The number one growth goal for many product manufacturers is to get their products on store shelves both off and on-line. Despite such efforts to do just that, you, as the manufacturer, might still find it hard to get the sales you desire.
You might be spending too much time fulfilling small orders from small retailers or handling direct orders and customer service issues from consumers. It’s likely you’ve become well aware of the fact that resources are tight and growing your business is more difficult than you may have first considered.
If you’re looking for ways to make your product more desirable to retailers that are willing to share your products with their customers and fans and to grow with limited resources, keep reading.
8 Tips to Attract the “Right” Kind of Retailers
1. Have Flexible Fulfillment
Many manufacturers require large order minimums – this is great for streamlining your fulfillment procedures, but can be deadly for retail sales.
If logistically you must require large order minimums, consider working with a manufacturer sales rep firm or wholesale distributor who can handle distribution for smaller orders for you. Another benefit to working through a manufacturer sales rep is they can offer quicker shipping times to ensure your product arrives when your retailers need it, not when you have the time to fulfill it yourself.
2. Be Transparent
If you want to ease the process of attracting high quality retailers to your business, you must be completely transparent every step of the way. Make all safety certifications, insurance policies, and customer service and return procedures openly available to retailers.
By making this information available in a secure retailer-only portal, for example, you will ensure you’re not scrambling to dig up this information each time it is requested and show you have nothing to hide!
3. Get Organized
There is nothing worse than working with a manufacturer who doesn’t have their act together.
This means manufacturers need to have all their ducks in a row, making it as easy as possible for an online retailer to simply download images and product descriptions and put them up immediately on their store websites. It means the manufacturer’s packaging needs to be shelf ready for brick and mortar retailers.
4. Invest in PR and Marketing
No retailer wants to carry a product that will sit on its shelves for months and months collecting dust. Make sure your product is regularly getting PR buzz in leading magazines and blogs, and work hard to grow your social media fan base and engagement.
You may even consider participating in ongoing advertising in target trades or blogs, and commit to growing your social networks through fun social media campaigns. A manufacturer committed to ongoing PR is usually one that retailers want to work with most!
5. Regularly Communicate Successes
Has a celebrity been spotted with your product? Has your product been featured in Parents Magazine? Are you doing a photo contest on your Facebook page? All these things need to be communicated to your retailers as they happen so your retailers can amplify this information to their customers and fans.
Too often retailer communication falls to the bottom of a manufacturer’s to-do list, and retailers are sometimes the last to know about the marketing coups that can help them make more money too. A good way to regularly communicate in real-time with retailers is through a private retailer-only group on Facebook, or through a regular monthly e-newsletter.
6. Work with a Manufacturer Sales Rep
I previously mentioned that a manufacturing sales rep agency can help a manufacturer fulfill smaller orders, but there’s another benefit too: A trusted manufacturer sales rep firm offers instant credibility and promotion of your product to their retailer client roster.
If a trusted manufacturer sales rep agent likes your product enough after doing due-diligence on your company, he or she will likely roll out your product(s) to the many retailers they do business with and who rely on that agent to recommend good products for them to carry in their stores. You might call this trust by association – and it works!
7. Demonstrate Ambition
Retailers like to work with brands that have drive and ambition. They want to see you continually coming out with new colors or products. Status quo only allows a retailer to sell your product so many times before it gets stale.
Take the time to have a full pipeline of new products that will excite retailers to keep your product fully stocked on their store shelves (and that will give them reason to talk about you too!).
8. Value Your Retailers
You should think about how you can support retail sales rather than compete with them. Perhaps there are products you can make that are only available at retail locations and not available in the manufacturer’s online store.
Also think about ways you can spotlight various retailers on your website and/or on social media. Does your website have a clear and up-to-date, “Where to Buy” search capability? Does your company “Like” all its retailers on Facebook? When some of your best retailers host promotions on social media, are you retweeting these promotions to your fans? Remember, a little nurturing of the retailer-manufacturer relationship can go a long way.
If your business’s growth is dependent on retail sales, tap into these 8 tips that will not only help you forge healthy and trusting working relationships with manufacturer sales reps and retailers, but will also ensure your company’s viability and profitability in the long run!
Which of these tips are you already putting into play? Which still require some work? Tell us in the comments about your ambitions, successes or failures in making yourself desirable to retailers.
About the Author:
Kelly Wels is the founder of Green Team Distribution, a manufacturer sales rep agency specializing in distributing eco-friendly children’s products from leading “green” manufacturers. Kelly founded an online retail store in 2001, which she sold in 2010. Today she pulls from her personal experiences to help retailers overcome the challenges and pitfalls they face when working with manufacturers. Learn more about Kelly at www.GreenTeamDistribution.com.
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