The Perfect Market Visit

 Have you ever worked in a marketing role, in a FMCG or consumer durables or lubricants (I meant auto – well even otherwise it would qualify as FMCG) company. Life is cool, you meet agencies, you work with consumers, air conditioned offices till you hear the dreaded words from your boss- “kabhi market gaya hai, trade mein kya ho raha hai pata hai, competition ne le rakhi hai”. 
Now begins the dilemma, to do or not to do a market visit but with an adamant boss one is not left with much choice. 
 
1. First phase is to plan where to travel: well there are various factors to look at namely your market share movement in an area, your avg. HH consumption etc etc. 
a. Most important however is where is your HOME TOWN. If you are planning to travel once every week (which you should and I will tell you why later), ensure once a month is to your hometown (saves you a lot of money as you meet your parents on company money). 
b. Other important factor is what is your wife/ girlfriend (in all likelihood you are married- brand manager in an organisation, koi bhi Ladki de dega) craving for is it rosogulla from kolkata or saree from Coimbatore or biryani from paradise or Lucknow chikan kurta. Plan accordingly. 
c. One more factor to consider is how cute the Area Sales Manager is. 
d. Last one for loser brand managers is to plan a visit to a place with low market share and see how you can maximise sales (it would most likely be UP or South as it has the highest population and maximum per capita consumption).
You see I have started using sub points in the blog now which shows my intellect is rising. 
 
2. Next is to plan when to travel: nobody has a say but if you are smart you can maximise this aspect as well.
a. HOMETOWN: if you are travelling to your home town, plan the visit for Friday and Monday. Leave office on Thursday for an early evening flight and come back Tuesday morning. VoilĂ , five night trip home on company money. (Warning- do not plan it very close to festivals as HR managers get smart during this period and issue an advisory).
b. BOSS schedule: plan in such a way that you are away from your boss as much as possible. (Remember even your boss has a boss and he would have asked your boss to travel as well). Plan when your boss is in office. Only losers travel when their bosses travel. 
c. Importantant meetings: plan to travel to avoid review meetings. Well it is not always possible but create a case to travel that is so urgent that the review meeting is cancelled. 
 
3. Flight planning: plan in such a way that you get minimum time in the market. E.g. Travelling to Kolkata from Mumbai, book at 8 am flight (you need that sleep) reach Kolkata by 10 40 am, reach the market by 12 noon, spend 1 hour at the distributor and there you are lunch time. Take the distributor and the ASM, SO, TSO and the beat salesman for a lavish lunch. 2:30 start discussing sales, competition and agree on visiting wholesale as retail beat salesman is already back at the distributor. Visit the biggest wholesaler every time, start with tea, pleasantries and the discuss rates. Offer a deep discount and sell high value item (FAL etc.) and come back. The return flight is at 6 45 pm for which you have to leave right now. All are happy, ASM, SO and TSO that they got their month target done (thanks to the deep discount for which you will never release the money), Distributor for the lavish lunch and everyone that they did not have to work in the sun. Back at the airport, shop and fly back home. Beware of Regional sales managers who mandate to start market work at 9 am even for market visits. This only means that you leave office early the previous day, get an extra five star night and great food. 
 
4. Dos and Don’ts for a successful market visit:
Dos: 
a. Have tea at every outlet
b. Offer the best, heaviest lunch possible to the sales team
c. Offer extra discounts at every outlet
d. Take a late flight to the market
e. Take an early flight back
f. Stay in touch with the ASM if she is cute
g. Go to wholesale
h. Crib about the quality of car sent for pickup and drop
i. Buy what your wife has asked for
j. Send a visit report(highlighting the overdependence on wholesale and lack of distribution)
k. Travel the same airline (the loyalty points and you get familiar with the air hostesses)
 
Don’ts:
a. Work in retail
b. Travel in a sub standard car
c. Forget what your wife has asked for
d. Miss the speciality food of that city 
e. Forget to compliment the cute ASM
d. Work hard
 
Follow these simple steps for an effective market visit and keep following it every week (two days per week of boss free time on company money). I have followed it throughout my career and today I am smart enough to write this blog. 
 
P.s. Not to forget the airline loyalty points which will give you free flights to your home town. 
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