After studying French and German at university, I joined a food manufacturing company as a trainee marketing manager, and spent my first year on the road as a sales representative. This was extremely tiring, and often frustrating. I used to make appointments with a retailer only to discover he or she wasn't in that day, or that I was double booked with somebody else! I visited retail outlets to encourage them to stock our products, telling them about the advertising we were doing, and the sales promotions we were running. Some people treated me simply as somebody to moan at when a delivery was late, which was a shame since a good supplier/customer relationship is better for both parties. While one of my roles was to find out why a delivery had been late, I could also offer advice on how to display the product more effectively, and how to make the most of the advertising we were doing. But I realize now that it taught me a great deal about customer needs particularly those of a retailer.
After a while, I decided that I would prefer to be working on less consumer oriented products, so I moved to this company where I am involved in co coordinating new product launches and marketing industrial cleaning products to places like hotels and hospitals. I have recently finished a product launch, and was involved at all stages of its development, from the initial market research where we and our research agency conducted jury panel interviews and in company trials, through the product and packaging development, to the launch events and promotion to the industry. With an industrial product, while price is still important, technical or service support is also a deciding factor. If a product isn't working as well as it should be, we can be on the spot within hours to try to diagnose the problem. That is essential, since each customer is a major one for us, and to lose one through lack of support would be a disaster. We spend a great deal of money gaining new customers so their accounts are worth a lot.
Training here has been excellent. I have been on courses to develop both my specific marketing skills, and the more individual skills which still have a bearing on my work communication, delegation and financial expertise. I would recommend anybody keen to enter the marketing department of a large company to find out as much as possible about the company, its products, its markets and its competitors. Try to get some unpaid work experience there even if it is only filing you can take the opportunity to learn and you might get noticed!
It is also vital to have an understanding of business finance.
Oddly enough, I'm now keen to move back into working on FMCG products, but in a brand marketing role. I want to apply my marketing research and product launch experience on a less industrial product and in a broader consumer market. Fortunately, my company produces consumer goods, too, so it is likely that I will be able to move within the organization.
A Senior Account Manager in a Sales Promotion Agency Susan has worked in a sales promotion company for four years and has progressed from account executive to senior account manager, responsible for a major drinks account. The sales promotion agency is part of a major international advertising organization.
Sales promotion is an activity often used by consumer companies looking for a specific, immediate response for instance, to increase sales over a short period by running a campaign offering two for the price of one, or by encouraging the collection of tokens to be swapped for a free gift, which is a technique frequently used by a company looking to take market share from a competing brand. It is more likely that sales promotion is undertaken by an external agency than in house, as few companies want to pay for permanent sales promotion staff when they use it on a project by project basis. Even for those fast moving consumer goods manufacturers using sales promotion regularly, an agency is usually a more effective way of operating.
I have a team of three working with me on this account. The agency is kept on a retainer by the client company, and we are then given the budget, which maybe several million pounds, at the beginning of each year. The client briefs me on its objectives that year, which could be to increase wholesaler support of a particular brand, develop business through the multiples, or improve customer brand loyalty. I devise and cost the sales promotion strategy to achieve these objectives and present this to the client at my most important meeting each year. To pitch, I also need the skills of the creative department, who create slogans and copy, and the design department, who will provide mock ups of the on pack offers or direct mail 'shots'.
A significant part of my time is spent doing the costing for the promotion: we have to make absolutely sure that we have planned for the right number of responses, have access to enough stock of the incentive gift, and will not receive so many responses that the cost of the promotion will outweigh any benefit in increased sales! Sales promotion can involve off the page 'sponsored' promotions in magazines, and on cover free offers (sachets of shampoo, free floppy discs etc.) so we deal with the media, booking space and organizing for the fulfillment of free offers.
Training in this company has been excellent and it runs a trainee scheme: three new recruits are taken on each year that spend the first six months in various departments, including creative, design, planning and accounting. They are then assigned as 'junior account executives' to a particular account, learning about the whole integrated sales promotion process. I'd recommend that anybody interested in sales promotion contacts all the agencies they can find to see whether they run a trainee scheme. If not, it might be better to join a general marketing department and try to move across.