Relationships with customers are challenging in the food industry. Retailers want full shopping carts and they are not that concerned if your product is in that cart.
Retailers have a lot on their plate. The marketplace is changing rapidly and they have to invest to keep up. New competitors and new channels are trying to take their sales. They are focused on driving traffic into their stores, not getting your product into the shopping cart.
Category managers keep changing. You just develop a relationship with one, then they are gone. You are back to the beginning and it can have a big impact on your business.
Your customers determine your success. When you can’t trust them, you are probably losing sleep at night. You need them to issue purchase orders and get your product on the shelf at the right price. These things, that can have a huge impact on your results, are controlled by your customers.
You should be evaluating each customer relationship to determine the level of trust you have with them. Think about it on a scale of 1 to 10, where would you be? One of the interesting things about this question is that the number likely changes all the time. The opportunities you get relative to your competition, the impact of a late order or the communication you have with your customers all impact this level of trust.
We see suppliers who are very weary of their customers and we know these relationships, in their current state, will not be successful for either party. It is very difficult to develop the alignment and build a successful retail plan if you do not trust the other party. It is likely you are always looking for another customer to grow your business. Something has to change. It can change but only when both parties are willing to work on the relationship. If you do not believe you can trust this customer you have to ask yourself if this is the right customer. You do have options and a prosperous relationship with one customer might be more beneficial than a fair relationship with two customers. Often these relationships are a constant battle about product cost and there is little communication from the retailer.
We also see suppliers who have developed a level of trust with their retail customers. The results meet or exceed expectations and communication is about opportunities. The communication is frequent and even if there is an issue about product performance, the focus is on the future. This is where you want to be. The relationship has been developed to a point where they really are selling the great products they are making. From my experience as a retailer you never admit it but these are the products you want to work on.
Trust is a difficult thing to achieve in the food industry.
At C.A.R.T. 2018 we will be talking about developing trust for two full days. Work on your business, not in your business Sept 26 & 27. A SKUFood live event in Halifax, N.S.