Allen Specialty Company: Manufacturer of Writing Supplies – Coordination of Advertising, Sales Promotion, and Selling

Allen Specialty Company, located in Detroit, Michigan, manufactured a line of ballpoint pens, and mechanical pencils and, in the past five years, had added a line of stationery. Allen products were sold to stationery and office supply wholesalers and retailers, as well as to department stores, discount houses, drugstores, variety stores, and supermarkets. A field sales force of eighty-two persons operated out of six district sales offices. Allen manage­ment believed that a critical factor in the company’s sales success was the coordination of its national advertising and the activities of Allen salespeo­ple and dealers.

The sales promotion program was the responsibility of the sales promotion manager, Jack Biggerstaff, and his staff, in conjunction with the sales planning committee at Allen headquarters in Detroit. The sales planning committee consisted of the managers of merchandising, advertis­ing, and marketing research. The sales promotion plan, for both new and existing products, described objectives; roles of salespersons and dealers; anticipated sales; the national, local, and trade advertising; and point-of- purchase displays, deals, premiums, and contest offers.

With approval of the sales promotion plan by the sales planning com­mittee and the sales promotions manager, Jack Biggerstaff, the sales pro­motion department prepared sales promotion kits for the Allen sales staff. The kit included advertising proofs, product samples, illustrations of the point-of-purchase displays, samples of premiums offered, and a descrip­tion of the special deal or contest featured in the promotion.

The sales promotion department prepared a timetable for each pro­motion plan, showing the date when each advertisement appeared in var­ious media. The timetable was distributed to the sales force and dealers to enable them to time their sales and advertising to coincide with the national advertising, thereby achieving full impact from the advertising.

When the sales promotion plan was approved by headquarters, it was presented to Allen sales personnel at meetings in each of the six district sales offices. The sales promotion manager and the field sales promotion manager, who reported to the former and whose job was to work with Allen salespeople and dealers on sales promotion projects, made the presentation. Following the meetings, the field sales promotion manager trained the sales­people in proper presentation of the promotion and called on key dealers to enlist their support.

The sales promotion program used with a recent new product intro­duction was typical of Allen’s efforts. In addition to the objectives and time­tables, the sales promotion program included (1) selling tools for Allen sales people—circular letters describing the promotion, a visual presentation portfolio for making promotion presentations, product samples, reprints of consumer advertisements; (2) selling tools for Allen dealers—presentation kits for selling the new product to consumers, mail circulars for dealers to send to consumers, mailing folders for use by dealers, sample folders, and a considerable amount of prize money for dealers’ sales personnel; and (3) advertising support for Allen dealers—advertising in national media and sample folders to be sent to consumers who responded to a coupon offer.

The sales promotion programs were presented one each week in the district offices in late November and December. When the schedule was announced,’ Mike Halloran, assistant sales manager in charge of the Pacific Northwest district called Jack Biggerstaff to complain that the sales promo­tion orientation session in his district had been scheduled for December 27 during the quiet week when many of his salespeople had found extra time to spend with their families and when several had customarily taken short skiing vacations, Biggerstaff explained that the promotion plan would not be completed until mid-November, and since these sales promotion meet­ings were conducted by home office personnel in the six sales regions, it was not possible to schedule more than one a week. It was tough, but Halloran’s district had drawn the bad week this year.

Halloran responded that he thought the sales promotion sessions were a waste of time anyhow. His salespeople lost two productive days in these sessions, and, in his opinion, knowledge of details of the Allen Company’s advertising and promotion plans didn’t make the sales rep’s job of selling to wholesalers and retailers any easier. Anyhow, it was the responsibility of the field sales promotion manager to work with the indi­vidual salespeople and call on key dealers. He also complained that when these sessions were scheduled in mid-November, they interfered with sales productivity in the busiest season of the year. [1]

Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.

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