No one knows how the virus will impact shopper behaviors & how this will affect your sales. People still need to eat. They want healthy products more now than ever. Make it easier for your customers to find and buy the products they want, your brand!



Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #183

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.


Heather: Good morning everybody. Thank you for joining us today. I am Heather Wainer, Publisher of WholeFoods Magazine. I am joined today with our Editor-In-Chief Maggie Jacqua and our featured speaker, Daniel Lohman. WholeFoods is dedicated to inform and educate. A little bit about us. You can see all we do and accomplish in print and online at We choose to partner with people who are like-minded and have the same goals. Dan Lohman is definitely one of them.

Heather: Dan is a CPG Natural, Organic Industry Strategic Advisor and the host of Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast and YouTube channel. Why we're all here today is to gain Dan's expertise for retailers and brands in collaborating to increase profitable category sales, Market Basket, shopper foot traffic, loyal customers, especially at this time. His extensive knowledge reaches beyond the traditional category management and has earned recognition throughout the industry.

Heather: Before we get started, we do have a couple of housekeeping. If you notice that the quality of the slides is not perfect or is not great, it's a little fuzzy, we apologize as Zoom has lowered its bandwidth to deal with the multiple traffic as there's been a lot of busy Zooms all around. Hence, if you want to know this and if you need to go back to something later, we have good news as this will be recorded and available On-Demand. You will receive an email with the recording in about a day and it will be in your inbox so you can hear it all over again. Thank you so much. And now I think Maggie is going to tell us a little bit more.

Maggie: So, this is Maggie here. So everybody sees these are some of the resources that we have available to stay up on all the latest information. We have our newsletters where we're sharing newsweekly specialty newsletters in the no-grocery dietary supplements, and suppliers as well as our main newsletter, so we're getting out news and resources, too, every week plus daily news on our website. And we have a podcast, follow us on socials because we definitely are working hard to get all the latest news up there and keep you informed. So those are some resources you can follow. And also, if you're familiar, we do an annual Independent natural products retailer survey, so this is looking specifically at the state of the industry for the natural products retailers. This ran in our March issue, so you can access this on You can read the feature article.

Maggie: And also on April 29th at 2:00 PM Eastern time, we'll be doing a webinar along with Jay Jacobowitz. He's the merchandising editor of WholeFoods and also President and Founder of Retail Insights, so Jay and I will be discussing this survey. And you can register to join us for that on our website. So, we look forward to that and telling you more about what's going on specifically with the independent natural products retailers. So over to Dan, he's going to share some great information with us now.

Dan: I appreciate everyone for being here and thank you for coming on. And also I really want to thank WholeFoods magazine for helping me raise the bar in our industry, helping me communicate these strategies that are going to help you weather the storm. So again, thanks to Maggie and to Heather, so I really appreciate it.

Dan: I want to start by telling you a little bit about my background, just to kind of give you a frame of reference. A lot of people don't know this, but I used to be a retailer. I worked my way through being an assistant manager, store manager, merchandising manager, etc. I was even a grocery manager back at Price Club, back when before Price Club became Costco. Now you're probably saying wait a minute, how does that affect or how does that relate to natural retails. The reason it relates to them is because my focus has always been local and natural. In fact, one of the things that I did is that I brought in one of what I believe is one of the first energy bars. It looked like an Éclair and anyhow what it was something that was baked. Anyhow, it was great, really super dense, but what I started learning about was how consumers buy the products. I've always been a huge advocate for natural organic products. See, look, I am live.

Dan: And with that said, I wanted to put this together for you, so that I can help you leverage some of the strategies that I teach brands and more importantly, how I can help you future proof your brand and help you survive and thrive during these difficult times. So, my mission is to make our healthy way of life more accessible by helping you get your products, brands get their products in more store shelves and in the hands of more shoppers. And of course, you're the key component to making this work. So please help me raise the bar of natural by sharing these resources to any retailer or any brand wanting to grow and scale.

Dan: So, what I want to know is what keeps you up at night? If you reach out to me and let me know what your chief bottlenecks are, then I'll do my best to answer them on a podcast or in a future webinar. And as far as this webinar series, again, I really appreciate WholeFoods working with me to partnering with me on this. I'm committed to raise the bar in our industry, especially during these difficult times as Heather said. To that end, I'm putting out these free webinars every single Friday. If you want to know more about the webinars and you want to be able to see what's coming up and when you can... there you go, I'm putting it in chat.

Dan: And if you want to know more about where you can find these webinars, you can go to my website and on the speaking tab, you can scroll down, see what webinars I've already done. There will be links to select recordings. In addition to that, you'll be able to see what I've got coming up in the future. And I've got a whole host of things that I'm working on, including about packaging, and co-packers, and anyhow, all sorts of different things. So you definitely want to look forward to that.

Dan: In addition to that, my website is dedicated to being a resource for natural brands and retailers. What I want to help you do is grow and scale more effectively. This is what the focus of the natural part of my podcast Brand Secrets and Strategies is about and my new YouTube channel, so you definitely want to check those out. In fact, I'll give you the link. If you go to my podcast page, you can actually see who's been on the podcast which you're going to be impressed. It's the who's who. Heather was on actually last week, so a lot of great insights. It's going to help you grow and scale. And one of the key things I want to reiterate as I go through this presentation, is these are strategies that brands can help you the retailer grow and scale because I want you to help look to them. I want you to leverage them, to help them help you drive sales in your stores. And then, of course, the YouTube channels I mentioned.

Dan: And then I've got a bunch of courses, the good news is a lot of them are free and there are more coming. And so again, these are strategies that you, the retailer and the brands could use, could go through that are going to help you compete more effectively. So for example, the retail game, what's required, how to put together a business plan? In my opinion, your business plans should be so robust that anyone could run your business in your absence on your behalf. And so, yeah, I go through a lot of other things and these are collaborations with other industry experts like Bob Burke and so on.

Dan: This is what you're going to see when you get to my speaker page, and as you can see the next two different webinars are already set up. And so if you want to learn more about them go to my speaker page, but these are the next two that are in the queue. One of the things that I'm going to be talking about is I'm teaching brands how to gain more traction, how to gain more runway from their available resources, which ultimately helps them help you compete more effectively. So let me frame this conversation by starting with this.

Dan: Several years ago, I wrote a feature article for the 2016 Category Management Handbook. Nielsen gave me access to all outlet sales. So back at the time when I did this, by the way, this is like almost a trillion dollars' worth of the sales. So anyhow, total food sales were up 1.9%, natural organic sales were up 11%, natural organic-only represented 7.7% of total food. This is the entire grocery store. And yet if you remove that small chunk of natural then total sales will be up to 1.2%. So let me drive this home. This is why you matter. This is the argument that you need to make when you're thinking about how do you partner with retailers, when you're thinking about how do you compete effectively in your market and avoid mass slippage and avoid some of the issues in terms of how do you compete with big retailers, etc.

Dan: So anyhow, driving this home, total dairy is up 1.5%, organic dairy was up 12.1%. Organic dairy represented only 9.8% of that pie and yet if you remove that small sliver of the pie, total sales are up 0.5%. The reason this matters again is when you're thinking about gluten-free, plant-based and some of these other things that we champion that start in our industry. These are the things that are driving sustainable sales across every single channel. I have a belief that we should never have to apologize for quality and that means good quality service, too. And so understand that it's our products, it's our industry that's responsible for the growth across every category, across every channel, and so on.

Dan: So on this slide, I know this is going to be hard to read, so you can see this on the replay or take a screenshot. You can see the difference between sales by comparison by department and the key point I want to drive home here is that again, are you get into every different category: Meat, seafood, dairy, etc. It's natural, organic, gluten-free, plant-based, etc. that are driving all the sustainable sales. Now every project I've done since for every one of my clients has simply reiterated this and simply shown how this trend is exploding.

Dan: So, I want to challenge the status quo and remember, I used to be a retailer. When I was a retailer, brands would come up to me and say, "Hey, I need you to put my product here. I need you to merchandise this. I need you to bring it into your store." It was all about the brand. It was all about how they wanted me to help them. And I want to change that conversation. So, when you're thinking about the way that we go to market today, this is exactly how the big retailers do things. That's their Achilles heel. Our opportunity is to change the way that we do things. You kind of level the playing field by getting brands to partner with us and again, that's what we're going to be talking about a lot today.

Dan: And so traditional category management versus true category management. Traditional category management tends to commoditize the shopper and the products. And so when you hear a brand talk about, "Here's what every shopper looks like," they don't get it. They don't understand our unique shopper. And again, that's what we need to be focused on, like the ripple in the pond. These trends start in natural and this is what we want to do to help people grow and scale. We want to help people understand that this is where you go to learn about these products and it's this resource that we're providing natural retailers and natural brands that are driving sales across every shelf. And again, it gets back to understanding what's unique about the consumer. I've got a slide about that that goes into that a little bit more in a minute.

Dan: So the shopper journey has changed. No surprise, right? Well, shoppers have virtually unlimited choices as it comes to where they spend their hard money and so what we want to do is help you remain relevant in the face of all your competition. Now when I say relevant, relevant meaning, what reason do you want to give, can you give shoppers to come back to your store again, and again and again. And that's the focus of this presentation. So we want to help your retail partners remain relevant, this is what I talked to brands about and this is what retailers really want. Remember, I used to be a retailer.

Dan: So, we want to change the conversation about shopper loyalty. I've got a shopper loyalty card for every retailer I shop at. What I want to do is teach you these strategies, teach you to help these brands understand these strategies, so you can convert occasional customers into loyal shoppers. Don't rely on cookie-cutter strategies. Remember, the Achilles heels of the big retailers and the big brands s that they rely on the same old tired strategies and it's all about price. It's all about how do you lower the price to get customers to come into your store, kind of as a side conversation. One of the things that I think differentiates big retailers to us and one thing I want to change in this industry, is that I want to focus on that unique product that we sell, and the value proposition that you can't get from that product in other places. I'm sorry. I'm just looking at the chat. Someone said something.

Dan: So anyhow, what I'm getting at is focus on the quality. If you are what you eat and what you eat matters and you eat some of our products, natural, organic, etc., that's going to sustain you longer, and therefore, you're not going to eat as much down the road, because you're going to need less of it to give your body the proper nutrients. So, let's focus on that and let's focus on how we're delivering that kind of real value to our customers.

Dan: Creativity, this is our single greatest asset. This is how we stand out on a crowded shelf or how we stand out in a crowded marketplace and this is all about having a purpose, and this is one of the things that I think natural is really good about is we're all purpose-driven. We're focused on how do we change the conversation? How do we disrupt the industry? How do we provide the right nutrients that consumers want and need? Pro tip: Focus on the Market Basket and work backward. So the Market Basket, as you probably know, is the sum total of the sales as the customer checks out of your store. So let's focus on that, let's think about the customer journey, and then let's work backward, so that we can help drive sales across every category in the store.

Dan: Today's competitive environment demands advanced strategies others overlook. You consistently hear the big brands and the big retailers talk about some new tool or some new software. Well, they're just a variation of the same thing. The strategies I want to teach you, get back to our roots. How do we leverage the strength of the brands to help us grow sales? I'm going to say that over and over again. So, let me give you an example. When I started working as a DSD, carry the sales bag for Unilever and Kimberly-Clark, etc., and as a Category Manager, one of the things that I did back at that Price Club Awesome is I started leveraging the brands that work with me, that brought products in to help educate me about that unique consumer that came into the store.

Dan: As a result, when I was the grocery manager for Price Club, I was able to grow sales in my department by 252%. The way I did that was I gave customers a reason to come in again and again and again because I gave them the assortment that they were looking for. I made it easier for them to shop the category, redesigned the category, redid the assortments, etc., and these again are the strategies that I want to help you with. These are the strategies I want to help their brands help you with. So, I am a huge advocate for remaining captain of your own ship, and what I mean by that is instead of parting with third-party vendors, brokers, distributors, etc. that all have different agendas other than ours. Meaning, they're thinking about a broker, distributor, they're supporting several different retailers or several different brands. Let's rely on the experts, the true experts that understand their customers, understand their categories and understand their brand far better than anyone else.

Dan: I want to help you maximize your sales and profits. I want to help you adjust your assortment and your promotional strategy, and I don't want you to farm this out. I want you to put your brands to work on your behalf. So, what I'm getting Is that retailers need brands as much as brands need retailers, and by changing this conversation, we're going to teach you how to leverage the brands on your shelf. How to identify which brands can bring you more insights, more strategies, etc. that are going to help differentiate you. So, brands and retailers need to have a collaborative partnership. Savvy retailers need brands willing and able to step up and help them grow sales and again, this is the big point of differentiation. This is where I'm going to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace. This is how you become more than just another package on a store shelf, another retailer in a market.

Dan: So let me share with you a little bit about what I teach brands and why this matters to natural retailers. Generically speaking, retailers don't make anything. What we sell is the small service space that those brands take up on the store shelf. The traditional strategy is how do you squeeze as much margin of that single square inch or whatever, okay? And we think about big retailer sales or we think about one product at a time. We're going to change that. So retailers generically want three things: They want more traffic in their stores, they want a competitive advantage, and they want a reasonable profit in their category. They do not need the same useless information that they get from every single other brand. In other words, the same brand, the same canned templated report that a brand brings to sell motor oil is not going to help you differentiate your baby food category. So we want to change the way brands bring resources and insights to you.

Dan: Now, the reality is that no retailer can be an expert in every product, every category, and every shopper and this is why we need to start partnering more strategically with some of the brands that we work with that can help us provide that strategic guidance that we need to compete more effectively. Why this matters? 80% of natural brands fail within the first year and I'm committed to change it. Sadly, this impacts us a lot, too because if we put a brand on our shelf and it doesn't do well, well, then there's a lot of churn, we've got to go through a lot of issues as far as bringing in new products, filling the space, etc. Wouldn't it make more sense to bring a brand in and help them grow and scale? Champion the brand to help them drive more customers in your store. And as we all know, retail is a marathon, it's not a sprint.

Dan: Now, this all starts with the customer journey. So what I'm teaching brands and what I want to teach you is that when you think about the customer, who's that unique customer that comes into your store? It's interesting that I talked to a lot of brands and a lot of retailers and I find that even the savviest retailers that I talk to and brands don't really understand everything about their core customer. I'll give you an example. There was a brand that I was working with that sells an oatmeal, and so they were going to retail, telling the retailer, etc., "Hey, we're an oatmeal." What they found out by talking to more of their customers is that a lot of the new parents were using their product as a baby food, as an infant food. And so by changing the way that they re-merchandised the product, dual merchandising it, they were able to drive more traffic to the shelf. These are the kinds of strategies that I want to help brands help you with.

Dan: So again, these are some of the things that I'm teaching brands. I teach brands how to know your brand, how to become an expert in your brand. I've got some more slides about that in a minute. How to become an expert in your shopper and how to become a passionate advocate for your brand? So I've got a free course that I teach about that. It's Turnkey Sales for Strategies and the impetus behind it, beyond giving brands a solid foundation to build their brand on is that when I tell you a story and you tell someone else and they tell someone else and so on, that story is unrecognizable, and it comes back to me. So, what I'm trying to do is teach brands and teach retailers how to make sure that everyone shares your story with the same authenticity, the same voice and the same passion as everyone else in the industry. Is everyone within your sales funnel?

Dan: So, the health of your brand or your store is measured by your shoppers. So I'm going to keep coming back to this thing. So what does your shopper look like and how do we keep that shopper coming back? How do we help you remain relevant? So one of the things I spent a lot of time working with brands on is teaching them to understand who their ideal retailer is. And I tell them that no two retailers are alike and never to forget that. Now, I remember when I started carrying a bag for big brands, every retailer was very similar. What we did is we took a presentation for retailer A, put their logo on it, and then we took their logo off and put a different logo on it, now it's ready for retailer B. That commoditizing of the way that we do business is not helping anyone.

Dan: So I want to help retailers better understand what your needs are. I want to teach them to become an expert in your strategies. What's important to you? What rules do you have? What categories are more important to you, etc.? What is your persona? How do you want customers to view you in the marketplace that you serve? How can a retailer help pack your brand and help you amplify that through their strategies? And of course, I always want the brands to help put you first. Always, always, always. Instead of thinking again about what they want, how do they help you get what you want? And remember, this is the strategy that I came up with, where I was able to push around big brands, including Procter & Gamble, Frito, Lay, etc. And the way I did that, was to make sure that I was helping the grocer, the retailer understanding their problem and developing my strategies around how I can help support them.

Dan: And I tell brands never to assume anything, never apply a cookie-cutter approach, and always question, how can you improve the shopper journey? How can you make it easier for customers to come in and find and buy your products? And to focus a course on the long-term relationships. Sadly, in this industry, It's all about the transaction. How do we get in and get out? How do we sell our product? How do we make our numbers? Instead, let's focus on that long term relationship. I tell brands that they need to become a value-added solution and they need to give you insights into key trends that are going on in the market. In other words, since you're so focused on running your store, what's going on in different markets that might be applicable to you. If a brand can bring you those insights, that's going to help you gain a competitive advantage perhaps within your market.

Dan: And of course, never to forget that shoppers have virtually unlimited choices. Shoppers can't buy your products if they can't find them, they'll go somewhere else. And if I can help a brand, drive more customers in your store, then that's the win-win at the end of the day. So, I tell them to always be prepared for every appointment and always show up prepared and in every single opportunity they get in front of you to always leverage that opportunity as an opportunity to educate you about the customer that buys the product, about new trends, about things you need to be aware of, other things that are going around in the marketplace, etc.

Dan: So we talked a little bit about Market Basket. Now the pros and cons are that, again, big brands, big retailers, they're focused on the profit from that single item. That's the strategy. Those are the tools that are out there today. Instead, think about how your customer buys your products. Remember back in that slide I showed with the pie art, literally had the pie about organic, that survey that I did? What I want you to think about is when a customer comes into your store, what else do they buy? If a customer comes into your store to buy organic bread, they're probably going to buy organic dairy, organic spread, organic a bunch of other stuff. That super-premium customer is going to be a lot more valuable to you as they leave your store. So think about the customer journey and work all the way back. What are the items that are complementary to different items within different brand shopping baskets and then have their brands challenge them to provide you with this kind of information?

Dan: So, what does the core natural shopper look like? And this is what I was alluding to before. Mainstream brands and retailers think of that were clones that price is the only driver. Well, have you ever gotten a good deal on something that you didn't like? Committed natural shoppers do not settle. They want what they want. And I joke a lot about how the natural shopper, they believe that the lowest shopper is someone who buys a salad and goes for a walk. So how would you know your core shopper? Instead of that, let's get to know them intimately as a friend. Are they vegan? Are they a low-house consumer? Are they engaged in the community, etc.? The better that you know your customer, the customers that you're serving, the easier it's going to be for you to provide them what they want, and to leverage the brands to help drive that traffic into your store.

Dan: So, I'm always teaching brands to help focus our needs and this is something that retailers should do, too. So, what is a need state? Think about how a customer comes in and buys your product. Let me go through this, open this slide up a little bit more. So, when you think about and need states, think about the way that the customer comes in to buy your product. What solution are they trying to solve? What thing are they trying to address? If they want cold and flu, make it easier for them to find cold and flu items. If they're shopping for meals, make it easier for them to find those products, too. And I want you to merchandise and think of your strategies, the way you put the products out there, your promotional strategies, etc. that address how the consumers buy your products.

Dan: So think about the retailer consumer and think about the brand-consumer and then segment your store around the way customers shop the store and then don't rely on standard taxonomies. Now, what do I mean by this? The standard taxonomy that you get from Nielsen, IRI or SPINS overlooks the way that your customer shops a category. By the way, I'm the one who got SPINS to start selling the distribution tracker. I'm the one who got them to start selling retailer store-level data. So, most of the data that you're going to see from a brand comes from that and the reason that matters is because brands did not have line of sight to shelf when they were working with retailers. And so now, at least you have some idea of what's going on in stores, but there's a lot more to that as well. So reach out to me and I'll help answer some of those additional questions.

Dan: I spent a lot of time trying to teach brands, the basics, so they can help you with understanding share, ACV, volume, opportunity gap. These are the metrics that I want to have them bring to you so that you can understand better what's going on in your market. Again, how do you compete against a different brand in a different category in a different retailer, etc? I mentioned that typical ranking report. Now, full disclosure. I made my name, my reputation on developing reports like this for a lot of retailers and a lot of brands.

Dan: So, several years ago, nationally including, I would develop the templates that retailers would use to have all their brands when they present their new items, etc. Well, those canned type of reports is generic at best. They do not give you the insights that you need, their starting place. And sadly, too many of the brands and too many of the solution providers out there are told that this is what you want to see. The reality is, I can buy volume if I've got deep enough pockets as a brand. What you want to know is what the trends are in the category that are driving sustainable sales. Now, a lot of people are telling you need to pay attention to the Pareto curve. This overlooks key drivers in the category. I'll give you a quick example.

Dan: When I worked for Kimberly-Clark, we used to Kleenex pocket pack. Well, if you look at the Pareto curve, that product does not deserve to be on a retailer shelf, but the reality is, is that was the entry point into the store. That's what got customers to go back to the facial tissue section and buy more Kleenex facial tissue. And when they bought more facial tissue, they bought more soup and they bought a lot of the other products, back to the market basket that the retailer wanted to sell. So even though that product fell well beyond where it should be in terms of the Pareto curve, that product was a key driver for the category and in its absence, the category would not have grown as much in addition to the fact that we gave the retailer a nice margin on the product.

Dan: So there's a better way and what I teach brands, what I want to teach you is to focus on contribution. What is the contribution that the brand brings to your store? So when you look at this chart, hopefully, you can see it okay, you can see that brand A is not the top-selling brand in terms of total dollars, but it is the fourth-ranked brand in terms of contribution to the category. In other words, what kind of profitable dollars do they drive to the category? And that's actually determined by weather and distribution and how often they promote and how deep they promote. That's a whole another conversation, I'd be happy to have that with you if you want to reach out to me. But the point here is that brand B in this example does more to drive profitable sales in your store.

Dan: And I apologize. Okay, hopefully, everyone can see that again. I don't know what happened there. Okay.

Dan: So, let's look at everything from the shopper's perspective. So when you think about perception, think about how does the consumer view your store, what's unique about your store, what is their perception they have, do you have a good selection, do you have good customer service, etc.? One of the things that I want you to do is think about the 80/20 Rule the right way and what I'm getting at here is you want to have some of the top-selling items that other brands, other retailers have in the market and you want to be price competitive only on those items, and then you want to use those unique items that only you carry to get the margin. So, in other words, if I walk into your store, what do we think about your store? What do I think about your selection? What do I think about the way you've merchandised? What do you think about your pricing?

Dan: If you can give me some point of reference, some point of comparison between yourself and other retailers and I view you as being a good value, fair pricing, etc., then I'm going to come back again and again and again because you're going to have the items that I want, but more importantly, my perception of you is that you're the retailer that I want to do business with because you're friendly and all that other stuff. So focus on them.

Dan: I'm a huge fan of integrated segregated. This is something that big retailers don't do well. I hope that you're doing this well and what I mean by that is put all the products that are somewhere together based around the way that customer shops, so I'm teaching brands how to leverage these strategies, and I teach retailers how to do this too. I've done a lot of work with a lot of different retailers, including coops, etc., about helping them identify what is the optimal assortment to have on their shelf, to drive more traffic in other stores, and keep customers coming back to make it easier for customers to find and buy the products that they want.

Dan: I also tell brands that they need to come prepared, remember? And one of the things I try to get them to do is first understand what your promotional schedule is, how do you support the different categories that you've got and then teach them to overlay their promotions RM. So when they come to you and say, "Hey, can you please put my product on your shelf?" They're telling you, "Here's how I'm going to support it, here's what I'm going to do to make sure that I'm merchandising and make sure that I've got the TPRs, all the different things I'm going to do to support my brand for every skew and for every different product grouping that I sell, and by helping you long in advance, I'm going to help you make sure that you've got enough product on the shelf to support the promotion." This is another thing kind of as a side note.

Dan: So a lot of times, in fact, actually the distribution track was born out of this. I was working with a retailer that had a promotion on a legacy brand, but the product wasn't in distribution in every one of their stores, and so what happened was they had a great promotion and they were driving a lot of traffic to the stores. Well, customers are showing up at the different stores that the product wasn't in and saying, "Where can I buy that product?" So then the retailers scrambled, they called their distributor, said, "Hey, I need as much as you can ship me." And so they finally got the product in while they were out of stocks and issues and so on and so forth, people can get their products, the promotion ran out before they got all the products in, etc. And then the other issue was because they didn't plan ahead of time. The other retailers that had that same promotion the next week, they failed miserably, too.

Dan: So my point is this when a brand comes to you to promote an item, they need to tell you, "Here's what my average turns are, here's what I anticipate selling at this price point when it's displayed, etc." And telling you how much incremental product you need to have in the backroom to support the promotion, so that you don't have out of stocks, but at the same time, you don't have any additional back stock afterward, and then coordinate it with in-store demos and so on.

Dan: So scorecards, I'm teaching brands that they need to come to you with a scorecard. This is when you can expect the product and this is when you can expect the demo people to show up and when you can expect the TPR. This is when I need you to make sure the product is merchandised and at a display or something like that. So remember what gets merchandised? I mean, what gets measured, gets done. And so scorecard example. Scorecards need to be smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. And I'm trying to teach brands and this is a strategy that retailers use, too, that you want to be thinking ahead, you want to be able to schedule things.

Dan: And so if you had a brand for example that came to you and said, "Okay, we're going to promote in the category and this is when we're going to promote." And then another brand in the same category comes along says, "Okay, this is when we're going to promote." And you can overlay those different promotions, so you can maximize your foot traffic in the store and take full advantage of that brand's traffic to differentiate you in the market.

Dan: And of course, always teach them about KPIs. Now, the key thing here is what's important to you the retailer? What should the brand be thinking about when the brand is putting together their strategies? So help them understand what's important to you in terms of pricing and promotion and placement, etc. Focus on the five Ps, don't forget people. Help the brands help you drive sales in your stores. And for example, this is a great example. This is a free mini-course that I do with my friend, Andrew Therrien and this is about how to maximize in-store demos. So if you want to check this out, I highly recommend that every brand take a look at this course. Again, it's free and it's how do you maximize each and every opportunity and this is kind of what I'm getting him.

Dan: So instead of having someone show up for a demo, make sure that person understands the product, make sure that person is an expert in your store. What do you expect? How do you merchandise a product? What's unique about the customer that you're trying to sell the product to? And leveraging all these strategies then coordinating with you and the brand and the distribution company, etc., so you want to check that out. And what I would encourage is you to have every brand that calls on you, take these courses, listen to the podcasts, and then challenge them to bring you strategies like this, so that they can help you out. As I mentioned, your business plan needs to be so thorough that anyone could run your business on your behalf and in your absence.

Dan: And so a lot of brands today are reactive, and I want to teach them how to be proactive, so they can help you prepare for what you need to know so that you don't get caught flatfooted. I tell brands all the time that it's your name on the package. If a retailer has an out of stock, it embarrasses the retailer, it is a bad reflection on your brand and when a customer comes into a store, they're not going to blame the retailer, they're not going to blame the distributor, they're not going to blame the broker, they're going to blame their brand. So by teaching brands how to make sure that you don't have any out of stocks, etc. that's going to help you compete more effectively. So again, leverage these strategies with your brand partners.

Dan: So, one of the things, and this is an illustration of one of the courses I'm putting together, it's teaching brands how to leverage your trade marketing. If I'm a brand and I come to you, and I say, "Well, you want me to do five promotions? I really can't do five promotions, but you know what? I can do three promotions much deeper." And because I'm an expert in knowing how to promote, when to promote, etc., I can drive more sales by leveraging my social media, etc. And so why does this matter? It increases distribution back to the brand and this can help you as a retailer. Make sure your products are available everywhere a customer shops.

Dan: Effective efficient trade spending, maximize promotions, maximize every promotion so you can get the highest ROI from a brand, but also as a retailer. Category leadership. A category leader in my mind is any brand willing and able to step up and help their retail partner drive sustainable sales by leveraging the strength of their brand. Then, of course, higher sales and profits. And the benefit here is this is how you convert an occasional customer and a loyal shopper. This is what keeps your shoppers happy and keeps them coming back again and again and again.

Dan: So now I'm going to take some questions. So if you want to type some questions into the chat, Maggie's going to help me with this. If you've got any questions or you want to go a little bit further into this, reach out to me, there's a link here, actually, I'll put it in the chat that you can use to schedule time with me if you want to have a conversation and I'd be happy to help you any way that I possibly can. So any questions that I can help answer?

Maggie: We do have one question that came in earlier and we did answer it, but just for people who came in later, it had been asked about will there be a replay? And yes, there will. Daniel will have that up in a couple of days, so if you came in later, or you want to go over something again, you will be available to watch it On-Demand.

Dan: Yeah. I'm sorry and thank you for that.

Maggie: Anybody who has... oh, sorry go ahead.

Dan: Oh, I'm sorry. Thank you for that. So some of the replays, I'll put some of the information out on my YouTube channel, but this one will be On-Demand. Thanks, Maggie.

Maggie: Okay, so if you have questions, please do. I'm looking at both the Q&A tab and the chat, so just type them in and we'll get them out to Daniel, but also throughout the week, we did invite readers to send in their questions. So, Daniel, I do have some questions for you already here.

Dan: Okay, great. Thanks.

Maggie: Okay, so here's one. Given all of the uncertainty these days and with all the competitive threats, how do we leverage these strategies to survive and compete?

Dan: Great question. This is one of my favorite questions, so thanks for whoever submitted that. Remember when I talked about relevance? Big brands and retailers are thinking about what's in front of their nose, not thinking what's beyond their nose. Let me rephrase. There's a better way to put it. Let me phrase it this way. They're thinking about how do they drive as much profit out of a single square inch of space when I was having that conversation. Instead, what I want you to focus on is the long game. I want you to think about what can you do today that's going to help you tomorrow?

Dan: So if I'm a brand, and I come to you, and I can tell you what's going on the category, what are the key drivers, what are the key trends, etc., and I can help you compete more effectively by making easier for my customer to buy my products in your store that's going to help differentiate you. And so while the big brands and the big retailers are spending money to try to buy... let me put it this way. I believe that one of the reasons that retail is broken and big retails specifically is because big retailers are trying to sell us the product on their shelves. In other words, they believe that the only way to get you to buy products as a customer is to heavily discount the product. So what I want to teach you to do is focus on quality. Again, focus on the quality that your products offer and help differentiate your products in that way.

Dan: So to answer the question, the way we're going to compete more effectively, is that we're going to start today by helping your customers understand that you're there to solve their unique problems. If I walk in with a cold and flu, what are the unique items that address that? If you don't have echinacea, why don't you introduce me to oregano oil or something like that? Does that help?

Maggie: Yeah. I have another question here that came in from an attendee. She's asking, "How can we as brands work better with the retailers on promotion when most of the promotions go through the distributor and they are very expensive and hard for startup and local brands to afford?"

Dan: Great question. Another great question. When I was started in this industry, you might be surprised to know that 25 years ago, I'm dating myself, all the big brands went through distributors and they don't anymore and the reason they don't is because of stuff like this. There's no value in that. So as a brand, and again, go back and take a look at my trade marketing course that's out on my YouTube channel, tried marketing webinar, it's one of my last posts.

Dan: As a brand, you want to never, never, never pay on something that doesn't include performance. And so if a distributor says, "I need you to promote, but I'm not going to tell you where I'm selling your products or where, what stores are taking your products in," that's a huge waste of money. Remember, everything's negotiable. Now, yeah, sometimes you have to play the game, I get that, but if you can go to a retailer and work directly with the retailer, push strategy versus a pull strategy.

Dan: Push strategy is you need to get out your checkbook and keep writing checks and keep doing what everyone tells you to do. The pull strategy is you get a retailer to champion or a group of retailers to champion your products and champion the fact that you can help them drive sales, and then leverage that with the distributor, leverage that with the retailers. So then the retailer is going to say, "Here's what I need from this brand. This is how they're going to help me more and more effectively." If you can do that, that's going to help you grow and scale and not waste as much your money.

Dan: The trade marketing course, I'm talking about and all that that I talked about on my podcast, YouTube channel, etc. that are that addresses those specific questions, you want to check it out. And again, if you're a retailer, you want to check those out as well because these are the strategies that the brands need to be bringing to you to maximize the amount of traffic in your store and the amount of profit in your category when people check out of your store. Does that help?

Maggie: All right. Have another one here for you.

Dan: Okay.

Maggie: Okay, so this is a little bit of forecasting here. What do you think retail will look like after this pandemic is over and how do you think this will impact us?

Dan: Oh, great question, so this is something that I'm so glad that you asked whoever it was. The reason I'm so glad you asked because this is a question I get asked all the time. There are a lot of mainstream retailers that unfortunately to go by the wayside. We as a smaller group, as an independent as a natural retailer, as a natural retailer chains, we need to do everything that we can to help weather the storm, to help our customers drive sales, to help our customers compete more effectively. The reason this matters is because they need us. Remember? Customers are going out of their way to find natural organic products, so we want to be their one-stop destination for those unique products that provide those real solutions. Again, cold and flu or oil of oregano, etc., and you think about all the creative things that you can sell, how you differentiate yourself.

Dan: So the answer to your question, a lot of the big brands are going to be focused on how do they fight to the lowest common denominator? It's all going to be about price. It's going to be about promotion-driven, etc., and the reality is that those big brands that retailers are trying to push to do that are realizing that they have an opportunity to go online. Now, what's unique about your products is that your products are addressing what customers really want and need. Let me give a quick analogy of how this works.

Dan: When I was working for Price Club years ago, I was sort of like one of the first Home Depots. There was an Ace Hardware in my neighborhood and everyone was concerned that they were going to go out of business because we could drive price. Well, yeah, we're selling a ton of product, but we didn't get the customer service and the information that the customer service that we gave, the insights that we give customers was usually wrong. And so what happened was when Price Club, oh, I mean, not Price Club. I'm sorry. Home Depot opened up their stores and started selling their products, sales actually went up at the local A&A Tradin' Post, local Ace Hardware store, and the reason for that is because they did such an exceptional job of meeting the needs and wants of their customers. This is what we need to do as an industry. Thanks for asking.

Maggie: And kind of actually jumping off that a little bit more targeted, another question just came in. During this current difficult global health and economic climate, should brands focus on the health value of a product or low cost?

Dan: Oh, thank you.

Maggie: So just kind of touching on what you were just saying.

Dan: Again, this is kind of what we started with, so thank you for bringing this up again. Don't apologize for the quality. Remember the organic side? Those products are driving sales across their big category. If you look at plant-based, if you look at any of the products and any of the categories that were selling, those are... let me put it this way, that's the ripple in the pond. So the ripple in the pond, as I would define it, are those trends that we're seeing that start in our stores with our brands and that begins, that ripple long before it becomes a tidal wave and ends up on a Kroger shelf, or becomes a tsunami and ends up on a Walmart shelf. That's where things become price-driven. Focus on the value that you offer the customer.

Dan: Now back to the 80/20 Rule. You want to make sure that the top sign potato chip in a category, in the natural category, is in your store and it's in a big mainstream retailer, you want those to be price competitive and you want to make sure you have those products. But when you start offering or layering in some of the unique hummuses and dips and stuff like that, make your margin up on that. So again, as a customer, I come in and I perceive the value, but always, always, always focus on the quality of the product. I'll give you a quick example and I use this example a lot in a lot of my podcast episodes.

Dan: If I eat the cheap generic bread, I'm hungry almost before I finish eating it. If I eat the best mainstream bread, I may be satiated for three or four hours, but if I eat the organic bread and if I am what I eat and that organic bread provides me the nutrition, the value that I need, then that might satiate me longer. So even though I'm paying about $0.50 or more whatever at shelf when I buy the product, I'm paying less overall. That's the argument this industry needs to make. And unfortunately, this is where I think we really need to rethink the way we go to market. It's not about price, it's about value. I hope that helped.

Maggie: Yeah, I do have a couple more questions.

Dan: Sure.

Maggie: So, I'll just keep asking them as time allows you. Let me know if we're getting tight, but-

Dan: No, you're good.

Maggie: Okay, how the consumer shifts to purchasing groceries online which we're seeing now, how will that impact bricks and mortar and how can we compete?

Dan: Good question. So remember what I was talking about a minute ago about mainstream retailers and their Achilles heel? Well, as mainstream retailers struggle to compete and they're only thinking about price and because of this pandemic, a lot of their customers are buying things online. Well, what's unique about us back to the story about the hardware store, is we're providing that real value.

Dan: So, remember loyalty? it's something that's earned, not bought. It's not something embossed on a loyalty card. So if we can help our customers understand what we offer in terms of the value, the customer service, the unique products, that's going to help us remain relevant. That's going to help us compete more effectively. So when this is over, and the big brands are struggling to get those customers to come back into their stores, we'll still have our customers coming back in and learning about our products.

Dan: And so okay, another question I get that's kind of along those lines, what if I bought a product, a supplement, it doesn't matter, in a natural health food store, and then I get to go buy it online because I can buy it a little bit cheaper? Not always. If you do the math, sometimes it's actually more expensive if you pay for shipping and all that other stuff. But if you add value and you help that customer understand, "This is what I bring to you as a retailer," the law of reciprocation? I'm going to bend over backward to come into your store and then recommend your store, to evangelize your store if you can provide value to the customer. I hope that helps.

Maggie: Yeah. Here's another one. Keep them coming.

Dan: Thanks.

Maggie: How do we identify and choose the right brands to partner with?

Dan: That's another good question. So that all gets back to how sophisticated is the brand. Again, back to my Turnkey Sales for Strategies courses or many of the other free courses, find out which brands are going to provide you the insights. I always say that if a brand shows up with a canned type of report, that's really just a waste of ink and paper. Savvy retailers already know how well my brand is performing on the shelves. Instead, have them provide insights. Leverage each and every opportunity they get with you to share insights about the customer and about how they buy their product, about trends in the category. Take the time to get to know the brands that are standout on the shelf that is going the extra distance and going the extra mile to help you succeed. They may not be the biggest brand in the category but work with that brand. Make it easier for that brand to help you grow sales, give them incremental merchandising opportunities, etc.

Dan: By the way, one of my claims to fame in this industry is that I leverage these strategies with a big retailer that did not share their data with anyone. And so as a manufacturer, when I worked for a big brand, we got double-digit growth every quarter, and I don't mean like 10%, 20%, etc., 30%, 80% and so on. And the way we were able to do that is by providing so much extra value to the retailer. And as a thank you, the retailer was quick to call me up anytime they had an incremental opportunity. So leverage that strategy to partner with the brands that you work with.

Maggie: This next question kind of follows up on some of the things that you've been talking about, but really putting it into practice now. Someone asked, "We struggle to find the bandwidth to manage day-to-day operations. How do we take advantage of these strategies? What do you recommend?"

Dan: Another good question. So I tease about when I was a grocery manager, I would open the store every day about four or five in the morning then I got home at about nine at night, but don't worry, I only did that six days a week. I know how hard you're working. When I learned how to leverage the brands that sold products in the store to provide me with these insights, I put them to work on my behalf. I had them come to me with information about the customer that's shopping in the store. The reason I was able to grow so dramatically within the grocery department is by leveraging these strategies. So we're talking about the early '80s, actually early '90s. And so in my department alone, I was doing about seven $800,000 a week. That's a lot of money for a retailer. And I realized that that's huge in comparison to a lot of the natural retailers in the space.

Dan: But my point is, these are simple strategies that every brand, every retailer can leverage. And if you leverage your strategies, this is going to help differentiate you and it's going to help you compete more effectively and they're going to help you identify why are you wasting time on trends, etc. that don't make sense? Why are you wasting time or promotions that are driving anything to the bottom line and so on?

Maggie: We have another question that just came in.

Dan: Okay.

Maggie: As a small retailer, we often support smaller brands as a point of differentiation. Once the brand grows large enough, they always end up in the mass-market? Would you suggest giving up on those relationships or allowing our sets to have more and more similar products to mass-market?

Dan: Good question. Absolutely not. Don't give up on the brand. Make sure the brand understands that you guys are partners. Help the brand understand that not only did you give them their start that they desperately needed, but develop a relationship with them so that they're going to continue to sell their products in your store. So here's what I'd recommend, let them take a couple of their more popular items and put them in mainstream, that's fine, but then you keep those same items on your shelf and then have them bring you all their new stuff, all their new innovation. So if a customer loves the brand, they're going to come into your store to try those new products and then that's how you're going to help that brand remain relevant. I've always said that natural retailers are the R&D of the natural products industry. So let those brands experiment on your shelves, let those brands compete effectively and drive those sales in your store first before they go anywhere else.

Dan: And then as far as other strategies, leverage that brand to partner with other products and other categories. So while some of their products are going to be in other stores, remember to focus on one item at a time. Instead, you're thinking about the creative things that they might be able to do. For example, in one of the podcast episodes about Expo West, I talked about how, once upon a farm, a baby food company should partner with food stores. Now, it might seem like a normal partnering, but the reality is that when a family has a new baby, the kids sometimes feel a little bit left out. So, while the baby is sleeping, the parents can make a meal, bake something with the children. And so by partnering together, I'm increasing the lift from the promotion. I'm increasing your market basket size, and I'm keeping that customer coming back to your store. These are the kind of creative strategies you need to be thinking about.

Maggie: Yeah, that's actually a point that came up a lot in our retailer survey as well, this shift. We have another question here. Will you be offering any free online courses and if so, where can I find them?

Dan: I will give you the link. Now, everything's available on my website. And thank you for asking that. So I'll give you the link, there's the link to courses. So if you go to my website, Brand Secrets and Strategies, you can get to the podcast, get to the YouTube channel, get to all the free courses. There are, it's kind of embarrassing, about 300, almost 400 articles are on there, in addition to 182 podcast episodes, and about 60 or 70 YouTube videos. content, just kidding, but you could get lost here. But the point is, my website, and thank you for asking, is dedicated to being a resource to you and the brands that you sell. So again, please help me share this.

Maggie: Excellent. That's all the questions we have coming in.

Dan: Great.

Maggie: So I guess I'll toss it back to you for any wrap-up or any final takeaways you want to leave us with?

Dan: I appreciate it. Thank you so much. And again, I want to thank WholeFoods magazine for helping me on this journey, helping me raise the bar natural, I want to thank them for being a part of this and allowing me to help support them in terms of content, etc. And so this is something that I want to continue doing. Keep looking for different podcasts, different webinar episodes, and let me know what I can do to help you grow and scale. Let me know what I can do to help you get your products into more store shelves and in the hands of more shoppers or if you're a retailer, how to help you compete effectively in your market. Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to seeing you guys on the podcast. Thanks.

Maggie: Alright. Thank you all.

Dan: I want to thank Heather and Maggie and WholeFoods magazine for helping to support this initiative, for helping me get these valuable insights in your hands to make them available. Remember, you can go back and see the entire presentation live with the slides at I'll be certain to put a link to WholeFoods magazine and the survey that Maggie was talking about in the podcast show notes and on the podcast web page.

Dan: This week's free downloadable guide is essential new item checklist, The Recipe For Success. We've covered a lot here in terms of what do retailers need from brands. This great free downloadable guide is the ultimate resource for brands working with retailers or better yet, for retailers to help guide brands to help them more effectively. In other words, as a retailer, how do you want the brands to help you? That's what this is about. You can get it on this week's podcast episode on the podcast show notes. And you can get there by going to Thank you for listening, and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues.

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Until next time, this is Dan Lohman with Brand Secrets and Strategies where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

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