Product Distribution Gone Wild
If you just got your products into Sprouts, or expecting to soon, first, Congratulations! If this is your first time selling through distribution, don’t get distracted. You’ll probably soon be in a bunch of other stores you didn’t plan on. Staying the course on your go-to-market strategy is the key to dealing with the challenges that come with distributor business.
Distractions can happen when a friend alarmingly lets you know that your items are retailing for a ridiculously high price at a local market you didn’t even know carried your items.
This news may jolt you into action. First, you’ll be worried that at the high price, it’ll never sell. You might be compelled to put a program in place for this retailer, and all the smaller retailers, so at least it’s on sale some of the time. You’ll feel responsible for supporting these little guys so you don’t “fail”. You’ll start spending time on these small accounts because, after all, this is your baby.
If getting into distribution feels like you’ve let your products loose in the wild and you have no control – well, you’re not wrong.
Turn to your broker to understand what is going on – you’ll get a dizzying amount of info. You will learn how being new activates all kinds of incentives for independent retailers to pick up your products and how you cannot dictate which retailers get the distributor deals and which do not.
But hold on a second, what’s your go-to-market strategy? If the only reason an independent retailer has your products is because they took the distributor deal, why are you spinning your wheels?
Setting a strategy and sticking to it is the key to handling your new business. Maybe you have an independent store strategy for a certain region. In that case you should only be shipping to one DC and you’ll know all the possible retailers that pull from that DC.
The best go-to-market strategies define a geography, a channel, and specific retailers. It can range from a small geo-test to full national launch. The plan will budget for all investment support above and beyond promos including shopper marketing, merchandizing, retail media, and so forth, and will include tracking and analytics. Executing on your plan will require an all-hands-on-deck precision. By letting yourself wander into caring for other placements, you are putting your primary plan at risk.
Don’t get distracted by additional distribution not in the plan. It’s ok to let that go wild. Every good go-to-market has milestones that, when reached, unlock the next new market, and in that way your business expands.
All my best,
I’ve written a lot about food safety, the FDA’s role, and how small brands should think about safety - you can read here and here. Now FDA is reorganizing. Roberta Wagner, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs at the Consumer Brands Association, told the Wall Street Journal that the infant formula incident illustrated why it’s problematic to separate the inspection force from other parts of the foods program. Read about it here
Quantifying carbon and putting it on your label is here. Oatly now has kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents right on the PDP. If you’re confused how to think about carbon neutrality, or scared to even go there, I give you this that I wrote a few months ago.