We did it the wrong way! We bought into too many popularly held misconceptions! It cost us plenty of time, money, and anxiety. We did not want to believe that we had to go out into the neighborhoods surrounding every store where we had our products for sale and personally get customers to come into that store and buy our products.
Popular Misconceptions About Retail
We thought that just being in the store was good enough, as if it was somehow it was the store’s responsibility to provide the customers for our products. Afterall, they already had a following, didn’t they? They were already selling products. How come they couldn’t provide customers for our products?
So, we would introduce our products to the local buyers, and several would give us a chance. We were in! …we thought. Like that was all that was needed. It wasn’t until we started to get discontinued for slow sales that we finally realized the truth. We were given a chance. That’s all! A chance to prove that we could earn money for that store that was in excess of their cost of providing the space, heating, lighting, security, handling, insurance, cleaning and the list goes on. In fact, stores can’t afford to carry products that don’t move, and move quickly. That was the harsh reality of CPG sales that we did not want to believe.
Focus or Fracas
If you take a magnifying glass and move it all over the paper, you will never start a fire. But if you hold the glass very still and concentrate the sun’s rays on one spot, you will surely start a fire!
We had to start over. We had to start smaller. We had to figure out what was required from us to make sales happen. And we had to do it one store at a time. So much for scale fast to fail fast. We were failing fast alright. But at retail, you usually only get one chance. It’s not just the store that’s watching your performance; it’s your competition! They can’t wait to tell the buyer that you are a ‘barking dog’ and need to be replaced with their products!
For us, we were saved by a request from a neighborhood association who wanted money to build a kids’ afterschool park. Although we empathized with this local worthy cause, the last thing we had was money! However, we had product – because sales were slow. So, we donated product and suggested they auction it off to raise some cash. Perhaps they could serve it loosen up some donors to write bigger checks. They took the products, but we could tell they were disappointed that we could not donate any cash.
We didn’t hear from them again. But all of a sudden, our sales started to climb at the local store in their neighborhood! Had we blundered upon something? Had we given the members of that neighborhood association a social reason to buy our products? Apparently, yes! So, we tried it in other neighborhoods, and we got lift in those stores as well. In fact, it worked so well that we relied on what we called Worthy Cause Marketing in neighborhood after neighborhood, city by city, and region by region until we became a big national brand.
No Simple Answers
But it’s not a simple matter of just donating product. You have to know how to maximize on the donation and you have to chooses the right causes that resonate with your brand. You have to ask the association to do certain things that cost them nothing but make all the difference in your sales. It took us years to perfect this form of marketing, but it saved us and our brand!
Don’t Forget the Basics
Sure, you have to do in-store demos and they have to be done just right, and you have to repeat them on a regular basis to gain traction. All of this must be tied to displays, temporary price reductions, and compelling seasonal merchandising materials. And don’t forget to service the heck out of those first accounts!
Never allow an out-of-stock. Never allow a wrong price. And never allow anything or any competitor to block your sales. Stay vigilant. Try all this in just one store, in just one neighborhood, and you will learn what you have to do in other stores. You will learn what your expansion plan must be. And you will know what it really takes to gain traction! So no, it won’t just take off! Now, forget about your popularly held misconceptions and get to work!