Most brands and retailers rely heavily on canned topline reports.  These are the reports that are furnished by data providers, solution providers, etc.  I call this “push button category management”.  Canned topline reports are an excellent place to begin your analysis but they will not provide you with the actionable insights needed to grow sales and outperform the competition.

This is similar to a pilot flying a plane on auto pilot.  The auto pilot will perform all the basic functions to move the plane from point “A” to point “B”.  This does not mean that it will handle most emergencies.  Just ask Sully, the pilot who landed the commercial jet in the Hudson River.

The same holds true for category management.  You still need to understand how to read and interpret the data. Numbers and graphs on the page are of no value unless they address specific business questions and provide actionable insights.

Topline reports are useful and give you a quick snapshot of how the category and your brand are performing. They also provide you with a quick look at your competition, their sales performance, the market, and anything that might affect your sales. At first glance, topline reports will answer some of your questions. Unfortunately, they are designed to work for everyone equally – including your competition. Your competitors see the same information in the same format! Topline reports don’t provide you with the bigger picture or the competitive advantage you need.

The challenge is that your business is a lot more complex than any canned or topline reports can address. They are very generic and do little to answer most business questions. Imagine reading a report that tells you that your business is healthy nationally but fails to identify threats in specific markets where you’re losing share to your competition. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to identify a potential threat BEFORE the competitors take your sales and get you kicked off the shelf? The right reports will help you proactively manage your business.

Important questions you need answered to effectively grow your business:

• How is your brand performing in each market?

• How is your competition doing and are they outperforming your brand?

• Is there a hidden opportunity to reach more customers?

• Are your promotions attracting new customers?

  • Are your customers selecting your competitors when you’re out of stock?

What steps do you need to take to become the preferred vendor?

What information do you want to see in your reports? Custom reports provide answers to these questions and so much more. They are the key to the success of your business, capable of unlocking actionable insights to give you a sustainable competitive advantage. Custom reports can be built to address every aspect of your business including, but not limited to:

• Your sales performance

• Market performance reports

• Retailer performance reports

• Your current distribution at each retailer

• Pricing comparisons between you and your competition

• Promotion analysis including the cost of promotion vs. the cost of the event

• Inventory management reports

• Channel comparison reports

• Custom ranking reports

Data in the natural channel is extremely fragmented. There are ways to enhance it and get the answers to your questions.  This type of invaluable information will provide you with the competitive advantage you need to effectively grow sales and profits.

Dan’s mission is “Empowering Brands and Raising The Bar”.  His weekly newsletter, educational podcast and training courses have become an invaluable resource for brands and retailers seeking a competitive advantage.  To learn more or connect with Dan, visit or email

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