Make Sure Your Topline is NOT a House of Cards

Getting seduced by your own success is a thing.

Whether it came right away or after years of struggle, it doesn’t matter. If you simply look at wholesale case volume growth, you may be in for a rude surprise in 6-9 months.  

You may find your growth was too focused on adding doors, too non-strategic, not adequately supported by PR or local marketing efforts.   

The thing is, do you even know how to pressure test your topline growth to determine if you’re growing the way you ought to be growing?

When I work with clients, I immediately curb all enthusiasm and go through a super tedious diagnostic process. Honestly, it’s kind of offensive. I mean, if someone is growing 75% YoY or faster, they’re exceptional.

Why question it?

Who the hell am I to question this performance? 

Because…I’m a nitpicking jerk? Noooo.

Because I want to make sure this performance is based on the correct underlying KPIs. A sexy topline curve is fun to look at, yes. But as I mentioned in my book Ramping Your Brand, the Skate Rampthis can be faked…your older brother can give you a push up the Ramp. That doesn’t mean you’re riding it properly…

In this episode, I wanted to share one or two tips I use to begin the process. 

The first tip is to obtain the correct data. I advise you to get nationwide all outlet data on your core category. Yes, this is syndicated scanner data. It’s collected in a way to show you your competitors right next to you using the same metrics, measured the same way.  

Distributor data is OK at the beginning of your journey, but not to understand how you’re doing competitively. 

You need quad week data, in part, because it aligns with retailers’ 13 promotional periods P1-P13. But mostly because it gives you the minimum granularity necessary to understand hidden dynamics in your topline. You can even use it to forecast consumer demand out 6-9 months…maybe a year… 

The problem with this tip is that almost no one obtains quad-week data as an early-stage company; the syndicated providers and 3P processors just don’t offer it as a default.  

And you can’t use 52-week, 24-week, 12-week, 4-week YoY splits to find the stories that quad week data reveals….nope, nada, never.


For more thoughts on Pressure Testing Your Topline, listen to the Episode 38 of Startup Confidential, and please leave a review when you’re done.

Dr. James Richardson

[email protected]