You know that ancient book of Persian folk tales Arabian nights.
And you know the Sultan who on each new day demanded another virgin who was brought to him just to be killed before the night passed by. And he did that insatiably so that eventually his death toll rises to 1000 women.
But then Scheherazade came. She survived. How? By telling a story so compelling that even a Sultan couldn’t resist!
Now, OK, it’s a folk tale – it could have been even little kids stuff if only it wouldn’t be that blood-soaked, no? What’s that got to do with us, poor little – or not so little – suppliers, struggling on the market on a daily basis?
But you know the Sultan very well. The one that you meet regularly! Sure, a Retailer, mighty, fearful, powerful.
The modern Sultans, pardon Retailers, don’t kill you, of course. Instead they squeeze you. They take rebates, slotting fees, marketing fees, fees, fees … Not long ago one of them Sultans, named Tesco, had 24 different rebates it seeks from suppliers.
And then – after you pay – the rebates and fees, fees, fees turn almost into a dead body – nothing comes out of them. Some product prominence at best but mainly some shoulder tapping from bosses and flashy yearly reports statement – all on the retailer side of course! A never-ending cycle.
Let’s get into the room and listen to the Sultan, pardon Retailer approached by a humble Supplier.
Sultan, pardon Retailer: Hi. What do you got? New products? Best organic ingredients? Value-added promotions? You invested in market? Well, good. How about rebates – let’s talk rebates now!
And down the pipeline another supplier presentation with all the upward pointing excel charts goes! Rebates, slotting fees, marketing fees, fees, fees … No Scheherezades here. No listeners.
Really? But have we as Manufacturers prepared really well? Have we really deserved to be treated as Scheherezade? Have we really told a good old story?
I mean, a valid story (emphasize on valid – it shouldn’t be magic but leaning on something tangible). Based on facts, supported by measurements but still a good old story where there is
- an obstacle (a problem)
- an antagonist (against who / what we fight)
- a solution (to a problem) that creates value (treasure) to everyone – manufacturer, retailer and end user?
Have we been just introducing new products or have we been showing a clearly defined potential that lies within a new category for those who enter first?
Have we been just praising our incredible organic ingredients or have we been showing what makes a particular hard-to-grasp group (= millennials) tick by the Facebook campaign?
Have we been just talking about display promotions or have we been showing credible A/B test results that clearly show how the color, font, other changes in the promotional signage increase conversion rate of visitors to buyers for 23%?
Because Sultan, pardon retailer, won’t change his rebates, fees, fees, fees mood on its own – until he meets the real Scheheresada and hears her amazing story!
I don’t say that everyone can turn in Scheheresada overnight. But the means to that end are available to everyone: these are the days of technology and you can virtually choose what measurement suits your product / services / ideas best. You can use the data from so many different sources – it’s just to use them smartly! Or you can invite partners that know stuff – to support your story.
And I have no doubts – a good, carefully prepared, convincing story can be the best investment a supplier can make. It will definitely cost less than rebates! Perhaps even less than 1 out of total 24 you’ve been asked for from Sultans.
And as Scheherezade shows – a good story is the stuff survival is made of.