Have you ever wondered how you can get your businesses’ products stocked on the shelves of a large retailer?
It does happen, and it’s refreshing to see. For example, my local supermarket makes a point of stocking locally grown produce front and center as soon as you walk in the store, while other stores make a point of promoting the latest gadgets from small business inventors.
The truth is, retail buyers are always on the lookout for products that will appeal to their customers and complement their brand, but how do you find them and pitch your wares? Here are four tips!
1. Do Your Research – Find out What Retailers Are Looking For
Before you contact a buyer or work on your pitch, do your due diligence and ask yourself a few questions. What’s your niche? What retail stores represent a good fit for your brand (be objective about this one and put the buyer’s hat on for a moment)? Does your product complement the store’s existing product lines and add value to its image? What about your packaging – is it self-explanatory as to what your product is and does, does it stand out?
Certain buyers may be looking to stock merchandise from diverse vendors – local farmers, women- or veteran-owned businesses. Is this something you could take advantage of?
2. Get to Know the Buyers
You can often contact a buyer through a big retailer’s website; alternatively directories such as Chain Store Guide and The Salesman’s Guide include buyer listings across a wide breadth of industries. However, nothing beats making a direct in-person connection in the venues where buyers are on the lookout for new products. Trade shows and conferences (especially those sponsored by your target retailer), are a good place to start. Some larger retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot also host product review events and competitions where manufacturers get to pitch their wares directly to potential buyers.
3. Prepare Your Pitch
One of the most important considerations when preparing your pitch is not so much what your product is, but how it will complement the store’s existing product lines. You’ll also have to convince buyers that your product will sell (use market trends and your track history of online or smaller scale retail success to back-up your claims). Another important point to consider is the fact that you are a small business. The buyer will want to know that you can scale to their needs and manage your supply chain. Stress your qualities such as credibility, agility, or responsiveness.
If you can, bring samples of your product and have enough on hand so that the buyer can hang onto them after your meeting.
4. Be Relentless and Ready!
It’s unlikely that one meeting will clinch a deal with a buyer, so be relentless in your follow-up. Likewise, be prepared to stand true to your business plan, if you think the retailer is selling your product cheap, step back and review your options. Other retailers may be more willing to give you the margins you need.
Look for ways to earn your buyer’s confidence, you need to demonstrate that you are ready to scale. Are there any areas you need to invest in before you make your pitch or sign on the dotted line. For example, investing in technology that will allow you to accept and process larger orders or better manage your inventory. You can make more money this year!