Telling your story to buyers: the 4C’s

The Incubator founders sat down last week with Chobani’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Federico Muyshondt, to discuss best practices for telling your story to buyers. Below are our takeaways to share with the rest of the startup community.

In today’s food and beverage CPG universe, an unprecedented number of brands are clamoring at retailers for distribution. Distribution is essential to many brands’ growth, and the keys to expanding your distribution lie in the hands of retailers. Yes, there are alternative ways to expand your distribution through direct-to-consumer offerings on your website, Amazon, or a suite of other online channels. And we know it’s important to reach your customers wherever they are. However, you’ll most likely want to add doors and seek retail distribution to continue growing your brand. Whether you’re pitching to an independent speciality grocer, a fitness chain, or your category merchandizer at Walmart, you need to have your sales pitch and strategy polished to win distribution.

4C’s

Federico Muyshondt, Chobani’s SVP of Sales, broke down a simple concept to the Incubator called the “4C’s.” In addition to the traditional 3C’s model, brands must account for a fourth C in the CPG world: Category.

  1. Category
  2. Customer
  3. Company
  4. Competition

When you’re building your startup, you become focused so intently on the operations of your own company and the customer. However, when meeting with buyers, it’s essential to incorporate the other two C’s, Category and Competition, into your sales pitch. In a world with tens of thousands of brands pitching for shelf space, you need to stand out.

Category

In addition to selling your product attributes and brand story to a buyer, you need to first make sure that your product has the capacity to improve the category for the retailer.

Federico noted to our companies that, “as a young startup, you are coming in as a new product with the ability to transform your category in so many ways.” Use that position to your advantage when you’re selling.

When someone is listening to your pitch, they will be asking themselves (or directly to you, “What’s in it for me?” WIIFM. Make sure you identify the value you will add to the category. Doing so will create more shelf space for your category and successfully help retailers weed out the lower performing categories in their stores. It’s up to you to create and sell the value that your brand will bring to retailer’s stores, and ultimately their margins.

Competition

Before stepping into a buyer meeting, you need to know your competition better than you know your own company. As Federico said to the group,

“The buyers are being sold three Kool Aids. Which one are they going to believe?”

You’re responsible for making them believe. You need to know how you stack up to the rest of the field. Why is your product and brand superior? Why are you better positioned to outperform the others, and ultimately create greater lift in the category for the buyer?

In order to know the competition, you need to get in the stores. On the ground. Buy your competitors products and study the differences. What’s the nutrition profile? What format of packaging are they using. See which other products are on the shelves in different retailers. Who are they being shelved next to? Does it seem like it’s working? What are their promotions like?

Here’s a tip: use the app “Flipp.” Flipp allows you to download the weekly circular of promotions anywhere in the country. Flipp delivers digital ads from over 1,000 retailers so a shopper can find the best deals in your area each week. For you, that means seeing your competition’s promo strategy.

We can go on and on about the pillars of Category and Competition. And you certainly shouldn’t forget about the other C’s of Customer and Company! It comes down to knowing the fundamentals of your business. Sometimes, it can be difficult to take a step back and look at the bigger questions when you’re head down grinding as an entrepreneur. However, it’s imperative to take time to group up with your team and make sure your strategy is fully intact.

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