ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Eastman Kodak Co. here has unveiled a plan to revamp its consumer imaging sales force into a team structure by June 1.
The decision to structure a combination of channel teams and key account teams was driven by the results of systematic study and research into trade customer preferences, said Jerry Johnson, national sales manager and vice president for Kodak's U.S. consumer imaging division.
"We did a research project with our customers, using an outside firm to conduct in-depth interviews at various levels of their organizations," Johnson said.
"From this we got a feel for what their perception of our interface with them was," he said. "We got a definition of what they expected from their best suppliers across all industries and what they would expect from us."
This information supplemented other activities such as benchmarking against companies in other categories of business and a series of internal "slice team" meetings, in which employees from across various company functions compared their views of what was then happening in the marketplace.
Kodak approached the design of what Johnson called "our organizational interface" like an engineering problem. "This is the second phase of a plan started quite some time ago," he said.
"In January 1994 we reorganized our consumer marketing group around three basic tenets: picture-taking, picture-making and image-utilization. As we completed the planning
phase of this marketing reorganization, in November 1993, we also began initial planning for this change."
Johnson said that Kodak had realized that while it has a very strong brand, it serves different roles for different customers. "We want to offer a value proposition for the consumer that is served by that particular channel or that particular retailer."
He added, "We service a broad spectrum of customers operating in many different environments. Our customers told us they wanted our people to understand the business they were in and to be able to create custom solutions to make their business grow.
"The reasons why a food retailer stocks and sells photo products are different from why a photo retailer does. Within a channel there are different reasons also."
Kodak's approach first divides the retail marketplace into five major channels: photo specialty, food, drug, mass retail, and developing markets. Each will have a channel team at company headquarters, with marketing, logistics, research, finance, and (depending on the needs of the channel) specialists in digital imaging and technical production.
"Each channel team is responsible for developing a channel strategy, specific products and programs for that channel, then support of the implementation of those programs and strategies," said Johnson.
He added, "Within every channel, some customers have the willingness and level of sophistication and growth potential that would suggest to us that we should assign a specific customer team."
In its case of photo-specialty channel, which has the largest number of outlets, Kodak's strategy will be delivered through its 13 regional sales offices in the United States. It also will for create some customer teams the first time, he said.
The approach will be similar in other channels, he added, with dedicated team leaders for accounts, each supported by the channel team.
Johnson said Kodak was not yet prepared to disclose the number of account teams it is creating. "We will add more teams as we grow and as accounts demand and need them."
He stressed that the sales force re-engineering was in no way a down-sizing. "This is a constantly changing and growing organization. It will be about the same size as our current one when we implement as of June 1."
Although Kodak made its announcement in late January, it will continue to operate under its present sales structure through May sales meetings. Johnson said the time was needed to build teams which may be different for each channel or each account.
"We are going to change the measurement of success for this organization. It is going to be what the retailer sells to the consumer, how we grow their business. Not going to focus on sell in."
Kodak also anticipates a channel-driven compensation system, Johnson said. "The program will differ by channel, and be tailored to our objectives for the whole channel. We have not yet communicated the details to our sales force, so I can't say much about it yet."
Johnson said that Kodak's involvement in continuous replenishment and category management activities predates the Efficient Consumer Response initiative. "We have been dealing with ECR for at least four to five years, but we have called it Quick Response. We use it with any customer that has ability and desire to do that. It is one piece of category management."