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Being Ready to Break Into New Markets

By: Kathy Connolly
Posted: April 28, 2014, from the May 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

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One other area that is often forgotten or ignored is that of warehousing, distribution and administration. Yes, this can be tedious and time consuming, but it is so important to have all of this finalized before meeting with the buyer to present your brand as market ready for their stores. Often buyers are looking at categories that can be a year away from actually writing a purchase order and shipping the goods, but opportunities do present themselves either last minute or during a cut-in period to a store’s planogram. If the buyer turns to you and picks your brand, then you need to be ship ready in an instant.

Ready, Set...

Today’s consumer is extremely savvy and also very brand aware. If she has not heard of your product, no matter how beautiful it may look or what it promises, she most likely will not buy into it. It is up to you to provide the necessary support, both at retail and beyond, to make your new entry known to the consumer. You also should partner with your retailers to build in-store awareness. This helps ensure the consumer chooses your product instead of the competition.

Come prepared with your story for the buyer, including how you are going to educate their customers. Do you homework. Know your competition. That buyer likely is going to have to remove a brand from their shelves in order to replace it with your product. You have to let them know why they should do this. What is your product going to deliver that the brands already on shelf cannot? Make sure you have a lock-tight plan for your strategy and execution.

Start small, but think big. Launch with only your best items, so go with only what you know will be a winning and successful lineup. When you start small and prove your successes, you will more easily gain the trust of the buyer. Then, and only then, can you add to your product lineup of more winners.

Too often these huge ranges want it all and want it now. In today’s market, that will not happen. The retailer today is much more open to “testing” the product in stores before committing to launching new products chain wide. Gone are the days of orders for 6,000–8,000 stores in one retailer appointment. It is much more likely today to have a test market of 50–100 stores, to gauge results before making chain-wide commitments.

In Summary

The industry has changed to the point where brands and retailers have to almost be 100% sure a product is a winner or the buyer is simply not going to even grant an appointment to see your beautiful new line. So, take a step back, pick your heroes and build your brand from there. Use those as your base, and when you have fine tuned your presentation of only those products, then step up to the plate, present your range and its backup support strategies and reach out to the retailer of choice for your requested appointment and presentation.

Too often, the thought process stops with the marketing and sales aspect of launching a brand. Not enough time is given to the process of actually getting the product to market—a critical area for the retailer.

Be precise, concise and have your plans in order. This will lighten the buyer’s workload, which will subsequently give you an edge over your competition. Show you’re worthy of partnering with them to build a successful brand within their retail organization.

Kathy Connolly is the founder of KCC Consulting, which provides turnkey operations to beauty companies that want to expand, particularly into the North American market. Connolly earned her stripes in sales and marketing at brands such as Erno Laszlo, Lancôme, Cosmar, LVMH, Guerlain and Swarovski.