Al Matulis joined Quinn Snacks as their Chief Sales Officer at a crucial inflection point — the company had hit its stride and was growing quickly, but their internal processes were bogging them down.
According to Al, Quinn, which reinvents classic snacks like popcorn and pretzels using intentionally sourced ingredients, had managed their trade promotions in Excel for years but was suffering from a lack of traceability and transparency.
”It was really time to think about how we were structuring our process so that they were repeatable, predictable, fair, and held everyone accountable. We had just outgrown Excel,” he says. “Anytime we wanted to look at historical information or benchmark against predictions, it would take forever. We were relying on manual processes and that just wasn’t efficient.”
Switching to Vividly’s trade promotion management platform has enabled Quinn’s Sales team to boost productivity — saving them dozens of hours of manual work each month — and helped them become a lot more intentional with their trade spending.
Most young CPG brands follow a similar growth trajectory when it comes to managing their trade promotions. When they first launch, trade promotion strategy is typically managed by a small team using Excel spreadsheets — a strategy that works great, until it doesn’t.
This was also true of Quinn. Al and one of his Sales Managers, Cara Bishop, would dedicate 10+ hours every week to manually combing through the dozens of files and spreadsheets they used to keep track of their promotions.
“I would go from one screen to another, comparing various files, trying to figure out what I was looking at,” says Al. “It was a ton of admin work for myself and Cara. We would see a problem, like a revenue miss, and we would have to try to guess what the root cause was. Was it a velocity drop? A promo that wasn't executed? We just had no visibility.”
Quinn was growing fast as a company; distribution was picking up, as was the volume of trade promotions, but Al and Cara were finding it increasingly difficult to quickly find the information they needed from their spreadsheets. They knew they were running dozens of promotions and that money was being spent, but the team was resorting to approximations and manual calculations to gauge how well those promotions were performing.
Here’s the thing — healthy businesses are built upon healthy gross margins and, for most CPG brands, trade spending is their second largest overall expense. This means that uncontrolled trade spending can make or break a business.
In fact, proper trade promotion management can help a company with $50M in annual revenue save up to $3M every year.
But trade promotions are notoriously ineffective, particularly when you rely on a reactive trade promotion strategy. Think of it like this: you can offer standard-issue discounts to a consumer who was going to buy your product anyway or you can be proactive, dive into the data, optimize your promotions, and leverage them to entice new customers.
But being proactive wasn’t really possible for the Quinn team.
“We were on the verge of having some pretty significant issues with our process,” Al says. “People would have to individually approach me to ask permission to spend even a few thousand dollars because it was really difficult for them to see the whole picture of our trade strategy. We needed to empower our teams to have more decision-making autonomy. ”
Excel just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Enter Vividly.
Al likes to joke that the way Quinn used to manage trade was not unlike parenting unruly kids — before Vividly, he was forced to be too much of a helicopter parent.
“I didn’t want to have to make every little decision,” he says, laughing. “I wanted [my team] to be independent and make decisions in the business's best interest. But we didn’t have the transparency to do that. With Vividly, they're much more empowered to do that as a result of the visibility and traceability we have.”
Using Vividly, Al’s team can build promotions and duplicate them across various months, with a click of a button. This allows them to quickly build their trade promotions calendar for the entire year. More importantly, Al can now use Vividly’s Insights dashboard to compare their plans for promotions vs. how they actually performed and optimize them in just a few minutes.
“We're spending less time building and more time analyzing,” Al explains. “For example, we recently had an unexpected output number come up. Historically, it would've taken us a couple of months to figure out what happened. With Vividly, we were able to pinpoint the root cause at a customer and SKU level, change our forecast, decide whether a pivot on strategy was necessary, and update our production plans — all in just two days. I would have had a much less merry Christmas if we didn’t have Vividly.”
Growing a CPG business often involves having dozens of balls in the air at the same time, which can make it hard to find the time to think ahead. But while ad-hoc planning is often the name of the game, the ability to approach trade spending more scientifically can be a game-changer for a growing CPG brand.
Once Al was able to use Vividly to get some time back, he was able to really hone in on leveling up Quinn’s forecasting. While the team had built some forecasting models before, they were time consuming and difficult to interpret or update. Al was hungry for more usable data — using Vividly’s forecast feature, he was able to integrate point-of-sales (PoS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) data, gaining the ability to inspect their promotions at an incredibly granular level — by week by item for each customer, at both the direct and indirect levels.
“We now have the ability to see as real-time as possible P&Ls,” Al says. “So we're able to be more productive with our trade dollars and can make decisions in real-time about whether to drop dollars to the bottom line or reinvest those dollars in future promos to drive more top-line growth.”
“We're able to manage the business like a big CPG company manages their business with about 5% of the resources,” he adds. “Vividly allows us to be more thoughtful about the decisions and make those decisions much faster.”
For CPG companies, three things in life are inevitable: death, taxes, and trade promotions. But when is the best time for a CPG company to invest in a trade promotion management (TPM) solution?
Al’s advice is to be really honest about your current process: are you able to easily identify your best and worst-performing promotions? Can you trace problems back to their root source? Are you drowning in spreadsheets and is your team spread too thin? After all, properly managing your trade promotion strategy is important, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
After interviewing half a dozen companies, Al and his team were immediately drawn to Vividly’s all-in-one platform.
“The fact that Vividly was able to bring trade management and forecasting together, that was the big differentiator,” he says. “That opened up a lot of productivity for us. The integration of the two, along with the deduction reconciliation service was a clear win. Vividly gives us the ability to create a big-CPG type environment for a fraction of the cost and resources.”
Vividly helps CPG brands like Quinn Snacks improve their trade promotion management with smarter deduction management. Built by experts in the CPG industry, Vividly helps CPG companies to more effectively plan trade promotions and forecast sales and revenue. Vividly’s in-depth analytics help businesses drive accountability and make business decisions based on quality data, rather than instinct.
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