Making the transition from bootstrapping and selling your product at small markets to grocery store shelves is no small task. There are no secrets to success, but these five key things can help get your product on the supermarket shelf and keep it there.
Don't Expect Brokers and Distributors to Sell for You
Distributors and brokers represent thousands of products. They're not going to single yours out (with certain regional specialty food distributors being an exception). You've got to be the one pounding the pavement, visiting stores to drop samples off and talking to store managers. Then your distributor will distribute your product.
Follow Up with Buyers
A single visit won't get your products on the shelf at the busiest store in town. You have to follow up about once every quarter. Yes, even if you're worried that you're just being annoying. The buyer forgot about you the second you left the last time.
After a couple days, follow up with an email or phone call.
Once you get on the shelf, follow up some more. Call the buyer to see how things are going. Spend some time developing ideas for store promotions to pitch during your follow-up calls and meetings.
Do Monthly Demos
Demos are awesome. They get you in front of new customers and you meet loyal fans. Plus, you get brownie points from your buyer for spending an afternoon dishing out samples. This shows your commitment to the retailer and your desire to push more product. Many stores only allow one demo slot per month, so schedule your next demo right after you finished your last one.
Keep an Eye on Your Shelf Space
No one buys dusty jars. They tell consumers that your product is old, unpopular, and close to its expiration date. Shine the jar tops with a microfiber cloth, straighten the facings, and pull the product forward. This attention to detail helps you sell more product. Meanwhile, you'll know when it's time to restock.
Start Small and Grow
Everybody wants their product to grow at lightning speed. I urge you to take it slow. You'll be more organized. You'll streamline processes and find out what works in retail. Going from five stores to 500 takes time, money, systems, maintenance, and a lot of sweat equity. Start small, figure everything out, and then make your move to shelf stardom.