Getting into Retail

Build Your Dun & Bradstreet Credit Score

Dun & Bradstreet (also known as DNB or D&B) provides many services, but the one that is relevant to retail vendors is their service which provides commercial data to businesses on credit history. They provide credit ratings for companies.

And just like with personal credit scores, DNB scores can go up and down based on your history. Plus it takes time to build. So yes, they are basically the "Equifax for companies". 

Misinformation exists about whether you need to pay to manage your D&B credit history and score. The answer is NO.

There are two DNB websites and it is really confusing to know which website to go to when you are looking to manage and build your credit score. One of their websites will try to sell you this service. Aggressively. They position it as a concierge service. But whatever you do - do not pay. You should never have to pay DNB a dime to work with any retailer. 

Instead, work to establish and build your credit history YOURSELF.

Here is how:  

1. Go to https://iupdate.dnb.com (a Dunn & Bradstreet website) and find out if your business is already listed. This will also be where you find your DUNS number. Register to use IUpdate. This will allow you to confirm the information they already have on your business (crazy what they have!).

You will also be able to create a user account. Do this. This enables to you continue checking your profile and monitoring your credit score. They recommend checking your score monthly.

2. On iupdate.dnb.com, upload financial statements and submit company information. A peer advised me, "Give them everything they ask for. Sing like a canary". She's right. The more you enter, the more information to boost your credit score. 

3. Click on the "Investigate Payment Experience" option on your dashboard. That is DNB speak for seeing if anyone filed a complaint about late payments or unsettled invoices. If you see any "payment experiences" that you disagree with, go ahead and dispute them. They will usually come right off. Most of these claims are without merit or maybe even be misclassified. No one knows exactly. Just dispute them all. They get taken care of quickly and your score improves as a result. 

4. Use "View Company Report" on the dashboard to make sure everything looks "healthy". Do this monthly. In addition, update your financial information at least 1 to 2 times per year.

Also within the "View Company Report" option is the menu item "Payment". Clicking on that will give you your Paydex score, which is your credit score. Check this monthly.

Updated 12/2 8pm: I've heard from one person that they couldn't view their Paydex score and were asked to call a phone number for it...upon which they got a hard sell to pay a fee. Again, do not pay the fee! I'm looking into this so check back again for another update. For now, I share the screen I got when trying to check my own Paydex score. What did you get?


All of the above can be done in one sitting and all on IUpdate.dnb.com. It is important to do this before applying to become a Walmart vendor. I haven't heard of other retailers requiring an "acceptable" DNB score, but it's a good idea to work on this proactively, as there is little downside in doing so. 

I'm told the above actions can improve your score immediately. And within a month or two, everything will be in good standing. 

Lastly, ask your company's vendors (anyone you have invoiced) to call Dun and Bradstreet to report that you have paid all of your bills on time and with Net 30 payment terms. I haven't been able to confirm that this helps to improve your score. It's currently hearsay. But all indications is that the information DNB collects on you does come from vendors. So be proactive and ask your vendors to report your good payment history - in case it helps! 

And remember, you should NEVER EVER HAVE TO PAY DNB for any of their services. Do the above and you'll be able to build your credit history quickly. 

How This Little Brand Made A BIG Impression With Target Senior Executives (Plus, 3 Actions That Earned Us A Future Commitment)

Last week, I attended meetings at Target for an organic skin care brand (different client from my Walmart trip).

This brand began selling to Target in April 2015. And they first brought me on with the request:

“Can you work with our sales rep to make sure we perform well at Target? And help us grow our shelf space?”

Their request stemmed from concerns that sales were too slow and they were afraid they would not be renewed for 2016. We immediately began digging into sales and coming up with a plan of action.

Simultaneously, Target invited this brand to submit for their big 2016 merchandising and marketing initiative, Made to Matter. This lengthy process included multiple rounds of consideration. Approximately 100 brands would be whittled down to just over 30 brands over several months.

Flash forward to mid-July. This brand scheduled two meetings at Target HQ:

  1. A line review with the category buyer and,
  2. Made to Matter final round pitch presentation to a cross-functional committee of 15+ executives.

How I Got An Order From Walmart in 20 Minutes (True Story!)

Last week, I was in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Have you ever been there? I haven't. And I was excited to go. Walmart and Sam's Club are headquartered in Bentonville and give the town its storied history.

I was there to lead the pitch to Walmart and Sam's Club for a client. It was such an interesting and positive experience that I knew I had to share it with you! Whether or not you intend to sell to Walmart or Sam's Club, this experience is still worth reading about. 

I'll start with the meetings. We had 3 Walmart meetings and 2 Sam's Club meetings. We met with both the Senior Buyers and Buyers for our categories. Within 20 minutes of our first meeting with a Walmart Sr. Buyer, we received a commitment for Feb 2016. My client laughs when she tells this story, but the commitment came so fast I didn't believe it. I actually asked the Sr. Buyer to clarify, "So when did you say you will be making decisions for the February assortment?". His response, "I just did. Your brand is in our assortment." OH! 

What Marketing Do I Need to Do to Impress Retailers?

The momentum of your brand is important, especially for large retailers. Brand awareness does not build overnight, not even with an aggressive marketing budget. Awareness takes time to build. And without it, your product is less likely to sell at shelf. In most cases, a brand less than 2 years old lacks enough brand awareness to support sales at shelf. Therefore, building brand awareness should begin before your product is available in market.

Get comfy. This is a long post. Really, it should be called Marketing 101. 

Where to begin: Start marketing before you launch

Brand awareness building should begin as soon as you lock down your brand name and website domain name. Start building your email list. A free and quick way to set up a landing page to collect emails is http://kickofflabs.com. Building your social media following can also begin early - even without a product ready to sell. Instagram is a great way to showcase your brand personality and begin building brand awareness. These are great ways to start nurturing relationships with your target consumers without spending much money or exposing your IP. Over time these assets will build a following for you. From there, you will have a solid foundation for which to execute a formal marketing strategy.

Why This Brand Is On Fire

FreshKids ~ Healthy Snacks for Healthy Kids: Follow this brand in Instagram

This brand "gets" it. It understands what it takes to emotionally connect with and excite its target consumer, Millennial Moms. 

It understands that Millennials value healthy lifestyles and seek natural, gluten-free foods for their families. It also understands the Millennials influence food trends among older generations. (Food trends)

It understands that in order to make sure kids are eating healthy, it has to also take action outside of homes - and work directly with schools. (Social Responsibility trends)

It understands that product formulation and sourcing transparency are critical measures of authenticity. (Consumer trends)

And it understands the role branding and packaging play in bringing these values to life. (Packaging trends)

Retailers are tripping over themselves to work with this brand. Why? Because it aligns with so many macro-trends and retailers' growth strategies - specifically, it targets the Millennial consumer. 

The Millennial consumer is the most coveted consumer segment in retail in 2015. They have 21% of direct consumer discretionary purchasing power ($1.3 trillion annually). About 40 million Millennials are already parents. And 9,000 Millennial moms give birth every day.* 

While Millennials do their pre-shopping research online, 82% of them prefer shopping in brick & mortar. One Millennial said “You want to touch it; you want to smell it; you want to pick it up.”**

What does this all mean for brands? If your brand positioning and product line are not relevant to this increasingly important consumer, your brand will not be gaining new retail distribution. You will not gain the attention of retail buyers. This is the current mindset of retail. This is now the hurdle for which your brand needs to overcome. 

Take the time to review your brand strategy. Determine if an update or "refreshening" is needed to gain relevance to this segment of increasing importance to all retailers. Look at your innovation pipeline. Are your upcoming product launches moving you towards the direction of Millennials? If not, you may want to think long and hard about revising your 3 to 5 year growth strategy. 

 

Cool infograph about Millennials**


Sources: 

*Who Will Win The Battle For the Millennial Grocery Shopper?, Jeff Fromm, Business Journalsk April 14, 2014

**Who Are The Millennial Shoppers? And What Do They Really Want?, Accenture Outlook Industry Report, 2013.

Trade Show Resource Roundup!

HERE IS A ROUND-UP OF RESOURCES TO HELP YOU CONTINUE YOUR MOMENTUM AFTER THE TRADE SHOW.

 

QUESTION: HOW DO I FOLLOW-UP WITH BUYERS POST-SHOW? 

Answer: Templates for follow-up emails and letters of introduction: http://www.retail-path.com/letters/

 

QUESTION: HOW DO I MAKE SURE I GET PURCHASE ORDERS AFTER THE SHOW?

Answer: http://buyerly.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/trade-show-faq-a-retail-buyer-came-by-my-booth-how-do-i-convert-that-into-a-purchase-order/

 

 

Products To Avoid When Launching Products Into Retail

I see A LOT of product launches. Even in my post-retail buyer life, I remain inundated by new products. 

Each week, I get introduced to, or contacted by, 20-25 new brands. And over 4 years that is a crap load of product! 

There are a few product categories that I see often with little product differentiation. For me, these represent what NOT to launch. Why? Because the market place is crowded and little product differentiation can be achieved through R&D or claims.

Sure, product differentiation can be achieved in these categories. But it is an uphill battle for new brands with limited funds or access to R&D. 

HERE ARE THE TOP 5 ITEMS THAT GET PITCHED TO ME:

What If the Retailer Says That They Are Not Interested? Then What?

Use a “no” as an opportunity to get more information to improve your pitch.

Never receive a “no” without following up to ask “what would you like to see done differently?”  Remember, a “yes” means that you have satisfied the buyer’s requirements in three areas:

1)      Product, pricing and packaging are all in order

2)      Your supply chain, inventory management and customer support operations are all in order

3)      You have a marketing plan for how you will build awareness and drive sales to shelf

How Is A Buyer's Performance Measured; and Why Should I Care?

I’ll start with why you should care. Understanding how buyers’ are ‘goaled’ helps you frame how to pitch your product to buyers. These goals dictate how buyers make decisions…everything from which vendor to work with, which products to introduce into their assortment and when, plus at what cost and markup. The better you can connect the dots between your product and how your product helps the buyer meet their performance goals, the harder it is for a buyer to tell you “no”.