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At Socialike, we recently implemented an idea that has worked out so well it seemed worth sharing. Quite simply, each employee gets $50 each month to spend on natural products or supplements. The concept came from something a private equity client looking to invest in the natural products space had proposed, creating a budget for us to spend. Afterward, I liked it and decided to keep the tradition going.  Being a social media ad agency with several clients in natural products, it makes sense for us to have skin in the game. Beyond that, it seems to amp up our creativity.

Stores teach important lessons

Our team already has a good grasp of the online and social media landscape, so the one thing I require is that they have to go out into the retail world to get their stuff. Sometimes we embark on a group shopping spree. Everyone, including me, enjoys thinking about what to buy with that $50, and it’s always a great time when we get together to compare. More than that, it’s an unbeatable technique for conducting research.  We experience firsthand the volume of choices available to the consumer, and there’s no better way to see how a product stacks up against its competitors.

Stopping the slide

This is all in an effort to solve a problem.  Each year, thousands of new health products, natural foods and supplements are introduced in the US.  Many are wonderful. Yet sooner or later, they vanish into horrible obscurity. I tend to blame it on their marketing. So I’m always looking for better ways of keeping our clients’ products front and center on the shelves, and beyond that, of inspiring my talented team.

Why do products succeed?

Conscious shopping gives my people a free course in the sometimes harsh but always fascinating realities of retail, including packaging, shelf positioning, onsite promotional material, signage, coupons, in-store demonstrations and importantly, how the shop staff answers questions. You begin to fathom why one brand makes it and another doesn’t.

Crosses over to other markets, too

Our program has good side-effects. The $50 seems to have a spillover as a monthly demonstration that context is huge in marketing–no matter what the business category. Our clients each inhabit a world filled with skilled marketing and competitors, and we have to help them outsmart the others.

Try it yourself

To wrap up, I’m going to suggest employers consider putting something similar into practice.  It’s a perk my people love–always a plus in employee retention. Beyond that, it fosters new ideas across our client spectrum, from hotels to financial and the knowledge we gain serves us well in fulfilling the key role of our agency: helping clients to move more product.