Tracking Competitor Promotions With Mobile Technology

By Brian Harris


What promotions are your competitors running right now?

If you don’t readily know the answer to that question, you may not be utilizing mobile technology. Or, at the very least, you might not be leveraging it correctly.

When I say “mobile technology,” I’m not just talking about checking your inbox for your competitors’ Google alerts and promotional flyer. Of course, it’s important to receive these notifications as well, but whatever happened to pre-emption? Where’s the competitive spirit?

“Retail is war!” Don’t just take it from me. Take it from convenience store retailing consultant and author, Bill Scott. In a recently published article, Scott distinguishes between short-term and long-term gains in marketing strategies.

“Limited assaults,” he says, may include planned sales and promotional campaigns like lowering gas prices. However, permanent gains can’t be made without gathering superior intelligence. Retailers must ask themselves, “What will cause a shopper to come to my store, rather than to my competitor?”

In Scott’s experience, many retailers avoid answering this question. It’s just too easy to accept the status quo. He urges his customers to break the mold and try something completely different. He encourages them to explore new possibilities and write them down, no matter how zany the marketing strategy might be.

Think about how Taco Bell came up with the Doritos Locos Tacos concept. It’s been their most successful product launch in the brand’s history. The concept was a flash of genius, but initial consumer taste tests flopped. Rather than give up, Taco Bell completely overhauled its taco shell engineering system and experimented with 40 recipes over the course of two years.

Now that’s dedication!  

Don’t Wage War with Mobile Technology. Embrace It!

The “superior intelligence” Scott writes about is gained only when competitive insights are documented and shared.

For instance, Taco Bell knew it had a great idea and something completely different. However, the company needed to exercise due diligence and collect information out in the field.

Similarly, retailers must collect information from competitors’ stores regarding promotions. Using mobile technology, retailers can easily establish a secret shopper program. They don’t need to hire a private firm to do this. They can simply ask their own employees to visit competitors’ stores and record their insights.

A typical checklist might include:

  • Price of products
  • Variety of products
  • Quantity of products
  • Notes on promotions
  • Notes on category placement
  • Photos of promotions

Collecting mystery shopper data is certainly helpful, but it’s still not enough. Insights are all about action. You may come to the realization that you need to price a product more competitively or offer more variety. Perhaps you may experience a flash of genius for creating your own proprietary product after seeing a similar product in your competitor’s store. Using mobile technology, document ideas and share relevant data.

Actionable insights fall under the umbrella of superior intelligence. They are not attainable just in your own weekly sales report. The great news is that the technology you need to gather actionable insights is right in your pocket.

Topics: Retail

What’s the Beef? Restaurants Consider Other Protein Options

By Julia Burnett


While there’s nothing like a good steak or hamburger, U.S. consumers have been steadily cutting down on red meat and looking for other sources of protein. According to QSR Web, the push against red meat has led the restaurant industry to embrace alternatives, like turkey, which is leaner, less expensive and generally healthier than red meat. Some restaurants are also getting adventurous with ostrich, boar and bison… oh my!

Compared to chicken, beef prices have risen drastically over the past 20 years due to the decreasing total inventory of calf and cattle in America. Generally speaking, chicken is cheaper to buy and produce. It’s no wonder that per capita chicken consumption in the U.S. more than tripled in the last century.

Also, red meat has been correlated to medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. According to Authority Nutrition, it’s important to note that some of these headlines have been sensationalized and organic, grass-fed and unprocessed beef can be nutritious. However, processed and overcooked red meats have been linked to heart disease.

The movement away from red meat is evident in the numbers. The nation's total beef consumption declined from 27.3 billion pounds in 2008 to 25.5 billion pounds in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Research firm Mintel’s survey of 2,000 adults revealed that 36 percent ate less beef in 2013 than in 2012.

There’s also a sustainability factor in cutting back on red meat and meat in general. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which helps to revise the nation’s official Dietary Guidelines every five years, said Americans should eat less meat in order to benefit the environment. Of course, the recommendation caused an outcry from Congress and the meat industry.

The meatless trend is one that the restaurant industry should study closely. Again, the proof is in the numbers.

Sales of Meatless and Vegetarian Products are Soaring

Increased awareness of the humane treatment of animals has also contributed to a reduction in meat consumption. According to Mintel, sales of plant-based meat alternatives reached $553 million in 2012, growing 8 percent in a two-year period.

It’s not all about eating sprouts, either. “Meatless meats” are a huge trend.

Food comedian Jim Gaffigan pokes some fun at this trend. "But you know who seems to be really obsessed with meat? Vegetarians,” he quipped. “For people who don't like meat, they seem to eat a lot of vegetables that are mashed up and shaped to look like meat. 'I don’t like meat, I just like to call meat late at night and hang up. Let’s drive by meat’s house. Does meat ever ask about me?'”

Companies like Beyond Meat are laughing all the way to the bank. The company reported doubling its annual sales, reported Fortune. The vegetarian market is a $2.8-billion industry and 22.3 million Americans say they are inclined to follow a vegetarian diet.

Convenient vegan and vegetarian options are the way of the future. According to author and activist Gene Bauer, more convenient non-meat options are coming. Vegan fast-food restaurants are popping up around the country and fast-food giants are getting on board as well. For instance, Wendy’s is testing a black bean veggie burger.

It’s all food for thought in a changing consumer landscape.

Topics: Restaurants

How to Audit Your Gym Like a Boss

By Naomi Balagot


A gym or fitness center is like its very own small city where all the residents – or members – are working toward the common goal of better health and wellness.  

You may think that the sole purpose of auditing a gym is to check for hazardous equipment and cleanliness. These are certainly the top priorities when inspecting a fitness facility, but it’s more complex.

Today, many gyms have the following amenities:

  • Locker rooms/showers
  • Mixed martial arts (MMA) area
  • Pool
  • Sauna
  • Cardio theater
  • Boxing ring
  • Kids club
  • Café/smoothie bar

It’s important to create checklists and audit each area separately because…

Gym Members Can be Annoying

As a manager, you may scoff and say, “Not my members!” Your loyalty is admirable, but let’s be honest. Not everyone is a model gym citizen. In a facility where people are supposed to have the amenities of home, some people act like that – like they are in the gym alone! Not everyone is neat and tidy… or sanitary.

Machines need to be in working condition and cleaned regularly. Ripped seats or arm cushions need to be replaced or repaired – not duct taped. There should be paper towels and spray bottles with cleaning solution readily available to encourage members to wipe down their machines after use. Towels, if provided, need to be collected and washed.

Of course, barbells, medicine balls, jump ropes and weights should be organized neatly on shelves. It not only looks neat, but also prevents tripping.

But wait, there’s more! I decided to investigate what average people find most annoying about going to the gym, and translate that into what managers can do to improve the experience. An article in the Huffington Post, “13 Annoying Gym Pet Peeves That Makes You Just Want to Quit Working Out” seemed promising.

Here’s a quick rundown:

You can’t tell members to stop working out so hard, but you have to be prepared to clean up their sweaty mess if they’re not courteous enough to do it themselves. Members will be turned off if management doesn’t do their part.

Excessive grunting
It’s usually  guys who do this, but to be fair, you could have Maria Sharapova yelling in your gym. It begs the question: Is there enough space on the gym floor?

People working out on top of each other
Are there enough machines and are they spaced out appropriately? Again, this is a personal space issue.

TV hogs
Some machines have their own TVs. Make sure they are in working condition, or some machines might not be used. What channels are TVs set to in the gym? News and sports channels may be appropriate, but not the Food Network.

Loud music
How is the PA system in your gym? Most people will listen to their own tunes, but trainers will need to communicate. Don’t blast music. Also, find a balance between grunge and the soundtrack of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Keep it lively, but not too angry or depressing.

Locker room/restroom etiquette
Nudity is generally frowned upon, and so is theft. While it’s usually the responsibility of gym members to use their own locks, they may forget. Be sure that your gym’s locker room policies are clearly posted and that members are removing their belongings at the end of sessions. Of course, restrooms and showers must be cleaned regularly.

People taking gym selfies
Most gyms post signs asking people to limit cell phone use. This is not only an etiquette issue, but also a matter of privacy. No one wants to feel they’re being creeped on or wind up on the Internet as a joke.

Here are two pet peeves that can be grouped together: People misusing exercise equipment and people who are not trainers intruding on people’s workouts. This translates to a staffing issue. Is there a trainer on staff who can walk the floor and offer help to members in a non-intrusive way?

Don’t forget the exterior and entrance!

Most gyms have well-lit signs and inviting entrances. Working out in front of others can be intimidating enough for some people, so be sure to create a clean, safe and inviting environment.

Also be sure that the front desk is well-staffed for signing up new members, checking the lost and found, and addressing other membership concerns.

Topics: Business Operations

Trend Watch: Food Courts Reimagined

By Brian Harris


I’ve seen this coming since 2009 when I visited the newly opened Yankee Stadium and paid $5 for a cup of freshly squeezed lemonade. I passed on the sushi and $15 steak sandwiches. Welcome to the era of the upscale food court!

It’s not just Major League ballparks that are offering more expensive options. It’s as if retailers across the country have pressed the “reset” button on the food court experience. According to one report, America’s experience has been “a wasteland of spongy pretzels, giant sodas, greasy fried rice and endless burgers.” That’s a blunt assessment, but an honest one.

Thanks to influential celebrity chefs like Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain, the food court is experiencing a renaissance. In 2010, Batali, along with two business partners, opened a 50,000-square-foot emporium on Fifth Avenue in New York cleverly named Eataly. The U.S. mecca of Italian food is the sister of the original in Turin, and offers an experience that’s part dining and part grocery shopping. 

Meanwhile, a Bourdain Market is slated to open in early 2016 in Manhattan. The 100,000-square-foot market will have a produce market, a butcher shop, bakery and pastry shop, tapas bar, tea shop, oyster bar, and Asian-style rooftop beer garden. According to reports, the environment will be intentionally chaotic -- like an amusement park for foodies.

Some snarkier New Yorkers may attribute the proliferation of upscale food markets as the “yuppification” of the city. However, according to Bourdain’s business partner, Stephen Werther of Wink Retail Group, the upscaling of the food court experience is “really just America catching up with some of the wonderful ways the rest of the world eats.”

Come for the Food, Stay for the Shopping

This is new mantra of retail centers across the country. The upscaling of food courts hasn’t happened overnight just because of celebrity chefs. The malls and retail centers of yesteryear -- the wastelands of spongy pretzels – weren’t competing with online shopping.

“If you can lure more potential customers to your retail operations with haute cuisine or the best street-style taco, then you give consumers more reason to engage in non-virtual shopping,” writes Dan Hesse for The Daily Meal.

In other words, food has become a big attraction in the modern retail environment.  

Just consider the current retail landscape and the struggles that some of America’s oldest department store chains like Sears and JCPenney’s have faced in recent years. The most successful brick-and-mortar stores seem to be high-end retailers that offer the kind of personalized shopping experience that people can’t have on

Since retail has gone upscale, so too have the dining options.  It makes sense if you think about it. A lot of people getting fitted for new work shirts or picking out wedding attire might not want to chow down on a Big Mac and fries in the food court. They might gravitate more towards Panera, which just announced that it will drop 150 artificial ingredients from its menu.

From a practical standpoint, the upscaling of foodservice presents an opportunity for brands to reexamine their operations and for property owners to reconsider the dining area. It may be time to upgrade the menu, modernize the light fixtures, and offer new seating.

Be creative. Some re-imagination can go a long way.

Topics: Restaurants

Lessons from Listeria: Food Safety for Multi-Unit Operators

By Brian Harris


If you Google food safety news, you’ll see Listeria stories dominates headlines.

Here are just a few of the recent stories:

  • Blue Bell Creameries allegedly knew about Listeria contamination in 2013.
  • Inventure Foods lost $14.6 million during its first fiscal quarter due to the recall of the Fresh Frozen line of frozen vegetables and Jamba “At Home” smoothies products for possible contamination.
  • Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams spent $200,000 to overhaul its kitchens as a result of possible contamination.
  • Earlier this month, Sabra recalled 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus for possible contamination.

What is going on!?

There have been eight outbreaks of Listeria since 2011, and five of these outbreaks have occurred since 2014, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. This is a serious consumer health issue, considering that about 1,600 people are infected with Listeria each year and 260 die, which is a high ratio among foodborne illnesses, reported Forbes.

Here are some important facts about Listeria:

  • The pathogen comes from water and soil contamination that makes its way into food processing areas.
  • Listeria can live in refrigerated products for months and frozen products for years.
  • Some food groups are linked to Listeria more than others. Examples include raw milk, soft cheeses, deli meats and smoked seafood. However, fruits and vegetables are also linked. For example, the largest Listeria outbreak on record was in 2011 and was associated with cantaloupes.

It’s enough for one operator of one facility to maintain the hygienic standards that reduce the risk of pathogen contamination. What do you do if you’re a multi-unit operator or distributor?

What Can Foodservice Operators Do to Control Foodborne Illnesses?

Clean and make sure your equipment is working. This is really the essence of food safety.

It’s why Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is spending $200,000 to overhaul its production kitchen to reduce the risk of pathogens and cross contamination. The company’s investigation revealed that Listeria was present on the spout of one of its production machines. As a precaution, fruits and vegetables will now be processed at a separate location.

The FDA is now calling out Blue Bell Ice Cream for not making the proper adjustments to cleaning and sanitation practices after the company found Listeria at its manufacturing facility in 2013. According to one report, the FDA has not revealed why the company’s Oklahoma plant was not closed after repeated findings of Listeria. Some of the plant’s violations include dirty equipment, inadequate food storage, food being held at improper temperatures and employees not washing hands appropriately.

Meanwhile, the results of a separate study conducted by Purdue University found persistent rates of Listeria in retail delis. The researchers found contamination on 4.5 percent of food-contact surfaces and 14.2 percent of non-food-contact areas. On average, 9.5 percent of all samples were contaminated and 3.3 percent of transfer points.

The lead author of this study said that deli slicers are most certainly not getting cleaned as often as recommended. Some companies should clean the deli slicer every four hours, and it can take 20 or 30 minutes to properly sanitize the equipment.

Food for Thought: While food manufacturers have strict requirements to control for Listeria, retail stores have no requirements.

No wonder why the healthcare community advises pregnant women not to avoid eating lunch meats!

The Purdue study is just one study for one food group. In the grand scope of things, consumers can only wash fruits and vegetables. Packaged and prepared products are out of their control.

In a way, they really are placing their lives in the hands of food retailers and distributors.

It’s up to these companies to do their due diligence, audit their own facilities in a truthful manner, and monitor their employees’ food handling activities.

Topics: Restaurants

How to Perform Efficient Restaurant Line Checks

By Naomi Balagot


“Bloody hell. Here we go again.”Gordon Ramsay as restaurant patrons file into Hell’s Kitchen.

It’s another busy night at the restaurant and the kitchen is going to be a madhouse. Are you ready to rock or will operations be a flop?

The answer to that question comes down to the efficiency of the restaurant line check.

Today’s restaurant line check is commonly used in quick-service or fast-casual dining. The phrase, however, has its roots in fine dining with the French phrase “mise en place,” meaning “in its place.” In the most literal sense, mise en place makes certain that everything – food, supplies and equipment – are in the right place prior to service. The phrase eventually became known simply as “line check.”

Seva Procurement, a solutions provider for the hospitality industry, calls line checks for both front-of-house and back-of-house “the single most important practice that an operator can execute to ensure that a shift runs smoothly.”

If you’re in the restaurant industry, you know conditions can change in the blink of an eye. It’s not just about making sure Gordon Ramsay-like tempers don’t flare up when something goes awry. A restaurant line check helps to keep your costs in check as well.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific questions or bullet points that might appear on a restaurant line check.

  • Does the kitchen have a working scale?
  • What are the specialty foods that will be used this afternoon/night?
  • Are all foods and supplies in stock with ample quantity?
  • Are the refrigerator and freezer at the right temperatures?
  • Have the portions been measured and weighed prior to service?
  • Are foods on standby – sauces, soups, pre-cooked vegetables or rice – being stored at the right temperature?
  • What is the temperature of the grill?
  • What are the conditions of the grill, broiler, fryers, oven and stove tops?
  • Are meat thermometers in working condition?
  • Has the fry oil been changed?
  • Are plates, glasses and utensils clean?
  • Does the wait staff have access to extra supplies (e.g. salad dressing, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, ketchup, grated cheese, chocolate syrup) so they don’t have to distract the kitchen staff to obtain these items?

Restaurants Operations Can Go Paperless with a Process

Restaurant operations represent symbiotic relationships between back-of-house and front-of-house operations. The restaurant line check is not solely the responsibility of the chef.

The chef is in charge of the kitchen but at the end of the night, operations are the responsibility of management. The ability to effectively communicate is a management issue.

There are resources online that suggest printing out line check sheets and storing them in a binder. Of course, a mobile system would reduce the amount of paperwork and make requests available in real time. On a busy night there’s no time for a game of telephone or chain email. With a mobile solution, a staff member could immediately report the issue, which could possibly fix the problem before the start of the next shift.

Keep in mind that going paperless is worthless without a process, and resolving issues before they become full-fledged problems will ultimately save money.

You need to be prepared for anything in the restaurant industry. Even in a chicken joint, there’s no room for wingin’ it!

Topics: Restaurants

The Hospitality Industry’s Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media

By Brian Harris


It’s a sign of the times when the U.S. House of Representatives is looking to protect free speech on websites like Yelp. Four legislators introduced a bill last week that would essentially make non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts unenforceable. In other words, it would be illegal for U.S. businesses to use contracts to silence disgruntled customers.

This initiative certainly isn’t far-fetched, considering reports that a geek toy company and a New York hotel threatened to fine customers for posting negative reviews. The proposed legislation is of course supported by the hospitality industry and other service-oriented industries. It is also supported by travel review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

At the same time, you might recall that the Italian Competition Authority fined TripAdvisor for $610,000 for allegedly not doing its part to squash fake reviews. TripAdvisor denied responsibility for these reviews, but it still raised the question of legitimacy.

In the digital age, where can the hospitality industry turn to for unbiased customer insights?

Hint: Not social media! Social media is a double-edged sword and that’s why many service industries find themselves at the crossroads of First Amendment protections and corporate oversight. It’s a particularly interesting topic in regards to hotel reputation management.

Are there incorrigible people who seize any opportunity to complain on a public forum? Of course there are.

Should hotels seek to squash these views and inadvertently silence the feedback of customers with legitimate complaints? Absolutely not!

Learn from the hotel that started threatening people with a $500 fine for negative reviews. This not only dissuades customers from leaving constructive feedback, but also turns off future customers once word gets out.  Hotels can’t close the lines of communication once they are opened, and removing comments makes your brand look weak and insecure.

Social Media is Not the Place for Hotel Reputation Management

Social media has its limitations and can’t be used in place of a traditional guest feedback program. When a customer doesn’t have an alternative forum like a survey to voice a complaint, they will turn to social media. By then, it’s too late. The hotel is put on defense for damage control.

Hotel reputation management is a topic that Market Metrix studied at length in a 2012 survey.

Here are some interesting statistics to keep in mind:

  • Unresolved problems have a “dramatic impact” on guest loyalty and drive it down 56% on average.
  • Guests who have a problem review it about 22.6% of the time.
  • Gusts without a problem write reviews just 8.8% of the time.
  • Almost two-thirds of the loyalty lost can be regained if the problem is addressed.

The Takeaway

Addressing problems at the source is critical to hotel reputation management. While social media is an important tool for word-of-mouth promotion, it can’t create your reputation.

Also keep in mind that social media has a generational gap and tends to over-represent the younger generation. It’s just as important to hear from older customers who are comparatively spending more on travel.

For these reasons, survey-based feedback programs are far superior.

“Negative scores can automatically put service recovery steps into action, alerting the right person about the problem so it can be fixed right away,” wrote the authors of the Market Metrix study. “That’s how you turn a negative review into a positive one, and build your online reputation.”

Topics: Hospitality

Why Hasn’t the Stockout Problem Been Solved?

By Brian Harris


I’m going to start suggesting that retailers hang up a mirror in their office, tack a piece of paper above it on the wall and write, “The Reason You Have Stockouts.”

Running out of inventory is an industry-wide problem that some retailers would much rather blame on their vendors and CPG companies. Research shows, however, that retailers are very much at fault.

More than 10 years ago, the Harvard Business Review published the results of a study of more than 600 retail outlets in 29 countries. The study concluded that most retailers -- 72 percent -- were responsible for most stockouts due to faulty in-store ordering and replenishment practices.

More than ten years later, OOS (out-of-stocks) are still a big problem, and not just for small retailers. Last year, Walmart reported it was missing a whopping $3 billion as a result of OOS.

When it comes to stockouts, a former McKinsey Management consultant writes, a business must consider every possible source of financial impact of stockouts, including lost revenues, follow-on business, and goodwill and reputation.

In their defense, some retailers have to operate in a way that more easily leads to stockouts. For instance, their product may be either costly or highly perishable; customers don’t have easy alternatives (for example, specialty products); or the inventory costs a lot to store and maintain relative to the profit it generates. It’s a very fine line.

What Can Be Done to Finally Solve the Stockout Problem?

 recently read a 2013 article published in Supply Chain News which cited multiple out-of-stock studies throughout the years, including one of the first from a 1968 article in Progressive Grocer magazine. This problem certainly isn’t new. The author of the article, Dan Gilmore, asks point blank: “Why haven’t we done a better job improving out-of-stocks?”

The question led to a rather insightful discussion among supply chain management and software professionals. The general consensus is that there is a problem in the information supply chain.  Retailers are disconnected from manufactures, which slows down the ability to respond to demand changes in the store.

“One of the consequences of supplier and retailer cost "optimization"/reduction, expanding product portfolios and increased channel differentiation is a reduction in the accuracy of inventory placement and timing,” writes Jeff Stites, senior vice president and chief information officer at Diamond Foods. “Each element has increased variability and our ability to mitigate that variability has not kept pace or has been constrained (longer runs due to cost reductions in manufacturing combined with a longer tail of SKUs to produce). Technology can only do so much; supplier and retailers must create a more effective planning ‘environment’ to begin mitigating those elements that are increasing variability.”

Two other participants agreed that the “information supply” is the real cause of out-of-stocks and suggested that a possible resolution is having the retail supply chain implement a system where it checks products that have been bought off shelves and sets a re-order point through an automated process.

In other words, a combination of human and automatic processes relying on real-time data and notifications are key to solving this problem.

“Loss sales due to OOS (out-of-stocks) have been plaguing retailers for quite a while now and if they can make a change in their supply chain, there will definitely be a huge change in profits,” one participant concluded.

Topics: Business Operations, Retail

How to Better Manage Your Field Sales Team

By Vladik Rikhter


In my experience, the best salespeople are the ones who don’t view closing as part of their job – it’s part of the fun. The excitement of making a sale is what drove them to enter this line of work in the first place.

I found this to be true especially among field sales representatives. Being on the road is a tough gig. The hours start to add up when you factor in the extra preparation and paperwork field sales teams must complete.

Paperwork is a necessary evil. Without forms and reports, there’s no way to track progress, and you can’t improve what you don’t track. Thankfully, there’s a better — and smarter — way to work in the age of mobile technology. Digital forms stored on a secure cloud make collaboration easy and more efficient.

“Having the right information is critical to closing deals, and an organization that isn’t using the latest tools available could risk losing out to its competition,” writes Sharmin Kent of TinderBox, a sales productivity software company. “Every effective sales team has the same goals: spending time with customers, building relationships, maintaining a consistent process, staying agile and closing deals. With the best 21st century tools — some new, some unexpected — sales teams can set themselves up for even more success.”

Help Your Team Bridge the Gap in Sales Reports

In the 21st century, we now have the point-of-sale technology to tell us the basics about sales performance. Here are three questions your standard sales report can answer without a field rep visiting a store:  

  1. How many customers purchased your product last month?
  2. How many product facings does your company have per store?
  3. What promotions were most successful?

Here are three questions your standard sales report can’t answer:

  1. How many upsell opportunities were attempted and what were the outcomes?
  2. Were point-of-sale promotions and other marketing tools executed properly?
  3. Why are sales consistently underperforming at a certain location?

The only way you can gain these insights is by deploying your field sales representatives and capturing real-time data, including photos of your product displays. Errors are bound to happen across a network. For instance, maybe promotional sales were underperforming at that location because the products were not placed in the store according to the planogram.

Communication & Understanding

Tinderbox echoes what we often say; it’s important to communicate with your team constantly.

“Constant interaction between the management and the sales team is critical for sales success,” the staff writes. “What are the problems they are facing? Where do they need help? Is there something more you need from them? Does the team need to shift their attention to something else? The lines of communication should always be open.”

When evaluating your team members’ progress, don’t just track how close they were to making the sale, TinderBox advises. It’s sage advice. Focusing too much on failures can be bad for morale and distract you from your next big opportunity.

Keep your historical data in mind and look at the bigger picture. With time and diligence, you’ll get to the point of having a “model store,” a location where product sales are optimized. Compare your data against your model store’s sales. Call on your most successful sales team members to share their own insights and recommendations.

Encourage your field sales team to embrace 21st century connectivity. Happy selling!

Topics: Business Operations

What Makes a Successful Beverage POS Promotion?

By Vladik Rikhter


Walk into any convenience or grocery store in the United States and you’ll notice the beverage space is a lot like an elementary school classroom. There are flashy, bright colors everywhere, and a lot of pupils – or products – vying for your attention.

So, what makes a teacher’s pet? How does a product stand out in such a crowded market and build the kind of loyalty that makes companies into billion-dollar brands like Red Bull and Miller Lite?

It’s not so much about selling a product – it’s about selling an experience. The most successful beverage companies understand the importance of packaging and point-of-sale (POS) promotions that correspond to their core brand message.

Packaging & Point-of-Sale Must Work in Tandem

According to Paul Gage, owner of Boost Sales and Marketing LLC, getting a customer’s attention is more than just packaging; you have to utilize floor space as well.

Look at Monster Energy, for example. Their core consumer is a young male who has interests that include extreme sports and video games like “Call of Duty.” It’s common for Monster to have a large motorsports or video game-themed display in a big-box retailer.

Not every retail outlet can give that much space to vendors, however. On a recent visit to a small-format convenience store, I purchased a new Mountain Dew Kickstart flavor. I truly needed a kickstart for an hour-long drive home, and it was featured in a suction-cupped display rack inside the cooler door. Many energy drinks have dark labels and packaging. In this case, the lighter packaging and display caught my eye.

In the malt beverage category, many retailers play up seasonal promotions to get customers’ attention. Check out Corona’s “Cerveza Central” display for Cinco de Mayo, complete with palm trees.

How to Build Loyalty

After you’ve gained the customer’s attention, Gage explains, you have to retain the customer so they’ll repeat the purchase. Beverage brands sell excitement and a big part of that is variety.

David Di Franco is a gamer and tech reviewer who has a series on his YouTube channel called “First Taste.” He drinks every new Mountain Dew flavor. He also speaks to Mountain Dew’s core consumer -- young male gamers. As you can see in this video, he already tried a similar-tasting flavor, but he bought it anyway because it’s new. Now there’s loyalty!

Gage explains how there are so many beverages that a lot of people don't think taste great, but they are the best-selling products in the category because they create a strong bond with consumers. “Every Brand should have a unique personality and a compelling story that consumers find meaningful and want to be a part of,” he writes. “In order to differentiate your product from a similar product, you have to create a personality for your brand.”

Product Innovation & Consistency

Just like packaging and POS promotions must work in tandem to get a customer’s attention, product innovation and consistency work together to build personality.

Consider this analogy: What makes someone a fan of a rock band? The band produces new music and puts on live shows! The beverage category is a place to have fun, innovate, and entertain.

That’s why billionaire “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban invested in a boxed wine company called Beatbox Beverages. This company doesn’t try to outperform traditional wine in taste, especially with flavors like Blue Razzberry Lemonade. Rather, the products outperform traditional wine in entertainment. Cuban recognized the differentiating POS opportunity in retail and invested $1 million.

Beverage brands take a “go big or go home” approach to product roll outs because they are sold in a variety of retail outlets and face a lot of competition from similar brands. When the goal is explosive growth, it’s imperative that a company keeps track of inventory, pricing and promotional materials, and communicates its strategy on a store level.

Topics: Retail, Sales Success