By Liam Bateman

There is nothing like interacting with potential customers through face to face marketing when trial is crucial to a sale. Face to face marketing can be used in a variety of ways to meet a variety of objectives, however its essence is interaction and without creating a sense of theatre, interest or incentive to respond it will not succeed.

The consumer has become very aware of face to face marketing initially through supermarkets and more recently through the targeting of commuters as they arrive at busy metropolitan stations. The classic taste test advertising for Stork Margarine from the 1970’s was an introduction to this type of marketing interaction for many consumers. It was a novel experience for shoppers and an opportunity for them to get on TV. The trend for on the street interviews and marketing was fuelled by programmes like That’s Life, creating a sense of consumer involvement and allowing the man on the street to have their say.

The expansion of this type of activity over the past 30 years has led to consumers being more conscious of the techniques used to reach them face to face, however that has not reduced their interest and willingness to participate. The one negative area of face to face has been the introduction of ‘Chuggers’ on our streets, the name given to charity fundraisers who approach you with a clipboard. This has made many consumers wary of interaction, especially in the street.

However, generally, the consumer is still willing to participate and face to face marketing can be very rewarding if well targeted, positioned and offers the consumer a reason to interact and respond.

The benefits of face to face activity are that it is relatively cost effective for reaching large numbers of people in a short time frame. Any activity has to grab their attention quickly as the window for interaction is very small. A tell-tale sign of this is the scattering of leaflets on the floor outside commuter stations in the morning. So whatever you do you have to first grab their attention and then maintain it long enough for them to engage with the message you are conveying. The trick is then to get them to continue to interact over a period of time.

The best use of face to face marketing is for product testing and trial, provision of specific and timely information, marketing in the specific vicinity of activity or to generate response through the web.

The one downside is that this activity can only be targeted in a limited number of ways and once these are exhausted it becomes a bit scattergun in its approach. However, if you need to reach a large number of people in a very tight time frame it is ideal.

In a recession face to face activity can be very cost effective. It is historically very difficult to get people to trial purchase a product. If you can give them with a sample of your product then they are likely to make that trial. However, once they have tried it you need to give them a reason to purchase through maybe a voucher or competition. So many times I have received products at stations and have tried them but then have not received any incentive to then trial purchase.

Another great beneficiary of face to face marketing can be the internet. It is an inexpensive way of generating traffic to a web site as long as incentives are used. One project The Think Tank was involved in was to generate traffic to a leading social web site for women. From a single day activity at thirteen stations across the UK we were able to generate 850,000 entries into a competition during the following month. The structure of the competition incentive ensured that people returned every day to the site, ideal for the client who changed content on a daily basis.

This is an example of a face to face initiative that was planned and executed quickly and had an immediate impact upon the client’s product, but to be successful the activity has to have the right structure and be well planned.

Recessions require innovative thinking for companies to reach their customers and fight for their reduced spending power. Face to face can provide a cost effective and immediate alternative to traditional marketing for the right product or service, as long as it is well thought out and executed.

Liam Bateman is Director of The Think Tank – T: 020 7336 6623 – F: 020 7336 8658 –