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Marketing Excellence: A Vision for 2018, A Q&A with Dan'l Mackey Almy of DMA Solutions

While the digital age is changing the game for marketers everywhere, the days of trade shows and print press are far from being abandoned to the past. With more than twenty years of marketing experience, Dan’l Mackey Almy is embracing the strategies necessary to balance the old and the new of marketing as a means to tackle the ever-evolving produce industry. Pushing for a realistic increase in produce demand and consumption, Dan’l posits the changes that veteran marketers should implement for the marketers of tomorrow in order to accomplish increased sales.

We asked Dan’l our top five questions to tap into the marketing trends of this year and the trajectory it’s on for the years to come.

Q1 What’s the biggest barrier holding marketers back from building consumer brands?

Dan’l Mackey Almy: The number one thing that I believe will make the most dramatic difference in our ability to elevate marketing, which will resonate and deliver results, is to allocate a marketing budget or spend based on sales. At DMA, the most common thing we see is that marketing budgets are set on a number that is not tied back to a sales or volume number. However, consumer food brands develop their marketing spend on the growth they want to see from a category, product, or their business, and they usually spend anywhere from 6-14 percent of sales on marketing.

If this industry spent 0.5-1 percent of sales on marketing, we would be unstoppable.

You should not invest in marketing unless you want sales growth, unless you want to be relevant, and unless you want to be more profitable in your bottom line. There is an inherent demand for fresh produce that we have created, but to increase demand and consumption, we need to increase our marketing spend.

We need to start thinking about our marketing teams as part of sales so that our marketing resources are aligned with our sales growth. The companies that are building brands in this industry are companies who have their marketing spend tied to their sales, and who are able to compete with other food brands. We’re seeing more retailers wanting to know how marketing activity is driving sales, and brands that can articulate that can use their marketing activities to drive sales and foot traffic into stores.

I don’t believe that the marketers who are in charge today are going to be the ones who ultimately accomplish this enormous shift. I think we have to rethink our approach and understanding of how marketing can be utilized first, and then prepare the future marketers of tomorrow to effectively execute.

Q2 Can you explain more about “If you’re not digital, you’re doubtful?”

DMA: I make that statement a lot—“If you’re not digital, you’re doubtful.” When I see a company with an outdated website or a poor presence on social media, it says to me that they don’t fully understand the impact of how buyers, vendors, future employees, and people in general are utilizing the Internet to educate themselves. The most common thing I hear is, “But Dan’l, our buyers depend on us to tell them information.” That may be the case today, but that won’t be the case tomorrow. I can assure you that the Internet is not avoided by mass numbers of people anymore.

If you have an outdated digital presence, or no presence at all, you’re causing unnecessary doubt about your company. In my opinion, it isn’t worth it. I believe if a company DMA’s size can be digitally present, then produce companies can as well.

Q3 How is trade marketing continuing to shift, and what can brands do to stay relevant with their trade partners?

DMA: We are at a very interesting point relative to trade marketing. In the very recent past, trade marketing was straightforward, and what a brand or company could do to market themselves was specific; there were less than five shows attended each year, and print and package design were the main vehicles for advertising. The result was there were very few full-time marketing resources just to do trade marketing.

But now, digital has presented itself as a viable option to communicate our businesses to our audiences. Now trade marketing has vastly expanded on what brands and companies need to do to position themselves in front of their audiences. The amount of trade shows has increased, and print was forced to improve.

When you look at the content required to be relevant in this expanded space, you have to understand the shift that is required. To have a well-rounded trade marketing team, broader skillsets are needed. You have to be present at trade shows and be present on digital, however, it is not usually the same marketers doing those things—each aspect of marketing requires unique talent and expanded resources.

Q4 What should brands be considering as they approach trade show season?

DMA: There is no longer a trade show season; trade show season is year-round. The increasing number of trade shows shouldn’t be considered a barrier. Buyers certainly do not see it as a barrier, and if the buyers are showing up, there is clearly a need.

I think companies should have a twelve-month strategy of how they are going to approach every show. Some shows are meant for exhibits and honing in on tangible products, while others require just a presence in order to keep your brand relevant. Shows are also a perfect way to professionally develop and educate your teams.

Obviously, we should showcase products when we have them, but we should start thinking about shows as a crucial way to create visibility of our companies by attending and being present.

Q5 What’s the biggest marketing lesson you learned in 2017, that you’ll apply in 2018?

DMA: We learn lessons every day that make us better. We’re constantly cultivating our work. We are living in a moment where perfection is absolutely time-consuming and unnecessary, especially as it pertains to marketing. We tend to treat marketing activities as absolutes, but the reality is every aspect of marketing is fluid. We see a lot of companies not launch a new website, product, or promotion because it’s not perfect. In response, we have to get more comfortable executing marketing activities that are fluid and constantly being refined.

More often, what we’re not doing is holding us back versus what we are doing. As marketers, we have to plan for and have the discipline to execute marketing activities that actually generate sales. While this is absolutely possible, it requires an investment of time and resources.

While, as Dan’l suggests, there is still much ground for growth, it is marketing teams like DMA Solutions that are pushing our industry to the boundaries and encouraging it to be better. Already working to spark the change she sees as necessary, the marketers of tomorrow are in good hands with Dan’l at the helm.