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The Logistical Nightmares of Trade Marketing — and 5 Tips to Escape Them

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There’s no doubt that trade marketing is one of the most logistically heavy functional groups of the marketing world. This fact typically is ignored by other departments, which does nothing to ease the strain felt by your trade marketing team.

Fact: Your trade marketing team has to deal with every internal group in your organization, (like sales, operations, finance, product, brand marketing, campaign marketing, shipping and many others). In addition to this, they must also liaise with a slew of external teams (such as printers, fabricators, installers, rentals, warehouses and more). This means that a single person in the trade marketing department might have hundreds of points of contact per task.

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Trade marketing = sales tools

Your entire brand should be aware that trade marketing = sales tools. In this scenario, without sales tools, your field personnel walk into the retailer with nothing but a pricelist, which puts them at a huge disadvantage compared to their competitors.

What are sales tools? Here are just a handful of items that the trade marketing team can be entrusted to deliver to the sales teams working in the brick-and-mortar market:

POP (point of purchase)

Fixtures & displays

Promotion marketing

Digital activations

Retailer Advertising & art



Shop-in-shops and pop-ups

In-market print and digital custom art

For the brick-and mortar marketplace, the trade marketing team members can have many touchpoints through the entire life cycle of every single sales tool, from conceptualization, production and fabrication to distribution in the market.


Let’s take one of their simplest jobs as an example and look at the logistics of a single custom art order for a retailer from the perspective of just two of the key players in a trade marketing team — the field personnel and trade marketing manager. The complexity of the task is staggering, and to do this manually requires a great deal of resources, time and skill.

Custom art order process: field personnel

Step one: Review and confirm the trade marketing budget, brand account planning and retailer selection.

Step two: Approach retailer, negotiate deal for space and product, and get a sales commitment.

Step three: Define supporting elements (education sessions, matching promotions, etc), determine delivery date, and confirm art deliverables (what art is needed to drive the sales goal).

Step four: Measure and confirm space for production, relay all technical requirements and deal points to the trade marketing manager, prepare project details and steps, and communicate with retailer.

Step five: Confirm final delivery or install details, conduct all post-execution reporting and follow-up to ensure retailer satisfaction.

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Custom art order process: trade marketing manager

Step one: Review and confirm. This includes field personnel trade marketing budget, brand account planning, field personnel retailer selection, requirements to fulfill deal points, project details and cost, art selection and technical details (sizing, photos, retailer requirements).

Step two: Identify any issues. The list of logistical issues to identify can be ridiculously long and complicated, varying wildly from project to project. Here are just four very basic examples of what a trade marketing manager might have to consider:

Step three: Track progress. This includes communicating the actual time to complete the project and deliverables, confirming the actual delivery date, sending art to the production/design team, tracking timelines, confirming and approving final art with the retailer via field personnel, confirming correct material and accurate brand colors, as well as sending art to print for final use.

Step four: Organize and dispatch. Arrange and dispatch shipping to the local install team, organize install team, ensure the contractor is ready to work on the specified schedule, check retailer requirements for final finish and health and safety, and put out any fires or issues in real-time during install.

Step five: Finalize. Collect final photos of production from the install team, ensure retailers’ needs are met and that they are pleased with production, track and collect all costing for production, deduct final amount from budgets, maintain and update records of what image has been placed, at what time and location in a master list in case of recall of art (for example, a brand ambassador goes sour and their likeness needs to be scrubbed out of the market ASAP like Lance Armstrong). Collect and house all elements to reproduce the project (i.e., sizing, deal points, communications, decision making, costs, install details), collect and store all photography to send upstream to the brand team so they can have market examples (good and bad), and create a removal and disposal plan (if the retailer desires).

Let me be clear: The above was for ONE simple job alone. The list of potential issues and complications is endless. Not only does the trade marketing team have to perform the physical aspects of the job, but they must also be communication gurus, and operational wizards — and be able to do it at scale.

Related: The Formula To Sales and Marketing Success

5 tactical takeaways

  1. Perhaps the trade marketing team deserves a little more respect than what they are usually dealt. What can your organization do to combat logistical complexity?

  2. Consolidate communication into an open, searchable platform.

  3. Stop using multiple ad-hoc platforms, and adopt ONE platform as your primary system.

  4. Require your field teams, vendors and internal team to operate inside your platform so all requests (i.e., timelines, budget, speed, etc.) are captured in the cleanest and fastest way possible.

  5. Ingest all filed requests and process them with very defined automated systems. Automate any step in the process that can be automated, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.

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