This is a guest post from Julie Cole, mom of six and co-founder of Mabel’s Labels.
Getting your product into major retail stores is a dream many mom entrepreneurs have. This dream just came true for Mabel’s Labels.
We recently launched a product that’s now available in Walmart stores across Canada and will soon be sold at Target throughout the United States.
For a small company that sold our products exclusively online, moving into retail was a big step for us. Before we pitched our product to Walmart buyers, we did our homework, including hiring a professional research firm to study the opportunity and advise us on it.
We learned a few lessons along the way, and we’d like to share them with you.
10 Tips for Getting Your Product Into Major Retail Stores
1. Don’t be intimidated.
While the world’s largest retailer may seem intimidating, you have something of value to offer. Don’t lose sight of that. Walmart’s and Target’s approach with small companies is much different than how they deal the big multinationals. If you have a solid offer that fits their customer, they’ll work along with you to make it successful.
2. Know your prospective partner.
Walk the store, learn to speak their language and understand their brand.
3. Understand their customer.
Will the customer who shops at that retailer love your product? Does their customer look like your customer? Does your existing product and packaging need to be altered to appeal to the target consumer? Entering the retail market is a huge investment – you don’t want to see your product gathering dust on shelves.
4. Be proud of your business.
You may be small, but big retailers are interested in the little guy. Your quirky beginnings and funny start-up stories are part of your charm. Don’t feel like you have to hide them or be embarrassed.
5. Be honest.
The due diligence and number of references a partnership will seek are extensive. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Practice honesty in business. Always.
6. Bragging is allowed!
7. Practice your pitch.
Use your time wisely, be prepared and stay on point. Buyers are extremely time crunched so put your big selling stories up front, they’ll find more time for you if they’re interested in what you’re saying.
8. Don’t know what you’re doing? Get help!
Contract someone who knows about retail and has experience and connections. Ask all your friends involved in retail what and who they know. Remember, there is no such thing as a silly question.
9. Be flexible and accept feedback.
Many buyers have extensive experience in the categories they manage. Be prepared to entertain changes they suggest and always ensure you have resources available to take advantage of merchandising programs they may offer you. “All in” is fine in poker, but not at retail.
10. Have all your ducks in a row.
If you get a “YES”, then you’d better have a product to give your retailer. You need to understand all of your production, supply, distribution and costing issues so that you can deliver on your promises.
What questions do you have about getting your product into major retail stores? Ask away in the comments below.
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