CHICAGO -- Using customer business teams for key retail accounts is not a technique limited to the marketers of megabrands. Smaller, more specialized vendors can -- and do -- make successful use of the CBTs.
The team approach has been a great strategic advantage for lip-care products manufacturer Blistex, said Pete Smith, national accounts field sales manager. Unlike the giants of the consumer packaged goods industry however, this privately-held company has just one team.
"We created our team to develop high-quality merchandising solutions, something a 'lone wolf' salesperson cannot do," said Smith. He spoke at a conference here on "Effective Customer Business Teams," sponsored by the Strategic Research Institute, New York.
Blistex, based in Oak Brook, Ill., first confronted the team concept about five years ago, when a major retail account demanded a custom display solution, he said.
"They asked us to develop a molded plastic, multibrand display unit for lip care to be placed at the checkouts. This would carry not only Blistex, but also competing products from Chapstick and Chesebrough-Ponds."
Smith said Blistex "jumped" on the opportunity, completing the project within a 20-week time frame. In the process, the company formed an ad hoc internal team, involving its best experts from sales, marketing, art, production, accounting, shipping, customer service and sales operations.
The resulting display solution generated a total volume increase for the trade customer and for Blistex as well as the other two brands, he said. It also established the effectiveness of the team approach.
"Our business is display-driven," he added. "Once we got involved in one chain, we went around to other customers to offer this to them."
Smith said the Blistex team has focused its activity toward the top 100 accounts. "We are in about 25% of them now, mainly in the mass and drug channels, so there is still some opportunity in the food channel."
His two major competitors in the lip care category are using similar tactics, he added. "Today some retailers are asking them to develop solutions too, then choosing between them." Currently, the Blistex team has about 10 customer projects going on at once. "The team comes together as needed to meet opportunities with customers. We do not have the resources to put multiple teams into the field."