November 23, 2022

How Simple Mills modernized deductions processing on Vividly

Stu Kennedy

Keegan Myles oversees sales, marketing, and trade finance at Simple Mills, a rapidly growing company at the forefront of the clean food movement.

Keegan has helped Simple Mills unlock year-over-year Net Sales growth since joining the team in 2019, with a focus on optimizing Trade Spend and streamlining deductions workflows.

We sat down with Keegan to discuss how the Simple Mills team leverages the power of Vividly's trade management software for:

  • Streamlining sales and promotion planning efforts
  • Driving full-cycle validation of deductions
  • Optimizing trade spend and customer profitability through promotion analytics

Streamlining Promotions & Deductions

Keegan and the Simple Mills team connected with Vividly at the beginning of 2020.

Vividly's co-founders, Stu and Nikki, had previously worked at companies like Simple Mills and deeply understood the pain points of a growing CPG business. A shared mindset of a gritty, agile company was foundational for how well Vividly understood Simple Mills’ business.

Once Simple Mills started implementing Vividly in February 2020, it proved quicker than the other options they were vetting. Some options would take six months to a year.

Vividly got the system up and running in four to six weeks.

“Vividly is foundational to our deductions validation process. Before any trade deductions hit our financials, Vividly provides us a streamlined way to validate the deductions to ensure that the deductions we are receiving fully match the promotions we planned and executed. It’s a game-changer for us in identifying invalid chargebacks.”

Securing Clarity to Make Big Decisions

For companies working with distributors, the receipt and validation of deductions can be challenging. Vividly makes sure that the Simple Mills team can validate chargebacks before they should be paid, facilitating the tagging of spend to the correct customer’s promotions.

Keegan also uses the tool to perform many different types of analysis across key accounts, like looking at customer contribution margin and profitability.

Vividly provides foundational context for important decisions. Keegan’s favorite example is looking at ROI analysis on promotions.

After running the promotion, Keegan uses Vividly to perform an ROI analysis to see how profitable a promotion was, and how it compares to historical promotions.

“The analysis drives a lot of day-to-day decisions like “Should we fund this incremental promotion that they’re asking us to run?” or “Should we try and get an AD on this deal because we see a higher lift and ROI on those?” The answers drive key decisions we make on future promotions.”

Inside Scoop: Simple Mills’ Deductions Workflow

Simple Mills’ deductions analysts use a register to clear all payments and associated deductions in their ERP.

Its process is quite simple when it comes to deductions, however, in some situations, not all deductions are valid.

  • Payment and associated deductions received
  • Clear invoices, validate chargebacks, and assign to the correct GLs
  • Dispute invalid chargebacks

Keegan gives an example where Simple Mills gets a $10 payment from a distributor. The distributor pays $20 of invoices and takes a $10 associated deduction for a retailer promotion from the previous month.

The Simple Mills team makes sure the invoices they’re paying are shown as outstanding and then looks at the deductions the distributor takes against the invoices to ensure they are valid.

As the team drills into specific deductions, Vividly provides critical insight into the relationship between a promotion and related deductions. The more complex route is receiving a deduction that a distributor takes that doesn’t match the Vividly promotion records.

To avoid the deduction impacting financials, the team puts it into a holding account to process a dispute back to the distributor.

*“When we don’t think a promotion is valid, Vividly helps us figure out that it was invalid because we have all our key promotion details housed in the system. If we receive a chargeback and don’t see a promotion in the system with matching details like date, product, or spend rate, then we can go back to the customer with evidence to file a dispute.”

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Keegan’s Advice To His Past Self

Keegan has worked in Trade for over three years. When he looks back on the past three years, he recognizes the key learnings that have helped him evolve

The importance of getting into a TPM system earlier to have more years of history and a source of truth for promotion information Even in high-growth years, ensure there is a focus on optimization as it relates to customer promotional spend Work very closely with customers and your internal sales team to drive improvements on deductions processing

In addition, he points to the importance of getting familiarized with the nuances of working with distributors, customers, and payment applications

“Without a tool like Vividly, I didn’t know which promotions we ran were driving real results and I didn’t have an easy way to identify which chargebacks were invalid. Looking back, I would’ve loved to have a seamless deductions system sooner.”

Asking the Right Questions

With a system in place to streamline the process of receiving payment, ensuring validity, and proper promotion linking, Keegan lists benefits he has seen firsthand:

  • Having sales team members understand the state of their account vs. budget and able to move quickly on opportunities
  • Getting spend and performance insights more real-time
  • Making smarter, more informed decisions

Keegan and the team can now answer questions with trackable metrics. Key questions include:

  • What are our trade rates at our key accounts?
  • How much is spent per promotion?
  • How much are we spending on each product line?
  • How efficiently are we spending our trade dollars?

The streamlined, frequent reporting of customer trade rates, promotional ROI, and customer profitability gives much more control over an account. Consequently, Keegan can make decisions without overthinking or “back of the napkin” analysis.

The monthly reporting also helps the Simple Mills sales team.

When a customer comes to them and says, “Can you run a new promotion with us?” or “We need to increase this allowance,” they know exactly what they have to work with, thanks to reasonable account control.

“Vividly drives a quantifiable impact because it helps us determine invalid chargebacks faster than ever before. But more importantly, we’ve gotten way smarter with the decisions we make.”

How to Optimize Your Deductions System

For Keegan, having a system in place is imperative for a young company without an unlimited headcount. A system like Vividly, which uses technology to streamline processes, allows employees to focus on more important things.

Likewise, Keegan stresses the importance of getting involvement from your sales team.

Sales’ direct contact with users allows them to escalate action items and identify ongoing issues. Interaction with sales gave Keegan an intimate knowledge of the terminology and deductions types.

Finally, Keegan highlights the power of having a defined process and guidelines.

This can be most apparent when somebody shifts out of this role. If knowledge is not well documented, somebody new can’t step into such a nuanced role.

“From the different deductions guides to the different logins to setting thresholds for chargebacks, it’s critical to have detailed guides and documentation.”

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