Firstly, what does a Category Manager do?
It is a category manager’s job to try to maximise the company’s profit from selling products within a specific category. This may be looking after a broad category such as ‘confectionery’ or they may focus closely on a more specific category, such as ‘snacking’. A category manager will analyse complex data collected on shopper behaviour from a range of different sources, and then translate it into meaningful information. The category manager’s duty is to ensure that their company is providing the market with the products that consumers desire. They will work with retailers to ensure that their products are not only occupying as much of the retailer’s shelf space as possible, but that they are also placed in the most beneficial parts of the shelves.
So, what key skills do you need to be a Category Manager?
Category managers can come from a variety of backgrounds such as marketing, buying or insight, and there is not necessarily one ‘typical’ personality that will succeed. Some category manager jobs are a lot more analytical, involving a lot of time dissecting the insight, whilst others are more customer-facing which will have less emphasis on number-crunching and more focus on relationship building and negotiating. However there are some overall key skills/traits that all successful Category Managers should possess…
Category managers will often have a competitive nature, and will thrive on being responsible for a specific product performing well and beating the competitors. There is fierce competition amongst suppliers to persuade retailers that their products should be in pride of place within stores. Retailers will consider what the market demand is for various products, how much promotion is being done for them, and the profit margin for each of them – category managers must be aware of all of these aspects of not only their own products, but also those of their competition.
A category manager will always be asking themselves why the consumer is doing what they are doing; so having a natural curiosity for understanding shopper behaviour is a great trait to possess when it comes to this type of role.
3. Analytically Minded
The ability to interpret and analyse data, then use this insight to develop strategies and tactics which will influence consumers is a skill a good category manager will possess. The most successful category managers will have an analytical approach and way of thinking, and a love for quantitative data.
4. Strong Communication
Not only does a successful category manager need to be able to understand and interpret data, they also need to be able to communicate and present these findings to various stakeholders. The category manager will have a lot of influence in many areas including: product range and distribution, promotional strategy, space and merchandising etc. So, they will often have to dictate, both to their own marketing people and to the retailer themselves, what needs to be done. Within category management there is also the need to be persuasive, build relationships and negotiate – thus being a strong communicator is skill that you’ll almost always see in a category management job description.
As with many other marketing jobs, creativity is a skill many hiring managers will look for when recruiting for category positions. Being a creative thinker is important, as the ability to come up with exciting and innovative marketing plans to help set their category apart from the rest is often a key part of the category manager’s remit.
You might also like: ‘How to become a Brand Manager‘.