The art of the question

BY Dan Mack, Mack Elevation

Albert Einstein once shared, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the it, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. Once I know the proper question, I could solve it in less than five minutes.”

The right question can reframe an organization’s vision or redirect a leader who has lost his or her way. That was the opening idea I shared at the Family Dollar Elevation Forum at October 2 event featuring a community of leading entrepreneurial executives from the CPG industry. As I said to the attendees, “there is no perfect question, just the right question for the moment. Questions must be appropriate to the person and the timing must be spot-on. Did you ask the right question today?”

I also challenged them whether they are relying too much on their past experiences and not enough on a question and whether it is not the answer that offers insight, but the question. Studies show that just 17% of salespeople think they are pushy, yet buyers believe it’s closer to 50%. And only 3% of buyers completely trust sales people.

The group decided there are three questions that every leader should ponder: Other than your title, why should anyone follow you? What business are you really in? What is your team thinking but are afraid to express?

Today’s consumers expect great value on everything they purchase. The top 10% of the U.S. population controls 77% of the wealth in the U.S. while the bottom 90% controls only 23% of the wealth. The forum’s members had a passionate discussion discussing how their organizations plan on being part of the solution. Many of the companies participating have committed to better understand the value requirements and lifestyle needs of the core value consumer. One of the core messages discussed was that every item in every value store must have a plan to deliver more sales productivity per linear inch. In a limited space, limited SKU environment brands must start thinking differently about growing their brands in every value retailer across the U.S. The key question embraced by all participants was, “how does your company transform all of your items to offer even more value to this growing and valuable consumer group?”

The afternoon discussion focused on how do companies improve alignment between sales and marketing in a chaotic world. About 51% of marketers are not satisfied with the communication between sales and marketing and 53% of sales leaders are not pleased with marketing’s support. Most marketing organizations have a definition of the retailer’s business requirements and the majority of sales departments have their own definition. That is where the disconnect begins. According to Forrester Research, only 8% of companies have strong alignment between their sales & marketing teams. The forum attendees agreed that the solution lies in aligning mutual KPI’s, minimalizing internal competition and investing in internal relationship building.

Dan Mack is the Founder of Mack Elevation and a performance coach, strategist and the author of Dark Horse: How Challenger Companies Rise to Prominence. To learn more, go to


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Take me out to the marketing game

Retailers can steal great ideas from ball fields

BY David Orgel

America’s summer sport, baseball, has collided with fall’s chill. Football is now top-of-mind.

However, there’s one baseball story worth recapping, at least for retailers. It was easy to miss. This wasn’t about box scores, but marketing. Sports teams tend to market very well, and there are retail lessons to be learned from this year’s baseball season.

First let me emphasize that retailers are also strong marketers. They are creative and good at adapting ideas from other retailers. But therein lies a possible limitation. If some retailers only borrow ideas from other retailers, they are missing out. Retailers vying to differentiate in this hyper-competitive environment might benefit from taking marketing ideas from a different field — the baseball field.

Major League Baseball teams presented great marketing in 2018, but for really big league ideas, keep an eye on the minor leagues. One New Jersey minor league team called the Somerset Patriots regularly hits it out of the park with an outstanding range of special events and other efforts. It’s on my radar because the team is local to my area. I’d call its approach marketing on steroids. (Wait, did I really use steroids in a baseball reference?)

The Patriots are part of the Atlantic League, an independent minor league begun in 1998. The team advanced to its sixth straight postseason this year under the current manager, fueled by winning performances by numerous players. But just as important was the team’s superb marketing performance, which helped it lead the league in 2018 attendance.

Marketing was driven by a range of strategies, including robust social media, a mobile app with access to a rewards program, and outstanding special events. The events were crowd pleasers, whether or not fans cared about a baseball game. Here’s an events sampler, and consider how these might translate to retail:

  • Superhero Day plus Ballpark ComiCon
  • ‘Augtober’fest
  • SpongeBob Squarepants appearance
  • Senior Wednesday
  • Fireworks and Fortnite (gaming on the concourse)
  • Giveaways from T-shirts to backpacks
  • Run the bases
  • Meet and greet with a New York Giants football legend
  • Bark In The Park bring your dog, with a pre-game Pooch Parade
  • XPogo Stunt Team high-flying performances between innings

OK — maybe retailers won’t conduct a pooch parade up front store aisles. However, given the range of events, there’s opportunity for retailers to steal more than just home plate. How would these translate to retail? Senior Wednesday (or Thursday or Friday) could focus on retail health solutions for the older set. Superhero Day could be a terrific Halloween event. Fortnite and gaming themes are smart ways to get on the radar of the youngest consumers. Augtoberfest is a standout idea for summer parties.

The Patriots also often introduce multiple events and promotions for a single game. These appeal simultaneously to different audiences so there’s something for everyone.

Marc Russinoff, the Patriots’ vice president of public relations, explained to me that fans pulled in by one promotion are often pleased to encounter other opportunities, “whether it’s food options, another special event, or impulse buys.”

This is a one-stop-shop approach (sounds familiar?) Plus, marketing and events underscore the team’s role as a community player, which of course is also a big retailer strategy.

Can retailers get excited about reaching out of the box for ideas in this way? Absolutely. I checked with Coborn’s, a highly innovative Midwest independent grocer, and a winner of the prestigious National Grocers Association Creative Choice Marketing Award. The retailer’s vice president of Marketing, Dennis Host, said sharing can go both ways: retailers can get ideas from sports teams, and sports teams from retailers. He should know. Coborn’s has a front-row seat as a partner for events by local sports teams.

Whether translating ideas from sports or some other sector, a few bold retail marketing moves can produce differentiation and boost customer loyalty.  When that happens, as they say, it’s a new ball game.

David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He currently is the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s column, click here.


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Oct-24-2018 09:00 am

Digital content and retail clicks are forcing brick and mortar and any sports/entertainment to improve their in-game/in-store experience for the consumer. Guerilla marketing/promotional ideas are certainly at a premium right now.



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APhA looks to alleviate increasing pressures of the profession

BY Michael Hogue

When my wife and I graduated from pharmacy school and were licensed in 1996, we entered into practice full of hopes and dreams of a bright future. We were eager to put to use those advanced patient care skills our alma mater had well prepared us to use. And put them to use we did.

Following residency, we moved to Alabama to become partners in an independent pharmacy practice, where we were the first pharmacists in the state to begin immunizing our patients. We started a diabetes self-management service and collaborated on drug therapy management with one of our local physicians. We were professionally engaged and actively involved, and both of us were relatively satisfied that we were using the skills we were trained to use, though we still had the challenges of compensation for our services. However, I’m hearing reports from recent graduates that paint a different postgraduation experience picture we had in 1996.

What I’m hearing from these recent graduates, as well as from seasoned pharmacists, is:

  • Public and private payers are looking to pay the lowest price for prescription drugs;
  • The community pharmacy business model no longer supports sufficient staffing, leaving little time for patient care, and in some cases jeopardizing patient safety;
  • Pharmacists, now largely employed by a corporate entity rather than through private practice, feel they have little control over their practice environment and professional judgment;
  • The number of pharmacists in many markets is leading to fear among some of losing their jobs or experiencing lower wages if they do not meet productivity metrics as more technical tasks are delegated to technicians;
  • Full-time employment is sometimes hard to come by as a pharmacist; and
  • Young pharmacists have tremendous personal debt from college.

Frankly, it seems many folks want to stick their head in the sand about these current realities. To do so is a failure to the profession. Hear me clearly: I’m extremely hopeful about the future of pharmacy and have some ideas of how we will get there, but first we have to help lift up our colleagues and move through a difficult period.  

The American Pharmacists Association is the leading advocate for the profession of pharmacy. Nearly every pharmacist in America has been a member of APhA at some point, either as a student or as a pharmacist. As the current speaker of APhA’s House of Delegates and president-elect of the organization, it is important to me that pharmacists and student pharmacists know that APhA is committed to addressing these practical challenges.

The nearly 400-member APhA House of Delegates in March 2018 adopted a policy on the pharmacist workplace environment and patient safety. The policies serve not only as guiding statements and principles for the profession, but are frequently referenced when key policy and legal decisions are at play. In addition to this policy, the APhA board of trustees has incorporated pharmacist well-being initiatives as core to our strategic plan. Among other efforts, we are building tangible resources to assist individual pharmacists with practice challenges, professional satisfaction, recognition and personal well-being.

Additionally, APhA is working with other professional organizations and employers to seek legislative changes at the state and national levels that will result in recognition of pharmacists as providers of care. Coupled with changes that remove unnecessary barriers to the use of technologies and technicians, this will lead to new opportunities for the patient care we are capable of providing, allowing the business model to shift.

There is a hopeful, brighter future ahead — if we fight for it. Let’s join together and ensure that patients continue to have access to the outstanding patient care of pharmacists.

Michael Hogue is president-elect of the American Pharmacists Association, as well as the speaker of the APhA House of Delegates.


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