Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

The best advice I’ve heard when delivering any kind of message is this: Be concise. Be concise. Be seated.

This direction transfers well for produce directors when communicating with their produce managers.

Every week the produce Grand Poobah typically writes a marketing bulletin to the produce managers in the company.

This communication is critical. After all, it’s the one moment that the director can reach out to his or her charges and spell out whatever is happening for a particular week. It must encompass what is important for the produce manager so that correct execution can follow.

The communication must be brief.

So brief, in fact, that my mentor’s goal was to convey everything that needed to be said in a marketing bulletin on one side of one page.

In contrast, most of the other department directors would write out their direction, filling one page after another. In fact, the floral director we had at the time often sent out no less than 20 pages each week to the store floral managers. For a department that averaged 12 hours a week to stock, order and rotate product, reading this much direction was like reading “War and Peace.”

To store and produce managers, our produce director was loved for being the champion of the short marketing bulletin.

As his merchandiser that occasionally filled in writing the bulletin, I understood the value of the produce managers’ time in the store. Our goal was to give them the facts (only the facts, ma’am) so in about 30 seconds, the produce manager could understand where we were, how we got there, and what to do in order to get to where we wanted to go.

The format was simple. We reviewed ad items. We announced what the lead item would be in the coming ad, along with the secondary and line ad items. We listed how much the average store should move per store, per day. This was done to help them order accordingly. We also let them know based on volume level, how much product each store could expect to receive to build ad displays.

We also let them know how we fared the prior week. If we met, fell short or exceeded projected sales. If we did well, we let them know. If not, they might expect an allocation of surplus supply to push.

Then we wrote a paragraph titled “Marketing Notes.” This gave some suggestions for everyday merchandising: what was working and what wasn’t. Most of all, this gave the produce director a moment to express a single message to everyone. Whatever was on his mind that he thought should be on everyone else’s mind too.

One side, one page. Be seated.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.

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