Launching a new business can be one of the most exhilarating experiences in life, but also one of the hardest. It’s hard because every day is filled with obstacles that need to be overcome—and all while trying to keep costs down and profits high!
One important aspect of running a successful company is building up systems for distributing and selling your products. The better prepared you are before launching, the more likely you will be to avoid some common pitfalls along the way.
Here are some tips on how to start thinking about where to distribute your product or service right now.
For many entrepreneurs who have been operating their own businesses without any kind of formal structure, they may simply decide to sell direct from their home or other location (e.g., coffee shop). This approach works well if there isn't much competition in the area, and if customers are able to find you easily. But what happens if there is already another business out there that sells exactly what you offer?
This situation usually arises when you launch a new type of product or service. For example, if you are offering a fitness program based around yoga, pilates and meditation, what would happen if someone else was already providing those services at a studio nearby? In this case, you probably want to consider getting into franchising/affiliations so that people don't feel like they are being "ripped-off" by going elsewhere for what should really be local services. If you were working as a personal trainer, maybe you could get into a franchise arrangement where others provide training sessions under your name. Or perhaps you might choose to become an affiliate marketer for certain companies that produce fitness equipment & apparel, etc.?
In my experience, most small business owners are very savvy and smart enough to see through these kinds of attempts to take away their livelihood. However, I think it helps to understand why someone would try something like this in order to help guide our response. One reason might be due to lack of knowledge. They aren't aware that they can partner with other brands instead of competing against them. Another possibility is due to greed – wanting control over everything themselves rather than having to share revenue with partners. And sometimes it's motivated by poor planning - believing that they won't make money unless they hold onto 100% ownership of the entire process.
So whether you agree with me or disagree, here are three things to ask yourself before deciding to go direct in terms of distributing your product:
1. Am I willing to give up profit margins?
2. Do I want to give up ownership of my intellectual property rights?
3. Does it fit within my overall branding strategy?
Once we’ve decided which route is best to take, it’s time to figure out where to actually physically put our products. There are several ways to accomplish this goal:
Brick & mortar stores -- A physical retail store located somewhere in the community. These can range anywhere from large shopping malls to locally owned shops in neighborhoods. The advantage of brick & mortar stores is that they allow buyers access to real human beings — unlike online retailers where they communicate only via email correspondence. Customers can interact face-to-face in person and often enjoy personalized attention that comes with visiting a bricks-&-mortar location. On the flipside though, opening a physical storefront takes cash flow, overhead expenses and a lot of work. To compete effectively during tough economic times, brick & mortar locations must differentiate their offerings from competitors. Brick & mortar operations are typically established specifically to serve consumers' needs directly, whereas ecommerce sites are designed to maximize efficiency and cut costs. Therefore, it’s critical to carefully evaluate both options before making any final decisions.
Online sales platforms -- Also known as webstores, these websites function similarly to traditional brick & mortar stores. Consumers browse catalogues, pick items off the site, pay using credit cards and then arrange pickup / delivery services. Online sales platforms benefit significantly from economies of scale since they don’t incur the same startup costs associated with setting up a physical presence. Many online sellers report huge margins, even double digits, compared to conventional retail outlets. So again, it’s crucial to thoroughly analyze each option before committing.
Crowdfunding -- While technically not “distribution,” crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are still important tools that enable entrepreneurs to reach potential clients. By tapping into consumer demand, founders can leverage funding from interested individuals eager to support projects related to their interests. Crowdfunding has grown exponentially since 2008 and continues to attract thousands of startups per year. With a little creativity and ingenuity, entrepreneurs are finding innovative ways to use crowdfunding sites to promote their ideas and raise capital. Take note that although crowdfunding sites are great places to pitch your idea, the vast majority of campaigns fail miserably. Be sure to learn from these mistakes first!
Social media marketing -- Social media allows users to connect with brands in unique ways. Brands can target specific audiences based upon age groups, gender, geographic regions and lifestyle choices. Through social media, companies can engage current and former customers, influencers, journalists, bloggers and anyone else who plays a role in creating awareness of their products. As a side effect, social media creates opportunities for cross-promotion between different vendors. You can create buzz on Twitter by tweeting links to articles written about your industry, posting photos of special events and giveaways, sharing videos of product demos and more. Keep in mind that good social media strategies require proper monitoring to ensure content quality, engagement levels and security.
As you can imagine, there are countless possibilities available for distribution. Some methods are easier and less expensive to implement than others, depending on your goals. Your choice depends largely on your budget and resources. Once you narrow down your decision, focus on developing effective communication channels to inform your audience.
There are four basic categories of product distribution models:
1. Direct-sell model -- Distributors sell products directly to end users with no involvement from wholesalers. Examples include mail order catalogs, consignment item sales, flea markets, grocery stores, department stores, discount clubs and convenience stores.
2. Wholesale-retail model -- Sales representatives buy goods wholesale and resell them at marked prices to retailers. Typically, distributors earn commissions, bonuses and incentives based on volume sold. Retailers carry inventory and mark up price accordingly. Examples include big box stores, specialty clothing boutiques, electronics chains, grocery stores and gas stations.
3. Agent-brokerage model -- Agents represent manufacturers and negotiate deals on behalf of brokers. Brokers receive commission fees plus interest payments from agents. Example includes insurance agencies, mortgage brokers and tax preparers.
4. Franchise -- Franchises are similar to agent-brokerages except that franchises exclusively operate under a particular trademark or license. Usually, they pay royalties or advertising fees to the parent firm. Examples include fast food restaurants, hotels and car rental firms.
When it comes to selling fashion, there’s a lot of confusing terminology floating around out there that makes navigating the space even more difficult — especially if you have no idea where to start from.
So what exactly are these terms like "dropshipping," "drop shipping" or "fulfillment by Amazon"? And why does everyone seem to be using them differently? It might all sound very fancy but they really aren't so complicated after all. We'll break down some common terms used in the fashion industry below.
In order for any business to succeed, whether online or off, it must first establish its target audience and figure out who will buy its product(s). But once you've figured it out, how should you go about marketing those items on social media platforms? How do you make sure people actually see what you want to share with them? These questions often come up during our weekly Facebook group sessions (and other virtual meetings) because many brands don't understand how crucial this step is. This isn't something that can be ignored or taken lightly. If you fail at distributing your product effectively, then chances are high that you won't generate much interest in your store.
The most obvious way to promote your new line is through Instagram stories. You could also post pictures of your garments on TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., as well as Snapchat Stories, which allows users to upload short videos instead of still photos. However, before posting anything on social media, consider running ads on relevant websites such as Vogue and InStyle. Not only will doing so help drive traffic back to your website, but it also helps increase visibility among potential customers. For example, if someone searches "plus size women's jeans" on Google, you'd probably want your ad to appear somewhere near the top of the search results page. Plus-size clothing tends to be less popular than skinny jeans, so if you can capture attention right away, it may compel them to click further into your site.
You can also try reaching out to influencers in your niche. Posting sponsored content on Instagram can work wonders if done properly. Make sure to look for influencers within your own demographic. Then, reach out via DM on Instagram and ask for advice on promoting your apparel line. Be aware that it takes time to build relationships with these types of accounts, however, so patience is key here. Also, remember that influencer partnerships take hard work and dedication. Once you've built rapport with one specific person, keep track of that relationship so you don't lose sight of it over time.
Another great way to advertise your new line is by creating a buzz on shopping apps. To do so, you need to ensure that your product descriptions accurately describe each piece. The best way to achieve this is by hiring a professional copywriter to write your description. A good designer should be able to create accurate illustrations as well.
Additionally, think about adding QR codes to every item sold. They allow shoppers to learn more information about your brand without having to navigate away from their phone screens. This is helpful because sometimes, people simply don't care enough about learning about your brand until later when they find themselves browsing through your offerings on another platform.
Finally, don't forget to include links to your website in emails. When sending promotional materials to clients, friends, family members, etc., you can direct them straight to your web address whenever possible. After all, your goal is to eventually turn your followers into real buyers.
If you plan on starting a physical brick-and-mortar shop, acquiring merchandise would likely be your biggest obstacle. Because of this, it's essential to secure reliable suppliers early on. Your options depend largely on the type of gear you'd like to carry.
For starters, if you intend to focus primarily on wholesale drop shippers, you'll need to choose vendors wisely. Look for ones that offer fast delivery times, reasonable markups, quality service, and competitive pricing. Keep in mind that if you decide to become a dropshipper yourself, you'll need to pay higher fees to cover overhead costs, including rent, employee salaries, etc.
If you plan on retailing your wares exclusively on eCommerce sites, finding suppliers becomes easier since you won't have to worry about stockroom maintenance and packing/unpacking procedures. While you can definitely source goods directly from factories, it's worth noting that sourcing from wholesalers gives retailers more control over prices. As a result, you can end up paying significantly lower margins compared to manufacturers.
While it may seem counterintuitive, buying goods from smaller boutiques has several benefits. First, when dealing with independent shops, you're guaranteed a better customer experience due to personalization. Second, small businesses tend to hold onto exclusive rights to certain designs, making them ideal partners for licensing agreements. Third, they typically provide greater flexibility regarding price negotiations. Lastly, while larger companies usually charge higher rates per unit, boutique owners often give discounts based on quantity purchases.
Regardless of where you ultimately purchase your merch, be wary of counterfeit issues. Unfortunately, fakes tend to show up frequently on marketplaces like eBay, Wish, AliExpress, Etsy, etc. By law, trademarked names cannot be misused unless authorized by the owner. So check out reviews, comments, ratings, feedback, etc., prior to placing orders on these platforms. Pay particular attention to grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, incorrect descriptions, missing images, poor communication, etc. Don't hesitate to contact seller profiles if you notice anything suspicious.
Lastly, if you're looking to expand beyond local sales and attract a global audience, partnering with distributors is recommended. Distributors act as middlemen between manufacturers and retailers. Since they handle shipments, packaging, warehousing, returns, refunds, inventory management, etc., they play a vital role in ensuring smooth operations. While large corporations employ dedicated teams that manage logistics, smaller stores rarely have access to similar services.
Unfortunately, working with distributors is quite expensive. According to RetailMeNot, you can expect to spend anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 depending on your needs. Depending on the company, you can either retain ownership of your items or let them handle everything. Either option requires significant upfront investments. Before signing contracts, make sure to research different providers thoroughly and weigh pros and cons of various models.
As mentioned earlier, selling vintage pieces doesn't necessarily require specialized expertise. All you need is a smartphone camera, decent lighting, and some basic sewing skills.
But if you want to avoid wasting money on unnecessary expenses, turning to secondary markets is highly advised. One of the easiest ways to acquire affordable secondhand clothing is by joining Fashlets, ThredUp, Poshmark, or Handy Swap. Each marketplace offers unique perks that set them apart from competitors. For instance, Poshmark focuses solely on listing preowned luxury pieces whereas ThredUP specializes in gently used trendy duds. On the contrary, Fashlets caters mostly to budget-conscious sellers.
Handyswap claims to be the world's largest community connecting consumers with resellers. With nearly 35 million registered sellers worldwide, this app lets you browse listings posted by locals across the globe. That said, this marketplace is relatively new and hasn't yet established itself as a major competitor in the industry.
Poshmark boasts a robust selection of handbags, shoes, accessories, jewelry, sunglasses, watches, and lingerie. What sets it apart from other marketplaces is that it emphasizes sustainability, offering organic cotton, recycled metals, fair trade labor practices, vegan leather, etc. Users can easily sort through thousands of listings created by both seasoned and novice sellers alike.
ThredUp offers a wide range of clothing, footwear, bags, electronics, home decor, jewelry, and beauty products. Like Poshmark, this platform places special emphasis on sustainable initiatives by encouraging designers to produce ethically sourced fabrics and providing a portion of proceeds to environmental groups each month.
Fashlets' primary mission revolves around supporting individual creativity and building communities. Sellers can showcase original artwork, photographs, sketches, drawings, etc. Additionally, this marketplace provides paid membership plans aimed at boosting profits.
In the business world, there are many different ways of distributing your company’s goods but one way that seems to be gaining popularity among entrepreneurs is known as “product canvassing.” This means sending representatives from your own brand out into the field to sell their wares at local businesses.
This can range from simply visiting shops or cafes on foot, to knocking on doors and making personal pitches. The goal here isn't necessarily for your reps to get rich selling other people’s products (although this might happen), rather they want to create excitement around what you have to offer and build relationships with local retailers. In return, these merchants could potentially start promoting your brand by giving discounts or even passing along recommendations about who else would benefit most from shopping at said store.
So, if you’re wondering how exactly do you go about doing all of this yourself, we’ll take you through everything you need to know. We'll explain why you should consider using this technique, how much time it takes to complete such tasks, plus give some tips on how to make sure it goes smoothly so you don’t end up wasting money on wasted efforts.
There are two main reasons why someone may decide to use this method to market themselves. One reason is because they feel like they won’t receive enough attention in-store. Another potential reason is because they think nobody will buy anything while they stand outside waiting for customers to come out. While both scenarios sound discouraging, it’s important to remember that marketing executives spend years honing this skill and learning how to effectively approach strangers. So, before rushing off to try to learn how to do this yourself, let’s see if you’d fare any better.
First things first, you must determine where you’re going to actually find retail locations willing to carry your merchandise. You can either search online databases, contact local wholesalers or distributors, or reach out directly to brick-and-mortar shops via phone calls or emails. Once you’ve determined which establishments you’re targeting, you then choose a day and time to visit them.
Once you arrive at each location, you can set up shop right away. If possible, bring flyers explaining your line of work and ask permission to leave samples behind. Then, wait patiently until somebody approaches you with something resembling interest. After that, follow our next step below.
Product canvassing involves approaching random individuals in hopes of convincing them to purchase your items. It usually includes handing out freebies, showing off your products and demonstrating how great they are. Sometimes, you can also pitch them on getting more involved with your brand’s offerings, whether that means becoming official partners, opening new branches or signing long-term contracts.
When meeting face-to-face, it’s best to avoid asking questions about what kind of products they normally deal with. Instead, focus on talking about current events, trending topics and general news stories. Also, keep in mind that some places might only allow you to stay for a limited amount of time — say 10 minutes max. When reaching out over email or social media messages, however, there’s no such restriction.
If you’re interested in trying product canvassing, here are some guidelines to help you prepare. First, brainstorm ideas on what types of promotions would appeal to those targeted within the specific establishment. Next, figure out what promotional materials to pack in order to increase visibility. Lastly, practice! Make sure you know what you’re saying inside and out before attempting to speak personally with anyone.
Now that you understand product canvassing, here are three useful tips for executing this task successfully.
1) Be prepared. Before heading anywhere, ensure you have plenty of copies of your promotion material. Bringing too few items with you could lead to leaving buyers empty handed, especially if you’re working solo. Additionally, make sure you have cash on hand since credit cards aren’t allowed everywhere. And lastly, never forget to smile and greet everyone politely. No matter how busy a person gets, everybody deserves kindness and respect.
2) Set boundaries. Just like real estate agents often have quotas to meet per week, marketers sometimes have targets to hit for each campaign. As a result, some may rush through the conversation without taking full advantage of their opportunities. To prevent this from happening, establish clear goals beforehand. For example, you can tell yourself to engage in conversations for five total minutes, after which you’ll move onto another target. Alternatively, you can state that you plan to talk to approximately four people during every 15-minute span. Whatever works for you, stick to the timeline.
3) Stay calm, friendly and consistent. Like mentioned above, you shouldn’t expect to become instant friends with everyone you encounter, nor should you pounce upon them immediately once you arrive. Simply listen attentively to whatever comes out of their mouth and respond accordingly. Remember that you’re representing your entire brand, so be mindful of how you treat others—even if you’re the only representative available. Don’t worry if you’re having trouble staying focused; you can still remain attentive by paying close attention to details such as body language and tone. Additionally, if you’re struggling with nerves, pick an item to present and rehearse in front of a mirror before stepping outside. Finally, keep track of times and dates so you don’t waste precious resources on unnecessary visits.
While product canvassing sounds pretty straightforward, you’ll soon realize that it requires quite a bit of finesse. Some people handle situations poorly, leading to unproductive interactions that involve endless backtracking and repetition. Here are some helpful tactics to guide you toward success.
The first thing to remember is to show enthusiasm. Whether you’re talking with a customer, employee or co-worker, maintain a positive attitude that projects confidence and warmth. However, don’t force fake smiles or laugh maniacally during awkward silences. Allowing yourself to appear genuine yet relaxed helps people trust you. On top of that, you’re likely to attract more attention if you’re comfortable.
Next, pay attention to detail. Take note of names, birthdays, pets, children’s names and addresses. People tend to reciprocate by sharing similar information about themselves. Of course, you can skip some of this if you notice a certain individual doesn’t care about knowing specifics. But overall, engaging in small talk can help break barriers and foster a sense of camaraderie. Plus, keeping notes allows you to easily revisit past conversations later down the road.
Last but certainly not least, don’t ever underestimate the power of storytelling. Your job is to connect with your audience emotionally, allowing them to relate to your story. Sharing anecdotes about your life, challenging moments and successes lets people visualize what it feels like to live the lifestyle you promote.
As previously stated, if you’re looking to learn how to execute this strategy properly, here are some helpful hints to follow.
Establish clear goals ahead of time. Determine how long you’re planning on being somewhere and the number of people you hope to meet. Also, decide how long you intend to chat with each participant.
Bring extra promo materials. Always have several copies of flyers, posters and brochures handy. Bring extras in case something happens to destroy yours. Also, don’t hesitate to borrow supplies from nearby shops if needed. Otherwise, you’ll probably have to scrounge for them elsewhere.
Keep tabs on time. Never walk alone. Keep a watch or smartphone app handy to check the clock and record appointments. Also, don’t forget to add breaks between meetings to avoid exhaustion.
Be aware of distractions. Avoid stopping by gas stations, fast food restaurants or parking lots. These areas are typically chaotic and filled with loud noises, which makes it hard to concentrate. Try to hold your meetings indoors or near quiet streets.
Become CEO of your own lead generation software company, just follow our battle-tested guidelines and rake in the profits.