Field Marketing

Trade Marketing: The Ultimate Guide [Example Strategies]

Trade Marketing: The Ultimate Guide [Example Strategies]

All businesses realize the importance of marketing to consumers. After all, if people don’t know your product exists, there will be no demand for it in the market, and that means no sales. However, many businesses fail to develop proper strategies when it comes to marketing products to the wholesalers, distributors, and retailers that bring them to the consumers, a phenomenon known as trade marketing.

There is a lot of misunderstanding around the practice of trade marketing and how to execute it correctly. That is because while they are similar, traditional (shopper) marketing and trade marketing require different approaches and have different end goals. The goal of traditional marketing is to market to the consumer whereas the goal of trade marketing is to market to the retailer.

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know (and nothing that you don’t) to understand and execute a successful trade marketing strategy for your business.


Table of Contents


What Is Trade Marketing?

Let’s start off with a definition of trade marketing. Trade marketing, to put it simply, is a B2B marketing strategy aimed at getting a product onto store shelves. This is done by making other businesses recognize the value of your product, and convincing them that helping you sell your product will ultimately help them make money too.

The purpose of trade marketing differs from that of traditional marketing, as it is not focused on the final sale. Instead, trade marketing focuses on the means by which that final sale is made. You need to get your products in front of consumers before they can make the decision to purchase them.



Who Uses Trade Marketing?

Trade marketing is executed by manufacturers and directed toward “supply chain partners”: distributors, wholesalers, and of course, retailers. While trade marketing is important for a variety of different industries, it is especially vital for those working in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space, where heavy competition and a struggle for shelf space makes standing out of the crowd that much more difficult.


Gab infographic supply chain.png

A depiction of various supply chain partners you may encounter.



Typically, trade marketing is also more important for companies that concentrate their sales in brick-and-mortar locations rather than e-commerce, because e-commerce businesses often do not have to worry about getting their product physically onto shelves. Still, e-commerce businesses engage in trade marketing on some level, as they may still work with supply chain partners other than retailers in their sales process.

Many businesses lump trade marketing in with traditional marketing and have one team that handles both aspects. While this certainly works fine for some businesses, it is worth considering having a trade marketing team that specifically focuses on B2B marketing tactics. There are a few different actors on a trade marketing team:


Trade Marketing Manager

A trade marketing manager’s objective is to develop marketing strategies that reach the target audience and oversee the operations of the trade marketing department. A trade marketing manager should have a strong marketing background, as well as experience in B2B negotiations.

They should be skilled at evaluating and understanding marketing trends and data, and must be passionate for the vision of their marketing ventures. Some of their responsibilities will include developing and rolling out campaigns to increase demand among supply chain partners, such as loyalty programs and new product launches.


Trade Marketing Analyst

The trade marketing analyst usually reports to the trade marketing manager. They oversee the data and analytics associated with this branch of marketing, and strategize new and more effective methods of reaching the target audience and improving brand perception.


Trade Marketing Associate

The trade marketing associate also works under the trade marketing manager and usually takes on a more general role in the department. They may manage specific accounts and report successes and areas for improvement to both the manager and the analyst.


Trade marketing teams can be made up of many members.


Why Is Trade Marketing Important?

Trade marketing is just as important as traditional marketing for a multitude of reasons. The first is pretty obvious: If your product isn’t making it into retail locations, it is definitely not going to make it to consumers. It is imperative to establish positive, long-lasting relationships with members of the supply chain, as without these relationships, it is nearly impossible to compete with other brands.

Another reason that trade marketing is so critical is because it is sometimes a business’s best bet at rising above the noise of their competitors, especially if the business is a FMCG (fast moving consumer good). With so many different brands selling similar products, businesses must rely on trade marketing to demonstrate the advantages of their brand to those parties who help sell it for them.


Trade Marketing Examples 

Each of these trade marketing examples is a common method for helping brands to secure those valuable retail partnerships and store facings. To reach your brand's full potential, check out how you can be Data-Driven in your approach and take your trade marketing to new heights! 


Trade Shows

Trade shows are the perfect place to carry out trade marketing efforts. They are a place to put your product on display, draw attention to it, and get a foot in the door with key supply chain partners. Trade shows also offer an opportunity for networking and can help you form relationships that will benefit your business.

When at a trade show, it is imperative to put your best foot forward. This means targeted messaging and signage, with just the right amount of decorative material to make you stand out without overwhelming the passersby. Make sure to staff trade shows with enthusiastic, knowledgeable reps that will engage with people and properly explain the profitability of your product.



Trade Promotions

Trade promotions are associated with trade marketing as well as traditional marketing. They include coupons, bulk deals, and other special incentives to buy.

Aimed at consumers or supply chain partners, trade promotions are a sure way to make your brand stand out amongst heavy competition. If there is nothing that makes your product inherently more valuable than its competitors, capitalize on trade promotion strategies to coax buyers to choose your product over another that is similar but more expensive.



Whether in print or online, brand awareness is a major goal of marketing. Still, advertising can sometimes be costly, so it is important to be sure you are executing your advertisements effectively. Do research to understand who your target audience is and the best way to reach them, then invest your advertising budget into capturing their attention.

Adverts are also effective in establishing brand recognition. The more often people are seeing the name of your brand, the more power your company gains in the market. Just be sure that your name is always represented in a positive light, and follow marketing trends to correctly cater to your audience as their needs and desires evolve over time.



How to Develop a Trade Marketing Strategy

Even if you understand trade marketing inside and out, it is still necessary to develop a strategy prior to beginning any trade marketing campaign. Having clear goals set and appropriate research done beforehand will save you from many hardships down the road.


Research The Market

Like any project, trade marketing requires substantial research. As is with most aspects of marketing, a huge portion of this research will have to be centered on your target market.

You will want to find answers to questions such as: Who are your biggest competitors? What are your most substantial challenges? What demographic does your target audience fit?

There are many ways of uncovering the answers to these questions. One way is by attending events such as trade shows. Not only do these provide an opportunity to establish important, lasting connections with other companies that work in the same industry, but they are also a way to scope out your competition and determine which brands will pose the largest challenge for you in the future.

Doing market research will also enable you to better understand your target audience. Monitor trends online, read as much as you can about your specific industry, and put that knowledge to good use by developing a comprehensive plan mapping out any potential hurdles and how you will overcome them. It is much easier and effective to develop a plan like this early on, rather than wait until you are under pressure at the last minute.


See it in Action: Lululemon

A company that certainly understands its market well is Lululemon, an athletic clothing line. Lulu goes beyond providing their customers with stylish, well-made apparel; they have spent time and energy cultivating a community beyond their brand that centers around the beliefs and ideals that the company shares with its target audience. Other companies can emulate Lulu’s approach by discovering the values of their customers and making sure their product and brand image align with them.



Devise a Plan

Once you’ve conducted your research, it is time to devise a solid plan. Where do you want your trade marketing efforts to take your brand? How much will you invest in in-person tactics vs. digital ones? What are your goals in a month? Six months? One year?

Coming up with a comprehensive outline that includes what you’re setting out to accomplish and how will help you stay on track. Using information from your research, figure out what your customer’s needs are and how you can adjust your marketing strategy to accommodate them.

You may find, through your research, that your target market’s needs differ from what your product is able to provide. This is an apt time to consider revisiting your product drawing board, and redesigning it to better meet the desires of buyers. This will make it much easier for you to explain why your product deserves shelf space to a retailer, and you won’t fear getting caught off guard when asked, “what makes your product different?”


Invest in Branding

Consumers make purchasing decisions based off of emotional inclinations more often than assessments of a product’s attributes. This is why branding is so important for marketing, even when you are marketing to supply chain partners rather than consumers.

Brand recognition cultivates customer loyalty and and an emotional connection that goes beyond your product. All forms of marketing fall under the category of branding, but knowing how, when, and where to execute your marketing strategies (informed by the market research you’ve already done) makes all the difference.



Have appealing online advertisements in addition to a well-maintained website to encourage more traffic to visit your page. When executing in-person tactics such as field marketing and sales, make certain that your reps and team members are always representing your brand positively and creating professional, memorable experiences with current and potential partners.

One company that has done an exceptional job investing in branding is Apple. The Apple brand does not only mean computers and cell phones. To its buyers, it represents modernity, success, and individuality, among a host of other things. People want to buy new Apple products not because they are the best on the market (though some may argue this to be true), but because of the emotional connection the brand has formed with its devoted followers.

When you buy the new iPhone, you also buy all of the things that having a new iPhone symbolizes to you and to others. This is no accident, but the result of a carefully thought out and executed branding strategy.



While trade marketing still follows many of the fundamental principles of traditional shopper marketing, its different aspects require a unique approach. Remember, the purpose of trade marketing is not to make an end sale, but rather to find partners that can help you along the way.

Trade marketing is quite essential to many businesses, especially those in the CPG space where standing out is extremely difficult. Understanding how to approach trade marketing and constructing a comprehensive strategy is the first necessary step to proving your product is more than another brick in the wall.


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Melissa Sonntag

Melissa is a recent graduate of Northeastern University and a content marketing specialist at Repsly, Inc. She is committed to applying her skills in order to bring value to Repsly readers and customers. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, making music, and anything dog-related.

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