Supply Chain Blog

Demand a Culture of Route to Market Excellence Through Outstanding Leadership

Posted by Ross Marie on Tue, Mar 19, 2019

There are many things I have seen in over 20 years in the unbelievably exciting Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Business (FMCG). There are many things I can talk about and stories I can tell. But since I was first handed the keys to a van in 1998 to stock shelves in retail, right up until my most recent board presentation to the global CEO of a FTSE 100 FMCG company, one thing has always remained constant, Leadership drives Culture

culture-leadership-rtm-finalWhat FMCG Leaders say, what they do, how they do it, and how they live it, drives company culture. In other words, it drives what we do and how we do it around here. If we want to deliver real change and improvement in Route to Market (RtM) excellence, the senior management team, from the CEO down, must fully buy into and demonstrate that change.

Welcome to my blog series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. The 20 Steps are split into 4 phases, Assessment, Strategy, Design and Implementation. My goal in creating the 20 Steps, and in writing these supporting blogs, is to provide FMCG leaders with a methodology or framework that will allow them to review, transform or build their RtM capability is a structured manner, covering all elements of the RtM strategy.

Over the past number of months, we have gone through the first 19 steps of my model. The focus of this post is the final Step 20 – ‘Culture & Leadership’. When we review, transform or build RtM capability, the journey will not be linear. I say this because Step 20 will not be the last thing you do, but it will drive the entire process. For example, Step 1 Review RtM Performance, involves looking at all the current elements across your RtM, you might say it involves reviewing your existing 20 Steps, including Culture & Leadership.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask under Step 20 – Culture & Leadership:

  1. Before you start your RtM journey, what is the leadership platform that will drive success? Do we have the active support of the CEO, for example?
  2. To what extent are senior management at regional or global level supportive? Who will sponsor the changes that will be required? If we do not have senior management’s active support, to what extent will we be able to drive meaningful change?
  3. Based on the results of Step 19 Functional Integration, what are the functions and departments within the organisation that have been identified and mapped out as key elements of the RtM Strategy?
  4. Have these functions and departments been involved in the RtM strategy process thus far? For example, could we rank the department involvement from a level 10 (heavily involved) down to level zero (not yet engaged with)?
  5. Who are the key individual influencers within the organisation whose opinion carries weight across key departments or functions? Have these individuals been involved in the RtM process thus far? To what level has their involvement been?
  6. Who are the key external stakeholders, whether affected by the change or not, that need to be involved?
  7. Is there specific buy in or agreement that we need to get, in order to make and facilitate these changes? Will any of the changes have any political, legal or governmental consequences?
  8. What does our overall stakeholder map look like? Do we feel there are any gaps?
  9. What are the key messages that we need to deliver to the organisation? For example, why did we start this process? What was the need that drove the change? What changes have we made? Why did we make them?
  10. How will this new approach impact our employees, on their departments and on the company? How will this improve our current position? How will these improvements better equip us for the future?
  11. How will these changes help us to beat the competition? How will these changes better equip us to service our customers? How will these changes be seen by our other external stakeholders?
  12. How will these changes effect company departments traditionally not seen as sales or RtM focused? How do we engage and bring them along on our journey?
  13. How would we describe the current company culture? How do we do things around here?
  14. How big a cultural shift are we trying to make? Are we moving from an autocratic style of management where the “boss” tells people what to do, over to an empowerment centric culture where we want to see the RtM front line staff create and build new ideas? What does the size and nature of this shift mean?
  15. In what timescale are we looking to make these changes? Is this realistic?
  16. What are the essential behaviours we want to see in the organisation to make the new RtM approach successful?
  17. How do we ensure that we are getting the essential behaviours across the organisation to deliver on our RtM strategy?
  18. Does all of the company executive committee, management board, top team, management team, etc., understand the new RtM approach and the rational for change? In other words, has the Senior Management (CEO/Managing Director, and all direct reports) been brought through the entire process to ensure active advocacy?
  19. How will the Senior Management group show their support for the new RtM approach? Will there be a specific launch of the new approach? How will they be involved? What are follow up phases to this launch? How does the entire organisation see this advocacy and Leadership come to life?
  20. What is the overall change management plan to win the necessary stakeholder buy in to deliver RtM Excellence?

I would like to thank you very much for reading any or all of my blog series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence. I hope you find this useful, and any views and comments are most welcome. Although this is the final step in the framework, we will continue to discuss key RtM issues over the coming weeks and months.

Please subscribe to the blog on this page, to ensure you don’t miss the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps click here.

Tags: SKU, Brewing & Beverages, FMCG, Route to Market, Performance Improvement, Traditional Trade, Cost Reduction, Sales, Distribution, RTM Assessment Tool, Communication, Retail, RTM, Promotions, Ross Marie, RtM Strategy, 20 Steps to RtM Excellence

Form Lasting Alliances with Key FMCG Customers at Almost Zero Cost, How? - Third Degree Partnerships (3DPs)

Posted by Ross Marie on Mon, Jan 28, 2019

Welcome to my blog series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. Over the past number of months, we have gone through the detail of the first 15 steps of my model. The focus of this post is Step 16 ‘Third Degree Partnerships (3DPs)’.

Step 16 represents a different concept and approach to motivating your customers to want to deliver on your targets. I hope it is helpful, and I welcome any feedback. So, what are Third Degree Partnerships (3DPs)?

incentives for fmcg customers with third degree partnerships in rtm

Third Degree Partnerships (3DPs) are where a Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company identifies its customers key issues, costs or constraints, and then forms a partnership with a service provider who can solve them for the customer, at a significantly reduced cost.

The benefit for the customer is access to cheaper services. The benefit for the service provider is access to more customers. The benefit for the FMCG company is the ability to use the provision of a 3DP service as if it was a trading term or key account payment to the customer, with almost zero cost.

In short, we identify our customers key issues, we then identify a service provider who can solve them, and we use our size and clout (maybe even our global reach?) to negotiate a much-improved price or access to the service for our customers. We then decide what we want in return for providing our customers with access to this 3DP club.

What would we want in return? Examples include, product listings, exclusivity of some form, increased product range, pricing or other promotions, improved display, minimum volume targets, brand dialogue, use of a new distributor, access to a territory, etc.

Why would you use 3DPs instead of a cash payment or discount? Several potential reasons. For example, maybe you have significant pressure on Route to Market (RtM) budgets and need to spend less in the key account or customer payments area. Maybe you need access to a new strategic channel and the costs of entry would eliminate profitability. Maybe you are facing pressure and need to boost sales but have no budget for promotions. Maybe you are facing significant competition and need a fresh approach to work with certain customers.

Think of 3DPs as a type of rewards club for our customers. They may require time to set up but have little associated cost for us as FMCG leaders, provided we do the ground work.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask under Step 16 ‘Third Degree Partnerships (3DPs)’:

  1. Based on the Channel Classification in Step 7, what are the different segments of customers in our market?
  2. Looking at each customer segment, which are the most appropriate or suitable for 3DPs? Where will 3DPs have the most potential value or be the most valued?
  3. Would there be a greater applicability in the less organised General Trade versus the more organised Modern Trade, for example?
  4. Do we feel providing our Horeca owners with access to reduced cost services will be as beneficial as providing reduced cost services to international retailers?
  5. Could the customers in question get access to these reduced cost services themselves? If so, why have they not done so? Is there still a value in these services?
  6. Is there any specific channel in which we are under-performing? What are the reasons for this? What are the defining characteristics of the channel? Could a 3DP help us here?
  7. Have we included and looked at the specific geographic issues, challenges and nuances within our specific market, to map out our local customers’ challenges? For example, the islands of Indonesia, the congestion in Bangkok, the vast geography of African countries, the severe temperatures in Russia, to name a few?
  8. Considering each customer segment, what are the customers’ key issues, costs or constraints? In other words, what are the problems our customers are facing for which we could provide solutions?
  9. Looking at each of these key issues, costs or constraints, can we identify service providers who can solve these?
  10. Are these potential service providers local to the market? Is there a potential for us to bring in external suppliers to the market? Would we want to do that? Does that create more issues for us in setting up the 3DP or does it make the 3DP more powerful?
  11. Can bringing in external service providers as part of a 3DP create barriers to entry for our competition and barriers to exit from the 3DP for our customers?
  12. Are there particular services that we, as an FMCG company, benefit from, that we can in turn provide to our customers through 3DPs? Can we use our size and scale to negotiate a package or price and offer access to our customers in return for something?
  13. What services might we offer as a 3DP? For more inspiration, download our Implementing Third Degree Partnerships (3DPs) in Route to Market Guide here.
  14. Have we prioritised the potential services that we may offer as part of our 3DPs? Have we ensured that the 3DP programme will not reduce focus from achieving our RtM targets but instead assist with them?
  15. Have we looked at why we would use a 3DP instead of another incentive? Have we detailed what we would ask for in return for access to a 3DP?
  16. How will the 3DP programme be managed? Will key accounts manage the programme? Will we require additional resources in the RtM function to do this? Must this be done on a national level or will we allow regional implementation?
  17. Have we involved our legal colleagues in the contracting process to make sure there is no exposure for us from the services provided by the service provider(s)?
  18. Have we conducted a risk assessment to look at any specific local or other issues that may affect the 3DP programme?
  19. Taking all the above into account, what would the overall 3DP programme look like?

I hope you find this useful, and as I said, views and comments are most welcome.

Next, I will cover Step 17 ‘Key Account Management (KAM)’. Please subscribe to the blog on this page, to ensure you don’t miss the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps click here.


3rd degree partnership download


Tags: Brewing & Beverages, FMCG, Route to Market, Performance Improvement, Traditional Trade, Cost Reduction, Sales, Distribution, RTM Assessment Tool, Doing Business in Africa, Communication, Retail, RTM, Promotions, Ross Marie, RtM Strategy, 20 Steps to RtM Excellence

Supply Chain: Communication teases out scorecard improvement

Posted by Dave Jordan on Thu, Mar 03, 2016

When I used to spend far too much of my life flying around the globe I did my best to avoid cabin chat with fellow passengers. That may sound a bit miserable but I just needed some sleep before arriving at the next FMCG supply chain challenge.

I still prefer to strap in with a hand wrapped around an old Cockburn’s port (in business class) or a plastic cup of wine from godknowswhere in cattle class and sleep until touchdown. My record sleep was non-stop from Kuala Lumpur to London when the air crew checked I was actually breathing every few hours.

Even then there were some travellers who obviously needed their chat fix to relax and they were persistent. This led me to design a range of responses to the inevitable “what do you do?” enquiry that would leave the chat ball squarely in their court and keep it there!  My top five “stop the chat” responses were:

  1. I have just been released from prison for a really bad thing but don’t worry, my drugs usually get me through the flight.
  2. I am an undertaker with excess capacity seeking new business.
  3. I am an erotic dancer and stripper (no, not of the paint kind).
  4. I collect nail clippings; from hamsters.

If they persisted I would look them deeply in the eyes and say:

  1. I’ll do whatever you’d like me to do………

FMCG_SUPPLY_CHAIN_COMMUNICATION_SCORECARD.jpgThe temptation to do this in business must be avoided as discussion and debate are of course vital for success.  Nevertheless, the wrong question at the wrong time in the wrong tone can hide issues and keep them hidden until lasting damage is done. When questioning is consistently about what went badly you seldom hear what really did go wrong only what the “accused” is willing to reveal without exposing themselves or colleagues. 

To stem the tide of accusative questioning in an IBP/S&OP meeting try a different approach and see how colleagues react. Throw in a few of these questions/requests to get the chat ball freely bouncing back and forth and avoid the what went wrong/who did wrong interrogation.

Performance Scorecard



Board feedback

Forecast Accuracy


Getting better. Please share some of the successes from the month to see if can share the learnings across all categories.

Overall Equipment Efficiency


How can we maintain this momentum so we can continue to postpone new capex?

Picking Accuracy


Nearly perfect; can we do any more or is it a case of diminishing returns?

Customer Service Level


We are delighting 98.5% of our customers but some still need a bit more from us, or do they? Why don’t we check what the other 1.5% really need from our extended supply chain?

Inventory Level

15 days

Such a difference to 12 months ago after our SC Analytics investment. Could we shave off another day?

When you see scores very close to the objective or what is actually possible given the constraints of your supply chain then change the approach. Tease out a little more performance rather than stopping the chat ball dead in its tracks.

Image courtesy of stockimages at

Tags: FMCG, Performance Improvement, KPI, Communication