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How to get your product into stores

You've made an incredible product, and now you want to see it on store shelves. That means learning how to work with distributors.
Jan 30, 2020 • 6 minute read
Updated on Dec 11, 2020 by David M.
Cover Photo

Getting your product into stores means getting it in the hands of a distributor

One of the most challenging parts about developing a new product is convincing retailers, distributors and even wholesalers to carry your physical products in stores. You need a strategy that will not only enable you to get your products selling in stores, but also find and retain the best distributors for your product.
A good distributor not only ensures efficient movement of your products into different stores, but can also help your product break into new geographical markets and expand your market reach. Getting the attention of reputable distributors can help push your products to big wholesalers who would ordinarily not work with new products or beginners in the market.
While you could always sell directly to your target market through websites, sales res or branded stores, working with retailers and distributors helps boost the visibility of your product. Understandably, getting distributors to partner with you is a challenging process. But, along with research and persistence, there are several strategies that can help you win over retailers and distributors.

Be market ready

Before approaching potential distributors and retailers, your product has to be 100% ready for the market. This includes ensuring that the final product is fully developed and is ready for consumption. Most distributors will prefer seeing the final product as opposed to prototypes. Not only does it demonstrate your seriousness, it also indicates that you're in a position to handle increasing demand.
Being market ready also entails factors such as full packaging of the product and presenting distributors with the product's price points. To further prove your readiness to potential distributors, you should be ready to present sales materials and statistical data regarding the product. For instance, presenting sales materials that explain the benefits of your products as well as data regarding the size of space needed in the warehouse and on shelves goes a long way towards persuading a distributor to work with you.

Understand and research your target market

While it's every entrepreneur's dream to sell to large retailers and distributors in the long run, you'll need to start small. It helps to carry out your research starting with your local stores, shops and small retailers as opposed to starting with big stores such as Walmart.
In your research, compare features of the products in the store that are similar to yours in terms of packaging, pricing and quality. Identify the stores that sell your competitors' products and make them understand why your product is equal to or even better than that of your competitors.
This helps you identify the value and outstanding features of your product, and comes in handy when pitching your product to distributors. Carrying out research of similar products in local stores enables you to understand consumer needs and identify the stores or shops that are most ideal for your product. In essence, starting small helps you get some much-needed exposure for the product, and helps build legitimacy for pitching to big distributors in the future. At the end of the day, distributors want to know that there's a ready demand for your product in the market.

Create a marketing plan

Before approaching potential retailers and distributors, develop a marketing plan containing the necessary strategies for pushing the sales of your product in the market. The plan should encompass promotional strategies, advertising strategies, target market, demographics and pricing strategies. It's imperative for you to create demand for your product in order to prove that your product can sell, and therefore convince the distributors to partner with you.

The power of social media

One way of creating awareness and boosting sales for your product is making use of social media. Creating a strong social media presence across different platforms ensures that even distributors and retailers are aware of your product’s value before you approach them with your pitch.

References and networking

Networking is among the best proven channels of gaining entry to highly competitive markets and getting recognized by reputable distributors and retailers in business. Attend trade shows that target your industry market niche and take a booth either individually or in partnership. Trade shows are effective networking platforms because they provide an opportunity to collect contact information of prospective distributors, sales reps and retailers, and follow-up after the shows.
It's also important to request references and recommendations from retailers and consumers in order to determine the right distributor for your product. In the same vein, you'll want to identify the distributors for your competitors' products, since they're already familiar with your product type and have a ready market.
Although getting a distributor is crucial, getting one with a proven track record is equally important. Take time to research the distributors you've identified and compare their reviews and track records.

First impressions

Strive to create a lasting first impression while pitching to distributors. One way to achieve this is by getting your packaging right. Packaging is one of the factors that boosts sales, and the right packaging can determine whether or not distributors agree to buy your product. Design product packages that are unique and catchy to stand out from your competition.
Invest in compelling and good quality packaging to minimize losses that result from damages. Include attractive features in your packaging to captivate your customers. Also, investing in theft resistant and tamper-proof packaging makes your product more appealing to distributors since these features minimize additional costs resulting from damages and theft.
Also, size matters to the distributors. It's good to identify what they look for in terms of packaging, size, pricing and type of products prior to your pitch. In essence, going into a pitch with enough knowledge regarding the distributor's terms and conditions will help avoid rejection and help move your product into the market faster.
Schedule meetings and appointments with the distributors in person in order to make your pitch as opposed to sending emails. Personal meetings are more appealing because you can use the opportunity to build a rapport with the distributor. Also, personal meetings are advantageous in that they're an opportunity for you to make the case for why your product is the ideal product for the distributor. Also, with personal meetings, you can get relevant feedback regarding your product.

Sell sheets

When the distributor requests time to consider whether or not your product fits them, provide them with a sell sheet. A catchy sell sheet creates some leverage for you and plays the odds in your favor. Include all the necessary information regarding your product in the sell sheet to make it more interesting to the distributors. This includes your contacts for the website and for deliveries, your pricing strategy for both wholesale and retail buyers, pictures of your product, the benefits of your products when compared to your competitors and the relevant patent documents for your product. Ensure your sell sheet is more captivating to the distributor by including testimonials, reviews and ratings from your customers. Make sure it looks attractive by hiring a professional graphic designer.

Profit margins for the distributor

When pitching your product, indicate how much the distributor will be able to make from the product. Be sure to indicate that the calculated margins will be able to cover the associated costs for the distributor, including storage costs and transportation costs. It's also vital to let the distributors know how profitable your product is to their business, especially when your market reach increases. In essence, your pricing strategies should encompass the distributor's profit margin.

Surveys and samples

As mentioned earlier on, it's important to start building your brand from the ground up, and this entails working with local stores and small retailers. Carry out surveys, feedback and reviews on your competition, as well as your product from the local stores. Also, give free samples of your products to customers to get their views on factors such as quality and comparison with your competitors' products. Request testimonials from customers.

Trade associations

Trade associations bring together producers, manufacturers, traders and distributors within a given industry. Joining an association will help you identify and get noticed faster by distributors in your line of product. You'll gain useful insights regarding manufacturers and distributors within your industry in terms of target market, best players in the market and best practices.
To sum up, getting a distributor to work with you depends entirely on your ability to showcase your knowledge of the market and your product, your ability to develop and showcase your brand, your demonstration of knowledge of the industry as well as consumer needs, your ability to create demand for your product and convince the distributor of the value of the product by providing referrals and testimonials from customers.
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