If you are in the food industry in Canada you might have been in Halifax this week. If you are in the food industry in Canada and you were not in Halifax this week, you should at least know what was happening.
Loblaw has held a National Kick Off or NKO as they call it in January at different locations across the country. The purpose is to get the year started with an event where they bring many people from their organization together and also share some of the time with the supplier community.
It got me thinking about building a relationship with a category manager. If you supply Loblaw you should have given serious consideration to attending this event. Yes they charge for vendors to be there but you need to decide if it is within your means and the value you get. I did see photos people posted with Galen Weston and Sarah Davis and we all know it isn't every day you get a chance to talk to people at those levels, let alone the merchandising team.
Building a relationship with a retailer is a journey, not a sprint. You cannot think one meeting per year will accomplish everything and build a relationship that leads to trust. We only trust people we really know and respect. That happens over a period of time and in different settings.
Here are 10 ideas for you to put in your calendar and execute that will help you build a relationship with a category manager:
1. Determine which industry events (like the NKO) your category manager will be attending. You will not talk item and price but you will talk and that is always important.
2. Throughout the year you should be looking for industry information that would be relevant to your category manager. Share this with them. You might not get a response back but chances are they will look at it.
3. Think of your category manager when you travel. Take some photos of the merchandising and find a couple of good ideas. Send your category manager a quick email.
4. You can always find ideas and interesting learning at a trade show or a break out session. Take a few notes, take a few photos or if you are comfortable do a short video. Send it to the category manager with a brief explanation of why it is relevant.
5. Seasonal merchandising is always key. We all have peak times for our products and your customers need to capitalize on them. Get in the stores, either their stores or even their competitors and help them see what is happening.
6. Face to face meetings are always the best time to really develop your relationship
7. Follow up email or phone call from a meeting or conversation. If you were at the NKO this week you need to give them a quick call to tell them you enjoyed it and got lots out of it.
8. Many category managers attend charity events through the year. Again you will not talk item and price but perhaps you have a common reason for supporting the particular charity.
9. We know consumers buy in the store so if you can get a category manager to meet you at a store it can be very effective. They are away from their computer and you can really talk sales.
10. Connect on social media such as Linked in. When you post articles or industry information they might see it and begin to perceive you as an expert or resource they would rely on.
If you want to learn how to put all of this in action join us for “Surviving to thriving in retail”. If you have products on retail shelves and want to sell more, we have an opportunity for you. This 6 session program will help you:
For only $499 you get 6 sessions, which is a total of 24 hours with me to help you thrive in retail. I will use my experience working for a major retailer to help you figure out what you need to do to grow your sales and develop better relationships. The dates for the sessions are:
Some of our participants celebrating after their category manager meetings in our inaugural “Surviving to Thriving” course. Cathy Munro from Bramble Hill Farm, Randy MacDonald from Van Dyk’s, Stephen Ewart from Jive Berry and Erin Dunnett from Jus Nova.
If you have any questions about building a relationship with a category manager please give me a call at (902) 489-2900 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.