Sue Nicholls, Founder & President CMKG

Embracing the Joy of Learning and Teaching. Hi there! I'm deeply passionate about training and learning. Since the pioneering days of category management at P&G in the '80s, I've been fortunate to embark on a journey of teaching and inspiring others. My career has been a delightful tapestry woven with long-term collaborations with major retailers and CPG executives, contributing to industry standards, and sharing insights at numerous conferences. I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to shape minds as an Adjunct Professor in Marketing, focusing on consumer behavior.

150 Hours of Knowledge and Countless Moments of Insight. Creating over 150 hours of online curriculum and leading hundreds of instructor-led sessions has been an enriching experience. I've had the honor of collaborating with diverse professionals across the globe, adapting to an ever-evolving industry. The goal? To forecast the future and equip our learners with the skills to thrive and stay relevant.

Learning: A Collective Adventure. I believe learning is a dynamic journey that encompasses individuals, teams, organizations, and yes, even us training professionals. It's not about rigid methods but nurturing a continuous, evolving process. My aim through this blog and other platforms is to share my wealth of experience and encourage open, ongoing dialogues. Together, we can enhance any team's ability to implement effective business strategies and realize their strategic goals. Let's embark on this learning adventure together, growing and evolving with every shared experience! Happy learning!

Recent Posts

Mastering Business Storytelling Using CMKG's Story Arc Framework

Unlock the power of storytelling in business with CMKG's innovative Story Arc Framework. Learn how to captivate your audience and drive results through compelling narratives.
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Demystifying Data to Insights: A Practical Guide

Data analysis is an essential skill in today's data-driven world. It's not just about collecting massive amounts of data; it's about extracting meaningful insights from it to drive action. In this blog, we will delve into the process of transforming data into valuable insights, demystifying the steps involved and providing practical tips along the way. Understanding Insights Insights are like beacons of light amidst a sea of data. They are valuable knowledge that is gained by understanding information in its proper context and applying actionable meaning to it. Imagine a puzzle made up of data pieces; insights are the beautiful picture that emerges when you fit them together. Context is the secret ingredient in the recipe for generating insights. Data without context is like a riddle without a clue - it lacks meaning. To provide valuable insights, it is crucial to consider your audience and the questions driving your analysis. The better you understand the context, the more impactful your insights will be. Creating the right context can be challenging. Here are some activities that can help you gain perspective: Compare your data to relevant benchmarks or historical data (check out my previous blog on using the "Index" calculation). Enrich your data by incorporating insights across multiple data sources (click here to learn about data sources across the retail supply chain). Practice contextualizing data through real-world scenarios and activities. Steps to Move From Data to Insights 1. Set Clear Goals To embark on the journey from data to insights, it is essential to set clear goals. Avoid diving into data blindly; instead, define what you want to achieve through your analysis. This ensures that you don't get lost in a sea of information without direction. There are two effective approaches to setting goals: - Hypotheses: Formulate hypotheses and use data to test them. Ask yourself, "What business problem am I trying to solve?" - Key Questions: Identify important and measurable questions that are directly related to your business problem. Ensure that you communicate your goals clearly to all stakeholders involved in the analysis to ensure alignment. 2. Source Relevant Data Not all data is created equal. To meet your goals and answer your questions, it is crucial to source relevant data. Think of it as collecting puzzle pieces that fit your overall picture. Ensure that the data aligns with your objectives and meets the understanding of your audience, and look across multiple data sources where possible. 3. Analyze the Data Understanding how to approach and interpret data is vital. Start with an overview, examine industry trends, understand the perspective of your target audience, and analyze retailer results. It's like starting with the big picture before zooming in on the specifics. 4. Explore and Uncover Insights Once you have the right data, embark on the exploratory phase. Think of it as a thrilling treasure hunt. Your analytical mindset is the flashlight, and your goal is to discover the most compelling and important points. Let the data tell its story instead of forcing it into preconceived narratives. As you sift through the data, look for patterns and relationships among data points. This is where insights start to take shape. Insights enable you to make strategic decisions that can drive your business forward. Illustrative Examples To better understand the difference between a mere data point and a valuable insight, consider these two examples: Example 1: Category sales are down -$223 million (-13%) in retail. Penetration is down 2.1 points (so -2.1% of total households purchased the category). Average category price has declined $1 and $1.71 in 12 and 3 months respectively. Value brands like All Other and Private Label are declining at much lower rates in $ sales and unit sales (-4% and +0.8%) with average prices of $5.00 and $6.00. Example 2: Retail has experienced a significant decline of over $220 million in category sales due to a decrease in households purchasing the category and the rise of value brands with products below $10. This presents an opportunity to explore price gaps and gain insights into consumer preferences for informed decision-making and driving growth. Which one do you think provides a better insight? Why? (Take a moment to reflect on it, then read on). Example 1 includes important FINDINGS (patterns collected in the data) but doesn’t capture context or action. Example 2 includes important observations, context and action. A good example of an insight. In the end, turning data into insights is a blend of science and art. It requires a keen eye, a curious mind, and the willingness to let the data guide you. Remember, insights are the keys that unlock your data's potential, enabling you to make informed decisions and drive success. So, as you embark on your journey from data to insights, equip yourself with the right tools and mindset, and let the adventure begin. Is your team facing challenges in transforming data into valuable insights? I offer personalized virtual training sessions that are tailored to your team's needs. These hands-on sessions utilize real examples from your data and categories to enhance understanding. Feel free to reach out to me for further information and details! Happy learning! Sue
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Unlocking the Secrets of Index Calculation: A Journey into Data Insights

Welcome to the exciting world of category management! This is where data transforms into gold for both Retailers and Suppliers/Manufacturers. With heaps of data at our fingertips, there are some key measures you should know about to make the most of it. In this blog I'll be covering the "Index" calculation.
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Transform Your Sales Presentations: Crafting Stories that Drive Success.

In recent years, my primary focus has been in one specific, but large, competency area: development of the sales presentation. After receiving and fulfilling training requests from various clients to coordinate internal teams for insights-based storytelling, I've come to realize that the key to success involves creating engaging sales narratives - but it's not easy! These stories need to resonate, align, and make it easy for the retail audience to say yes, within the massive landscape of sales presentations they see every day. However, achieving this goal isn't solely the responsibility of the sales team—it requires collaboration from various departments to create impactful presentations. Consider this: numerous presentations originate in Marketing or Brand and are later customized by the sales team. Therefore, focusing solely on sales training doesn't address the fundamental issue of presentation development, which often starts with marketing and brand teams.
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Excel - The Foundations for Great Analysis

Do your team members possess the essential Excel skills for basic tasks? Excel stands as a crucial tool for analysts, sales professionals, category managers, and business individuals at large. While it might seem that everyone is familiar with Excel, the reality is different. Without foundational Excel skills, sales teams and category managers struggle to analyze their business effectively, administrators face challenges in creating comprehensive worksheets, and analysts may find fundamental concepts difficult to grasp. Additionally, there's the risk of errors and incorrect conclusions stemming from poorly constructed formulas and PivotTables. You might wonder, with automated reports available, why is Excel training necessary for organizations? The answer lies in the limitations of automated reports—they can't meet all needs. Meaningful analysis often requires data manipulation, cutting, formatting, and customization, necessitating strong foundational Excel skills. Consider a recent scenario where a client approached me about providing Excel skills training for their sales team. A sales manager had expressed concern about the team's inability to perform essential Excel tasks like formula writing, building PivotTables, and creating charts. Despite the assumption that everyone knows Excel, this proficiency was lacking. In response, I crafted a virtual training session covering Excel basics, including spreadsheet navigation, data sorting, formula writing (SUM, COUNT, RANK, UNIQUE), and creating charts and PivotTables. The session was optional, allowing those with existing proficiency to choose whether to attend. RESULTS? Due to high interest, I conducted two 3-hour sessions. The hands-on exercises focused on relevant scenarios for the sales team, incorporating data and item rank reports. Participants not only learned to create formulas but also gained insights into interpreting different KPIs. We used one of their extensive automated reports to build a practical PivotTable, bridging the gap between learning and application. Feedback from the sessions speaks volumes: "Best 3-hour lecture/class I’ve attended." "Time went by way too quickly!" "I learned many new things, i.e., formula building, shortcuts, and the importance of being clear on what I’m trying to say." "Handouts were helpful, and I will go back to reference them." Ask your team if they need Excel basics training! The response might surprise you. Learn more about Excel Virtual Team Training
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9 Ways to Improve Your Virtual Meetings & Presentations

Virtual meetings and presentations are not going away; even when we return to the office it's likely we'll continue to do much of our work and client transactions this way in the future. I’ve put together a list of steps to help you make your virtual meetings more productive and polished from beginning to end.
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The Secret Sauce for Better Strategy in Your Analysis

Integrating strategy into your analytics is one of the main areas most struggle with when doing their analytics — knowing what's relevant and what's not, what's a true insight and what's not. But if you know the secret sauce to bringing strategy into your analytics you’ll be able to turn your data and analysis into effective action to grow your business. And so I want to talk about pizza. Yes, you read that right — pizza.
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New Virtual Training Solutions from CMKG.ORG

This year spurred many changes, some of which will be lasting here at CMKG. We are a training company that teaches in many areas related to data & analytics, category management and presentation skills, primarily for retailers and suppliers. Last year required us to pivot our live classroom training into virtual training sessions in the online space – and I’d like to share more about that with you right now.
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The Changing Shopper Journey During a Pandemic

The shopper journey (or path to purchase) has changed, driven by our changing habits as we navigate through this pandemic. We need to understand these changes in the shopper journey from a big picture perspective and consider how they affect each of us, whether we are in category management, sales, marketing, shopper marketing, or retail operations. Because everything has changed.
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Improve Your Virtual Meetings in 3 Steps

When the pandemic first started and most of us moved to our home offices, we didn’t really think it would be a long-term thing. But working at home and being effective in the virtual space is now required in today’s business world. I’ve compiled 3 tips for you to improve your approach to virtual meetings right now.
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