Selling your soap online has its own unique challenges, as does selling at farmer’s markets. Selling to retail stores might be the most challenging because you have two sets of customers, the store itself and the store’s customers.
Store buyers are busy. Make that the first assumption of your marketing. They’re busy managing the products they already have and usually don’t have time to explore new products. There’s a strong tendency to stick with what works, what’s already selling. It’s up to you, your consistency and your insistence, to overcome store buyers’ reluctance if you want your soap on their shelves. Though the nature of markets differs, the three basic rules of marketing don’t change:
- Generate leads
- Follow up with leads
- Be consistent with both #1 and #2.
Marketing to Local Stores
Nothing beats face-to-face marketing. Most stores have a preference for local products and are very receptive to trying yours out, especially if you take the time to do it in person.
- Remember you have two customers, the store and the store’s customers. Your lead generation needs to take place more than once. Your first goal is to get the store as your customer. Your second is to work with the store to get more people to buy your soap.
- An effective approach to getting a new store account is to offer them a discount on their first purchase with the request that they pass this on to the customers in the form of a discount on the shelf. When you have a face-to-face relationship with the buyer, you can work with them to help generate customer leads.
- Continue to use promotions to gain new customers. Putting the soap on sale every 3-4 months is plenty. If you do it too often, people start waiting for the next discount.
- Don’t be discouraged. Local stores may require consistency and follow-up to land the initial account. Keep supplying them with soap samples until they give your product a try. If your soap is superior to the ones they carry, the buyer and the staff they share it with will notice.
Marketing to Non-Local Stores
Say you’ve identified a non-local market segment, such as natural food co-ops. What can you expect? The process is much the same as the process for marketing to local stores. Lack of face-to-face opportunities, though, make initial contacts and follow-ups more challenging than for local stores.
- Your first point of contact is the HABA (Health and Beauty Aids) department. Once there, you may have to ask for the department buyer. Offer to send them samples.
- Write a script for your phone call. Keep it brief. Most of us can get wordy when we’re under pressure. A script will keep you on track.
- When you send samples, include product information and a price list that shows your opening order discount.
- Make sure to send sample-size soap. Whether it’s bar or liquid, buyers tend to keep full-size products for reference rather than using them. Since your goal is to get them to use your soap, samples are the best way to do that.
- At Botanie, we offer 1-oz bars. Although 1-oz bars are most often associated with hotels, motels, and B&Bs, we sell as many to customers to use as samples as we do to be used as amenities. Those buying them for samples know what they’re doing.