In a recent post, I shared a simple approach to identifying the best placement for in-store communication. Often, (and as was the case with some of the examples I shared the post) the optimum placement for in-store communication doesn’t lie in your category. Many readers asked how best to overcome this challenge. In this blog we will address this question: how to get retail support for cross category initiatives.
In the original post, we focused very much on in-store communication. But similar rules and approaches will work with any cross-category placement – for example, cross merchandising and secondary displays. So what steps can we take to improve our chances of achieving our cross category plan?
Getting cross category placement can be hard
Getting retailers to do things is often hard at the best of times, but getting something to happen outside of your usual category is doubly so. Decisions are often made by a different buyer, who has little incentive to help another category or brand perform. Key Account Manager’s may not have a relationship with this buyer either, and so from a selling point of view we are faced with a battle. What should we do to improve our chances of success?
Do we really need cross category placement?
Given that this is a tough road, the most obvious first question is to check that it is absolutely necessary. Review all the data and decisions that led to the desire for a cross category placement and understand what would be the impact of communicating elsewhere.
Make sure there is a really strong proposition to do this
We’re asking a lot, so we should endeavor to ensure that our customer value proposition is as strong as possible. We’re going to need our buyer to fight for this, after all, so we need to ensure that this is valuable to them. Make sure we’ve used whatever consumer and shopper data we have to quantify the value that this brings to the retailer.
Build a proposition for the new buyer
The trouble with our existing proposition, is that it probably demonstrated value to our buyer, by adding value to our category. In the example featured in the original blog, Sensodyne, a toothpaste for sensitive teeth was featured by the ice-cream chiller in a convenience store. This placement was chosen to tap into the visceral pain experience of ice cream and sensitive teeth (for more on this, please check the original blog). GSK, the company that makes Sensodyne, had a great proposition for the oral care buyer. It isn’t hard to see that this execution could lead to increased sales of toothpaste and other oral care products in that chain. But what about the ice cream buyer? Unfortunately, she doesn’t benefit from more sales of toothpaste.
But they might still benefit. Would a solution to sensitive teeth increase ice cream sales? Perhaps not in the short term, but in the longer term? If more people used Sensodyne, isn’t it possible to think that ice cream sales might go up. Yes, it’s a stretch, but I bet GSK have some data on it somewhere. And, its better than nothing!
Consider how to approach the new buyer
Typically, the key account manager will have a limited relationship with the buyer of the other category. So, the question now is to consider the best way to get to them. The typical options are:
- Ask your current buyer to make an introduction
- Ask your current buyer to ‘sell’ the proposition for you
- Go ‘up’ the organization to a manager who oversees both categories and can therefore see ‘the big picture’.
Each of these options has pros and cons. Ideally engaging the new buyer in conjunction with your existing buyer is preferred, but that is not always the case. When I was a key account manager at the beginning of my career, I worked with two buyers: and they both loathed each other. There was little chance of cooperation there! Going to a buyer’s boss is always a dangerous option, but can be done in discrete ways. Selling the idea as part of a comprehensive business plan is one way of getting senior manager’s on board without putting anyone’s noses out of joint.
Possibly the best piece of advice is to plan. Trying to coordinate this type of activity at a few weeks’ notice is likely to fail. But if a clear strategy is identified in advance, and this is shared with the key account team in advance, then the groundwork can be planned. Relationships can be built. Strong propositions can be built for each stakeholder. Senior managers can be approached via business reviews and top to top meetings.
All this points to the fact that shopper marketing and customer management needs to be well integrated at a strategic and planning level – not just when it comes to execution. And both functions need to be developing strategies and plans which are integrated with consumer plans too. Creating these frameworks isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either. To access the thinking and the tools to help better integrate consumer marketing, shopper marketing and customer management, visit Shopper Marketing Experts – the brand-new community portal for marketing and sales professionals in consumer goods, agencies, research companies and retailers.
Image: Mike Anthony