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Getting Your Product to the National Market
Most small business owners have a desire, deep down inside, to go national someday, but it’s a process that takes patience and work. Stick to these steps and you’ll be off and running.
Start off by selling directly to friends and family and the people they refer to you. You can trust them to give you feedback regarding any improvements you can make in your product or packaging before you expand, and, if they’re pleased with your product, they’ll provide some word-of-mouth advertising.
Your next step is to sell a small bulk package to independently owned stores in your area. Call the manager or owner for an appointment to stop by and show them your product and ask if you can sell it in their store.
Clearly this involves determining who you should be selling to. For example, if you design t-shirts, then you’ll want to look into selling them at the clothing store downtown. If interested, they will either sell the shirts for you, while taking a percentage of the sale price for using their store, or buy in bulk and turn around and sell the shirts to their customers, and hopefully ask for more.
Once you’ve had some success on the local level, expand to some stores in your region, including neighboring states. Be sure to have numbers on hand for your sales over the past few months. Consistent or increased demand for your product is a great way to show the regional stores that it’s worth getting involved with your business.
You will need to be successful on the regional level for a decent amount of time (probably at least a year) before you attempt to go national. Depending on your product, the mass market can include everything from large chain retail stores like Wal-Mart and Target, to catalogs such as LTD Commodities or Collections, Etc.
It’s important that you determine where your product will be most successful before you approach retailers. They will know immediately whether your product belongs with their association or not, and you don’t want to waste time pushing to retailers that won’t bite.
Also, be sure that you are ready for mass production before reaching out to the mass-market. If your product is successful, but you can’t meet the demand, then you may risk losing deals with the national retailers. Have the equipment and man power ready to produce your merchandise in bulk before stepping through that door.
Entrepreneur.com: Selling Your Invention
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