How Companies Integrate Personal Selling into the IMC Program

For many companies, personal selling has been the primary focus for promoting their goods and services. Other IMC program elements have assumed more of a support role and, in many instances, have not been used effectively by the marketing managers or the sales force. For many companies, all of this is changing—as reflected in the following examples:

• Xerox—testing ads and sales promotions. Barbara Basney,director of marketing communications at Xerox's Office Printing Business, is responsible for gathering hundreds of thousands of sales leads for the company's marketing database. Relying heavily on trade shows and direct mail, Basney realized that costs continued to increase but effectiveness did not. In an attempt to try something totally different and innovative, she signed on with the online division of advertising agency Young and Rubicam to test market a program designed specifically to generate leads. Together they launched three direct-response offers: (1) a sweepstakes with information about Xerox's printer and a chance to win a trip to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City; (2) a product-information-only banner ad that switches to color; and (3) an interactive game in which the banner ad told visitors to play "Phaser Blast." Each of the offers used links, banners, buttons, and pop-up advertising. The nine-month test exceeded Xerox's expectations, generating 96,000

sales leads in the first four months and 200,000 in the next five months, surpassing the goals established by 117 and 111 percent, respectively—at less than 50 percent of what such results would have cost using traditional methods. What worked? According to Basney, the sweepstakes and product information ad were about equally effective,and the interactive game was the "definite loser."

• Audi—building a customer relationship program. Audi's goal was to not have the relationship with the customer end after the sale was made. Operating on the assumption that the company's best potential customers were also its existing customers, the company initiated an online program to maintain contact, while allowing its sales force to concentrate on selling. Based on its television campaign for the new A4 model, Audi offered a downloadable screensaver that frequently broadcasted updated news and information automatically to the consumers' computers. After displaying the screensaver option on its website, Audi sent an e-mail to owners and prospects offering them the opportunity to download it. Over 10,000 people took advantage of the offer. Audi then began to maintain a continuous dialog with the adopters by sending them newsletters and updates. Click-through rates ranged from 25 to 35 percent on various parts of the site—well exceeding the standard rates—and car sales were 25 percent higher than they were the previous year, even in a down economy.

• ConAgra—introducing a new product. In a market saturated by ready-to-eat dinners few retailers predicted that Banquet Homestyle Bakes—a meal with the meat already packed in—would have any success. Store owners were reluctant to stock the product and give up valuable shelf space. But the product team was determined that it had a success after three years of research and test marketing. Working closely with the sales team, product managers gathered feedback while providing the sales force with research results and a great consumer story. Sampling (each box weighed 2 to 3 pounds) was supported with a humorous advertising campaign on television and in print, appearing in magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Parenting, TV Guide, and Soap Opera Digest. Bundling the product discounts with other ConAgra brands including Chef Boyardee and Hunt's Snack Packs helped, as did a contest called "Super

Meals/Super Moms," which included prizes such as maid service, flowers, and spa visits. The contest itself garnered a 77 percent participation rate from wholesalers. Finally, 100 college scholarship offers valued at $10,000 provided a nice public relations touch. How did it work? First-year sales totaled $125 million, the product had the highest repeat purchase rate of any supermarket product introduced in the previous five years, and the introduction was touted as one of the hottest new product introductions of the year by Information Resources Inc.'s "New Product Pacesetters" report.

The above examples are just a few of the many companies that have effectively integrated personal selling into their IMC programs. Each shows how the sales team and marketing can work together to achieve success—what an idea!

Sources: Sonia Reyes,"This One's a Stove Topper," Brandweek, Oct. 14,2002, pp. M30-M33; "Xerox Tests Three Online Sales Lead Generation Tactics—Sweeps vs. Game vs. Product Info,", Sept. 12,2002, pp. 1-6; Sheree Curry, "E-Marketing Evolution," Sales & Marketing Management, June 2002, pp. 32-37.

Evaluating the Personal

Like all other elements of the promotional mix, personal selling must be evaluated on the basis of its contribution to the overall promotional effort. The costs of personal selling are often high, but the returns may be just as high.

Because the sales force is under the supervision of the sales manager, evaluations are typically based on sales criteria. Sales may be analyzed by total sales volume, territories, product line, customer type, or sales rep.20 Other sales-related criteria such as new account openings and personal traits are also sometimes considered and may be increasing in importance (Figure 18-8).

From a promotional perspective, sales performance is important, as are the contributions of individuals in generating these sales. On the other hand, the promotions manager must evaluate the performance of personal selling as one program element contributing to the overall promotional program. So he or she needs to use different criteria in determining its effectiveness.

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