Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

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Blog Moving Time

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It’s moving time for this blog and I am excited to announce that I’ve launched a new and improved personal website at www.mikeanthony.me.

Going forwards, all future blogs will be posted on www.mikeanthony.me, so please check it out and even subscribe if you’d like to get every post delivered right to your inbox. I promise not to spam you and your email address will only be used for the purposes of notifying you of updated posts and very occasional special offers.

If you are already a subscriber to this blog you will need to resubscribe to the new site to keep on receiving any post updates. It’s been great having you follow and participate in posts over the past year or so and I would love to have you join me over at the new site too.

The new site contains additional information about myself and engage. It also provides better opportunities for us to connect, share and discuss the goings-on in the world of shopper marketing and customer management.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at mike@engageconsultants.com. I’d love to hear from you.




Written by Mike Anthony

June 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Posted in engage

Integrating Sales and Marketing in the consumers goods world

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Integration is a bit of a buzz. At engage we have a unique integrated model of marketing which helps connect consumer opportunities to the retailer interface via the in-store world: it is a truly integrated model but when marketing it we hesitate to use the word. Integration has become such a buzz word that it almost becomes devalued.

Integration has long been a business goal, as successive business leaders have seen the damage silo structures wreak on business effectiveness and efficiency. The arrival of trade marketing to consumer goods companies was heralded in many ways, but one promised benefit was that it would help build a bridge between sales and marketing.

Unfortunately, research by Leicester De Montford University in the UK supports what many of us who have worked in marketing and sales teams suspect: the adoption of trade marketing has actually increased the distance between sales and marketing, increasing silo behavior and driving a wedge between the two prime commercial functions.

So we find ourselves in 2012, and according the CMO council many CMOs still see sales and marketing integration as a key priority which suggests that many companies still have a long way to go. What, then, in this age of integrated marketing campaigns, can managers do to help their businesses and their teams behave in a more cohesive manner?

Integrated Marketing – Across Consumers, Shoppers, and Retail

Create a common language

Consumer marketers must be able to express their goals in a way which can translate into product sales; and the “Rosetta Stone” for this translation is the shopper. If the consumer team can clearly articulate (and quantify) the specific change in consumer behavior that they are targeting, then that can be translated into a required shopping behavior. If, for example, the consumer goal is to drive penetration amongst teenagers – i.e. get teenagers to drink something they currently do not – then someone’s shopping behavior needs to change too. That change in shopping behavior can be understood by shopper marketers, and in turn explains what a sales team will need to do (for example, to make changes to the in-store environment to encourage a certain shopper to behave in a certain way).

Focus on behavior

The shopper marketing link creates the possibility to translate consumer marketing speak into something sales teams can understand. But for this to be meaningful for sales teams though, consumer marketers need to talk about behavior, not attitude. How much more product is going to be consumed, by whom. As a sales guy I can’t work with Facebook likes or brand preference, but I can understand more consumption and see exactly how that connects to more sales.

Aligning KPIs.

This alignment behind a change in consumption behavior enables a common language between functions; but to keep things on track, there needs to be alignment in KPIs. Different functions have different KPIs, and so they should. After all they have different roles to play. The ability to connect a clear and quantified consumption opportunity to a specific shopper objective is crucial as it makes it possible for shopper marketing teams and sales teams to have KPIs which go beyond driving sales numbers.  KPIs which encompass making specific changes in the retail environment, which in turn are tuned to changing a specific shopper’s behavior – the same shopping behavior required to create the desired change in consumer behavior. Different teams have different  KPIs, relevant to their role, but aligned behind a common goal – driving brand consumption.

Less meetings, more purpose

In about two hundred and fifty words time I’m going to passionately advocate more communication. But here comes something far more important. Don’t start with meetings. Meetings should be brilliant ways to create alignment, but they aren’t. Most meetings don’t work. Don’t start with meetings. Start with meeting. There’s a difference. Meet, discuss. Compare and understand. Then work out what needs discussing and agreeing on a regular basis. Then arrange meetings.

Integrated Plans

If the plans don’t fit together, then don’t expect the execution to gel either. Most organizations create a marketing plan, and then build in the rest of the commercial team on a needs basis. Start with a consumer plan, then build in the shopper and trade components. But don’t sign off the brand plan and then force fit the rest. No plans are signed off until they all are.

Constructive tension

There’s a difference between alignment and agreement. Different functions have different roles, and different goals, and that’s OK. They need to be aligned but not the same. Tension is good as long as nothing snaps. And that requires dialog.

Plans are just plans

Plans exist primarily to help us understand when we’re not on plan. The world changes faster than the planning cycle so increasingly we’re always going to be off plan. Being off plan is not the problem. Not knowing you’re off plan is a problem. If we know, we can choose. Do we do something? Or are we OK with it?

No-one died through over-communication

Whilst “loose lips can sink ships” in war time, have a think. How many issues in your business can you think of that were caused by too much communication? How many by too little? Exactly. More dialog (but not necessarily more meetings!)


Get marketing people to work in sales. And vice versa. Not for just a month either. Enough said.

Create integrated ways of working

Define processes which require integration. A lot of business processes are brilliantly complex and comprehensive for the most part, but don’t specify the why, what, who, when and how of communication. The output might be brilliant but if it isn’t shared it isn’t leveraged.

Measure interaction

When we first work with a client, in order to assess how a business functions we use our own in-house software application Engage Assess™  which benchmarks the quality of each process, but we also measure how well an activity is enabled. One of those measures is the communication of outputs. Rather cleverly, we map inputs used in an activity with the outputs of other processes received: i.e. If a process requires five specific inputs, we measure if they exist (does someone state that they create them); if they are shared (does the creator claim that they are shared); are they received and are they used. The disparity between marketers who say they communicate something, and the other functions who say they receive it (let alone use it), is amazing. Measure the interaction required.

…and reward it

If, as a manager, you want integration, measure it and reward it. Don’t just reward sales, or market share, or award gongs: reward the behavior you want. Give prizes for “best integrated work”, or even “most effective meeting”.

However early you start, it’s too late.

Plan early. Share early. Whatever you are doing now, imagine what would happen if you’d shared a month earlier. Six months earlier. How much more input could you have got? How many obstacles would have come up earlier, giving much more time to plan, more time to communicate, share, and understand. Share earlier. Period.

Take action now

This blog isn’t usually about plugging engage, but I will make an exception here. Our five-step approach Total Marketing approach builds a genuinely integrated way of working, at a strategic, planning or executional level.  We’re called engage for a reason! We help organizations work together by applying our unique model to strategy, capability development, and organization design and development (including KPIs). Check it out and let me know what you think!

Written by Mike Anthony

November 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Posted in engage, Marketing

Mess with the check-out at your peril!

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How better collaboration can help avoid the negative consequences of our actions

Not many people deliberately screw up. Some might, but the vast majority actually do try to do a good job. As a manager, when our team makes mistakes, we learn that our first assumption is that their intentions were good. It helps diffuse any anger, and helps give better, less emotional feedback.

But if intentions are usually good, why are so many of the things that go wrong so obvious in hindsight?

Recently there has been a lot of debate about the future of self-serve check-outs. They were originally a cost-saving measure dressed up as improved customer service.  Operations directors will have considered the operational impacts, both positive and negative. They will have calculated the payroll savings, and they will have considered the biggest operational downside – shrinkage. It appears that some retailers may have underestimated this, but one assumes that tests will have been run, and the increase in theft will have been factored in (and perhaps mitigated by enhanced security).

But according to Retail Wire  there are other unintended consequences, and unfortunately they are negative. It appears that self-checkout dramatically reduces impulse sales. Not something an operations team would consider, but something that a merchandising director would, and also manufacturers of products from batteries to candy would have been all too aware of. Mess with the check-out at your peril!

Manufacturers and marketers are not always better. I blogged recently about the scourge of poor compliance in shopper marketing activities, and across a number of forums and here on the blog many people posted about their own “case studies from hell” – where simple, avoidable consequences caused issued which destroyed activity ROI. New packaging that was impossible to read at a distance – the message was perfect but no-one saw it. Display units that don’t fit; products that weren’t available in the right size in the right stores: small oversights that could often have been avoided with input from another party.

A recent favorite of mine is a product that was to be launched by a client in Indonesia. The marketing team decided to launch at a lower price than the market based on some product acceptance research. The consequence of this slight change in pricing? Retailers saw the product as destroying category value and refused to list. Not a consequence the brand manager saw, but something a sales manager would have spotted.

We don’t have crystal balls, and we can’t be expected to foresee every possible implication of our activity. And that’s the point. We may not be able to foresee these things ourselves, but there is someone out there who, by dint of their personality or responsibility will look at things from a completely different perspective. And that, for me, is the greatest argument there is for more collaboration.

My experience in deciding who to collaborate with and when to engage them is as follows:

  • If you’re not sure whether to consult someone, consult them.  Consulting someone you didn’t need to is far less likely to lead to misery than ignoring someone whose input was essential.
  • Brainstorm all of the people who might possibly be able to help, or who might be affected by your plans. Challenge to find a really good reason NOT to consult them – if there isn’t one – go talk to them.
  • Consult them much earlier in the process than you think. Much earlier. Ask why are they not consulted from day one?
  • Plan to connect with people twice as frequently as you think you need to. In that way, if a meeting gets cancelled for whatever reason, the delay in getting their input should not be critical.

So before you begin your next project, no matter how large or small, stop a moment and think who else out there might be able to help you predict the unintended consequences.

Written by Mike Anthony

May 10, 2012 at 8:02 am

Posted in engage, Retail

Too Busy To Visit Stores? No Excuse!

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The store is where shopping happens, yet apparently store visits, market researchmany managers are “too busy” to visit. Yet there is so much value that can be gleaned from just a small investment in this activity, it’s worth finding ways to make it happen (and there are a few tips on this towards the end of the blog). Today a marketer who doesn’t know Facebook or Twitter intimately would be rightfully scorned – a shopper marketer who doesn’t understand stores should be too.

When I started in the consumer goods industry, working for United Biscuits in the UK, I spent the first six months or so as a field sales rep before being transferred into the head office key accounts team.

On my first day in the office I had fifteen minutes of precious time with the head of sales – three levels above me. He didn’t talk about strategy, ground rules, or even my future: He gave me one simple piece of advice: go to stores as often as possible.

“You’ll never spend too much time in stores”

That was in the pre-shopper marketing age. Two decades on, I’ve worked across three continents, led sales and marketing teams, set up a company and I still remember and quote that line.

And yet it seems the message, so obvious and true, didn’t get through to many people. Too many marketers and sales people I meet are apparently too busy to go to stores (though often not too busy to complain that they don’t have a budget for shopper research). When I start a project or coaching assignment, I take the team to a store. They typically go straight to their own category (and it is scary how many don’t know where to find it) and they ignore everything else.

The store (be it virtual or physical) is where it happens. Whatever the path to purchase, it ends up in a store. If it doesn’t happen there it doesn’t happen. Perhaps if someone had visited the Tesco store I blogged on a couple of weeks ago   something might have been done, and one company could have benefitted.

“I don’t have time to go to stores”

Not enough time? Have a team meeting in a store. Meet a key account manager in a store. Sneak off for five minutes whilst doing the family shop. Rotate responsibility across your team to go to a store once a week and share pictures and thoughts in your weekly team meeting (we do this at engage and it is awesome – everyone, including the secretaries and admin team go – and it’s amazing what different people see!).

Go to a store today. Check out one other category (not one you work in). Check out other brands. Observe shoppers. Maybe ask them a question. Data from a store visit isn’t necessarily accurate. But it’s a great place to build hypotheses, to use to explore data further.

However often you go, it’s probably not enough.

Written by Mike Anthony

April 5, 2012 at 7:15 am

Breaking Shopper Habits = Missed Opportunities

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I’m reading “Habit” by Dr Neale Martin – enjoying massively and will blog more later. His big idea is that much of human behavior is habitual — and as marketers we often forget this. It’s true and we talk in our workshops of disrupting shopper behavior as one of the goals of shopper marketing. We know that there is nothing more disruptive than out of stocks.  And so when they happen we need to act fast.

Things happen. Things go wrong. Often things that are out of our control. Last year Thailand was hit by devastating floods which wreaked havoc on manufacturing and supply chains across the country. Months afterwards, the disruption is still being felt. In a small Tesco supermarket in Bangkok this week, many aisles (beverage, toothpaste (see picture) tissues and towels especially) were still very badly stocked.

It has been a tough time for business here, with many people affected. But several months on, I do find myself looking at a shelf like this and wondering what opportunities are being missed. No matter how bad it is, there is as Hurts might say, a Silver Lining .

Shopping is often planned, habit driven and we know that often the challenge of a shopper marketer is to disrupt that behavior to create change. Here we have a situation where many shoppers are forcibly having their habits broken – surely there must be an opportunity in that?

I don’t know enough about the situation for these particular manufacturers but I do know one client who is 30% up because they reacted to a difficulty a competitor was having and moved fast. As to what Colgate (or their fully stocked competitors) should do – that depends on their individual situation. However I do know that other stores are well stocked (and even promoting!) There must be an opportunity for additional communication to create some form of intercept using people or signage to pick up disappointed shoppers. It just seems such a waste of space. If not the manufacturers, you would expect Tesco to utilize this space for something appropriate. Perhaps signage to promote another part of the portfolio? Something to drive (highly stocked) proximate products such as toothbrushes or soaps?)

Crises happen, they are terrible. But he who reacts, wins. Look for the silver lining!

Written by Mike Anthony

March 20, 2012 at 7:13 am

Introduction to Mike Anthony & engage consultants

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Hi – For those who want to know more about me:

I am the co-founder and CEO of engage – the experts in shopper marketing and customer management. The official bio can be found at our website , but for a little more; here goes!

I’ve worked in the consumer goods industry for twenty years now; originally in the UK, but then in Europe, Africa, and been based in Asia for the last fourteen years. My passion is helping managers transform their performance and the performance of their team and their business; and I believe that more effective, more integrated marketing is key to making this happen. That’s why we created our 5-step model; using shopper marketing to truly connect consumer marketing to retail customers.

Give me a shout if you are passionate about marketing, or want to know how shopper marketing can change your business and your performance whether you are in marketing or sales, at an ad agency or still at college. All the best!

Check us out on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or register on the website for articles etc.

Written by Mike Anthony

January 30, 2008 at 6:08 am

Posted in engage

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