Curing An Open Wound
Johnson & Johnson binds its field forces.
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You can imagine how challenging it is for a company the size of Johnson & Johnson to keep track of its far-flung enterprise. It's a global giant with $23.7 billion in sales, 188 operating companies, nearly 100,000 employees and sales in 175 or more countries. That's not just baby powder; it's powerful brands like Band-Aid, Tylenol and Neutrogena too.

For J&J Canada, and for other consumer packaged goods vendors, the challenge lately has been to ensure the effectiveness of their trade promotional efforts. As retailers grow larger, they increasingly can and do demand higher fees from manufacturers to put their products on the shelves, include their products in the retailers' coupon books and use their retail space for promotional activity. Bruce Nagle, president of RW3 Information Technologies predicts this vice will tighten. "Retailer consolidation on a national and global level is going to hit CPG vendors over the head like a hammer in the next two to three years. If retailers don't conform and execute properly, you can spend your million dollars, but you may get only 50 percent of the execution."

With these high costs, manufacturers have to carefully guard against a host of potential problems. While retailers openly join with manufacturers to develop solid promotional calendars, in many cases the plans aren't executed as well as hoped. Perhaps the displays never arrive for the San Antonio market. Maybe a store here or there isn't aware of the plan. Or maybe it's an out-of-stock crisis since the campaign is going like gangbusters and demand is higher than expected.

Having a system in place to understand how well programs are running, while they are running, helps the organization as a whole be more responsive. Timely reports from the field can alert sales organizations to what's really happening in the field. "It certainly has its merits when your marketing department is asking what your distribution on a particular launch is," agrees J&J Canada's director of field sales, Tim Scott. "Especially when you have to wait sometimes to get point of sales data or market data."

To address that information need, J&J moved to put more power into the hands of the people checking in-store vital signs. "We were changing our structure, and we needed to report more things back from the feet in the field on a daily basis," explains Scott. "If the marketplace changes, we need to report things like pricing issues. We want to be able to check our distribution of existing products within certain chains, the distribution of our new products, and the speed to market with which we get them there. We also do facing checks as far as compliance to account-specific promotions--planograms, the number of cases on display in a promotion, as well as the number of pre-packs sold by banner and class of trade."

J&J chose solutions from RW3 Information Technologies for their field communication needs. The San-Ramon, Calif.-based company's products are also used by many other top names in consumer goods like Quaker, Warner-Lambert and Kimberly Clark.

The solution for J&J was a combination of RW3 software and Windows CE units. The capabilities of this combination were a major selling point. RW3 and CE allow field representatives to capture data very quickly and easily manage communications either over the Web or via e-mail. Two-way communication flow enables users to respond quickly to field conditions. A quick example: "If I were in a store and saw some competitive activity that no one knew about, CE allows me to send an e-mail back to headquarters," describes Brian Burchfield, director of sales at RW3. Headquarters can then respond to that issue and load an objective onto the server for specific reps to respond to. When those reps connect to download at the end of their day, "It shoots that objective back out to the reps," says Burchfield. "So within 24 hours, you can be tracking competitive activity that one person in one specific store found."

"As the industry is changing, the ability to get this information very quickly is paramount for us," says J&J's Scott. "We can retrieve the data on a daily basis. If, halfway through a particular promotion for an account, we find the compliance levels are low on the display program, we can report back to that particular chain that we have audited 52 stores in the last five days, and the performance wasn't there." Alerting the retailer quickly may salvage the promotion. Measuring performance also provides leverage to the vendor on the next deal, or even the current one if the promotion money hasn't changed hands.

So far, J&J reports no major problems, and Scott is pleased with the choice of CE. "Most companies in the late '80s and early '90s were issuing laptops to every salesperson out there. Depending on the size of the account, in a lot of cases, they weren't maximizing what the hardware could do for them. The CE unit allows us to be very focused." More importantly, the system is delivering value. "In Canada, we don't have some of the databases that are available in the states, so any other way that we can get information back which isn't time-consuming for our field people is a benefit for us, and hopefully for our customers."

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