Positioning Strategies for Winning Over a Retail Buyer
Getting a distribution deal with an established retailer can put you on the fast track to success. But before you get in-store you’ve got to get passed the buyer.
Product development is a gamble. This is real-time stuff. You’ve got to be ready at a moment’s notice. That means a large investment upfront. When the buyer says yes, they mean now. They won’t tell you to go away and come back in three months. If they say no, they mean no, and you’re potentially looking at a lot of wasted time and money.
To get a yes you have to stand out from the crowd. Buyers are inundated with new products every week. Of those products, 90% will go straight in the bin. You see the likes on Dragon’s Den; passionate people with products they believe will fly off the shelves but haven’t got a hope in hell of making it big. The Dragons soon shatter those dreams.
The remaining 10% will be looked at. Only about 1% will make it. That’s around 1 in every 1,000.
The Emotional Goldmine
Buyers are always looking for new because new is exciting and refreshes existing season’s merchandise. But they only have limited space for new. The space made available by products that are on the way out.
The number one priority is your differentiator or USP. There’s no point being an also ran because you’re too late. Somebody else already has that shelf space. But, differentiating through price point, ingredients or functionality is not enough. The real U.S.P.is in the story you tell and the emotional connection you make with the buyer.
For instance, nobody buys a shampoo because it cleans hair. All shampoos do that. However, put a celebrity name on the bottle and you’ve got yourself a story. If it’s Toni & Guy, the immediate thought is that they’ve formulated it themselves and because T & G are celebrated hair dressers who use their products in salons, they must know what is best for my hair. The conclusion; this is a special shampoo.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of being a celebrity so you must find other ways to tell your story. Let’s stick with Shampoos for a moment and look at Aussie Shampoo. Entering the market about 5 years ago, the name and the kangaroo logo tell a good story.
Do Australians have better hair than the rest of us? Who knows. However, we associate Australia with healthy, young, vibrant people. All the words and feelings that you want to associate with your hair care. I wouldn’t know if the formula is different from L’Oreal’s but the Aussie story paints a picture that feels right.
A good name and logo can be just the start. To really stand out you need to make a greater visual impact than your competition. Both M.A.C and Benefit are good examples of products that dared to be different. They differentiated themselves through package design, strong marketing and P.R. that got your attention. They entered a market that was already flooded with cosmetics and got their timing just right. They turned the white and gold cosmetics halls into museums that overflowed with outdated product.
Suddenly you had premium products with serious attitude (M.A.C.) or packaging that was girly, sassy and fun (Benefit). It said that make up didn’t have to be serious; it could be young and flirtatious. Soon after launch I talked to some girls at another cosmetics company who told me in confidence that they loved Benefit because it looked great on their dressing table, and M.A.C was just plain sexy!
There are clearly other important factors; the product has got to do what it says on the tin; it has to be priced right; and it must land on the buyer’s desk at the right time of year. If your idea is truly brilliant, buyers will be brave, and move whole departments to place your new baby on the shelf. But without a strong brand story that connects with the buyer at an emotional level, you won’t get through the door.