Supply Chain Blog

Essential Competitor Analysis Tips to Improve Route to Market Strategy and Execution in FMCG

Posted by Ross Marie on Thu, Oct 18, 2018

Over the last number of weeks, I have been writing a blog series on my 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. You can read more about the the steps I have already discussed here. My goal is to provoke business leaders in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) community to really think about every element of their RtM, and to question and analyse the decisions they will make (building) or have already made (reviewing). Is my RtM Strategy and Execution as good as it could be?

The 20 Steps are split into 4 phases, Assessment, Strategy, Design and Implementation. This blog focuses on Step 4, ‘Competitor Analysis’, which is the last step in the Assessment Phase, and is the last step to take before consideration of your approach to RtM strategy.

competitor_analysis_enchangeBusiness leaders today fully understand the need for competitor analysis. It is a cornerstone of any business strategy, but as with all elements of RtM strategy, it is all about the detail. Understanding what your competitors are doing, why they are doing it, how they are doing it, what their results are, and why you are different, is key to any effective sales and distribution or RtM strategy.

Below are some of the questions you should ask under Step 4 – Competitor Analysis. An important consideration is the availability of open source, legally available and reliable data and information – e.g. internal company data, field force knowledge, trade publications, industry reports, trade visits, etc.:

  1. How are our direct competitors executing their RtM Strategy? What is their DIME approach to distribution (Direct, Indirect, Mix & Everything in between)?
  2. What are the differences between their RtM and ours?
  3. What are the differences in their performance and ours? What is their brand distribution, volume & share vs ours?
  4. What are the factors that we believe are behind that?
  5. How are other non-competing organisations, still in our sector, executing their RtM strategy?
  6. How is that different to mine and why?
  7. Are there elements from competitors’ operations that we should look to evaluate, either positive or negative?
  8. Are there lessons to be learnt or mistakes to be avoided?
  9. Looking across the 20 Steps, ask yourself, what is their approach to the 4D’s (Distribution, Display, Dialogue, Digital)
  10. How does the competition classify their outlets, or their channels? Do they use the traditional norms, or do they target specific avenues?
  11. How do they set up their territories and what is their trade structure and FTE’s?
  12. Do they get sales data from the trade and what metrics do they measure? Do we know how they target their field force?
  13. Do they have specific planograms and trade promotions? Are they active in POS placement?
  14. Do they have a trade incentive and /or engagement programme?
  15. What is their order capture method? How are they using technology in the field?
  16. How are they leveraging Digital (with regards to sales channels, order capture, engagement, promotions, trade incentives, trade marketing, etc.)?
  17. What do we know about competitor distributor activities? Who are they partnering with? Has this changed in the last 5 years? What is their distribution effectiveness?
  18. Do we see evidence of their successful initiatives in one area being rolled out to other territories?
  19. How do they manage key accounts? What is their overall relationship with the trade?

There are many questions you could ask here, and I would encourage you to think about which are the most relevant for your markets and industries. Give Competitor Analysis the importance it deserves to gain a well-rounded, in-depth knowledge of your competition and feed this into your RtM strategy.

I hope you find this helpful, and I appreciate your views and comments below. I will pick this up again next week, with Step 5 RtM Strategy & the 4D Approach. Please subscribe to the blog, you can do so on this page, to ensure you don’t miss out on the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, please visit our website here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, promotions, RTM, retail, RTM Assessment Tool, Distribution, Sales, Route to Market, FMCG

Distributor Assessment Essentials to Deliver Sales Growth and Improve RtM Strategy

Posted by Ross Marie on Fri, Oct 12, 2018

Welcome to Step 3 of the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence. You can read more about the overall model and the steps I have already discussed here.

fmcg-distributotor-assessmentThe third step is ‘Distributor Assessment’. Whether you are looking to build a RtM strategy from scratch or review your existing sales and trade marketing execution, assessing the current and/or available methods of distribution is crucial. Distribution in FMCG is typically complex, with many layers, levels and combinations. There may also be local geographic nuances, and/or historical challenges to deal with. You may own and control every element of the distribution network, known as Direct Distribution. You might contract out the distribution to 3rd parties who then distribute on your behalf, also falling into the Direct Distribution category. You may sell to distributors who then distribute on to retailers themselves (or via other intermediary wholesalers or cash & carry’s), known as Indirect Distribution. You may have a mix of any of these methods which effects both the level of control, and the complexity involved.

No matter what is in place now, you must evaluate every step in the current method of distribution, from an independent point of view, and consider the possible alternative methods for getting your products to retail.

Here are just some examples of questions you can ask under Step 3 – Distributor Assessment:

  1. What is my current method of distribution?
  2. Is my distribution all ‘direct’ to my customers via my own owned or contracted distribution network?
  3. Is my distribution all ‘indirect’ to my customers through distributors that work either exclusively or non-exclusively for me? What are the layers of distributors, sub-distributors, wholesalers, cash & carry's, etc.?
  4. Is my distribution a mix of the above?
  5. Is this the way it has always been for us or did we change and if so why?
  6. Is my current point of sale coverage a function of my distribution model, or of my route to market strategy?
  7. What are the total number of distributors in my market?
  8. What is their coverage map? How many, if any, am I using? Why is this?
  9. How are my direct and indirect competitors servicing the marketplace? What is their distribution model? How do we feel is it performing for them? Is there anything we can learn from them?
  10. How regularly am I assessing the distribution network or the distributors?
  11. Do I have a distributor assessment tool to conduct the assessment? Feel free to gain inspiration from our Distributor Assessment Guide and Distributor Assessment Tool available for download.
  12. After conducting visits, and using my distributor assessment tool, what is the current performance of my distribution network and /or each one of my distributors?
  13. Where are the gaps in performance vs my ideal distribution network?
  14. What are the current levels of brand and SKU availability at the distributors retail level? What are the levels of out of stock?
  15. Is POS material available and visible at retail level? Are planograms being adhered to? What are the overall levels of display in retail?
  16. Is there an awareness of my brands at a retail level? Are trade engagement programs being run at retail level?
  17. What are the current service levels of my distributors? How does this compare to our contract and our KPIs?

Regardless of which method we choose to assess our distributors by, one fact will not change. We must get out into the field, see the distributor and retail environments first hand, and assess effectiveness of what is really happening, not what we believe is happening. Information, reports, and monitoring tools are essential in RtM execution, but nothing replaces actual field work.

I hope you find this helpful, and I appreciate your views and comments below. I will be continuing my series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence, with Step 4 Competitor Analysis in my next post.

Please subscribe to the blog, on this page, to ensure you don’t miss out on the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, please visit our website here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, retail, Logistics Service Provider, RTM Assessment Tool, Distribution, Performance Improvement, Traditional Trade, Route to Market, FMCG, SKU

Your Guide to Consumer & Market Mapping to Improve RtM Strategy for Sales Growth

Posted by Ross Marie on Thu, Oct 04, 2018

Welcome to Step 2 of the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence. You can read more about the overall model and the steps I have already discussed here:.

The second step is ‘Consumer & Market Mapping’.  This is where you will review how you are currently reaching all the potential places from which your consumers are buying, to maximise sales growth.

consumer-market-mapping-rtmIn the consumer goods business, buying trends, brand distribution, product availability for consumers, and reach, are things managers live and die by. The measurement of these are also critical as they can be a key factor in understanding poor performance or in delivering success. For example, you may have a first-class Route to Market model for retail right across your market, but what if your consumers are moving to digital channels? Or your internal availability/brand distribution measure may show 95%+ on your system, but what if your RtM doesn’t cover all available points of sale?

This is where Step 2 of the 20 Steps model comes in. Here are some examples of questions you can ask under Step 2 – Consumer & Market Mapping:

  1. What are the current buying trends of my consumers?
  2. How have these trends shifted in recent years and do we expect them to change soon?
  3. What are the market specific geographic challenges and realities that we need to be aware of?
  4. What are the current number of available points of sale in my market?
  5. Do we have this data available? If so, at what level of detail and how is it maintained?
  6. Do we need to conduct an ‘Every Dealer Survey’ to map all the points of sale? What are the constraints involved? Could we do this internally or do we need to look externally?
  7. What is the split between direct vs indirect points of sale?
  8. How many points of sale are we reaching?
  9. What are the gaps and why has this happened? Was this a strategic decision or natural development?
  10. To what extent are there any specific ‘cost to serve’ issues?
  11. To what extent is the picture similar for our direct competitors and can we learn from them?
  12. What about the picture for other companies who do not compete with us in our sector?
  13. What is the population spread of consumers in relation to our coverage of points of sale?
  14. What percentage (best estimate) of the target consumers are we reaching?
  15. What are the key battlegrounds and must win areas for the market?
  16. Where are our gaps in relation to this and how are we going to bridge them?
As with each of the 20 Steps, the key is getting into the detail, getting behind the data and understanding the actual reality of your company’s marketplace and not just your own historical view of it.

Getting these foundation steps right in the Assessment phase of the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence can be the difference between beating or missing those sales targets.

I hope you find this helpful, and I appreciate your views and comments below. I will be continuing my series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence, with Step 3 Distributor Assessment in my next post.

Please subscribe to the blog, you can do so on this page, to ensure you don’t miss out on the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, please visit our website here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, RTM, retail, RTM Assessment Tool, Traditional Trade, Route to Market, FMCG

Practical Questions FMCG Leaders Should Ask When Reviewing Route to Market Performance?

Posted by Ross Marie on Wed, Sep 26, 2018

Recently I shared my methodology for the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence at the beginning of this blog series.  You can read more about it here: The FMCG Leaders Guide to Route to Market Strategy & Execution in 20 Steps.  The first step, ‘Review Route to Market Performance’ sits in the ‘Assessment’ phase of this model.  This is where we will begin our journey, and I would like to start with sharing a lesson I learnt from my own career.

20 steps to route to market excellence

In March 1999 I started work as a Trade Marketing & Distribution Rep (aka Sales Rep) for P.J. Carroll & Co. Ltd., an Irish tobacco company owned by Rothmans International.  I had a territory in the south of the country.  The market at the time was Direct Store Delivery (DSD), meaning we delivered product from our warehouse to the individual stores.  Order capture was by Rep’s stock & order card or by telesales, with the main determining factors being volume and call frequency.  I had about 300 customers in my territory, we operated a 5 week cycle and my customers were divided into call frequencies of weekly, 2 weekly, 5 weekly and 10 weekly calls.  The target number of calls per day was 15.  All very logical and all very professionally managed.   

When I joined I was 21 years of age and I was very keen to please my boss and look to get promoted.  Once I figured out the geography of my territory, where each customer was located, I found out that I was finishing my 15 calls earlier and earlier each day.  In terms of numbers, I was overachieving on my sales volume, my brand distribution and on my new product introduction targets.  But by the end of month 3, I could do my required calls by lunchtime, most days, and still overachieve on my targets.  Nice if you want an easy life, or great if you want to use the extra time to impress the boss, but overall, not a very well set up RtM.  From the outside, everything looked like a well-oiled machine, but the devil was in the detail.  This is where the 20 Step model comes in.

rtm-performance-review-questionsThe first phase is Assessment, and Step 1 is Review RtM Performance.  In reviewing your current RtM performance, you need to look at all the 20 steps that are currently present within your RtM and get into the details to understand your current performance. Here are some examples of questions you can ask under Step 1 – Review RtM Performance:

  1. What does a detailed analysis of my ERP & RtM data reveal?
  2. Does available market data allow us to understand market realities & consumer buying trends, and what does this mean for our RtM?
  3. What is really going on in the marketplace & when did we last conduct systematic trade visits?
  4. What are the current levels of brand distribution and product display?
  5. What are the current levels of product understanding and brand dialogue within the trade?
  6. Are we leveraging digital effectively?
  7. How are the territories set up & how have they performed over the last number of years?
  8. What are the current call frequencies? What are the current outlet & channel classifications?  How have they been determined, and do they need to be reviewed?
  9. What is the current RtM structure and the trade tool kits? Are they fit for purpose?
  10. What is the current sales incentive program and what has it delivered?
  11. What data is available on your RtM performance? What’s being measures?  Is it enough?
  12. What are the levels of training now? Do we train on the ‘steps of the call’?
  13. How are we capturing and learning from success?
  14. How are the key accounts being managed? How are we generally engaging with the trade?
  15. What are the links to other functions across the organisation? How well are they working?

This step is detailed, it requires extensive experience and the right tools to ensure all the current performance is laid bare.  The more you do this, the more experience you have in FMCG operational execution, the more you will be able to interpret the details to reveal the true picture.  This will also uncover if there are underutilised resources allowing people to finish by lunchtime!

I hope you find this helpful, and I appreciate your views and comments below.   I will be continuing my series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence, I will be discussing step 2 in my next post.  Please subscribe to the blog, you can do so on this page, to ensure you don’t miss out on the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model.  If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, please visit our website here.

Tags: RtM Strategy, 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, Ross Marie, RTM, RTM Assessment Tool, Route to Market, Distribution

The FMCG Leaders Guide to Route to Market Strategy & Execution in 20 Steps

Posted by Ross Marie on Wed, Sep 19, 2018

Wouldn’t it be great if someone developed and shared a step by step model detailing how to build and improve route to market execution, sales execution and trade marketing strategic and operational plans? After 20 years in RtM and after working with Enchange and some of the biggest multinationals around the world, I have now developed just such a model.

First things first, where did it all start?

In the summer of 1998, I had just finished my Degree and Masters. Tom Hanks was searching for Private Ryan and I had yet to get my first mobile phone. The dot com bubble had yet to inflate and I was desperate to get my first ‘sales’ job with a company car. I really wanted to start my career, I wanted to begin my climb up the sale ladder, I wanted to follow in my father and brothers’ footsteps, but more than anything, I really wanted the independence of my own transport. It’s amazing how you view the world at 21!

As it turns out, I did start my sales career that summer. I joined an agency in Dublin, doing sales promotion and merchandising with Showerings (Allied Domecq) and Grants of Ireland. My focus was the spirits division in the grocery sector. I also finally got that company car (sort of). My red 1998 Diesel Ford Courier Van, it may not have been the sales man’s dream Beemer or Alfa, but I loved that little van. Most importantly, my career had started, and I was on my way.

Moving on into Diageo later that year and then entering the tobacco industry for 15 years, mainly British American Tobacco, allowed me to experience in detail the breath of roles across the sales, route to market and trade marketing and distribution functions. When you work in the tobacco industry, and you can’t communicate with consumers on billboards, or TV, or almost anywhere, you live and die by route to market (RtM) execution. I loved that challenge.

Following a successful and enjoyable career working for multinationals, I joined a specialist supply chain and RtM consultancy company, Enchange. Enchange shared my passion for RtM execution and has been delivering RtM improvement programs with amazing results for some of the world’s leading companies for the last 25 years.

Together, we have spent the last number of years refining our approach and building a model for RtM execution. I would now like to introduce you to the ’20 Steps to RtM Excellence’.

20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence

 

This methodology not only combines decades of RtM experience, it brings a strategic approach to delivering excellence in RtM execution. It gives you a systematic step by step approach to driving sales and share growth while meeting consumer’s needs.

The 20 Steps are split across four phases of Assessment, Strategy, Design and Implementation. Over the next weeks and months, I will be sharing more and more information on each of the 20 steps, how they work, how they build on each other and how they can transform an organisation to deliver sales growth.

I hope you will find this helpful and I would really appreciate your views and comments below. Please also sign up to our blog, you can do so on this page, to ensure you don’t miss out on the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, please visit our website here.

Tags: RTM, RtM Strategy, RTM Assessment Tool, Distribution, Ross Marie, FMCG, Route to Market, Traditional Trade, 20 Steps to RtM Excellence