EVALUATE THE BRAND
Bringing together a team of seasoned experts seems like a no-brainer, but it can be a double edged sword if you don’t do it carefully. The pursuit of retail must remain top priority at all times. If you’re trying to condense what takes some brands months or years down to a 6-8 week sprint, you must consider everything outside of the pursuit of retail a distraction. This includes things like social media, trade shows, and onboarding new hires. These things are time consuming and draining in a period where time is crucial.
"Understanding where your brand sits in the market and which market you play in is of the highest importance."
Identify the tools at your disposal or research the tools you need to conduct brand research, surveys and consumer trends. One of the most often overlooked and undervalued aspects of the brand building process is data. Assumptions or guesses at who the customer is, what types of products people want, which colors are popular, which brands they trust, etc. must be verified in order to have a clear picture of how, where, and when to get into US retail. You can acquire some of this research at huge costs for larger brands/companies, but for most emerging brands, you will have to uncover this with a little hustle. Either through Q&A with retail connections, low-cost online aggregator tools or through lengthy discussions with internal experts and external partners, smaller brands can build a picture on what the market size is, what is growing and what is in decline. To put it simply, if you don’t understand your brand, no one else will.
CHOOSE YOUR PATH
Once you’ve settled pricing strategy and have transparency in cost structure, you must decide how the brand will approach retailers. There are several strategies that will work, but one must be selected and you’ll have to go full-speed ahead with that decision if time is a major factor. Identify the a) distribution partner, b) rep firm, or c) prepare to go direct.
Pros: One point of contact, speed to market, logistical powerhouse, old-school deep ties to retail. It can be a quick and easy way to get products placed at retail if you choose the right distributor.
Cons: Setup is on the brand, can be costly, getting set up and getting them to represent the brand appropriately will take time.
Pros: Established relationships, logistical expertise, 360-degree understanding of setup and business requirements.
Cons: Can be costly, will take a sizable chunk of your margin, may have conflict of interest with other more established clients, primarily provide informational guidance rather than executional assistance.
Pros: No margin given away allows for more aggressive pricing strategy, complete ownership and control over one-to-one retailer relationships.
Cons: No assistance making contact with retailers, relies solely on existing sales team contacts and outreach that may go unanswered, No help with set up, No guidance on requirements, retailers may be slower to respond directly.
WINNING IS IN THE DETAILS
Now that you’ve selected the best method for your brand, you’ll need to reach out, approach and schedule interviews. This will be one of your brand's most important relationships if you choose not to go direct, so it's crucial you treat this decision with care.Each distributor or rep firm will have a different skill set, and stronger or weaker relationships with buyers/leaders at specific retailers. Some have logistical advantages, while others have superior design and branding abilities.
You may have done everything right up until this point, but by selecting the wrong pathway to retail you will negate all of your positive momentum.
Regardless of which path you choose, you need a team or team member assigned to providing setup information to retailers. This information will be pulled from your brands available assets or from e-commerce platforms your brand is already utilizing. Selecting the right person for this task is the difference between being a brand consumers trust or one they pass on when making a purchase. The setup content is tedious, but the quality and accuracy is hyper-critical. Get it wrong, and unnoticed errors may be the deciding factor between adding your items to the cart or your competitors. Setup information can only be uploaded once and will require the retailer to make edits, and the retailer may even charge to make future edits. Getting this information complete and accurate is an often overlooked piece of the larger picture.