September 6, 2014
You got a new order. Fantastic! Celebrate and pat yourself on the back. Enjoy the moment, because now the real work begins.
Here are a few areas you will need to quickly focus on:
1. Fulfillment. Do you have the inventory to fill this order? And can you send it to retailers by their expected ship date? Is there anything you need to customize for this account (packaging, hang tags, POP materials, casepack configuration)?
2. Replenishment. Are you able to forecast your replenishment orders and place production orders in time to meet retailer ship date deadlines? What is your plan for chasing orders in the event demand exceeds inventory? Do you have safety stock?
3. Marketing support. Can you drive sales at shelf? Contrary to what you believe, your product will not sell itself. What marketing activity will you implement to grow brand awareness? What retailer-specific marketing programs will you implement (e.g., coupons or advertising that mentions the retailer)? What in-store marketing support will you provide (e.g., POP displays, signage, etc.)? And will you need geo-targeted marketing support or national marketing campaigns?
4. Sales. What are sales or sell-through expectations of the retailer? This is the MOST IMPORTANT question to ask as soon as you receive an order. Make sure you know this so you have a target to shoot for with your above marketing. Monitoring sales is key. If sales are not meeting expectations, you need to be ready with a plan of action for the buyer. Or risk being de-listed. On the other hand, if sales are awesome, you’ll want to tout that to the buyer and use it to either increase inventory orders, shelf space or SKU count. Ask the buyer at the onset if they will share point of sales data with you so you can be a good partner and help them manage your business.
5. Customer service. Put your problem-solution hat on and be ready to provide contingency plans for various scenarios you might face when doing business with this retailer. There are always hiccups; things rarely go according to plan. Your job is to anticipate problems and provide solutions to the retailer. The best vendor partner is one that provides unparalleled customer service. Come line review time, when the decision comes down to keeping you or a similar vendor, customer service will likely tip the scale in your favor.
6. Line extensions. Have some product ideas in the pipeline ready to introduce to the buyer. Innovation and newness are important to buyers because it brings traffic into their stores. And it's always a great way to engage your retail buyers in conversations when you're feeling a bit unloved or ignored. Being able to build a large brand statement is attractive to retail buyers but only have you have proven yourself. And you will have only proven yourself after successfully completing the above 5 checklist items.