“I’ve done my research. I’ve found a great manufacturer for my product line. I’ve pinpointed my brand identity and found my niche market. I’ve even created my logo and brand aesthetic. Now I have to actually sell my product!! Where do I even start?”—
This is a conversation that happens more often than you’d think. The early stages of building a brand involve a lot of creativity and thinking outside of the box. You find a quality product that you stand behind and you make a ton of creative decisions to build a brand around it. Then it comes time to market your brand, and everything becomes logistics and numbers. The truth of the matter is, marketing and selling takes a ton of creativity too!
The market is constantly changing, and we tend to focus on profit when stepping into the retail arena. Your profit is highly dependent on the mode in which you chose to sell. There are five common ways the retail market operates: brick-and-mortar/face-to-face, partnering with other merchants, online/eCommerce, social media, and local markets.
Let’s dive into what those markets look like to you as a retailer, and narrow down what will work best for your business and why…
We’ll start with the most traditional and long lasting of marketplaces—the brick-and-mortar store/face-to-face approach. Since the earliest days of trading, buyers and sellers have come together in a physically to exchange their goods. This is how we’ve done business for as long as we can trace back in humanity. Even ten years ago the thought of face-to-face sales going by the wayside would have sounded insane. How can a business succeed without a physical presence and a customer-facing service?
What we’ve learned over the last decade, and over the last two years especially, is that having an actual storefront isn’t always a benefit to every business. In fact, it’s a financial detriment to some. Brick-and-mortar stores can be expensive. They require a lot of overhead, including rent or mortgage payments, utilities, merchandising, etc. Serving as a fantastic alternative, some modern retailers who are set on having a physical storefront are opting for retail “collectives” or pop-up shops. This allows vendors to come together in a shared space while maintaining control of their own product line—a far more affordable option!
Another affordable way to market your product within a storefront is to sell through another merchant. For instance, if you’re in the skincare business, network amongst estheticians and plastic surgeons. You’ll find that many are open to having a retail business within their practice, but don’t know where to start. Or may you know a hairstylist who really wants to bring a makeup element into their salon! Just remember, networking is key when it comes to selling within someone else’s place of business.
When looking at the landscape of modern retail services, the hardest hitter is going to be an online/eCommerce store. While not every retailer is going to have a storefront, you can bet your bottom dollar that nearly every retailer on planet Earth has access to their product via a website or online marketplace. While a website doesn’t create business via foot traffic, there are ways to sway digital traffic your way. This can be accomplished by knowing who you’re hiring to help. Hiring the right team of professionals to build your site tends to be worth the overhead it costs in the end. Generally, building a website with a Point-of-Sale option is going to cost a decent chunk of money upfront. (Savvy retailers can even build their own!) The main thing to consider with a website is the maintenance costs. A small business website can cost between $50-$300/month to upkeep. If you are thinking about a much larger operation, those costs can go up by hundreds, if not nearing $1,000. However, when compared to the price of a brick-and-mortar store, that cost is almost negligible.
While eCommerce has created a new landscape for retail sales, social media is the previously uncharted territory filling and expanding on that landscape. Social media has opened the floodgates to inspire new purchasing behavior. Going beyond the word-of-mouth and foot traffic approach of yesteryear, small businesses can advertise their product virtually for free. There is no cost for ad space—and building relationships with influencers is the new frontier. There are constant opportunities for free advertising and an algorithm that will help you cultivate a customer base.
Using the “SMART” approach to social media sales is a good tactic if you are just starting off in the arena. Be Specific about your goals. When thinking in terms of followers to your site, set a goal for a specific number of followers you would like to acquire in a set time. Make sure your goals are Measurable. Look at the actual number of likes you have on your posts. How do those numbers compare to the number of followers you have and how many sales you’ve made? Track your sales and how they align with engagement. Use actual measurable data to assess your growth. Set goals that can be Achieved. Don’t set a goal of selling 1,000,000 pieces in 7 days. It’s not attainable. A challenge is good. Setting yourself up to fail is not. Be Realistic. What is your business capable of accomplishing in a very real sense? Reflect on what a realistic expectation is for your business and use it as a starting point. Focus on Timing. Set your goals within a deadline and aim to hit that deadline. Don’t just assume you’ll get to an issue you when you get to it. Set a time and date and make it your objective to resolve the issue by then.
Following this approach isn’t going to make you an instant social media influencer. But it is going to create a structured focus for your business that you can expand upon as you grow. Selling through social media does require a substantial following to gain any real traction. Acquiring that following can take a while, but it can happen organically if you have the patience.
Selling your product line through a Farmer’s Market or Artisan Fair is a great way to promote your business, yourself, and your social media pages too! Recent years have brought a rise to shopping local and focusing our purchasing power to the mom-and-pop shops over huge, big box stores. Most markets and fairs will require a small seasonal fee for a vendor’s permit. Once this fee is paid, vendors can take home 100% of their profit for each event. An added benefit to direct sales and marketing is the ability to collect face-to-face customer feedback in real time. Asking for an immediate response from your customers creates a community in which your clientele trusts you are listening to their input and making adjustments based on the response. You can use these markets to promote traffic toward your other retail spaces too! Create a sign or business card with links to your website and watch as your customer base grows from all angles.
The best part of marketing and selling your own private label product is that you aren’t beholden to anyone but yourself. If you want to use just one of the above approaches, that’s totally fine. If you want to use all five, that’s cool too! There is no limit to how and when you can sell your own product. You just have to weigh out the options and determine what will work best for you and your business. Now go forth and profit!!