Still one of the most common topics in shopper marketing forums and share groups remains: “what’s the right structure for shopper marketing in our organization?”
I don’t claim to have the perfect answer, but it occurred to me recently that the first step may require you (unfortunately!) to drop a house on a witch. Let me explain further.
While most of the discussion seems to focus on “should this role live in Sales? or Marketing?” I think the first thing to focus on is having the right ingredients in your team. Because if the ingredients are wrong, it doesn’t matter where you put them. I am not talking about scouring CVs for some magic formula of X years of retail-side experience plus some insights background with dunnhumby data, and a sprinkle of leadership training. Those things are important, but I see three more important ingredients in the successful shopper marketing teams that I have worked with.
That’s where the Yellow Brick Road comes in. Just like Dorothy’s traveling companions, as I see it, what every shopper team is really in need of is brains, heart and nerve.
Let’s start with brains, which is really (apologies in advance for this pun) a no-brainer. Smarts are essential, of course, and most shopper marketing teams are blessed with an abundance of this ingredient. There are PLENTY of smart folks in our field – and we have more data, spreadsheets and powerpoint decks than our brains know what to do with. However, brains left to themselves can turn from a blessing to a curse. Brains without heart lead to strategic mis-steps that look good on balance sheet projections but don’t play out well in real life (see this post for example).
Like the tin woodsman, what I see more often missing in shopper marketing teams is the “heart”. Now shopper marketers are not heartless, by any means, but sometimes shopper marketing teams let the brains (and their data!) take charge and don’t have the shopper close to their heart. The best organizations are deeply and intimately connected to shoppers needs, often by a shopper insights group, shopper ‘advocate’ or vocal field teams that ensure the shopper perspective is an integral part of team decisions. A heart without brains can also lead things the wrong way, though – the trick is having both in balance.
Even with heart and brain working together, a shopper marketing organization can still get stuck in the mud and senior management might start to question ROI. (Sound familiar?) That’s where the third ingredient kicks in… who provides “the nerve” – the courage to make bold decisions, propose revolutionary new ways to connect with shoppers and push big initiatives through with management? Obviously, the leader of the team needs to have this quality in spades. As a relatively new part of most organizations, though I see this as a bit of a weak spot, too – shopper marketers can be a bit shy of being too bold or pushing their agenda to hard as the new kid on the block.
So, if you are still struggling with structuring your shopper marketing organization (or hiring to add to it), or just evaluating your own perfromance, take one moment to put aside the usual evaluation criteria and imagine instead: how well balanced are you on “brains, heart and nerve”? You might find a quick trip to see the wizard is just what you need.
the orange sheep