TPx: So Where ARE We Anyway?

LoL.   I have to laugh.

Not to wax nostalgic here; but it has not been all that long ago that “trade promotion,” as a business process was looked upon as more of a necessary inconvenient evil rather than the mission critical sales and marketing asset it is today (and, frankly, ALWAYS has been!).   What’s so funny?   Well, for me personally, it is a validation of a life’s work.   Those of you who know me a long time know full well what I have been saying to executives, analysts, vendors, integration partners, trade organizations and the media since I got into the business back in… uh, well, a long time ago!   The offer of trade and channel incentives is the fuel that runs almost every other aspect of the entire effort to sell something to the consumer, isn’t it?

I can tell you that it has been no laughing matter about the way trade promotion administrators, supervisors and managers have been relegated to a lower caste in the sales and marketing (or finance) hierarchies of virtually every consumer products company.   But over the past few years, I have to say that my laughter is beginning to sound like the LAST laugh, because the attention now given to trade promotion is beginning to take on the critical importance it should have all along.

After so many years of building TPM systems, creating one of the largest and most successful third-party trade promotion program administrative service firms and serving in the strategic business development and product management organizations at SAP and Oracle, I am super elated to be back as a research analyst.  I am now with Lora Cecere at Supply Chain Insights where I will be creating an advanced consumer goods and retail practice and where there is a very skilled team of researchers, marketers and technologists who can support me.   We have an exciting portfolio of services and products to provide across all industries; and I am even more excited about our plans for trade promotion execution, retail execution, direct store distribution and consumer engagement.   But today; I want to drill down into trade promotion execution.

Over the past few years, I have seen a flurry of RFP’s coming out across all consumer products sectors for trade promotion management.   In fact, I can’t recall a single time in my history with this discipline that I have seen so many companies, especially the top 100 CPG companies, seek to reengineer their TPx in such a short time frame.   After looking at the details of many of these RFP’s, however, I can tell you that there is a consistent thread throughout all of them that excites me.  I came over here to Supply Chain Insights because I believe this also needs further investigation and analysis.    After talking with the executives responsible for managing their vendor recruitment effort about what they want, it has become apparent that a great deal more is desired than what is printed in the requirements.   So what am I talking about?

You should know thisAside from the ‘generic’ requirements for the TPM skeleton of functions of fund management, planning, execution and settlement, I am beginning to see a lot more flesh around these old bones.  Most RFP’s call for some sort of predictive modeling or optimization, sure; but that is becoming more of a commodity demand these days even though most vendor functionality continues to be immature or they simply can’t provide it yet.  No, what really excites me is what is NOT asked for, but always seems to be an implied need.   For instance, even though supply chain integration is commonly added as a “nice to have;” a deeper integration with the demand sensing and optimization is being mentioned – especially around a strong demand signal management platform.   The consumer has finally entered the operational equation for trade channel promotion execution albeit though a sort of “back door.”   Requests for including shared data from direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing campaigns, especially integration with mobile coupons or discounts are finding their way into the review conversations with bidding vendors.   “What are you able to do with POS data?”   Heard that one?   Yep, bet you have.   Oh, and how about “How do you employ the Internet of Things (IoT) in your solution or roadmap?”   And now, the buzzword is “AI” – artificial intelligence and how the solution uses, or plans to use this capability.  Crazy, eh?

Nope, it’s not.   In fact, if you check out this blog spot over the next few months, we are going to tackle several of these issues because each of these questions, as well as several others, is what you have been hearing and seeing; and frankly, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!   Trade promotion execution is like one of those “overnight sensations” that happened to be in the business for a lifetime and finally hit.   I’m laughing now because I see how critical it is becoming in the eyes of the C-level executives and how, all of a sudden, making it part of the digital transformation is a top priority.   LoL!  It’s always been!

Welcome to the party, guys!  It’s about time!

Rob Hand

Author Rob Hand

For most of my career, I have worked in four industries: Consumer Products, High Technology, Retail and Wholesale/Distribution. I was fortunate to begin my career with of one of the oldest channel promotion management companies in the world where I cut my teeth on the heart of consumer marketing around the business processes of co-op advertising, trade promotion and market development. Within consumer products, I covered all major sectors including fast moving consumer goods, fashion, DIY/Hardware, home furnishings, consumer electronics, retail telecom, oil & gas retail, automotive and beer/wine/spirits. I have formed and brought to successful outcomes three companies focused on these business processes and technology. I have worked with companies like Frito-Lay, Southwest Airlines, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Nike, Sealy, Hanes, SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch and so many more – all of whom enabled me to build a strong cross-industry and cross-line of business viewpoint. I have guided the industry strategy and product management for companies like SAP and Oracle. Each of those companies gave me unique insights that have helped forge the way I look at every aspect of the consumer chain. My career has also provided me with a drive to be realistic in my analyses of observations and a pragmatic view of solutions. My parents blessed me with a penchant for hard work and an attitude that honesty is the always the best policy. I am a musician and a former NCAA football and basketball official; and I have a wonderful wife and children who continue to teach me something new every single day. I consider my opportunity with Lora Cecere and Supply Chain Insights as an excellent and inevitable channel to provide guidance, counsel and advice to a transforming group of industry leaders.

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