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What Do You Stand For?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Few things are more personally relevant and important to consumers than food, according to Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, professor of marketing at Ohio State University.

Bendapudi led top convenience store retailers and suppliers in a two-hour-long workshop here at the second annual NACS Leadership Forum. She warned convenience store retailers to study the emotional needs of consumers, as well as the rational ones, when making decisions on foodservice strategy.

Some of the key points made by the professor:

-- Selling physical goods is different than selling service. Where selling products such as candy bars and potato chips require attention to the "four Ps" of marketing -- product, price, promotional and place (distribution), selling service requires an additional "three Ps" of people, processes and physical evidence (such as the importance of clean restrooms). "What can you do inside your store to show you understand foodservice?" she asked.

-- Create apostles -- people who will go out and preach the benefits of your store. Also, be aware of consumer "terrorists" -- people who bad-mouth your company -- especially virally through the Internet.

-- Strategy should help you achieve a fit with the market environment and identify values and disciplines in which you can differentiate your store from competitors. An effective strategy statement should be no more than one page and easily communicable to all employees.

Some of the key trends to watch include:

-- The quest for customization (such as teenagers personalized ringtones)
-- "Sheconomics" -- the growing decision-making power over spending by women
-- Political movements including sin taxes, bans on salt in foods, etc.

Strategy should also help you decide on what trade-offs to make. "It helps you know what you need to be great at, good at and good enough at," she said. "You cannot beat your competition playing their game."

The 2010 NACS Leadership Forum concludes Thursday.

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