I had a student approach me about developing her products for retail. Her problem was that she knew she was entering into a highly competitive market. Now you can argue that every type of product sold to retailers is competitive, but in some cases, it's really true. Products such as cosmetics, consumer electronics, toys, etc. are highly competitive markets for retailers. It's just the way it goes sometimes when there are an extraordinary amount of suppliers in those categories. Does this mean that you can't get your product into stores? Absolutely not! It just means you that you have to get creative. Let me explain...
My years of experience in sales have taught me that positioning your product in a unique way is the best way to sell your products if you are in a highly competitive market. You can be the best sales person in the world, but if your product isn't unique or interesting to buyers, then they will not buy. So I always spend most of my time with clients on positioning their product as truly unique.
What does positioning your products for retail really mean? It means taking the product you have today and coming up with a story that is exciting and enticing to buyers. Basically it means doing a ton of research on what the buyer is purchasing today and then coming up with a story that will grab the buyer's attention. Let’s use an example from one of my students:
1) Who Is Your Audience?
My goal was to help my student stand out from her competitors. So in her case, It was clear that we should position her product for a specific niche audience. Why? Because Baby Boomers, Athletes and Ethnic customers loved her products more than anyone. And if we could narrow down a niche audience to one that matters most to her targeted buyer audience, then we will be more unique to a buyer and they will be more inclined to buy.
2) Analyze Retail Stores
Once we came up with a few potential niches to go after, the next step was to make sure the retailers she wanted to sell to even cared about these potential niches. I didn't want to spend any money or time on a niche that would not bring big returns, so I need to make sure that Baby Boomers for instance, heavily shop at the stores that she wanted to sell to. Basically we needed to figure out the demographics of the retailers.
3) Understand Your Competitors
After doing some research, we figured out that Baby Boomers and Ethnic Women accounted for a significant portion of the retailers target audience that she wanted to focus on, so we were able to narrow down our niche even further. Our next step was to figure out what holes were in the buyers current assortment so we could fulfill the buyer's needs and position our product as unique.
For instance, were any of the products on the retailers’ shelves focused on the baby boomer market? if so, how? If not, why not? You see what I'm trying to do is to be able to go to a buyer and say, 'My product can help you sell more to your existing audience because it fills this need for them that you are not currently addressing.'
4) Create a Story
After analyzing the retailer’s needs and figuring out what niche to focus on, it is time to create a story as to why the product is unique. The easiest way is to write down all of the reasons why this specific niche loves this product. I want to articulate the benefits of the product to this audience and create my packaging and marketing collateral accordingly. In other words, if I want to focus my product on Baby Boomer women, I want to make sure that my packaging, etc. is appropriate for this audience. I want to make sure that the coloring I choose, the words I use and the story I create about the product will be focused on this one niche. This way, when I approach a retail buyer, I can say 'x% of your customers are baby boomers, and after doing my research, I noticed that there is a gap in your assortment that my product can fill perfectly.'
Retail Buyers will be more inclined to listen if you take the time to understand their customer base and can offer them a solution. Too often, inventors focus on what their thoughts are on how the product should be positioned, not what the actual buyers needs actually are. In the case of my student, we had to go a bit extreme in regards to repositioning her product, but in other cases, just doing your research and organizing the story of your product according to the buyers needs and wants can make all the difference.