Product Marketing: Getting Your Small Business Product on Big Box Shelves

Many entrepreneurs start their small business with a new product they have designed or created. Usually small business production distribution limits the number of customers to local retail stores, arts or craft fairs, and online sales. However, some small business owners have a dream to get their product onto the shelves of major retailers, or “big box” stores, such as Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Sears, etc.

How do you modify your small business’ product marketing efforts to attract big-box retailers as clients? Here are a few important tips to follow to achieve small business distribution on big-box shelves.

Get Buyer Feedback

Before your product goes onto hundreds of shelves around your region or the country, consider what your buyers say about the product. Big retailers do not want to buy a product that still needs “tweaking”.

This means you must hone discerning details that will improve your product for more sales. It could be small things like a change of color or packaging, or even adding more features that customers would like to see. Once you have a near-final product that is accepted by your target buyer, retailers will take your product more seriously.

Make a Splash Locally

Small business product distribution usually starts locally. Don’t expect to develop a new product, start a new company, and be ready to accept big-box retailer offers.

In most instances, you will need to get your product on the shelves of other small businesses around your area and make a track record of sales success. Consider approaching small boutique stores, locally-owned grocery stores, restaurants, etc.

Collect Your Clips and Stats

Be sure that when it is time to approach major retailers with your small business marketing plan, you also have your clippings and statistics ready to show them. Any good press you receive from newspapers or magazines should be clipped and kept in a file. Your sales statistics and increase in small business distribution and number of customers will also make an impression with big-box retailers.

Take Your Product to Trade Shows

Product marketing also includes attending industry trade shows and introducing your product to large retailers. If your small business marketing plan doesn’t already include trade shows, consider adding a show or two.

Though trade shows may be expensive with travel, hotel, booth setup, and sample products, it can lead to big sales.

Even if you don’t land a major retailer, you can potentially find numerous other small retail stores around the country who may be interested in selling your product. These can lead to a nice track record for major retailers down the road.

What is important to remember about trade shows is picking the right ones. Carefully consider the industry of the trade show, and the target market that will be attending. In addition, conduct some more in-depth research to ascertain whether new exhibitors can be successful at certain trade shows. For example, a major drug store convention held annually in San Diego is not as conducive for new entrants, as most of the attendees’ times are spent in meetings with existing vendors.

Choose Your Packaging Carefully

Your product marketing strategy also includes how the product will be packaged. Major retailers, for example, will want to know about your packaging. Will it sit on a shelf or hang on a hook? Does your packaging take up too much extra space if it sits on a shelf? Is it is a food item is it properly sealed from tampering?

Be Prepared to Offer Samples to Retailers

No retailer will want to carry your product without first analyzing it in-house. Be prepared to offer several samples of your product, including packaging, so the retailer can make a better assessment of your product for their customers.

Consider Using a Broker

Sometimes a retail sales broker may be the route to getting your small business product distribution onto big-box shelves. Though a broker may take a cut of your profit, your increased sales may more than make up for the expense.

Don’t Depend on A Single Big-Box Retailer

One large concern that major retailers have about small business products is the distinct possibility of the company going out of business. Not only do you need to prove a historic track record, but you must assure them that they are not your only or biggest client. For instance, if you had one major retailer buying 75% of your product business, what would happen if they dropped or even stopped their orders suddenly? Will your business be able to continue?