As a retail Buyer, one of the most common questions I get is, "How do I reach out to Buyers to get my brand in stores?". The truth is, there is no single method in which to do this. In fact, it all comes down to a matter of preference. This means what works for one Buyer may not work for the other. But no worries, I've got you covered. In this post, I'll share three effective methods in which to reach out to Buyers. Additionally, I've ranked them by my personal preference. Remember, when thinking of how to get your product in stores, it all comes down to who well your product fills an unmet need.
Okay so this one may seem a bit obvious for some. and seem like a complete dud to others. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with Linkedin. It has nothing to do with the platform, itself, but more often than not, my inbox gets flooded with a ton of really crappy pitches. Sadly, I end up deleting most of the pitches I get via Linkedin. So you may be thinking, if that's the case how is it that it's one of the best methods in which to reach out to Buyers? It all comes down to research and technique. For example, if I'm the Buyer for skincare and you reach out about adding your line of leotards to my assortment, I've already clicked the delete button. Even worse, if you start your pitch off with "Dear Sir" and my profile picture alone, makes it obvious I'm a "Ma'am", then you've lost me before I've even gotten through the first sentence of your pitch.
You may be thinking, "Isn't that a bit harsh?" Perhaps, but with hundreds if not thousands of potential options out there, if you can't take the time to do your research, I'm going to assume you're ill-qualified to be part of my assortment.
I get it, sometimes it can be difficult to decipher a Buyer's category of ownership just by their Linkedin profile. I for one, don't have my current category of ownership listed on my profile. Mainly, because it changes so often. If this is the case, just be honest. Let he/she know that you noticed that they work for "X" company and that you are looking to connect with experts within the industry. Ask if they'd be willing to connect and towards the end of the call, ask if they know the appropriate Buyer for your product category and whether they'd be willing to connect you. The worst that they can say is "no" and even still, you will have expanded your network and gotten a bit of insight into the industry.
If you need a bit more guidance on how to craft a pitch email, download my FREE email pitch template. You're welcome ;) .
I personally LOVE tradeshows! As a Buyer, they are a fantastic way to get insight into trends and stumble upon new and emerging brands. Because tradeshows are typically by industry and exhibits are normally grouped by category, it makes my job easier as a Buyer. Often times Buyers leverage this time to meet with existing vendors to get insight into what's in their innovation pipeline. However, the true appeal is the ability to peruse the floor for newness, that you may not otherwise have visibility to. It's also great to just watch which booths get the most traffic from attendees.
I love watching brands in their element,. It's fun to watch how they interact with their product and the audience. Tradeshows offer brands the opportunity to "sell it", without the added pressure of closing a particular deal.. Think of it as a live infomercial.
However, there are two main reasons why tradeshows isn't my #1 pick:
First, COVID, has definitely had a negative impact on retailer attendance at tradeshows. Which is the whole point for brands. In fact, many tradeshows were actually cancelled as a result. Fortunately, as of November 2022, most companies have since reinstated business travel so tradeshow attendance should drastically. improve. in the coming year.
Secondly, tradeshows can be incredibly expensive for brands. If you're a brand just starting out, this can be a major hurdle. However, some tradeshows offer assistance to certain businesses and there are some that allow companies to share a both. Be sure inquire about both. Also, be sure you're attending the RIGHT tradeshow. Every industry has "the big one or two" that nearly everyone in the industry attends (Buyers and brands) so do your homework.
1. Retail Brokers/Rep Groups
First off, you may be wondering, what the heck is a retail broker? No worries, it has nothing to do with the stock market. A retail broker, also known as a rep group, are the "work horses" in retail. They are the liaison between the Buyer and the brand, Typically they have very strong relationships with retailers. They know the ins and outs of how the retailer operates and key timelines. But most importantly, they have solid relationships with retail Buyers. In fact, as a Buyer, often times I will work with retail brokers to help source brands that fill a particular void within my assortment. As I don't always have them time to source them myself. This implies that there is a level of trust between myself and "select" brokers (another huge advantage of using a broker).
For brands, the broker serves as a representative for your company and its products. Their job is to sell your brand and to ultimately convince the Buyer to add it to their assortment. Afterall, that is how they get paid. Typically, brokers will charge a percentage of your sales at the retailer. So that is something to consider when determining the financial feasibility of it all. Typically, rep groups will offer a free consultation to understand your business, its needs, and whether they can help. Keep in mind, that if you find the right broker, they can be worth their weight in gold.