From Concept To Customer

By Sakina P. Spruell & James C. Johnson

to see whether they’d be interested in your product, whether they’d buy it, and how much they would buy. Avoid inventory buildup. A lot of startup owners mistakenly think they need to produce outrageous amounts of product to start out with.

  • Good merchandising is essential. It can grow your business and draw customers back to shop. Author and educator Linda Gorchels says merchandising companies are useful because they can help make your product stand out. But be aware: Merchandising companies may charge you as much as 30% of the total shipment. Go to the National Association for Retail Marketing Services (www.narms.com) for more information.
  • Customers and retailers purchase products cyclically. There are also certain times of the year retailers buy certain products. Learn those cycles and time your product pitch and launch. It won’t matter if you have the best product in the world if retail buyers have already made their decisions.
  • Don’t be afraid to set up a meetingwith a buyer. Department stores and boutiques need you as much as you need them. Without your products to sell, they’d have nothing to profit from.
  • Free publicity is always good. Large manufacturers pay to get the word out about their products with advertising, but many startups don’t have those kinds of resources, says Gorchels. She advises entrepreneurs to be their own advertisers and generate as much free publicity as they can. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (www.womma.org) may be a helpful resource.
  • Use the Web. This is a relatively inexpensive and often effective way to reach customers.
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