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Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

In the last blog, I discussed Amazon and the disruption they have created in the retail space over the past 10 years. And to quote Yogi Berra, “It’s Déjà vu all over again.” 100 years ago, Sears & Roebuck changed the retail landscape. (They are now out of business). 30 years ago, Wal-Mart entered the food retail business and they disrupted everything. Now in 2023, stores are getting smaller again with retailers like Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Trader Joes, Aldi and most recently Lidl changed the food and beverage retail market. Even the big box stores like Target have a smaller footprint store.  

What can we learn from all of this?

Whether you are a new on or off-premise retailer or you’ve been in business for many years, it’s important to understand your customer. It’s also important to have a plan. But most importantly, you should have a plan that can be executed at retail. I’ve spent over 35 years studying the food and beverage customer & consumer. And much like 100 years ago, they continue to change and evolve. Change is constant! This means that your plan should be reviewed and adjusted as needed.

Planning helps answer the following questions:

  1. Who you are?
  2. What do you do?
  3. How are you different?
  4. What problems do you solve for the customer?

Basically, why you are better than the competition?

When we “sell” something, we tend to focus on the “who we are” and “what we do” when the consumer really cares about “how we are different” and most importantly “why we are better” or what problem YOU solve for THEM! Regardless of the business you are in, successful companies solve their customers’ problems better than their competition. Sears is now the place where America “used to” shop because they were unable to answer these four basic questions as the world changed around them. Same for A&P, Toys ‘R Us and other retailers that did not understand the changing environment.

The plan begins with the external analysis. These are things that are outside of your control, but important to understand. Political, legal, social, technological, environmental and economic trends are important to all of us.

Competitive analysis comes next.

Who are your direct and indirect competitors? Don’t just look at the companies that “look” like yours. Consider a great local or regional brand. Most of the innovation at retail starts with a small retailers and small brands. Why? Because they are usually the closest to the customer and can see things changing faster than anyone else.

Next comes the internal analysis.

This is when you need to do an objective assessment of what is going on inside your business. Who are your customers? What are they buying? Where and when do they buy? How do they buy? Why do they buy?

It’s important to view this from your customers’ viewpoint, not yours. This is where marketing research comes in. You can do this on your own or hire someone to do it for you.

Next, conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) for each competitor. Remember that strengths and weaknesses are internal and opportunities and threats are external.

From this, develop a primary and secondary target market and develop a marketing “position” for each target.

And then, develop the marketing plan (Product, Price, Promotion and Place strategies).

Implement the plan, measure your success and adjust accordingly.

Whether you are on-premise or off-premise retailer, you need to make sure that you understand YOUR consumers and build your products, merchandising and marketing programs around them. It will positively impact your bottom line!

And remember, Marketing is a race with no finish line.

George Latella

George Latella teaches Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Food Marketing which is the largest major at Saint Joseph’s University recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. George is also a partner in Beacon Marketing group which provides Marketing planning, research, and e-commerce/direct marketing communications for food and beverage companies. George can be reached at glatella@sju.edu or 610-304-1034.

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