8 Facts About Category Managers

When you enter a supermarket, you notice that everything is placed nicely into categories. All the dairy products are together in the fridge area, the middle of the store holds all the dry goods while the produce aisle has fresh fruit and vegetables.  

Once you get a hang of the store, it is quite easy to get in and out. The real problem is deciding on what product you want to purchase. There are many options to choose from and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number of brand choices in front of you. Situations like this are not ideal for companies because they want to be the only brand present. The goal of any food company is that you become loyal to their brand.

How is a company supposed to stand out with all of the possible products in a single grocery category? Well, they entrust this task to professionals known as Category Managers.

1. Category Managers drive sales

Category managers are responsible for:

managing a group or category of products for a company. How big their category or group is depends on the size of the company they work for. For example, in a larger company, a category manager might be responsible for looking after a specific category such as ‘artistic breads’, whereas a category manager in a smaller company may work a broader category like ‘confectionery’.

Overall, it is a category manager’s job to develop and implement long term strategies that drive company sales up. To perform these tasks, they analyze complex data collected from a variety of sources and translate it into meaningful information. This information might include the performance of individual products, retailer inventory levels and customer demand.

These professionals work with many departments within their company, including management, marketing and procurement. These departments help category managers with pricing and the overall promotion of their product category.  

2. Category Managers commonly have degrees in business

The tasks that category managers take on differ from company to company. This is dependent on the size of the company. Some companies may require managers to spend more time analyzing data while others are more customer-oriented, focusing on building relationships and negotiating. Therefore, category managers can have a variety of educational backgrounds. Some of the most common bachelor degrees and college diplomas include marketing, business, and hospitality management.

Being able to follow trends is an integral part of category manager’s job. Market trends dictate what kinds of advertising, promotions, and marketing campaigns category managers perform for the products. One way they collect data is by developing strategic relationships with key suppliers in order to ensure early insight to new trends and products. Using the data they collected, they find point differentiation between them and the competition.

4. Category Managers develop national programs

One of the major roles of a category manager is developing promotions and pricing strategies. They develop pricing strategies by analyzing their competition and the attributes of their product. Category managers work closely with the operations team when a new product is released. New products must adhere to a certain set of standards as set out by a promotional campaign.

5. Category Managers manage budgets

A successful promotion starts with knowing the budget. To manage their budgets, category managers use data to monitor key national promotions. Relevant data includes retail inventory levels, the price of products and the cost of promotional campaigns. All of these factors work together, enabling a category manager to watch where they need to spend their money.

6. Category Managers act as a primary contact

Category Managers act as the primary contact for vendors that support different programs and promotions. When speaking with vendors, these professionals ensure that their merchandising is correctly executed according to the business plan. Finally, they directly handle day-to-day operation encounters, building a relationship with the vendors and ensuring that everyone benefits over a long period of time.

7. Category managers negotiate contracts

In order to stay ahead of the competition, some category managers use point-of-purchase marketing. Point of purchase marketing is a phrase used to describe the messages delivered to a customer at the exact time they make a purchase.

Category managers sometimes will encourage customers to purchase their products by placing the products in highly visible locations. purchase their products is placing them in well-seen locations. For example, when customers enter a grocery store, they are more likely to see products that are placed at eye-level than those that are located closer to the ground. Products placed at eye-level are known to be in the “prime location” for consumers to notice them. Category managers negotiate with retailers, often paying them to place their products in an ideal location or developing a partnership with them.

A category manager also negotiates contracts with retailers for the pricing of marketing campaigns and vendor contracts.

8. Category Managers are curious, competitive and creative

Being a category managers requires a range of skills. However, there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:

  • Curiosity[R1] These professionals are always curious about coming trends and shopper behavior. They constantly ask how they can do their job better and what they can do to encourage consumers to buy their products.
  • Competitiveness – In order for a company to maintain a competitive edge in the industry, they have to have the right individuals driving the company in the right direction. Category managers are often competitive in nature  because they are responsible for a specific category of products performing well in the market. They are always analyzing the market and creating the best promotions that beat out the competition.
  • Creativity – To stand out from the rest of the crowd, category managers must be creative. They have the ability to think critically and analyze the market in order to create distinct, exciting and innovative marketing plans You wouldn’t want to use the same ad campaign for potato chips as pop.

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