In 2019, I worked with dozens of founders and executives at natural product companies to improve their marketing and growth plans. Below are the three of the most important shifts we discussed, and how you can apply them to further your brand's impact in 2020.
Move from an internal focus to an external focus
Does this sound familiar? You have dozens of problems to solve every day. The most efficient way to tackle them—or so it seems—is to work long hours, chained to your phone or computer, relying mostly on your own knowledge, your internal team or your internal resources and data.
And yet, by its very nature, building a CPG company means being totally dependent upon the external environment, not the internal one. Consumers, retailers, competitors, investors, experts—they all matter.
Two things can help leaders shift from internal focus to external focus:
- Increase consumer empathy with both formal and informal consumer research.
- Deepen your understanding of competitors, retailers and investors by studying what they do and creating opportunities to learn from them.
In addition, to help you get access to external best practices in marketing, I have teamed up with New Hope Network to create a comprehensive Best Practices Survey. You can participate here. In exchange for completing the survey, you’ll get access to the report for free.
Dont be reactive–have a proactive strategy
Opportunities and crises are inevitable, but it’s possible to shift from being reactive to proactive in advancing your growth strategy. Here’s an example.
One of our clients had a problem. One of their product lines—let’s call it Product A—was on the verge of discontinuation at a key retailer. We should spring into action, right?
Maybe. They took a step back. Their growth strategy, which I helped create, had actually deprioritized Product A in favor of Product B. Why? Product A was working against consumer trends and faced long-term declines; meanwhile, Product B was the opposite.
So, rather than overreact to the crisis, we agreed that they should double-down on the strategy by accelerating growth opportunities with Product B.
But this kind of shift is only possible if there is a coherent growth strategy.
Intentional experimentation beats random activity
Guess what? You’re going to be wrong this year—lots of times. But will you learn from it?
Many companies won’t. In fact, most leaders in the natural products industry will admit that marketing is a black box: it’s hard to know what worked and why. Instead of treating marketing and trade as random activities, leaders should treat them as opportunities to learn through experimentation.
Let’s say your brand will spend $100,000 to drive velocity in 2020. What’s the best way to allocate the money?
First, you need a strategy (see above).
Next, instead of planning the entire year all at once, try setting up a series of experiments that use the scientific method. Any experiment needs four elements:
- A hypothesis to test
- Success criteria that can be measured
- A control group that can be compared to a test group
- Enough discipline to control variables and analyze the data
In a few months, sometimes faster, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.
These three shifts will get 2020 off to a powerful start. If you want to learn more best practices, you can participate in the survey that I mentioned here.