In today’s competitive retail environment consumer product startups need to do everything faster while maintaining and building a brand known for quality and value. If you’re a startup trying to sell your products into retail, there’s never been a better time to do so. This is due, to some degree, to the resources now at your disposal – from crowdfunding to small scale manufacturing.
This blog briefly talks about developing a retail strategy and how a lack of execution experience can leave your retail strategy only partially completed.
Common resources for startups and product entrepreneurs include: accelerators, mentors, consultants, incubators, online programs, friends, sales reps, and other similar sources. There’s a ton of ways for you to gain a basic to in-depth understanding of the retail process, challenges, and how to navigate your way to selling to a retailer. However, despite all of these resources, many young brands never make it past several months of selling into retail channels.
Many Pieces to the Execution Puzzle
Building a comprehensive retail strategy requires execution experience from all angles. Your VP of Sales may have some fantastic ideas for product sales scaleability, but your COO might foresee limitations on supply. Or more commonly, your retail strategy is based on how to sell to retailers rather than how to push sales once your products have been placed at a retailer and you’re a vendor of record.
We often see accelerator programs who are great at providing product development, manufacturing, funding, and retail pitching assistance; however, once a startup has launched their product into a couple retailers (online or offline) things tend to be more precarious. It’s often the “small things” that end up crippling a product startup’s chance at scaling up revenue into the hundreds of thousands or millions.
Some of these “small things” might be:
- Not communicating in a timely manner with your retail partners (24 hours or less)
- Not actively developing and executing marketing programs, or believing that your distributor will manage it all
- Underestimating the number of returns
- Underestimating the amount of time required to see results
- Not supporting your sales reps as they pursue new opportunities
One of the toughest parts of building any business is finding the most crucial gaps in terms of your customers, your team, and other areas.
You Can’t Predict the Future, So Be Ready to Adapt
This article should not be misconstrued to mean that you need to know 100% what the first 6 months of your retail launch should look like. There’s a balance between having a thorough plan to anticipate challenges… and understanding that you’ll need to be ready to adapt. After all, to be competitive is to adapt. Nature has taught us that, and there aren’t many industries more competitive than retail.
It’s extremely common for a brand to have to rework pricing, marketing tactics, or perhaps packaging within the first 3-6 months of a retail launch. There are many reasons to adapt, some common ones we see include:
- Changes with competitors or new competing products
- Having additional data that supports a new direction
- New vertical opportunities such as B2B, licensing, etc.
How We Scale Product Startups
Plenty of our brands are crowdfunded, smaller teams who needed comprehensive execution resources to leverage without those resources being “watered-down”. Our brands have been far more successful than most because of the combination of high-quality resources across all areas of retail (strategy, sales, marketing, management) and a highly seasoned expert facilitating and orchestrating these resources in a tailored manner. In the end, every product needs a specific approach (part of being adaptable).
This allows our startups to grow faster than relying on a rep group or distributor alone, and these brands avoid execution related mistakes on top of strategic mistakes. Additionally our startups pay far less (often $10,000-$20,000 less per year) than hiring someone in-house (i.e. VP of Sales, CRO, Channel Manager).
If you’re a brand trying to scale up your retail distribution revenue, feel free to reach out to Ben Ertl, our Director of Business Development at firstname.lastname@example.org