Some people may think it is a trick question. Let me assure you it is not. Unfortunately some brands will only pay for demos because the retailers require them to support the "exposure" of their products. If this is your "strategy", the most successful demo is the cheapest one. In this case the demo budget is viewed as a promotional expense and no direct return is expected, except continuing to keep the product inventory on the store shelves.
If you think that only major brands are big enough to afford aggressive field/experiential marketing, you are missing the point - it is their commitment to demo programs that made them big. The brands that strive to promote products on the store floor, to the consumers who are there to buy, do it to lower customer acquisition costs. The success of such a strategy depends on effective execution to bring the desirable results. Well planned and coordinated demo programs are known to generate significant and lasting increases in revenue.
One of the most critical elements of planning is to decide which stores and at which times would likely have the most advantageous environment for your products to shine - even the best tasting products with the most creative packaging and sales sheets would not have a successful demo at the low traffic store. On the other hand, the pressure of very high traffic will cause even the best Brand Ambassador to give away too many samples without converting them to sales.
The most successful programs not only consider shoppers' demographics of a store, but also plan a frequency with which a sequence of demos should be scheduled in that store to maximize sustainable conversion. It is often far more profitable to invest in a smaller number of the "right" stores, than throw money at the wide range of locations in an effort to cover the market.
Recruiting and training quality Brand Ambassadors, demo table setup, selection and presentation of flavors, coordination with stores and inventory availability - are all key ingredients for "cooking" an effective field marketing campaign. However, without deciding on how to measure success you are not likely to achieve consistent results.
Recent research from Customer Experience IQ used four metrics to measure demo program effectiveness:
It is important also to measure the performance of individual Brand Ambassadors and correlation between the time of each demo and the product re-order data. The exact set of metrics depends on your products and your demo reporting capabilities.
One of the recurring complaints you would likely to hear from Demo Coordinators is how flakey are the Brand Ambassadors they have to deal with. In fact, if you ever experienced scheduling a few demos, you have probably endured a Brand Ambassador's last moment cancellation or "now show".
I would like to posit that the Brand Ambassadors' perceived lack of reliability is not caused by their mercurial personalities, but by the nature of their business and unavailability of appropriate time management tools.
Consider the fact that most Brand Ambassadors are independent contractors who try to earn their living selling their personal skills in small time increments. After all, most demos only last 3-4 hours. As such, the Brand Ambassadors need to market their services to Demo Coordinators, Brand Managers, etc. as well as delivering these services in stores and events. It is impossible to estimate how many hours a Brand Ambassador has to market their services to get a single demo for which she can earn $60-$100. This reality forces them to continuously work with multiple Demo Coordinators, conflicting times and constantly changing dates.
Demo scheduling is a very fluid process that requires a lot of flexibility from all participants, from Brand Managers to store personnel, product distributor, to Brand Ambassadors. However, the last link of this chain, the Brand Ambassador, is the least equipped to deal with the demands of flexibility. The byproduct of a flexibility is uncertainty. In the case of Brand Ambassadors it is the uncertainty of being paid for their efforts. If the changes to dates and times create a conflict with their commitment to other brands they work with, they are the only link in the demo chain who is not getting paid.
Consider the fact that most Brand Ambassadors use a phone, email, Google Calendar and spreadsheets to manage their business commitments and activities, and you will see a picture of a juggler, desperately trying to keep all the "balls" in the air. It is only a matter of time and gravity before some of these "balls", i.e. demo commitments, come down crashing to the floor and cause the last moment cancellations or "no show".
There are myriads of project/task/shift/etc management services available online today. However, all of them are designed for the owners of these business processes, who are in a position to control steps, tasks and communications. Not for the last link of the process chain, Brand Ambassador, who is on the receiving end of all that "flexibility". Besides, very few Demo Coordinators use such services because they do not offer enough specific help for the demo scheduling process, and are not a good fit for other demo management tasks.
Use of a right tool for intelligent scheduling and coordination of ever changing demo requirements can go a very long way to reduce the frustration and "flakiness" of Brand Ambassadors. Additional benefits include controlled communications and greater availability of their time to you because the use of such a tool reduces the uncertainty of Brand Ambassadors being paid for their time and efforts.