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There’s no doubt that trade marketing is one of the most logistically heavy functional groups of the marketing world. This fact typically is ignored by other departments, which does nothing to ease the strain felt by your trade marketing team.

FACT: Your trade marketing team has to deal with every internal group in your organization, (like sales, operations, finance, product, brand marketing, campaign marketing, shipping and many others). In addition to this, they must also liaise with a slew of external teams (such as printers, fabricators, installers, rentals, warehouses and more). This means that a single person in the trade marketing department might have hundreds of points of contact per task.

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Your entire brand should be aware that TRADE MARKETING = SALES TOOLS. In this scenario, without sales tools, your field personnel walk into the retailer with nothing but a pricelist which puts them at a huge disadvantage compared to their competitors. I do not say this without direct experience. I owned a sales agency for Oakley that was the global award-winning gold standard. How? I completely embraced trade marketing and crushed my competitors with superior sales tools.

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Here are just a handful of items that the trade marketing team can be entrusted to deliver to the sales teams working in the brick-and-mortar market.

  • POP (point of purchase)
  • Fixtures & displays
  • Promotion marketing
  • Digital activations
  • Retailer Advertising & art
  • Events
  • Education
  • Shop-in-shops & pop-ups
  • In-market print and digital custom art

For the brick-and mortar marketplace, the trade marketing team members can have many touch points through the entire life cycle of every single sales tool, from conceptualization, production and fabrication to distribution in the market.

Let’s take one of their simplest jobs as an example and look at the logistics of a single custom art order for a retailer from the perspective of just two of the key players in a trade marketing team – the field personnel and trade marketing manager. The complexity of the task is staggering, and to do this manually requires a great deal of resources, time and skill.


  • Trade marketing budget
  • Brand account planning
  • Retailer selection


  • Approach retailer
  • Negotiate deal for space and product
  • Get sales commitment


  • Define supporting elements (education sessions, matching promotions, etc)
  • Determine delivery date
  • Confirm art deliverables (what art is needed to drive the sales goal)


  • Measure and confirm space for production
  • Relay all technical requirements and deal points to the trade marketing manager
  • Prepare project details and steps and communicate with retailer


  • Confirm final delivery or install details
  • Conduct all post-execution reporting
  • Follow-up to ensure retailer satisfaction


  • Field personnel trade marketing budget
  • Brand account planning
  • Field personnel retailer selection
  • Requirements to fulfill deal points
  • Project details and cost
  • Art selection
  • Technical details (sizing, photos, retailer requirements)


The list of logistical issues to identify can be ridiculously long and complicated, varying wildly from project to project. Here are just four very basic examples of what a trade marketing manager might have to consider:

  • If this is a window front being requested and the temperatures will be very cold in the period, vinyl will be very challenging to install. What material will be used instead?
  • Does the client have special install requirements? For example, a second story install on outside glass may need a boom lift or scaffolding.
  • Does the team need to work within unionized labor structure with fixed requirements (such as OHS standards, PPE, breaks and costs)?
  • Do you need special access from the retailer?


  • Communicate actual time to complete project and deliverables
  • Confirm actual delivery date
  • Send art to production/design team and track timelines
  • Confirm & approve final art with retailer via field personnel
  • Confirm correct material and accurate brand colors
  • Send art to print for final use


  • Arrange and dispatch shipping to local install team
  • Organize install team
  • Ensure contractor is ready to work on the specified schedule
  • Check retailer requirements for final finish and health and safety
  • Put out any fires or issues in real-time during install


  • Collect final photos of production from install team
  • Ensure retailers needs are met and that they are pleased with production
  • Track and collect all costing for production
  • Deduct final amount from budgets
  • Maintain and update records of what image has been placed, at what time and location in a master list in case of recall of art (for example, a brand ambassador goes sour and their likeness needs to be scrubbed out of the market ASAP like Lance Armstrong).
  • Collect and house all elements to reproduce the project. IE: sizing, deal points, communications, decision making, costs, install details.
  • Collect and store all photography to send up stream to the brand team so they can have market examples (good and bad)
  • Create a removal and disposal plan (if the retailer desires)

LET ME BE CLEAR: the above was for ONE simple JOB alone.

The list of potential issues and complications is endless. Not only does the trade marketing team have to perform the physical aspects of the job, but they must also be communication gurus, operational wizards, AND be able to do it at scale. As a consultant I have been tasked with helping my clients reduce the failure rates of putting custom art into the market (the average failure rate is a staggering 8%-26%). With proper systems and defined process, I can scale the volume of custom art jobs exponentially, while reducing the error rate to below 1%, saving a huge amount of time and resources.

You can see now that perhaps the trade marketing team deserves a little more respect than what they are usually dealt. What can your organization do to combat logistical complexity?

1. Consolidate communication into an open, searchable platform

2. Stop using multiple adhoc platforms and adopt ONE platform as your primary system

3. Require your field teams, vendors and internal team to operate inside your platform so all requests (i.e., timelines, budget, speed, etc.) are captured in the cleanest and fastest way possible.

4. Ingest all filed requests and process them with very defined automated systems.

5. Automate any step in the process that can be, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.


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