Many manufacturers and brands mistakenly assume they can simply assign MAP enforcement responsibility to one person, or maybe even hire a dedicated employee to handle MAP policy enforcement. It’s true that enforcing your company’s MAP pricing policy is important enough to your brand’s value that it might warrant creating a full-time MAP enforcer role. But it’s also important to keep in mind that this is actually a shared, companywide responsibility.
Everyone across your organization has a role to play in helping enforce your MAP policy. Your entire staff needs to know that the policy exists, where it is, what the specific price levels are for each product or SKU (and when those prices change), what to do when a reseller asks for an exception to your MAP policy, and what the risks are of allowing policy violations. This means you need to implement companywide education and training.
To help get you started, here’s a brief introduction to the specific ways that various teams or departments across your organization can contribute to your brand’s MAP policy enforcement.
If your company sells directly to consumers through an in-house eCommerce team, that team is likely competing with your sales reps who are trying to sell your inventory to wholesalers, distributors, and retailers.
These eCommerce reps should act in ways your company would demand of any retail partner — including honoring your MAP pricing guidelines. That means, for example, not dropping advertised prices below those MAP levels, even temporarily, to meet a quarterly or monthly sales quota.
You need to train your eCommerce team members to understand that it is in the company’s larger strategic interest to increase market reach — which they can help to accomplish by not undercutting your company’s retail partners.
In many cases, the sales department is the organization’s catalyst and champion for adopting MAP in the first place. Often this is because the sales team is having difficulty selling product to their distributors or wholesalers without such a policy in place.
But the entire sales organization still needs to be educated on the importance of having and enforcing a MAP pricing policy. This training should include teaching sales reps how to handle a request from a retailer to temporarily suspend the MAP-price floor to help the retailer meet its own sales objectives.
You will also want to explain to your sales team the longer-term harm that allowing some retailers to violate your MAP, even your most important partners, can do to the company and to their department in particular. For example, if a sales rep agrees to look the other way while a large retail chain violates its MAP policy, that could chase away other retailers and keep new companies from joining the resale network. This, of course, will drive down the sales team’s numbers over the long term.
The product team often helps determine which products or SKUs should be included in a reseller pricing policy and which shouldn’t.
You can help your product team make informed decisions about how to set MAP prices— and when to change them — by arming them with real-time market data both on how your products’ prices affect sales numbers, and how your competitors are currently pricing similar products.
One of the first steps in enforcing your MAP pricing, after all, should be learning how to set those prices correctly to help your resale partners sell your products successfully against those of your competitors. The product team can play an important role in helping you understand where the “sweet spots” are for MAP price levels for each of your products, and alerting you when those sweet spots have changed and it’s time to adjust your MAP prices.
The marketing team can help both in crafting the messaging, to position the company’s MAP-covered products as “premium,” and in managing some of the MAP enforcement levers, such as adding repeat violators to the Do Not Sell list and withholding promotional dollars from those resale partners.
Your marketing team can also help draft the notifications and warnings (in coordination with your legal team) to let MAP violators know your company is aware of their misbehavior and that you will take action if they won’t remove their offending product listings or advertisements.
To put together this important library of communications to MAP violators, though, your marketing team will need to work closely with your legal or brand protection team, to ensure they don’t create messages that put your company at legal risk. This is why your marketing team should also be trained on the legal implications of MAP policy enforcement.
The customer support team will need to know what they can and can’t say to a reseller who calls and asks for incentives, special deals, or a temporary suspension of your MAP pricing floor.
These front-line employees will often be the people who field calls to your companies from resellers. That means you will need a set of procedures in place these employees they can follow to keep your company from making a mistake out of ignorance — and, even worse, potentially putting you in legal jeopardy with antitrust regulators.
If you have an in-house legal team (or use outside counsel), these legal professionals can help your company draft your MAP pricing policy and, ideally, will also advise you on how to enforce it such that the company avoids any legal pitfalls.
Also, as you put into place your in-house MAP enforcement procedures (such as training your customer support teams on what they can and can’t say to resellers), you should also enlist the help of your legal team. Keep in mind that enforcing MAP incorrectly can also create legal pitfalls for your company.