David Milliken's Brand Marketing Blog

Hello from 38,000 feet – Market Visits

Posted in Travel by dlmilli on December 9, 2009

Today I write while returning from a work trip. As a brand marketer I spend about 25% of my time on the road. But, oh no, that 25% is anything but consistent. Rather, it is usually a few consecutive months at home followed by a perfect storm of travel. Right now I am coming out of a typhoon.

Whether marketing lawn chemicals or beverages, market visits are the best exposure to the local nuances that drive national trends. In Colorado, for example, consumers use products to break up soil before fertilizing, and Ohio laws include minimum liquor prices, and get this – necklaces made of Buckeyes (not really). Visits also provide the chance to thank your best retailers for their support and to assist in selling to tough accounts. (I always feel like a politician shaking hands and kissing babies. Now where is my antibacterial lotion?)

In preparation for the holiday wine selling season, my team and I have visited markets nationwide.

Some very random pictures from my recent travels. Yes, I do need a better camera.

Here is a typical trip:

  • Arrive in a city for a late dinner with our local sales team.
  • Early morning presentation to our local distributor sales team, an audience of 20-50. This includes a sales update, a review of upcoming promotions, and a wine tasting. I don’t mean to complain, but 8 am wine tastings can be tough.
  • The rubber hits the road. Working with a distributor rep, I will see 6-12 retailers. Our goal is to grow distribution: both by the number of accounts selling our product and by the number of varieties in each account.
  • Hit the airport and start the process in the next city (where am I now?).

Then there is the atypical trip; Cleveland , OH was a comedy of errors. The local distributor rep literally ripped the inside door handle off of his car. Later, a random woman walking down the street spit at him.  She missed, so all was safe … momentarily. A few minutes later, the rep walked into a  shelf, just barely missing his eye. When all was said and done, we both made it out alive – and with some wine sales to boot.

The net result of the latest round of travel was thousands of new points of distribution. And November sales results are showing this to have been a valuable effort.

There are many reasons brand marketers travel. Just a few of those reasons include overseeing consumer research, building sales plans, attending consumer events (a personal favorite was Blue Moon Brew Master dinners), and visiting production facilities or vendors.

Constant travel is tough. I miss my family and changing time zones daily messes with my body. It has its benefits too. Through work, I have seen nearly every big city in North America (and plenty of small towns). Plus, you get to spend quality time with co-workers. One time in Las Vegas , well, I can’t talk about that.