Like most things in life, with advance knowledge, planning and practice, the task of pitching to retailers becomes easier and more likely to succeed.
Start by identifying the retailers you feel are best suited to stocking your product. Visit a number of their stores and look at the fixture that’s relevant to you.
If possible, sneak a couple of photographs, paying attention to how much shelf space they’ve dedicated to your competitors: the brands, their colours, packaging formats, product volumes and prices.
And in particular, the products that are positioned at eye level as these will have earned this visually dominant position by having a higher, comparable rate of sale. Note any promotions too.
Think about your product, brand and packaging. How can you become as attractive as possible? What colours and designs should you explore that will give you best visual impact and attraction from three feet away against all the competing products?
Which of the products currently on sale could yours replace and why should a buyer stock you in place of those already listed? Retailers do not have elastic shelves so for every new product they list, they will take one out.
Once you’ve undertaken this preliminary work, here is my checklist to get you on the right track.
- Check whether your product will attract VAT or is VAT exempt. (If your product is liable to VAT this will make a big difference to your margin.)
- Have you undertaken research to understand the dynamics of the category? Is it in both value and volume growth or just volume growth? (Entering a category where volume is growing ahead of value means it will be super-competitive and challenging to establish your brand.)
- Which consumer group are you targeting and why should they buy your product instead of their regular purchase?
- Are you going for high turnover, low margin, or higher margin, lower turnover relative to other category products?
- Is your offer within the good, better or best price tiering and are you pricing it accordingly
- Have you prepared a market map to identify the sector positioning of your product relative to others??
- Is your product higher priced and therefore providing a higher margin to the stockist?
- How will stocking your product in place of others positively impact on the retailers sales?
- Will stocking your product attract new customers to the store? Is there potential to make your targeted retailer a destination store because of your product?
- Do you know your costs inside out? Have you included logistics, distribution and of course your margin and retailer margin?
- How are you going to support your launch? What marketing activity will you undertake? What price promotion activity are you proposing? How does your proposed marketing activity compare to current sector products?
- How are you going to make the buyers job easier and make their boss sing their praises by increasing their category revenue?
- With this information gathered and with you understanding of the category, prepare a compelling and brief presentation – Canva or PowerPoint is much better than Word for this and will allow you to create a visually stronger presentation.
- Use good quality images and include snippets of your brand strategy and background research.
- Ideally limit your presentation to no more than ten slides and a maximum of 3.5 minutes reading time.
Then prepare your pitch to the retailer – for email and telephone initially. Be compelling, use positive wording only, put yourself in the buyers shoes. (In this initial email it is also worth asking when the review period is for your product category as typically they only take place once a year and therefore it could be a number of months before they will be ready to consider stock line changes.)
And don’t be put off if they don’t reply to your first email, they get inundated and you will need to be persistent.
Keep your emails polite and to the point and don’t change them every time you resend but what I do advise is changing the subject line referencing re-sends: Resend from xx/xx.
In this way you remind the buyer that you’ve emailed before and it makes them aware of when you first contacted them.