The top spot in this year's Field Marketing category was hotly contested, but it was CPM that clinched the title.
While the agency is the market-leader in the category, with a turnover of £62.5m in 2010, it also achieved the greatest actual increase of the shortlisted agencies; by the end of the year, it expects to have recorded a 12.5% increase in turnover.
The driving force behind this growth is organic, through note-worthy clients including Asda, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Procter & Gamble and Molson Coors. CPM has also welcomed new clients this year, including LG, with a £2m technology brief, and Virgin Atlantic, its first travel client. On top of this, CPM extended its relationship with GSK, picking up work on its consumer health business.
In a year that brought unprecedented levels of retendering across the industry, CPM managed to repitch and renew every contract successfully, equating to £40.5m of retained business.
This year the agency has embarked upon a five-year growth strategy, underpinned by the aims of achieving rigorous efficiency, the roll-out of new products and services, growing strategic client relationships and improving the working environment.
CPM's technology division now accounts for a significant portion of the business' net profit. It has been central to driving some of the year's biggest technology launches, including LG's Cinema 3D TV launch, the Microsoft Windows Phone and Sony Ericsson's Xperia Arc.
In terms of staffing, CPM dwarfs its rivals with a workforce of 564. What really impressed the judges, however, was its investment in training and, in particular, the dedication it showed to its field teams, which are the bread and butter of field marketing agencies.
This year CPM introduced a management-development programme called My Manager, which gives its managers the framework to motivate and inspire their teams, without stifling their own personalities and leadership style.
It also launched a 'Bright sparks' initiative, encouraging staff to put forward their ideas for business efficiency. Suggestions are posted on its web portal and any staff whose ideas are realised are rewarded with prizes.
Such schemes, along with CPM's robust CSR programme, have led the overwhelming majority of its staff to say they are proud to be an employee, with 95% saying they would recommend it as a place to work to a friend.
CPM's parallel win in the Contact Centre category demonstrates that the business is setting high standards and meeting them.
FOCUS ON SONY ERICSSON
In the highly competitive smartphone market, Sony Ericsson faced a tough challenge - how to gain recommendation and advocacy at the point of purchase, despite having no category-leading devices. CPM repositioned Sony Ericsson's field sales teams to become the 'Insider Crew' who could give retail staff 'inside knowledge' via a website.
CPM identified staff who were passionate about the brand and trained them as ambassadors. The Insider Crew also visited high-traffic stores to train staff and set up 'innovation hubs'. The activity drove recommendation at these stores from 5% to 68%.
BEST OF THE REST
Last year's winner, Cosine, always a standout performer in the category, may have slipped from the top spot, but is still a worthy runner-up in a year marked out by effective work for clients.
The agency's year was exemplified by work such as its 'Feet on the street' campaign for BT. Its aim was to encourage SMEs to return to the telecoms provider, and it delivered a steep ROI for the client.
Cosine added several new contracts this year, including work from Britvic, American Express, Gatorade and EDF, fuelling double-digit growth. Despite the tough economy, it has invested a six-figure sum in its managers to increase effectiveness and celebrated its accreditation by the Investors in People scheme. The agency has also turned its attention to new technologies: it has integrated cloud computing to support all business activity, and used social-media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, in a recruitment drive for the first time.
Following hot on its heels is REL Field Marketing, which recorded strong growth. While it has won six contracts this year from Kraft, Logitech and News International, among others, revenue has grown across its existing client base and it is forecasting a 25% year-on-year revenue improvement for 2012. Key to this has been the agency's 'people agenda'.
REL also prides itself on delivering what it promises. In a client survey, 86% of respondents rated their relationship with REL and its performance as good or excellent; 100% found its account management excellent.
Of particular note is REL's work for long-standing client Red Bull. This year it rolled out an independent retailer loyalty scheme to 1700 retailers, and a consumer deals sales tool, through which 5000 deals have been implemented. It also set up a standalone grocery team for Red Bull, which delivered a year-on-year sales uplift of more than 22%
For Reach, it was a year of consolidation, rather than growth, following a restructure of the business. At the heart of this was returning to its position as a premium tactical service provider with a focus on quality work - a manoeuvre praised by the judges.
It has also made strides in investing in the personal development of its team, both in the field and at head office. This year it took on an ambitious project for the debut of Nintendo's 3DS handheld console, to ensure retail staff were able to demonstrate its 3D technology. Nintendo was delighted with the results, claiming its work was 'a key component in delivering our best hardware launch ever'.
At the end of the year Reach was bought by its existing leadership team from its private-equity owners; it will be interesting to see the effect of this on Reach's business in 2012.
Also shortlisted was Gekko.
2009: REL Field Marketing