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One of the headiest experiences for an entrepreneur is landing a big
order from a retailer. It validates everything you’ve been working
toward, and in the way that counts most: Someone else believes in your
product, and thinks consumers will, too.
But getting your
products onto store shelves, even at Wal-Mart or Home Depot, is only
the first step for retail success. Now you have to try just as hard to
be sure your products move, well enough to give the retailer the
confidence to place more orders with you.
Repeat after us: Positioning, positioning …
should go without saying that just where your product is displayed in a
store can make all the difference between selling through and not even
getting close. The bigger the retailer, the less say you have in
positioning, and the more limits on how much of a “merchandising zone”
you can create in their store. However, because both you and the
retailer want to move product, it’s not impossible to get a fair
Contech Electronics was able to get Home Depot to
place its ScareCrow motion-activated sprinklers in the pest-control
section — where CEO Mark Grambart wanted them — instead of the lawn
sprinkler section. ScareCrow startles deer and other critters by
squirting them with water when they show up, so Grambart suggested
placing his products where they’d offer a specific solution to Home
Depot customers with a specific need.
The chain also
allowed Contech to place point-of-purchase displays demonstrating how
ScareCrow works. “With our product, you have to communicate what it’s
all about to aisle surfers, and these displays do the trick,” Grambart
Larger companies certainly do this. When prune-juice
giant Sunsweet Growers wanted to expand its line with a less
“medicinal,” more everyday drink, it came up with PlumSmart, still
using its bread-and-butter fruit, but juicing it instead of drying it
However, when it came to supermarket
placement, the Yuba City, Calif.-based farmers’ cooperative decided
against trying to squeeze PlumSmart into the already dense-packed
refrigerated juice section. “We thought about it, but our strength is
in shelf-stable juices,” says Steve Harris, vice president of
marketing. “And we focused on being unique in that part of the grocery
Give retailers a sell-through tool kit
more you can help retail employees understand and appreciate your
products, the more comfortable and enthusiastic they’ll be in sharing
their knowledge with customers. So Contech created training materials —
both on paper and online — for floor personnel, telling how to explain
its $80 ScareCrow to customers.
You can go a step farther
and create flyers, business cards or other leave-behinds that sit
handily nearby your products or can be passed out by store personnel.
When she was publisher of a trade magazine, Joyce Gioia reprinted the
mag’s positive reviews of its advertisers’ new electronics products.
She gave them to her ad reps to hand out to retailers, who kept them
handy to give to customers.
“That’s the kind of
value-added marketing and merchandising you need to make sure your
products don’t just sit on the shelves,” says Gioia, now president of
the Herman Group, a Greensboro, N.C.-based business-consulting firm.
Show why your product is better than the other guy’s
a new product shows up in stores, shoppers compare it to existing ones.
Use this curiosity to your advantage by creating an obvious, favorable
in-store contrast between you and the competition. Unique packaging is
one way to do it.
So is aggressive pricing. Consumers have
made Pom Wonderful pomegranate-juice products a hit in supermarket
refrigerator cases nationwide. But they’re pricey. So in offering a
healthful new drink line made from watermelon juice, Brad Oberwager
priced his Sundia-brand products $1.99 to $2.99 for a ready-to-drink
bottle, about half of Pom’s prices.
Our Bottom Line
have to do a lot more than just fulfill your retailers’ orders – you
have to help them sell your products through to consumers. If you come
up with good ideas to place and support them, retailers can be
persuaded to go along.