9 Tips Getting Your Products In Front of Distributors
Most national retail chains would rather buy a hundred products from one supplier than one product each from a hundred different suppliers. So small manufacturers have a tough time breaking into the game.
But distributors can be as difficult to woo as retail buyers. Winning them over takes time, research and hard work. Here are nine steps to success:
1. Get your product market-ready.
“Most new manufacturers aren’t prepared to go to market. Before going to market, manufacturers must resolve issues ranging from the most appealing packaging to the best way to ship their products. They also must find a price consumers will pay that still means good profit margins for retailers, distributors and, of course, themselves.
New manufacturers must prepare sales materials that tell retailers the product’s benefits and its statistical information, such as how much space it needs in the warehouse and on the shelf. Production capacity is also a major issue. You can’t sell to Wal-Mart unless you’re ready to manufacture millions of units
2. Understand whom you’re selling to.
Most manufacturers don’t sell directly to the consumers who eventually use their products. Instead, the manufacturer’s marketing strategy must aim at sales through dealers or distributors.
Most manufacturers, distributors and independent sales reps deal with a narrow range of products. They know each other and refer work to each other.
A distributor or sales rep wants to carry products that sell in high volume. If you can’t promise huge sales, you might have to lure distributors with high profit margins. If you can’t raise the retail price, that extra margin will come out of your profit. It sounds expensive, but compared with the cost of reaching customers yourself, it’s not.
3. Target your market.
One way to focus your marketing is with targeted mailing lists, which you can often find through trade associations. If you use such lists for direct-mail advertising campaigns, plan to send out at least three separate mailings, then follow up with phone calls. We recommend advertising in carefully selected trade journals targeted at the industries most suited to your product.
4. Create demand.
The manufacturer–not the distributor or retailer–must make consumers want to buy a product. That can involve cooperative advertising campaigns with retailers, display stands, signs, fliers, brochures and other marketing materials
Each year, about 25,000 new mass-market items are introduced and the manufacturer must do everything possible to encourage [consumer] acceptance.
5. Prove your product will sell.
A new company may have to prove its product will sell before distributors and major retailers take notice.
6. Ask questions.
Many new manufacturers don’t even know where to look for distributors and sales representatives. Many trade groups have distributors and reps as members. Encyclopedia of Associations (Gale Research) lists thousands of associations; look for it in your local library. Better yet you can purchase the distributors list from FSDBCO.
7. Attend trade shows.
Take an exhibit booth, either by yourself or in partnership with another company with complementary products. As with other marketing efforts, choose a trade show targeted to your market.
At the show, collect business cards from prospective distributors or sales reps, then follow up after the show is over. Even if you can’t afford your own booth, attend the shows that target your industry. Shows are good places to network and identify the people and companies that will buy your products.
8. Select distributors and sales reps carefully.
Ask others in your industry for referrals to good sales reps and distributors. When considering reps, ask for their credentials and references. Look for reps and distributors who carry similar but noncompeting products and who sell to the same geographic territory and type of retailer who carries your type of product.
Distributors usually buy some of your product and store it at their warehouses. Good ones fill orders quickly and accurately and help build a market for your product. Independent sales reps don’t buy your product, but they should aggressively sell your product in markets you can’t reach.
9. Find private label partners.
Put your brand names on their products. This is called a private label agreement. Larger companies have more products to sell, which distributors and retailers prefer, and have more extensive distribution channels. Like building relationships with distributors and sales reps, attracting private label deals takes time and effort but can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy.[h/t] Entrepeneur.com
Jan Norman is a freelance writer who specializes in small-business issues. She can be reached here.