Even if you have a great product, already understand the customer (the retailer), and know your product meets the key performance indicators of the retailer, you are still not yet ready to knock on the customer’s door.
In this third article from the series Six Tips for Getting Your Product into the Mass Retail Channel, I will reveal five tasks you need to do to create a momentum before approaching the buyer of the mass retailer with your product.
By creating momentum and building your “proof of concept”, you can significantly increase your chance the retailer will place your products on their limited and valuable shelf space.
Let’s get started . . .
Here are 5 ways your startup or small business can build your proof of concept:
1) Prove your concept through an online channel
Not only can you start making revenue, you can collect good statistical data to demonstrate the strength of your concept.
Inferring from these statistics, you can demonstrate how sales make look like in the off-line stores.
2) Create a regional success
Mass Retailers like locally proven products, as they consider their biggest value-add to be bringing locally successful products to the national market level. You can demonstrate that your success in your micro environment matches the retailer’s key performance indicators.
There are many local resources you can tap into. Not just local distribution channels, but local opinion leaders, city resources, local events, local papers, etc. Consider all your neighbors as your sales force to create a powerful word-of-mouth promotion.
3) SkyMall and other innovative channels
Consider listing in SkyMall, catalog you often find in airplane seat pockets. SkyMall likes new product propositions that entertain air passengers, so it may be easier for you to get your product listed there. While SkyMall will request you to pay a listing fee, they tend to be flexible in structuring the transaction, e.g. pay a listing fee from initial revenues.
Entrepreneurs can also consider Sharper Image, Brookstone, and online arms of major Mass Retailers a first entry point. When a product shows good KPI performance in these channels against other products in the same category, mass retailers see it as a precursor to success it their own stores.
4) Develop professional customers who would endorse the product concept
Mass retailers like products that are endorsed by professionals (e.g. people who touch the product in their professional occupation). When professionals endorse products, consumers proactively come to look at the products.
Assuming your product is a cooking device, for example, you should sell your product to professional cooks, culinary experts, etc, perhaps, even a discounted rate just to get them try it. Collect data on how many consumers each professional can likely influence. Of course, doing so will also give you an extra the halo effect of being able claim your product is “professionally endorsed”.
5) Get a well-respected people to talk about your product
Mass Retailers would like to see your products promoted by authorities. If Oprah talks about your product, you are going to be in the channel. Now, getting Oprah to endorse your product is true dream few realize, but there are many other people who are influential in their own niche.
Buy magazines and see who writes articles around your product concept. Go to tradeshows, and find a lecturer who talks about issues around your concept. See if you can actually hire them as advisors to your business. You may need to pay them $10K 30K a year to sneak in your products into their presentations. It is expensive, but it is often more effective than just placing traditional advertising.
Worth the Effort? Definitely.
It sounds like a lot of work. But remember, once you get into the mass retailer channel, your revenue will increase by more than 10 fold.
Furthermore, above five tasks above would increase your probability of success when you get listed a mass retailers. Many great concepts failed in the mass retailer channel because the market was not ready. Having your product already discussed by opinion leaders and used by professionals will prepare consumer mindset to adopt your new concept.