Often the retail or FMCG industries are seen as the pioneers of the marketing world. After all, it is generally accepted that the roots of direct marketing lie in the mail order and catalogue businesses of the early 80s, trying to find new, more effective ways of getting consumers to spend more of their disposable income on their products.
Direct marketing is all well and good, but it’s the IT industry which has innovated faster and further than arguably any other industry in the history of the world. With computing power evolving at a rate which is astonishing in its own right, its unsurprising that this industry is at the cutting edge of marketing technology.
Old problems new solutions
Having painted a picture of a fast-moving, innovative industry I am going to juxtapose that with this; the IT industry has had largely the same distribution model since computers and computing technology were first seen as commercial commodities. The model involved large networks of ‘channel partners’, selling products and services via a diversity of sales partners, resellers, PC dealers and distributors.
What’s interesting is that the internet, email and social media have all added new ways to market to customers, but the model hasn’t changed. The same problems exist now, as they did in the past; brands find it difficult to reach their customers because these are not directly engaged with the brands but with the brands’ partners. And these partners, who work with tens of suppliers, haven’t the time or resources to market the brands’ products and services effectively.
That’s where channel marketing comes into play; helping your partners and yourself by marketing your products through them. In the past, this was a time-consuming, expensive and a hard-to-measure exercise. With often thousands of small, partners often only the larger, more important partners got any assistance. This is obviously inefficient.
Whilst the internet, email and social media haven’t necessarily changed the sales model, what they have done is successively changed the ease with which channel partner marketing can happen, especially on social media.
How Retail / FMCG brands aren’t that dissimilar to IT companies
I want you to re-read my last section and replace the word “partner” with “retailer”. Suddenly, it becomes the retail and FMCG model; the brand at the top making the product, selling (often) indirectly through retailers (often hundreds or thousands of them).
Brands need to find a way to get to the customer, and find a way despite not selling directly to them.
They often run promotional campaigns with their retailers either in-store or via co-branded marketing campaigns, because their retailers are time-poor and lacking in resources to mount a sustained marketing campaign. Because of the complexity and expensive nature of these marketing campaigns, brands only focus on the larger retailers, leaving the majority of their retailer network out in the cold when it comes to marketing.
What do IT companies do and what can Retail / FMCG brands do?
A concept which I have worked on for the past 4 years has revolved around content syndication on social media, effectively allowing IT brands to amplify their content far further than they would otherwise be able to do.
The process sounds simple (and it is), but it’s incredibly effective at getting your content read by your customers, and it has many downstream benefits too. IT brands create and target content based on a range of filters and targets, so that the right content gets to the right partner. The partner than takes this content and posts it through the platform (and in less than 3 clicks from the email) to their social media profiles. There’s then a large analytics engine which gathers every interaction, every like, retweet and share.
Marketing on social media becomes consistent and because of its regularity and reach, become more effective. Partners are socially-enabled, feel confident on social media, and start to build up a presence in their own right.
As more content is seen and consumed by more people, more opportunities are created to sell.
My conclusion therefore, is that retail and FMCG brands can learn from IT companies in their approach to social media. How to make it work more effectively, how to get the best out of their marketing efforts, and how to use their retail networks to positively affect consumer behaviour to drive sales.