Turn Customer Listening into Learning and Go-To-Market Action

Good things can happen when you listen to customers.

Consider Hostess Brands,  which “has nurtured retail sales of its products nearly back to their pre-liquidation level of more than $1.3 billion in 2012” as reported by Julie Jargon in The Wall Street Journal.

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

This summer, the company expanded the Hostess brand product range with white and wheat bread along with hamburger and hot dog buns.

Why is Hostess getting into bread?  They listened carefully to customers and realized there was a business opportunity.

Here’s the basic insight gleaned from the marketplace, contained in Jargon’s summary of her conversation with Hostess CEO Bill Toler:

“Convenience and drugstore customers expressed an interest in having a single brand representing both bread and other baked goods because they weren’t getting reliable bread deliveries through the bread makers’ direct store-distribution systems.”

How do you learn that? By having smart salespeople who are engaged in consultative selling and relationship building, and a system to communicate ideas and feedback to action-takers at HQ.

Combine the customer learning with strong end-user knowledge, in this case consumer brand perceptions, and you have solid, actionable intelligence.  Per Jargon:  “Mr. Toler said Hostess surveys showed that consumers thought Hostess bread already existed even though there never was a Hostess-branded bread.”

Hostess changed its supply chain to capitalize on the customer pain-point of unreliable bread delivery.  As noted in Baking Business, Hostess converted to a “warehouse delivery model from direct-store-delivery.”  And, the company is selectively targeting the bread and buns to “smaller retail outlets, like c-stores and drug stores, that are not efficiently served by D.S.D. delivery.”

Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at harveychimoff dot com.

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