As a senior marketing executive in a previous life, in a business with a highly seasonal FMCG product range, I used to force the marketing department to spend substantial amounts of time in the field with our field sales force in the critical pre Christmas period.

The November and December period was  critical to the achievement of the years budget, a  miss by more than a couple of percentage points would never be made up before the June 30 year end.

This provided a great excuse to get desk bound marketing staff into stores, interacting with the consumers, products and brands in the categories where they had responsability. “All hands on deck” speeches were common, to overcome the reluctance, after all, they consistently told me, they looked after the brands, and the long term interests of the business, and stacking shelves in Woolworths was a waste of their time.

The underlying motivation, much more important than a few extra relatively unskilled (in that environment) people in the field, was the opportunity to gain the first hand views of the “coal face” which were much more directly connected to our consumers in a competitive market than a research report ever will be, albeit at a qualitative level.  It also offered the front line  personnel a chance to get stuff off their chest, very useful feedback for office bound marketers.

Interestingly, the marketing staff who enjoyed the experience  were also generally good at the marketing job, and those who resisted, only went out reluctantly (usually with my boot up their clacker) were also not the best marketers, and so the process offered me another measure of the potential of an employee to make a worthwhile contribution to the marketing and brand building challenges we faced.