In many ways, growing a brand is all about balance. Balancing passion and commitment, strategy and energy. Too much of one, and a brand can burn itself out before maturing into a successful business. Too much of the other, and it could struggle to generate excitement and outshine the competition.
At Repsly we work with tens of thousands of people who visit store after store to build their brand, and what we’ve seen as the most challenging balance to strike is not between passion and commitment, but between analytics and agility.
How can businesses take enough time to make smart, data-backed decisions without compromising speed of improvement and growth? The solution is deceptively simple: take a proactive approach to standardizing the way your retail team approaches your accounts.
At first glance, the word “standardize” leans more toward the analytics side of the scale, away from flexibility. But time and time again we have seen standardization actually pave the way to agility, by giving brands a way to put their data into action immediately.
Here’s how they’ve done it:
How Standardization Blends Analytics and Agility
Agile brands get a ton of data. With teams in the field taking orders, snapping photos, and auditing their products on the shelf, the most active brands might create thousands of data points every day. Following the agile model, these brands want to view and learn from that data quickly. For the agile model to truly work, speed is of the essence.
Unreal Candy, for example, grew its unit sales by as much as 25% in just six months by focusing on rapid iteration. “When we have an idea, we try it out,” explained the company’s Marketing Director, Billy Allen. “The very next day, if it worked we double down. And if it didn’t, we do something else.”
But when your team works out in the field, perhaps hundreds of miles away from the home office, how can you deploy these kinds of changes quickly? How do you get everyone on the same page with every iteration of your in-store campaign or sales strategy? How do you share a new best practice across regions? To achieve this level of synergy, brands have to be able to standardize the way their teams approach work in the field.
How to Make Standardization Part of Your Brand’s Culture
Every time you identify a new best practice from your data (whether it’s a better way to set up your shelf or a way to introduce your product during a demo) codify it in a playbook you can immediately share with the team. Having a clear set of instructions takes the guesswork out of field work and ensures best practices are immediately put into action.
How to make your playbook succeed:
- Make playbook items mandatory for your team.
- Keep timeline in mind. Don’t just list what activity someone should do, recommend when they should do it.
- Get granular. Successful brands have different plays for different retailer types, in-store situations, or even times of year.
Deploy Workflow Changes Immediately
In the agile model, you might want to run a new test every week -- or even every day -- so you can’t afford to spend time training your team on every little adjustment you make along the way. Teams that can implement small changes immediately get far more opportunities to improve than those that move even a day or two slower.
How to deploy changes immediately:
- Use activities and terms your team is already familiar with whenever you can.
- Make sure your entire team is connected digitally so you can communicate changes directly to your individual reps. Communicating only with managers or team leaders can slow down time to deployment.
- Make small changes often. It’s easier for people to take in and act on one small change at a time. Plus, frequent micro adjustments get everyone used to change and in the mindset to seek constant improvement.
Talk to Your Team
Every time you roll out a new workflow for your team, there are bound to be questions. Brands that can field those questions and help their team get up to speed quickly have a distinct advantage in making sure the proper workflows are followed.
How to support standardization via communication:
- Make messaging part of your team’s existing work apps. It’s far more likely for your team to ask a quick question when it’s part of an app they already use during their workday.
- Stir the pot! Don’t always wait for your team to reach out with questions or concerns they may have about a new workflow. Be proactive -- it’ll make people more likely to speak up if you’ve already broken the ice.
- Make answers available to everyone. We find public comments or discussion boards can be helpful, instead of relying exclusively on private messaging.
Keep Your Fingers on the Pulse
A critical part of getting your team on the same page is making sure you know how it’s going, because even the most detailed and well thought-out plans aren’t worth a thing if they’re not properly executed in the field.
How to stay up on your team’s execution:
- Set up activity alerts. It’s far easier to stay in the loop when important notifications are sent to you, instead of having to spend time and energy looking for indicators of how things are going in the field.
- Pay attention to both positive and negative indicators. You gut might say only to get alerts when a rep misses a visit or fails to execute a certain part of your workflow, but positive alerts (such as a rep/team hitting a daily goal or getting a big win) are equally as valuable to understanding how your strategy is being executed in the field.
Using this approach to standardize the way your team approaches their work in the field helps brands balance the need for quick action, improvement, and iteration with the value of taking a planned, analytical approach to their work.
To see how we’re empowering brands to standardize the their team’s approach and get more out of their data, pick a time to chat with one of our Repsly specialists. We’ll walk you through exactly how more than 1,000 brands are getting closer to their teams, customers, and products in the field.
Frank Brogie is the Product Marketing Manager at Repsly. When he’s not thinking about how to position and sell Repsly’s products, Frank loves to explore Boston by bike and hunt for vintage cars through a camera lens. On weekends you can count on Frank to organize a pickup basketball game or play disc golf. An avid podcast listener, Frank recommends Philosophize This, 99% Invisible, and Radiolab.