The mid-level brands that win in this game know that they have a limited opportunity to make their case to consumers. That is why channel programs’ structure, communication, and education are key to mid-level brands’ success.
Mid-level brands have challenges that are unique to their size and place in the market.
The second or third best-selling brands in a competitive category are not often what we call “end cap” brands with the most visible real estate in stores. While they are important to a retailer, they can struggle for attention when it comes to gaining advertising dollars.
For example, a home and garden retailer will have hundreds of brands in their store. Those brands have sales people who are trying to drive even more inventory into the retail location. The store manager is not only trying to run their location with all its daily challenges, but they are also asked to partially fund and approve channel marketing plans. It can be a frustrating task. To push through, mid-level brands need a smart strategy that is built on communication, education, and program simplicity.
My three-prong formula for mid-level brands’ success in channel marketing:
Simple but effective, customized local programs need to provide options and an easy path to execution. Building three or four packages with a limited number of popular message options reduces the time it takes retailers to select a program for participation. Those packages could include digital elements, such as paid search, paid social, and direct mail. It is important to build the programs with an understanding of the products’ true profitability for the retailer. In other words, know the return on the retailer’s advertising investment. If that product has no stated percentage of sales to be applied to advertising, then consider a small fraction of the retail price of each product sold. Then build packages that fit those estimates. Offer packages with an understanding of seasonality and provide a sample marketing calendar that shows the best times to advertise. Think of ease-of-use from the retailers’ perspective. Make it easy for them to order their package with an online ordering tool that automatically manages co-op subsidies. By keeping things simple for the retailer, it will also be easier for the channel manager to monitor performance and adjust the offerings.
Retailers have a business to run and don’t have time to chase down your program. To be sensitive to their valuable, time, keep communication complete and brief. Phone calls, intranet messages, and emails should be clear and concise about objectives and the path to success. Rather than sending separate emails on our marketing options, consider tying marketing communications to sales meetings, when the retailer is placing their product order. Then supply monthly reporting of the agreed upon performance metrics that is simple to read. Finally, offer your communication through a variety of channels. If the brand has a robust Intranet, post reminders there. Share reports through an easy-to-navigate portal, as well through pushed email. There are even times when traditional postcard mailers might work best. Be creative, but always be efficient, keeping the busy recipient at the forefront of your mind. When you think about them, you help increase your mid-level brands’ chances at success.
To win at channel marketing, you need informed local marketers. Support them with education.
Digital advertising brings with it the challenge of asking a retailer to purchase ads in a medium they may not understand. It is important that education and communication go hand-in-hand. Each email, post, and mailing should include a few key points about why it is important to advertise and what to expect from their investment. Many times, brands will hear the following response from a retailer: “I do not see my advertising. I don’t think this is working.” Be sure to set expectations, but also remember to include the retailer in your campaign. It is always nice to see your own ad. Then consider a quarterly education program that aligns with any sales windows. A summary, even if not individual to each location, will be important to include in your monthly performance reports.
As with any customer, your retailer is on their own journey with their channel marketing support. By thinking ahead of their needs or questions, you can develop a successful program that is mindful of the retailer’s busy day, as well as brand building for your company.
Contact BrandMuscle to talk about how we can strengthen your local marketing efforts and streamline your program with our proven strategy and services.
Senior Director, Marketing Strategy