The term category management has a wide array of meanings across retailers and manufactures across multiple channels. Some category managers do little more then keep retailers shelves full using canned topline reports while others help “steer the ship.”
When I first started (before the term was coined), category management was largely about populating templates and building presentations around them. Sadly for some companies, little has changed. Back then, report building and generation took up the lion share of every category manager’s time. Data was not well organized and segmented. Everything had to be done by hand. With today's incredibly sophisticated and automated reporting tools, much of the busy work has been taken care of.
Flexing brand muscle
Category management is perhaps one of the most underutilized and misunderstood resources. It's difficult to accurately gauge the true ROI derived from category management. How do you properly evaluate increased distribution nationally, improving merchandising in the top retailers, bettering price points during a feature add or increasing the size of the shopping basket when your brand is present? A talented category manager can help companies reach and exceed their goals by providing strategic direction and guidance. The true muscle of any brand is the strength of their category management department.
I use the term true category management to differentiate between what some call category management and those companies executing it strategically. Category management is the art and science of connecting your products with your core consumer. It's advanced fact-based selling using every available tool to reach your target audience, increase foot traffic for your retail partners, grow sustainable market share, improve your distribution and help you win at shelf—all of which are vitally important to your success.
True category management is the advanced analysis of syndicated, consumer, user, market, survey, point-of-sale, panel, social media, attitudinal, internal and external data sources for strategic brand development. It provides detailed actionable insights to grow sustainable sales, while meeting consumer needs. True category management provides you and your brand a substantial competitive advantage.
Most selling presentations contain information about why an item is a good product. They speak more to the consumer and the benefits they will get from using the product—mostly intangible attributes. When presenting an item to retail, the retailer wants to know why the item is a good fit for them and their customers. They want to know how the item will increase foot traffic and market basket size in their stores. They want to insure that there will be a return on their investment should they adopt the item.
This is called fact-based selling. True category management puts the meat in selling presentations, providing a strategic, tailored plan geared to help the retailer meet and exceed their customer’s needs while building brands. A retailer's first thought once they accept the product: where am I going to put it and which items will need to be removed from the shelf to make room for the new item?
A well-rounded presentation should include a review of the category and an analysis of the items currently selling therein. It should make recommendations of which items should be discontinued and why. Your presentation should include suggested price points and recommended promotional and merchandising strategies to help build sales for both your item and the category, as well as insights into relevant consumer buying habits.
How strategic are your category managers?