Relationships: The Key to Effective Retail Dietitian Leadership

Relationships: The Key to Effective Retail Dietitian Leadership

May 15, 2013
Business Skills

Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
RDBA Executive Committee

There has never been a better time to be a registered dietitian (RD), both in terms of positive impact on public health and professional opportunities.  But…it’s up to the RD to make the biggest impact possible.  Here are some tips to help retail RDs lead the way, developing relationships that will build store loyalty while moving the needle on public health:

  • Retail Business Relationships.
    • Store operations.  From store tours to demos to media inquiries, retail RDs interact with operations at all levels.  Whether it’s setting up a store tour in partnership with a local hospital, building a nutrition month display, or creating other in store programs, working with operations helps spread the word on how dietitians help make each visit a fun and educational opportunity unique to the store for your customers.
    • Planograms/Store Set Up.  Depending on the retailer, RDs can help with endcap development to merchandising dinner solution ideas to signage content/messaging. Think about a gluten-free endcap for holiday baking, or a MyPlate menu makeover display with everything needed for a balanced meal.  Educate the team on options and use the same approach as pitching the media with ideas that appeal year round.
    • Marketing/Advertising. Developing appropriate and impactful content and providing input on educational themes that fit healthier items on sale helps drive traffic to stores while providing the credible nutrition messages today’s consumer needs.
    • Private Brands. Provide professional input on messaging, health, and nutrition claims, and identifying the better-for-you options within the store brand family of products.  As nutrition experts, retail RDs provide credibility to health and nutrition efforts, supporting the retailer while helping customers make smarter choices on a budget. 
  • Customer-Facing Relationships. 
    • In the Aisles. Store tours are one of the most impactful  “in the trenches” tools. These programs drive traffic to stores, offer an opportunity to track success via coupons or gift cards, and help customers personalize their shopping experience by showing them how to navigate the store and read labels for their particular health goals.
    • Community Engagement.  By providing customers with solid nutrition information and solutions, retail RDs have an opportunity to not only educate but to also build brand loyalty.  Corporate supermarket dietitians can help build larger programs that are executed in stores while in-store dietitians can interact one on one or in smaller groups with tours or programs to help build awareness of services offered within the family of stores. Health fairs, cooking classes, community presentations, etc. help elevate the visibility of consumer interaction while delivering rich educational content and providing an opportunity for customers to get answers they need from an expert.
    • Plan Ahead to Get the Word Out. Remember to build in marketing support for your educational programs and allow plenty of time for people to sign up, etc. Use ad space if available, and take advantage of social media or in store signage to highlight programs.
  • Peer-to-Peer Relationships
    • Understand the Extended Role of Retail RDs.  Retail RDs take the educational experience of patients to the next level.  Typically, we know that a person who receives Medical Nutrition Therapy  (MNT) may have further questions once they get to a store.  An RD in a supermarket can answer questions and help him or her choose foods appropriately or better interpret a label.  The grocery store literally becomes a living classroom and a way to build a network with colleagues and facilities in the communities you impact.  Referring to hospital RDs and having them know to refer to you strengthens all the education the public receives while supporting each other in all the places we work.   
    • Maintain Connections. Meet with colleagues quarterly at hospitals, community clinics, universities, and non-profits to develop those relationships.

Retail RDs are in a unique position to cultivate relationships on a variety of fronts.  By seizing this unique opportunity, they are poised to have a profound impact on the business of retail as well as the health of the customer.