These days, we tend to think of marketing as an online practice.
Which makes sense, as many of our efforts focus on reaching people in their inboxes, on social media platforms, as they search for information, or browse their favorite websites.
While digital marketing & conversational marketing dominate the lion’s share of the sales cycle, interacting with the physical world cannot be replaced.
Field marketing is a strategy that applies many of the same principles used in digital sales and marketing strategies: personalization, relationship-building, and audience targeting and takes them out into the physical world.
Here, we’ll look at this unique strategy and how it supports the sales process.
What is Field Marketing?
In a lot of ways, the definition of field marketing aligns with what you might expect. It’s a broad term that refers to a long list of marketing activities carried out “in the field.”
These activities include anything that involves face-to-face contact with potential buyers such as street promotions, experiential marketing, pop-ups, billboard ads, flyers, and more. Field marketing strategies go beyond handing out samples to anyone who passes by.
Where Field Marketing Fits in with the Rest of the Organization
- Field marketers work with sales teams, demand generation marketing, and product teams to manage events, messaging, and field campaigns that align with the brand’s core objectives.
- This team develops marketing plans that aim to support the sales pipeline, attract new leads, and help digital marketing teams achieve revenue targets.
- Field marketers are also responsible for maintaining brand positioning and representation in-person, and communicating potential buyers and customers effectively.
- Additionally, field teams are responsible for maintaining transparency around all marketing activities, logging results in the CRM, and wherever else is necessary so that campaign ROI can be measured along with sales and marketing performance data.
Top Field Marketing Strategies
As you might have gathered from the introduction, field marketing strategies span a diverse range of activities—the common thread here is the focus on relationship-building and lead generation that often takes place in person.
Product Sampling & Demonstrations
Product demos and sampling campaigns typically take place in stores or at trade show-type events. Here, marketers aim to engage potential customers on-site, though campaign goals vary based on the product, target market, and other factors.
The most common example of product sampling is a food and beverage company handing out samples in a supermarket or at a community event. In this situation, the primary goal is likely going to be getting people to buy the product, as consumer goods typically fall into the “low consideration category.”
In a B2B context, food & beverage brands may focus more on using samples as an entry-point to starting a relationship with buyers. There, the goal shifts toward generating large orders or getting new leads into the system. You might also focus on setting up an appointment or call to go over product specs, pricing, etc.
Given the in-person nature of most field marketing campaigns, events are one of the best-known examples of field marketing in-action.
Keep in mind, field marketing isn’t the same thing as virtual event marketing, despite the overlap, as the primary focus is slightly different for each role.
Event marketers focus exclusively on promoting and executing event-related campaigns–pre-, post-, and during.
Field marketers, again, focus on identifying relationship-building opportunities based on specific sales and marketing goals–sometimes that involves hosting events, in other cases, it might mean participating in a big event like Salesforce’s Dreamforce or niche-specific trade shows.
Additionally anything from online webinars to small, informal gatherings qualify as events. The key thing to note here is, it’s less about the event itself and more about the outcome.
Street promotions typically involve sending teams of marketers into high-traffic areas to hand out free samples, flyers, coupons, or some sort of incentive that connects to the event experience (think QR codes that allow you to download exclusive Instagram filters or hand-outs that act as a voucher or game-piece).
This type of marketing often includes handing out samples—much like the product demonstration approach—but it’s focused more on enhancing the experience and improving brand perception.
Street promotion might also include something like what Bud Light has done in the example below to drive awareness for its new lime-flavored beverage:
In-store promotions follow a different approach to driving in-person sales than product demos. In this case, field marketers aim to drive sales by engaging customers in making related purchases.
You see this strategy in home improvement stores like a Lowe’s or Home Depot—where you might find a sales rep offering services like window or roofing installations to customers based on the types of products they’re working on.
Typically, the goal here is generating leads for a high-consideration service—whereas, with product demos, the goal is to get consumers to try a new snack so that they might make it part of their grocery list.
Merchandising is a field marketing tactic that aims to attract customers by creating retail displays that entice them to enter the store or make a purchase.
From a field marketing perspective, merchandising strategies involve working closely with the individual retailers that buy your product, such as negotiating special displays and prime shelf space to get in-store customers to purchase those products.
Field marketers work closely with retail partners to promote the success of their product, ensuring both the brand and retailers succeed.
Guerilla marketing is a term coined by author Jay Conrad Levinson in his book, the aptly-named, Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business.
In it, he outlines the following principles that define the strategy:
- “Instead of investing money in the marketing process, you invest time, energy, and imagination.”
- “Instead of ignoring customers once they’ve purchased, you have a fervent devotion to customer follow-up.”
- “Instead of trying to make sales, guerrillas are dedicated to making relationships, because long-term relationships are paramount.”
- “Instead of believing that single marketing weapons such as advertising work, guerrillas know that only marketing combinations work.”
As you can see below, guerrilla marketing campaigns often use the existing environment as a foundation for building creative experiences.
While guerilla marketing is often low-cost, it does require more mental energy that your average street marketing campaign.
By some definitions, a campaign doesn’t qualify as “guerrilla marketing” if it uses an approach people have seen before—as the point is to get people to talk about your brand after experiencing something new.
Tips for Developing a Winning Field Marketing Strategy
While field marketing encompasses a wide range of strategies, the key takeaway here is making sure that campaigns align with the rest of your organization’s sales and marketing activities.
Set Goals for Your Program
Okay, establishing goals for your marketing program isn’t exactly ground-breaking advice. However, it’s important to take this step seriously. Many field marketing efforts are poorly-planned and often, aren’t connected with other marketing and sales strategies.
According to a 2017 article from Sales Benchmark Index, field marketing tactics should align 100% with what sellers are doing in that same market.
Field marketers build strategies aimed at attracting buyers’ attention. So, you’ll want to consider the following to inform your goals:
- Who is your target audience?
- Is this group already aware of your brand?
- What talking points do you need to address to drive deals forward?
- What is the conversion goal?
Know Your Audience
Another no-brainer tip that’s worth mentioning is, field marketing success relies on a deep understanding of your audience.
We tend to think of in-person marketing strategies as focused on casting the widest net possible, but that’s not really the case. As you develop experiences, content, and messaging, consider who you’re targeting. For example, if you’re hosting a cocktail hour, opening access to everyone won’t attract many members of the C-suite.
In that case, consider whether your audience is a seasoned industry veteran or someone just getting started in their career. If it’s the former, you may want to look toward a more exclusive “VIP” experience featuring hand-picked networking groups of high-level movers and shakers.
If it’s the latter, you might instead focus on hosting a career workshop that ends in a cocktail reception where participants can socialize and make connections.
Create Tailored Content
Like all things marketing and sales, relying on a size-fits-all field strategy isn’t going to cut it.
While individual-level personalization isn’t realistic (unless you’re using Drift Audiences), you’ll want to craft content that aligns with each segment you’ll be targeting in your campaign strategy.
One of the best ways to do this is to collaborate with marketing teams to create a set of custom templates that you can adjust on-demand to match the needs of prospective buyers.
Final Thoughts on Field Marketing
Field marketing is a collaborative effort that works best when product marketing teams, marketing, and sales all work together to create region-specific campaigns that put the buyer at the center of the conversation.
Many companies make the mistake of assuming that just because field marketing campaigns take place in the “real world” that they don’t need to follow the same data-driven approach they’d use in their online campaigns.
The reality is, all marketing campaigns—whether they take place in the virtual or physical world—are part of the same omnichannel engine. And it’s data that makes it possible for brands to deliver a seamless experience that spans both worlds.
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