Marketplace big with little things done right

Something pretty unique happened this year during Marketplace, and ironically, although it had very little to do with Marketplace, it really made me think how much the event has evolved over the last several years.

Two pitchers for the Los Angeles Angels combined to pitch a no-hitter—almost. You see, officially, it wasn’t a no-hitter because the Angels didn’t pitch the ninth inning; they never got a chance. The home team Dodgers, having scored the game’s only run off a fielding error in the fifth inning, didn’t require their last at-bats.

Record books aside, there was a much easier way to measure the Angels’ performance: “They didn’t have a best practice; they lost the game,” Mike Jones, Del Pharmaceuticals’ vice president of business development and trade relations, told the crowd gathered June 29 at the Outreach Business Development meeting.

As Jones noted, for product vendors that baseball game is a great example of how you can execute 99-out-of-100 things perfectly, but it only takes one screw-up, no matter how small, to derail you completely.

As rare a feat as the Angels’ failed no-no is, having happened only four other times in the modern history of Major League Baseball, up until more recently these kinds of results occurred much more frequently in drug store retailing, particularly, among new-item vendors with little experience in the channel. That’s what made me think about Marketplace. You see, much to the credit of the staff of NACDS—in particular, the work of Jim Whitman, Fitz Elder and Larry Lotridge, as well as the teams they lead in member services and programs, member relations and conference development—that kind of thing happens a lot less often these days.

For years Marketplace had a “build it and they will come” kind of appeal; if you were in the drug store business or wanted to conduct business in the drug store industry, you couldn’t afford not to come to Marketplace.

And it wasn’t just Marketplace either. You better believe, Drug Store News has attended many trade conferences through the years, some of which no longer exist for precisely those reasons, and many more that have waned in both relevance and importance. Yet today, perhaps even more than ever, you still can’t afford to not attend Marketplace.

Because it’s no longer just about the companies that come to Marketplace and the products they bring to the show. These days, it is as much about the programs NACDS has added that help ensure that those companies that make the trip to Marketplace reap the full value of their investment. And that is a credit to many people, both internal at NACDS and external, in terms of the members whose total buy-in has ensured the success of these new programs and activities. Unremarkably, it’s not any one big thing. It’s been a lot of little things.

It’s Meet the Market—now in its fifth year—which hosts some 10,000 face-to-face meetings before the show floor even opens.

It’s Meet the Retailer—now in its second year—which helps suppliers better understand what top chains expect from the companies they do business with.

It’s Successful Selling—also in its second year—which helps companies that are new to the channel understand how to come to market.

It’s the Supplier Advisory Board, and the ORBD subcommittee that has grown out of it, which drives so many of these programs. It’s the Mentoring Program that matches new vendors with more savvy vets whose firm belief that all boats rise with the tide helps ensure that first-timers have a productive experience and come back next time.

Like good baseball played well, it isn’t always the home run that wins the game. What has made NACDS successful, particularly as it relates to the rebirth of Marketplace, has been the culmination of so many little things done right. They are hitting a lot of singles, moving the runners around the bases and scoring runs. Old-timers call it “small ball.” But as much as the little things can win the game, it’s the little things that can also lose you the game. Just ask the Los Angeles Angels. It only took a single error to turn a no-hitter into a non-event.

Something pretty unique happened while we were at Marketplace this year. Two pitchers combined to pitch a no-hitter and their team still lost. That’s pretty rare in baseball. Thanks to the work of several key people in this industry, it’s becoming pretty rare at Marketplace, too.

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