The goal of most brands is to get on a store shelf and be featured by that retailer. It’s not as simple as it sounds. You need to know what retailers want and expect from the brands they sell. Learn what you need to know – this is your roadmap for success.

The goal of most brands is to see their product on a retailer’s shelf where customers can find it. That doesn’t sound that difficult, does it? Well, you’d be surprised at how many things you need to know and what you need to do to get your product on a retailer’s shelf. By the way, this also applies to online retailers as well. The current strategy that most every brand uses is what I’d call a push strategy. A push strategy is where you get out your checkbook and you start paying for things like slotting, promotions, shelf placement and everything else. 

This strategy can actually derail and even bankrupt some brands. The push strategy doesn’t really require any creativity, and this is the strategy that most brands have been using for years. This strategy favors the big brands and encourages the small brands to continually have their hand out looking for more and more investments. What if I told you that there is a better way? What if I told you that there’s a way to get more out of your available resources in addition to making your brand more attractive to potential investors? What I recommend is a pull strategy. 

A pull strategy is where you leverage the strength of the consumer that buys your product to drive sales into a retailer. In the pull strategy, you become more than just another package on a store shelf. In the pull strategy, you become a valued and respected partner to the retailer. Being able to effectively leverage this strategy was my secret sauce. This is how I was able to succeed and how I was able to push around some of the most iconic brands on the planet. Now, as you’ll hear, this is something that doesn’t happen overnight – you need to work up to it. 

This strategy requires you to develop the trust and the respect of the retailer that you’re working with. Before you can do that, before you can even consider doing it, there are a lot of things that you need to know. For example, what are the retailers’ expectations, goals, tactics, and strategies for each category that you play in? What does the retailer want and expect from their brands that are on their shelves, and more importantly, what are the gaps that the retailer has in their market and how can you help fill them? 

This begins by becoming an expert in your product, in your competitor’s product, and in the retailer that you’re supporting. In this podcast, I had a great conversation with Mathis Martines about exactly this. Mathis was the former Kroger National Category Captain for natural organic products. Together, we tackle this complex issue, and we share the strategies that are going to help you get your product on more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about M2 Brands

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #122

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #122

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.

LETS ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND GET STARTED!

Dan: Welcome. The goal of most brands is to see their product on a retailer's shelf where customers can find it. That doesn't sound that difficult, does it? Well, you'd be surprised at how many things you need to know and what you need to do to get your product on a retailer's shelf. By the way, this also applies to online retailers as well. The current strategy that most every brand uses is what I'd call a push strategy. A push strategy is where you get out your checkbook and you start paying for things like slotting, promotions, shelf placement and everything else.

This strategy can actually derail and even bankrupt some brands. The push strategy doesn't really require any creativity, and this is the strategy that most brands have been using for years. This strategy favors the big brands and encourages the small brands to continually have their hand out looking for more and more investments. What if I told you that there is a better way? What if I told you that there's a way to get more out of your available resources in addition to making your brand more attractive to potential investors? What I recommend is a pull strategy.

A pull strategy is where you leverage the strength of the consumer that buys your product to drive sales into a retailer. In the pull strategy, you become more than just another package on a store shelf. In the pull strategy, you become a valued and respected partner to the retailer. Being able to effectively leverage this strategy was my secret sauce. This is how I was able to succeed and how I was able to push around some of the most iconic brands on the planet. Now, as you'll hear, this is something that doesn't happen overnight - you need to work up to it.

This strategy requires you to develop the trust and the respect of the retailer that you're working with. Before you can do that, before you can even consider doing it, there are a lot of things that you need to know. For example, what are the retailers' expectations, goals, tactics and strategies for each category that you play in? What does the retailer want and expect from their brands that are on their shelves, and more importantly, what are the gaps that the retailer has in their market and how can you help fill them?

This begins by becoming an expert in your product, in your competitor's product, and in the retailer that you're supporting. In this podcast, I had a great conversation with Mathis Martines about exactly this. Mathis was the former Kroger National Category Captain for natural organic products. Together, we tackle this complex issue, and we share the strategies that are going to help you get your product on more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Before I begin, I want to give a shout out to a listener that left a really nice review on iTunes for me. Her name is Victoria V. "Dan shares his real-world experience and actionable advice for brands in the natural space. Episode two gives great insight into the evolving vendor-retailer relationship. Looking forward to future episodes." Thanks, Victoria. I really appreciate it. I want to thank everyone that leaves me a review on iTunes, in LinkedIn, or sends me an email. I really appreciate it. I read each and every one of them, and I'll continue to read one on each podcast going forward.

If you like the podcast, share it with your friends, subscribe and leave a review. Also, I want to remind you that there's a free downloadable guide for you at the end of every podcast episode. I always try to include, one easy to download, quick to digest strategy that you can instantly adopt and make your own, one that you can use to grow sustainable sales and compete more effectively. Remember, the goal here is to get your product on more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Now, here's Mathis Martinez of M2 Brands.

Hi Mathis. Thanks for coming on today and talking about this important topic with me. Brands always need to know what retailers really want, and with your wealth of experience, your insights into what retailers are looking for, you're the perfect person to have this conversation with. Can you start please by talking a little bit about yourself and your journey to M2 Brands?

Mathis: My name is Mathis Martinez from M2 Brands. We're a consultancy based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and we were a small, emerging innovative brands on helping them figure out who they want to be when they grow up. Now, my pathway to M2 Brands has led me through quite a few different retailers working in category management capacities, based in Austin for a few years working with Whole Foods and then moving into Fresh Market and then moving to Kroger.

I had led grocery, dairy, frozen ball, and then at Kroger, I was pushed into emerging and innovation platforms and so that involved new store concepts, developing product pipelines for brands, for our different departments in the store across all of the center store, HBA, nutrient supplements and other areas that were areas of needs. That's a little intro to what I'm doing now and where I come from.

Dan: While you're at Kroger, one of the things that I wanted to share that I wanted to highlight is that you were part of the team that helped Kroger become the number one retailer for natural organic products. That's really important because that gives us a lot of credibility, and that helps us help the brands that we're working with understand the value of why we're having this conversation today. Your thoughts?

Mathis: I mean, I think, Kroger, whenever you have the ability to leverage so many of the things that they can offer at scale to consumers, I mean, it's really one of a kind and some of the things that they're able to offer for brick and mortar perspective, and then when the organization gets behind something, that's a lot of power. You have 350,000 people working towards these different goals. I was there. I happened to be there during that time, and we did a lot of great things.

Kroger being the leader in the brick and mortar sales for natural and organic foods has helped to push us to where we find ourselves today, which is in this omnichannel world, which means that every retailer has their place, and every retailer is a little bit different. I think it's become challenging for brands to figure out how they fit and how do they get to where they want to be because it's not as simple as you sales, category, leadership. It's not as simple as some of these things anymore, just based on the different priorities that the retailers.

I think it's pretty interesting that they see how things have evolved between the competitive environment there with Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons, Mergers, and looking at Amazon, and then things like walmart.com and Jet. I mean, you have a lot of innovation and selling going on. Now, I'd like to think that I've been part of this ride for a little while and that I've been there since the infancy in some of these ideas about how to sell and grow your business.

I think right now is the time for brands to make sure that they have a plan and a good course of action for each of these different areas and these different channels, and really how to address each retailer in particular because they view the world differently through their own lens, and more and more often, they are looking for ways to partner with companies that understand them in a more intimate way.

Dan: Thank you for sharing that. That's exactly why I wanted to partner with you on this mini-course. Let me frame this. The path to getting your product on a retailer's shelf before used to very narrow. Natural brands thought they had to go to a natural retailer. Well, the reality is natural brands need to be wherever their shoppers are, meaning, online, every retailer, mainstream, et cetera. By giving brands the understanding or the pathway, helping to guide them, if you will, to get on the store shelves where their customers are, that's why this matters so much.

Thank you again for coming on so in your capacity worth working with Kroger and Whole Foods and Fresh Thyme, et cetera. Mathis, can you please share with us what do brands need to know when they're working with a retailer? What would you share with the brand in terms of helping them prepare so that when they walk in to talk to the retailer, they're adequately prepared and they're able to help guide the retailer to drive sales by leveraging their brand?

Mathis: I think more and more it's about identity and having comfort in knowing who you are, and as a brand, going in to meet with a retailer thinking about your strategy. You really need to be honest with yourself, and you want to be positive, but you need to be really positive in the sense that retailers today are looking for partners and partners who understand them and understand their role within the category. Your brand itself may or may not be what you think it is.

It's like there's the world of unknowns and knowns, and sometimes, we all need to do a 360 with ourselves, with our brands to really understand who we are to the customer, and then what role we play in the category. I would say everyone wants to win. Everyone thinks they have the next best, greatest product in the world. I think, for the most part, that passion translates into how you move forward and how you connect with your consumers, but I think retailers are looking for more tools in their toolbox. That's what they look at brands as.

You need to figure out what sort of a role you're gonna play in helping them grow their category, be more profitable in their category, gain new consumers for their category, grow their foot traffic, whether it's from a brick and mortar perspective, whether it's from three stores, whether it's from an online and web selling platform.

Dan: How do you think retail has changed, and what do you think the future of retail looks like?

Mathis: Understand how your brand can engage the consumer, how you engage with the consumer, and knowing what your true potential is without really ... You don't want to sell yourself short, but I think it's important to understand where you are realistic with retailers. I think that's one of the differences that's changed is that we're fine tuning this idea of category management now, and with all these different things from a digital capability, from the things that we ... We're separating ourselves from the actual intimate consumer interactions that we have with a brick and mortar retailer, and it's stratified into this digital and online world.

What it is becoming that intimate digital experience. We're on everyone's phones. We're doing all these other things now. I think that can be a challenge for retailers and brands to understand how to leverage that appropriately. It doesn't work with every category. It doesn't work with every consumer. What that may mean is your approach as a snack company or a beverage company may be much different than someone that's in pasta sauce or someone that's in a baking category or fresh category.

I think there's a lot of little details in here about how you approach things and what retailers are looking for to fit that need, so just being cognizant of who you are, what you're actually capable of now, and then how to build that partnership so that there's trust and there's understanding. Then leverage all of that into this one big push that goes towards driving sales and profitability for that category manager retailer.

Dan: Thank you for sharing that. Again, one emphasis, you made the comment they want to partner with the brands that they're with. This is exactly why I developed and launched the free course Turnkey Sales Store Strategies. Trying to change the conversation, let me frame it this way. When I started many, many years ago, we had a canned presentation, and we would swap out Kroger for whatever retailer we were going to go to, and we would share the same presentation with them. That's not what retailers want.

Retailers want to know that you're paying attention, that you understand their business, and that you're there to help guide them like you said, and I appreciate you saying this, by leveraging the strength of that unique customer that you drive into the stores. Mathis, how does a brand learn what the retailer requirements are so that they're prepared? What should they be doing?

Mathis: What should you be doing as a brand to understand these requirements? I think today, it can be a little bit of a challenge. I say that because as we become more digitally enabled, and you see retailers posting stuff on their websites, and that's how they're managing information through portals and these different things. It's taken that intimacy of the relationship out of it in some ways, so building those relationships harder and harder through this virtual and digital world, whereas you're looking at some of these legacy ways of doing business that is still relevant in some ways.

If I'm a brand and looking at how to succeed with retailers and partner with them, I think the most important thing you can do is make sure that you're targeted and make sure that you have a strategy that is doable. What I mean by that is as a product, we'd like to say 10,000 stores is our goal, but sometimes, it's okay to be in 500. Sometimes okay to be in 2000 to get started. It can be overwhelming when you're looking at all these different requirements and all these different ways of going to market with distributors, direct store, I'm online.

I think understanding and developing a good strategy, and then as you go out into this world, partnering and choosing the folks that you want to target, and then really learning their system and taking it one step at a time because it can be pretty overwhelming.

Dan: I appreciate you saying that. One of the things that I did that helped me succeed when I was working with retailers, and I want to get your thoughts on this, is I would help guide the retailer to drive the most sales. In other words, a lot of times, and I hear these stories a lot of times by different brands that I work with, they get a test or a pilot within a bunch of stores, and so the retailer puts their product in a variety of stores at random.

The challenge is that some of the products that they're putting out there do not align with the community that shops at that particular store. In helping to guide the retailer in terms of, "These are the stores where you're going to have the greatest success by leveraging the strength of the consumer that buys my brand," that's one of the things that I wanted to highlight. What are your thoughts around that? How does a brand help to guide a retailer rather than just be another box on a shelf?

Another part of that is that you're talking about how consumers look beyond the four corners of their package. If a brand can help the retailer drive sales by leveraging their digital footprint, that's another great strategy to help partner with the retailer to help the retailer remain relevant. By the way, what I mean by relevant is with all the online threats and all the other threats in the market, the retailer's goal is to help drive traffic in the store and to keep that traffic coming back again and again and again.

Mathis, your thoughts?

Mathis: Today, I think that question is pretty difficult to answer. I don't think there's one way to work with any particular retailers. You have to earn your position of trust with a retailer. Not let you say, but let you know it's hard to translate that into action if you don't have that relationship built with the retailer. One of the hurdles that we have to date is really this idea that people are still doing less with more. I mean, less with more, sorry, retailers are still doing more and more with less. That goes the same for category managers and these decision makers on these products.

I think when you look at it, this entire relationship and partnership and interaction is much more compressed. There are fewer interactions in person. There are more interactions digitally. There are actually fewer opportunities to actually speak with someone and develop that. I think leveraging what you can be to that retailer has to come from a place of trust. The other thing I would think about though is as retailers continue to do more with less, it's really about what can they do. You can go to the category and do that, but when it comes to partnering on innovation and how to do a test and learn and things like that, it's really about doing it for yourself is more than anything.

Retailers are not volunteering to help you do this anymore. That's the unfortunate thing because it means that, "Hey, what once was an open playing field has suddenly become something that's sort of closed off," and you have to figure out how to get through yourself, which means working with small regional retailers, leveraging distributors. Online is the biggest example and that's probably the number one question asked. Retailers are it's a little bit of a cop-out. It's a little bit of a way to put the work back on the brands, whereas I think finding brands that could be the next growth engines used to be a passion for a lot of category managers.

They used to take pride in doing this with the amount of work and the different priorities that have been imparted on them over the past five to six years as technology, as we've compressed these interactions, compressed a lot of different things, it's made it pretty difficult for them to find passion in doing a lot of this assortments word selection. What that means is online has become the biggest way for you to go out and prove yourself that you can sell a product, and whether that be your online webpage, whether that'd be social media platforms such as Facebook and a marketplace or Amazon, Jet, Walmart.

I just think that category managers are saying, "Hey, what have you done for yourself first?" That's the biggest question, I think, that we're asked now that's a little bit different when we're in these meetings with retailers and in talking about how to partner your new brand, and they want to know how you sell. It used to be that you're talking about like, "Well, we're selling in Whole Foods. We're selling in Safeway. We're selling in Lucky's, and here are some numbers from these different areas to what we can show you."

That's not really the same anymore, because as we started getting more and more comfortable with these less intimate purchase reactions without going to the grocery store, people become more comfortable ordering their food and beverages online and having them delivered. I think retailers see that. Unfortunately, what that means is that part of your initial strategy needs to be this Omnichannel strategy, and when you talk about testing and learning, you really have to be the person creating that test and learn platform, whether that be online or finding a retailer to work with locally.

If you can build a relationship or have relationships, then work with retailers to make it happen in a big way. Unfortunately, that's not the case for new brands most of the time.

Dan: Mathis, thank you for sharing that. I agree with you completely. I got to admit that this is the way things were back when I started, so I'm a little bit older than you. I've been calling on retailers for a very long time. The point being is that you're right. Retailers' time is very compressed. They've got to systemize things so that they can be efficient. They don't have time to spend hours with any one brand. However, the opportunity for any brand is to help partner with them. As you said, and I couldn't agree with you more, you've got to have a strategy that you can prove elsewhere outside of the retailer.

Then when you start working with the retailer, and after you build that trust, that's something that you can start sharing, but don't walk into a retailer's office and say, "Hey, look what I've learned right off the bat." To your point, it's a relationship, and you've got to develop that relationship and get to know that retailer, and they've got to develop that trust with you. On that note, what do you want to see in a brand presentation? What stands out? When you were a category manager, what are some of the things that you would see brands present to you that you really appreciated, that helped you drive sales in the category?

Mathis: I think, as I said earlier, understanding who you are and being pretty open about that. A lot of brands believe that they have a little bit more power in the category than they do to drive consumers, to drive sales. While it's good to be hopeful, it's better to be realistic whenever you're developing this relationship, because the two things that category managers care about the most are the answers to these two questions, "How are you going to help me drive sales? How are you going to help me grow profit?" Bottom line.

As you're looking at those things and understanding what role your brand plays in that category and then understanding what the goals and motives are for the category manager during his or her review, I think collectively, filling in the details for the story can help you better write your place in the story and write how you're gonna fit in. When we're presenting the category managers, it's important that it isn't just a presentation to category managers, that it's a discussion and that you breathe and exude this idea of partnership, which means, "Hey, let me tell you a little bit about my brand myself. Let's think about how we can partner together."

Tell me a little bit about yourself, and probe them. Understand their history, their background. Understand what their goals are for the category. Then as you're doing that, your presentation is really built on three things. It's your product and how to grow sales and how to grow profit, at least it should be. Those are the three things that they're looking for. As you grow into a different relationship and your brand shows that it has power or that you have developed some sort of expertise and understanding the consumer and understanding the category, then I think you have a license to move into other areas, which are to make maybe some planogram suggestions or planet placement suggestions to do some of the leg work that they need to do some of this customization within their sets and their store accounts.

What that might mean is that a couple of years ago for example in salty snacks, we had a lot of popcorn, SkinnyPop, Popcorn Indiana. What you had was this archaic system with popcorn in stores to where you had the microwave popcorn together with maybe some of the more deli-style brands. Then you have the brands like SkinnyPop, as I mentioned, Popcorn Indiana, and then about 20 other brands that were out there that started coming up. Well, the sales for popcorn were the growth engine for salty snacks for about two and a half to three years.

When you look at that, how did that store change? How did retailers deal with that? The aggressive retailers and aggressive category managers were able to leverage this new growth, and go ahead and dissect their sets and add in space and take space away from other areas. Other retailers wanted to see that it wasn't a fad. I think that's where you saw brands come in that could partner, that had the power to partner with these guys and come in and help them redefine their set at a later date.

You had some that were really innovative, but when you talk about how brands really partnered, it was a little bit later in the game, and so what you see is on some of these things, that relationship isn't built in a day. Walking in there and trying to suggest or trying to work on these wholes scale changes at scale is probably not the best idea, but as you with work with the retailers, it's really important that you probe and understand again what their goals are and build the relationship, because you could be in that position in a year or two as an innovative brand such as SkinnyPop or some of these other brands who were in that popcorn category, and leverage that into helping them figure out a solution for their consumers in stores, but it doesn't happen overnight.

Acting in an aggressive way with innovation as a new brand is not a negative, but what is negative is not really understanding where the category management is coming from, what their needs are because they're going to be different amongst different retailers. I think looking at that, the example of popcorn, and do I change my entire flow for salty snacks? Some retail or I'm looking at it from a pure sales perspective. Whatever my motive is, you need to understand that. I think it's pretty ... Again, we go back to the intimacy of interactions, the lack of intimacy and it's harder and harder to meet with the category manager these days.

Everything's being done digitally and being submitted through online platforms, and these shrouded in secrecy emails where things go into the cloud, and you only hear back if someone wants to talk to you. I think when you get the opportunity, it's really about product, sales, profit, but figure out how those things work for that category manager.

Dan: Absolutely. I agree with you. Thank you for sharing that. This goes back to what you were talking about earlier. You don't just walk into a retailer and say, "Hey, look at me. Buy my stuff. Sell my stuff. I need you to focus on me." You need to know your retailer intimately. You need to know their customers. You need to know what their objectives are. You need to be able to understand exactly how to meet their needs. The opportunity for any brand to partner with the retailer is to help take the burden off of the category manager's shoulders and help guide them to drive sales by helping them achieve their objectives.

What are some of the examples or some of the things that you've seen some of the biggest mistakes that you've seen that brands make? You've shared a few in terms of brands coming in there and saying, "Hey, look at me. You need to do whatever I want." What are some other mistakes, Mathis?

Mathis: I think the biggest thing to think about here is you need to have the best interest in the mind of the category manager and category for sales and profitability growth. You also need to be able to be relied on. I think where a lot of brands aren't able to do that is, one, I mean looking at their entire operational structure and set up, and knowing what you can and what you can't do. The smart brands will come in, and they've been able to say, "I know I can't do this right now. I want to be here for you, but I'm going, to be honest with you about it."

You might not be ready for 2000 stores just due to the ability whether you're co-packaging or your own production methods, or maybe you just don't have enough folks on-site or within your company. You're not there yet and you haven't scaled that. I think that's where I see a lot of mistakes happening is overpromising and under delivering and saying yes when it's okay to say no. If you look at retailers today, there is a lot of give and take, a lot of ... What do you say? A lot of the ability to compromise when you're a smaller brand and getting your products in the stores.

There are a lot of different avenues. What that means is if you think about how expensive it is to launch a product today, just get it in a warehouse when you go and look at things like free fill and slotting, and then you look at the cost of doing trade and promotional activity with retailers is only increased. There's also this idea that "Well, I'm going to get what everyone else is getting, which means that you don't see a lot of retailers just saying like, "Oh okay, well, we're not gonna worry about slotting."

I think it's become almost a profit center again for a lot of different retail brands. Unfortunately, you have to add that into their budget. What that means is from a trade and promotional activity calendar, from an operational and production timeline and cost of goods, you have to be cognizant of how they might affect your overall profitability for your entire product. I think that's a challenge more today because a lot of this stuff isn't necessarily published. It's unspoken, and at times, it's hidden in these really long and boring vendor agreements that all of us should read, but we really don't want it.

Dan: Well, well said. Back to what we were talking about, you need to know your retailer. Don't assume anything. I'm so glad that you made the point about brands overpromising and under delivering. I hear this all the time. I'll talk to a brand that's in New York that gets distribution in Texas or California. I want to ask the question, one of the first questions is if you're struggling to drive sales in your home, in your backyard, why in the heck would you try to grow sales clear across the country where you have no presence, you have no support, you know that it's not a situation where you're going to succeed?

Yes, you've got to be able to push back to the degree where you're being honest. If you have a partnership with the retailer you're working with, that should include letting the retailer know what you can and can't do. The way that I always put it is that if you have an out of stock, one, you're embarrassing the retailer. Two, you're frustrating the customer that comes in the store that buys the product in that particular store, so not a good situation. An out of stock from my perspective is the brand's fault.

It's not the retailers' fault because they didn't order enough. It's not the broker's fault. It's not the distributor's fault. Your product has your name on it. If you are going to represent your product and you want to get your product on more store shelves and the hands of more shoppers, you need to guarantee that you can support your distribution. Your thoughts?

Mathis: I'd say I agree. I mean, I still look at it from this lens or if there's a hole on the shelf, that's lost sales.

Dan: Yes.

Mathis: That should be looked at from the brand in the same way. I think owning your path and route to market is a good theory and practice, and you all need to go after it. It is your responsibility to make sure that that that flow is good.

Dan: Mathis, thank you for coming on. Can you please talk a little bit about M2 Brands and what you're doing to help support the natural community?

Mathis: M2 Brands, we have three words that go together and never leave our side. I think they're pretty important. I spoke a lot about strategy. As you can guess, strategy is one of those words. The other one is growth. We spoke a lot about growth. Then the third part is really about these results, really about results. We speak to this every day, strategy, growth, and results. I mentioned several times this question of who do you want to be when you grow up?

At M2, we're able to help you go down this path, and whether it is a brand identity solution and strategy, whether it's a marketing solution strategy, whether it's a sales solution strategy, we're there to help you outline that path of how you grow up in each of those areas. When you look at it, we're able to leverage this into great partnerships with retailers, brokers. Actually, the results piece I think is more important than some of the others to small brands because that's where the rubber hits the road.

Everyone can have a strategy, but you have to have the results, and growth comes from executing the strategy and delivering those results. That's our focus. A lot of times, you'll have these avenues to where people want to help you identify who your brand is, and they want you to help you with their messaging on a typically creative and brand agency i.e., but where's the ROI on all of the creative and all this consumer work? Well, that's the part where I think M2 was able to do a little bit better than other places.

What I mean by that is we go after. We deliver results. We execute things for you. Through our networks, we're able to not only help you guys figure out from a packaging perspective, by brand identity perspective, but also were able to go out and help you execute sales, grow sales and some of these other things that traditional marketing agencies just don't do. I think when you look at the big world right now and how brokerages are changing, and how the world is evolving and profitability is affecting these large selling organizations, we offer a much more intimate approach to both branding, marketing, and sales.

That allows us to succeed at much higher rates than others who are in the industry as well. I'd say in a time of turmoil, which we are right now in a time of change, strategy, growth, results, that's what M2 is here for.

Dan: Good. Well, thank you for sharing that.

What I do at Brand Secrets and Strategies is I help level the playing field between small brands and their more sophisticated counterparts. Let me explain. When I started in my career, things in mainstream are exactly the way they are natural today. We called on every store. We made individual store appointments, and while we relied heavily on our ability to develop a relationship with individual stores, it was a very inefficient system.

Category management was born out of the need to improve the efficiency by raising the standards in the industry, by developing strategies that would help build sustainable sales across every category for every retailer. Today, big brands rely heavily on category management experts to help manage the inventory, to maximize trade-marketing, and to help grow sustainable sales across every category. To help raise the bar in the industry and standardized category management, the CMA, Category Management Association, was formed, and they developed three levels of category management proficiency.

I am the first person certified at the highest level category management proficiency, a certified professional strategic advisor, CPSA. You typically find someone with that skill set at the senior levels of big brands including the VP levels. I provide that level of category management support to small and emerging brands. This goes well beyond canned topline reports. I help brands with the advanced strategies that they need to be able to level the playing field between them and their more sophisticated counterparts.

I help small brands compete more effectively by helping them develop the strategies that help connect their products with the end consumer. My mission is to help them get their healthy products on more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. I want to thank Mathis for coming on today. Today's podcast is actually an excerpt from a mini-course that we just completed. That's today's free downloadable guide. In this free mini-course, Mathis and I go deep into these topics and several other business building strategies that you can leverage with retail. You're going to want to check it out.

We chose to launch as many courses as a free course, as a free guide to help you grow your brand. This is our way of giving back, and this is our way of helping to give you a competitive edge to help level the playing field so that you can get your product on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. The mini-course is what retailers really want, Brand Building Success Strategies. You can get there instantly by going to brandsecretsandstrategies.com/whatretailerswant.

You can download the show notes to this episode as well as get more valuable information to build your brand at brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session122. Thank you for listening, and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

This episode's FREE downloadable guide

New product innovation is the lifeblood of every brand. New products fuel sustainable growth, attracts new shoppers, and increases brand awareness. Know the critical steps to get your product on more retailer’s shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE STRATEGIC GUIDE: The Essential New Item Checklist - The Recipe For Success

Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at brandsecretsandstrategies.com 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 TurnkeySalesStoryStrategies.com/growsales. Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues.

Sign up today on my website so you don’t miss out on actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

I appreciate all the positive feedback. Keep your suggestions coming.

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

Listen where you get your podcast

The Essential New Item Checklist – The Recipe For Success

New product innovation is the lifeblood of every brand. New products fuel sustainable growth, attracts new shoppers and increases brand awareness. Know the critical steps to get your product on more retailer’s shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Empowering Brands | Raising The Bar

Ever wish you just had a roadmap?  Well now you do!

Don’t miss out on all of these FREE RESOURCES (strategic downloadable guides, podcast episodes, list of questions you need to be asking and know the answers to, weekly newsletter, articles and tips of the week.  You will also receive access to quick and easy online courses that teach you how to get your brand on the shelf, expand distribution, understand what retailers REALLY want and address your most pressing challenges and questions.

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