We love a Category Strategy, but we rarely see them create genuine growth

A great category strategy is the best way I know to integrate the activities of sales and marketing teams into solutions that create profitable growth for consumer goods companies.

I say this whilst all too aware that my belief is rarely shared by people I meet in sales and marketing teams, and its importance is normally misunderstood by the category people that write the strategy.

Maybe that is because it is a marketing strategy without the bits the marketing team love and a customer strategy that does not solve short term forecast issues the sales team obsess over?

Or maybe the reason people miss the role of a category strategy is more fundamental than that?

I started out in sales, and quickly learnt that it was the most important function in any business, and that everyone in the organisation should concentrate on making it easier for sales to hit forecasts.

I started to find the sales teams belief a little misguided and my boss rewarded my concerns by seconding me to marketing, I think in the hope that I would get them to service sales better. I quickly realised that I was right to have doubts, because it was in fact marketing that was the most important function, and everyone else should concentrate on implementing what they want.

Category teams in those days were designed to give the retailers justification for the important activities of sales and marketing teams, despite them rarely being in the best interests of the retailer. I liked category people, but it was not a function for anyone who thought strategy was important.

Times have changed a bit, and category teams have started to find their own voice, but how many have realised that they are in fact the most important strategic function in organisations of today?

I have been lucky to work with over 20 consumer goods companies in recent years, some considered the very best, and can confidently suggest the answer is that question is none of them!

I often wonder if I should just give up and just concentrate on helping sales sell to customers and marketing connect with consumers. Category teams only have budgets for data anyway, so why would I even think the organisation would invest in seeing if my belief might make the difference?

Thankfully, the team at Pure Blue Ocean come from a mix of sales, marketing, category and retailer backgrounds, so we have used our breadth to come up with a 3rd way that we think has the power to change the behaviours that stop sales, marketing and category teams being more successful.

So, if you are trying to convince your business into a hefty sum for a category consultancy to help you create a new category strategy, give us a call and we may get you 5 solutions for the price of 1.

1.     Redesign the organisations rhythm and strategic planning program, so that it is category led.

2.     Re-Design the category function with distinct category marketing and category sales roles.

3.     Run capability programs that change the beliefs and capabilities of sales and marketing teams.

4.     Create a simple category strategy (with sales and marketing leads) and help them integrate it.

5.     Involve your retailers early and build a collaborative plan, instead of an expensive silver bullet.

If you already have an expensive category strategy that no one is using, let us help you dust it down and show you that to become category led you do not need an expensive category strategy, but you do need to change beliefs, capabilities and the purpose of every member of the category team.

If you believe in the power of being category led, contact us on:

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