At the Product-To-Shelf Luncheon Keynote at Natural Products Expo East 2012, Stephen Hughes, the CEO of Smart Balance, shared his strategy for building a portfolio of winning brands by creating a health and wellness platform to address consumers' nutritional needs, specifically by eliminating gluten in foods.
His core message was "business is about placement and velocity." Tom Peters, author of In Search Of Excellence once said that “business is simply about making things and selling things.” Placement and velocity are how you get products on retailers' shelves and into consumers' hands.
Here are Hughes' top five strategies to successfully grow a brand. Applying these to your business will provide you with a competitive advantage.
1. Look for growing categories.
Riding a current trend is always a winning strategy, because it's "better to have the wind at your back than in your face," Hughes said. The challenge is determining if you're at the beginning or the end of the trend.
Developing a trend or being a trend leader gives you the opportunity to mold a category by your definition, instead of following others'. For example, gluten-free products continue to grow in popularity and importance as consumers learn more about food allergies.
2. Test, measure, expand
Hughes urged companies to "use data wisely" as he shared his daily routine of using reports to measure the pulse of his business. Data is complicated, especially in the natural channel. The key is to understand the available data, what it's telling you and how to get the most out of it.
Companies that succeed are experts in their business, the categories they compete in and know the consumers who buy their product. There are resources to help address all of these questions. The key is to know who to ask because not all consultants are equal.
3. Fact-based, start to finish
Fact-based selling means educating the consumer and the retailer on your products' unique benefits, the category, the consumer who buys the category and why your product is better than the competition. Using the right data adds credibility to your sales story.
4. Shelf self evident
Shelf self evident means designing products and merchandising strategies that clearly convey your message to the consumer. Make your products easy to buy and help consumers understand and appreciate the benefits you offer. Develop strategies around how the consumer thinks and shops.
5. Patience and persistence
Have the patience and persistence to remain focused on your core objectives. There are few "overnight successes." Top brands are laser focused on standing out from the crowd by providing better products at a fair price.
Daniel Lohman is the owner of Category Management Solutions (CMS) which provides innovative strategic solutions for natural and organic CPG companies interested in gaining a significant competitive advantage.