Six tips for an effective category plan

Since the start of this century I have created more than 250 category plans, and with every plan I learn something new. As this is the most popular blog on my website, this is the first to be translated into English. Enjoy!

Six tips for an effective category plan

1. Start with clear objectives and boundary conditions for your plan
Some of my clients forget to set objectives when starting a category project. They see the plan as an objective on its own. Or they think it’s obvious: “increase turnover, what else?”. First of all: is growth the holy grail for every category? Is it really possible (and do you really want) to achieve growth in the meat or candy category? Secondly: is your objective the same as the retailer’s? If you are focused on volume and your retailer on margin, and you both are not aware of this difference, it’s hard to optimize promotions. Thirdly: consider boundary conditions, both internally and externally. Internally: what is the budget you can work with, which NPDs are you introducing and when? Externally: what are the requirements of your retailer, but also very practical: when and to what extent can you change the entire shelf plan?

2. Combine insights
From my experience, insights that lead to the best category plans come from a combination of consumer, shopper ànd channel data. Don’t expect these insights to come from looking at charts and tables behind your desk. It takes time and creativity, and most of the time input from multiple people.

3. Think category, not brand
It’s in the name, but often forgotten: a category plan has strategies to grow the category, in one way or the other independent of brands. This is what is relevant to a retailer. The second step is to define how your brands can contribute to overall category growth. Maybe you find out, there’s a brand or proposition missing: an innovation is born!

4. The category plan leads to plans for all marketing P’s
Many CPG companies are focused on putting new products on the market. When translation the category plan to their brand, they first think about which product can drive growth. But there are many more ways (P’s) to Rome. Don’t forget about them.

5. Take the interest of the retailer into account
A manufacturer is dependent on retailers: they own the space to sell your products to consumers. Your plan is only accepted, if a retailer sees the relevance for implementation. This can only be the case when the plan delivers additional results for the retailer (linked to his objectives from point 1)

6. Evaluate and adapt
After finishing the plan, my clients are usually relieved. They have been stressing towards the deadline, and there’s often a party-like internal launch. But only now the real work starts: implementing it with retailers. Don’t forget to evaluate and adapt regularly. Especially in these times of rapid market developments, you learn most from trial and error. As you have clear objectives, it’s easy to determine whether the plan works or not and why. Adapt, implement and evaluate (again and again).

Can this Dutch lady help me? Of course, about 100 of the category plans I created were for other countries, e.g. Belgium, France, Germany, Nordics, UK, USA, Italy, Spain, Brazil. Please contact me to have a chat on the best way for you to create a strong category plan.