There are Cinderella stories out there of brands cold calling the retail stores where they dream to see their products, landing the account and living happily ever after.
Of course, these are rare cases.
In an effort to compile a few best practices for brands to approach retailers, we reached out to a lot of retail store buyers and the results are telling.
Of the many retailers we spoke with, we learned of one Cinderella story. We won’t tell you the name of the company, but we will tell you it’s a small women’s shoe brand. This brand knew the retailer, knew where they most wanted to be and made some calls. They found out the shoe buyer’s size and sent her a complimentary pair of shoes. She wore them, received tons of compliments, and boom! They landed the account.
While this makes for a great story, it's just not the reality for most companies. Cinderella stories are called that for a reason: they’re the stuff of fairytales. The real-world formula requires brains, technology and grit.
How To Get Your Product Into Stores
Follow these tips for a solid long-term approach to landing, not just one dream account, but actually making sure your product is everywhere you want and need to be. Here are some ways you can make sure you get your products into the retail stores that fit your brand.
1. Start with an online presence
Getting retailers to know and understand your brand is key to getting into their stores. Using your own website, as well as paid advertising, especially on social media, is important. If you can do this effectively, you’ll have strong sales numbers that you can use when pitching to retailers. Not only that, but you’ll also have loyal customers who will follow your brand into a retail store.
Retailers understand the power of both sales and loyal customers. They’ll be much more likely to sell your products if they understand that you will not only be contributing sales but bringing customers to their stores.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Ideally, you’ll be using a robust digital wholesale platform that has a marketplace feature allowing you to discover retailers by location, category and brands sold by each retailer. Use this information along with other research. For example, look at social media feeds and reviews to ensure your brand fits their demographic and what their consumers demand.
You are trying to find why this retailer will care about your product. So ask yourself: What value will your product offer this retailer? And, why should they care?
This vital information will provide you the ammo you need to structure a clear and compelling pitch.
3. FIND THE BUYER
If you can’t find this information via a marketplace like NuORDER, we found that getting this information is best done with a direct phone call to the store.
When to make this call? The majority of retailers we spoke with said the best time to call is in the morning before they get too busy. They’ll have time to actually talk to you without worrying about taking time away from customers, meaning they’ll be more interested in what you have to say.
What to ask? The primary information you want is the name and email of your buyer, plus the best times to contact them.
Have your research summarized in case you are directed to the buyer immediately. Although rare with larger stores, it’s not uncommon for specialty stores.
Should I email as a first contact? We found that the majority of buyers prefer receiving emails as the first step. Going digital is best, as you can customize the message. Retailers by and large report being annoyed when receiving paper catalogs with generic pitches in the mail.
As one retailer said, “I prefer a genuine email with a line sheet."
4. pitch to the stores that fit your brand
As mentioned above, a big part of your research should be about finding out which retailers would be a good fit for your brand. As much as everyone would love to see their product on the shelf at Target or Nordstrom, you’ll see more success if you target smaller retailers that mesh with your brand and products.
Another benefit of pitching to smaller retailers is the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with the owner or manager. Calling and emailing are great ways to contact a store, but think about the difference in calling Target as opposed to a local boutique.
Target is a huge brand, and even if you get to know a local manager, it will still be almost impossible to persuade him to offer your product to their customers. Even if he does, you’ll be limited to that one store, and competing with much more well-known brands. The local boutique, however, is probably run by the owner herself and is always looking for unique items that fit with her boutique style. If you form a relationship with her, you may become a trusted brand that she relies on to compete in the local marketplace.
Use that email: You can now use your digital platform to create and send a custom line sheet or catalog matching your products to their demographic.
Less is more. Instead of sending a 60-page line sheet, send a targeted presentation that shows you have researched and understood why the store will be interested.
“I find it rude when I get a message that’s just a catalog without a greeting and isn’t personalized in any way.”
Be sure to include a personalized message that describes the reason you feel your product is relevant, as well as the value it will bring to the store. As one buyer said, “I find it rude when I get a message that’s just a catalog without a greeting and isn’t personalized in any way.”
6. Follow up
Set your wholesale platform to alert you when a buyer has opened and viewed your line sheet.
Follow up quickly after viewing to maximize your chance of connecting with the buyer. Start with a clear explanation about why you think your product is relevant and would sell well at their store. Ask questions about their thoughts and what they liked in the line sheet; what they want to see more of; and what products and styles are trending well at their store.
Rejection is part of the process. It generally takes between one and five calls to catch someone who is willing to give you the information you need. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your buyer in other ways too. Use LinkedIn and other social media outlets to start building a relationship.
8. ATTEND TRADE SHOWS
While getting into local and other smaller retailers is a great way to form lasting relationships in order to get your product on the shelves, you shouldn’t stop there. Retailers everywhere are looking for new products that fit their brand, and they know that trade shows give them the opportunity to find those products.
Like most other aspects of selling your product to retail buyers, research and legwork upfront are key. Trade shows can be an expensive investment, so you’ll want to find the trade shows that will attract buyers who’ll be excited by your product. Once you’ve identified shows that are a good fit for you, you’ll need to create an effective display. Think of what makes an effective display in a store display. You’ll need to attract buyers who fit with your brand. Setting yourself up for success will go a long way towards getting retailers to notice your product and decide to put it in their stores.
Put yourself in their shoes and be thoughtful in your follow-ups to ensure the buyer knows you are thinking about their business.
We do hope that every brand has its own Cinderella story. But remember that the real glass slipper takes brains, technology and dedication. NuORDER can help improve your chances of success selling to retailers by providing you with the necessary online tools to take your brand to the next level.