On the 19th of May 2019, Time magazine published an article (The World’s Most Unequal Country) that exposed the extent of inequality in South Africa. While there is a veritable quagmire of socio-political history and turmoil to be discussed and resolved, it’s also important to look at this deeply unsettling economic disparity in the context of our industry. Are we adequately remunerating, training, and upskilling the people that go out into the field to represent our brands? Do staff wages accurately reflect the worth we place on our brands?
Field marketers constitute a crucial brand touchpoint. They humanize your brand, serving as a portal through which potential and existing customers can have an honest conversation about your products or services. In retail, they are indispensable because of just how large a role they play in driving sales. The presence and visibility of a sales representative or field marketer can be the difference between making a sale and losing it to a competing brand.
Given how crucial they are to the marketing and sales process, it is important to make sure they are adequately remunerated, incentivized and trained. Their salaries to properly cover their cost of living, especially in large cities, however, the reality tends to be painfully far from the truth. For a single adult with no dependents, the minimum one needs to live with relative decency is R7984, which mostly caters to rent, transportation, groceries and savings. This number grows exponentially when one needs to care for younger siblings, ageing parents and children, as is often the case.
The South African Labour and Development Research Unit developed a tool that reflects how income is distributed among South Africans, from the poorest to the wealthiest. 90% of South Africans earn less than R7313 a month, often having to care for entire families on that income with nothing left to save or even pay for medical aid cover. Financial uncertainty leads to depression and frustration, neither of which is good for productivity, especially in a customer-facing role.
This leads us back to the question that prompted this article. How much is your brand worth? If you could put a price tag on the feelings and thoughts your brand should evoke in your potential and existing customers, how much would it be? Do you want the face of your business to be one of pleading desperation? This industry is run on the backs of resilient men and women who bend over backwards to sell products for multi-million rand corporations yet cannot even afford to even dream about owning those very same products. This is the time to start thinking about field marketers as people with very real needs, not just cogs in the corporate machine.