How To Get Your Product In Stores: The Definitive Guide

If you’re just getting into retail, trying to figure out how to get your product in stores can seem like a huge, daunting task. It’s also such a big part of a DTC brand’s distribution mix that failure really isn’t an option if you want to scale.

Luckily, you’ve got me on your side.

Like most things in business, it’s impossible to totally relay the entire experience to you. It’s something you have to experience to really lock it down. But what I can do is give you the 20% of things you need to do to get 80% of the results and lay it all out for you in a simple, step-by-step format.

So whether you sell homemade products, food products, or something else, this guide will apply to you. Same goes if you’re trying to get into boutiques, grocery stores, or other locations.

Let’s get started.

1. Prove Your Products Sell BEFORE Going Retail 

Every retail store only cares about 2 things…

1/ Selling products that already sell
2/ Selling products that attract more people

This means that the absolute best way to get the attention of any retail store is to statistically prove that there is a big demand for your product. There are 2 ways to do this if you aren’t already selling your wares somewhere else.

1/ Farmer’s Market => Boutiques => Regional => Nationwide
2/ Ecommerce => Regional => Nationwide

The first scenario is the old school route. You’re starting from the absolute smallest possible retail space, which will be a farmer’s market or some equivalent like a pop up shop. Then you use those data points to get you into boutiques, then use those data points to get into regional retail stores, and then use those data points to get into nationwide stores. This step approach is long and slow, but it is proven. So as long as your products sell, it’s a matter of when, not if.

The second scenario is the new school route. Here is where you replace farmer’s markets and even boutiques with ecommerce. Considering you can scale most physical product businesses from 0 to $1MM before even worrying about retail distribution, it’s a safe bet to make. You can then take all of that data and go straight to a regional store and then later to a nationwide store. This is a much faster route to take because of the speed of ecommerce. 

With that said, both work.

There’s also nothing stopping you from doing both at the same time and everything else in between, like starting an Etsy store.

The important part is that you can prove your stuff sells before you talk to them. And if you can use your marketing efforts to help stores get extra people in their stores in addition to your own product sales, then you’re golden. In fact, that should be your goal. Be your store’s cash cow.

2. Create Your Dream 100 List Of Retail Stores

There are literally millions of retail stores across the U.S. 

The good news is that you don’t have to be in all of them. And if you’re just trying to learn how to get your product in stores, then you really only need to get in a handful of local stores to get the ball rolling. The best way I know how to maximize any 1-on-1 relationship is through a Dream 100 list.

Basically, you want to make a list of the top 100 stores you want to be in.

It’s important to note that these aren’t just any stores. These are 100 stores you feel would really move the needle for your brand. So much so that you would fight and persist to get your product in them. Because that’s what it’s going to take.

You can either make one Dream 100 list with all 100 stores you would love to be in.

The other is you can make multiple Dream 100 lists. One for boutiques, one for regional, and one for nationwide. In other words, the top 300 retail stores you want to be in, categorized for each step of your journey.

Both work.

The important part is make a conscious choice of who you want to go after. It doesn’t mean you say “no” to anyone else. It just means these are the stores you’re going to spend the bulk of your time getting into. As long as your choices are aligned with what you can prove, you’re set. This means you’re probably going to get into Target if you just started yesterday. Instead, first focus on boutiques if you’re a new brand.

3. Contact Buyers From Your Dream 100 List

While at this point you might be comfortable with B2C marketing, if you really want to learn how to get your product in stores, this is when you have to put on your B2B hat on and target decision makers the way they’re preferred to be reached out too.

There are 3 ways this is usually done…

1/ Outbound
2/ Inbound
3/ Referrals 

Referrals are when decision makers here about your product from others and decide to take a chance on you based on that recommendation. This doesn’t happen often. It also doesn’t happen predictably. So while it’s always a nice bonus, it’s something you shouldn’t worry much about.

Inbound is when you get people coming to you and asking to be one of your retail partners. This typically happens when you brand reaches some real traction and gets lots of awareness through stuff like PR, influencers, and social media marketing. It happens more often than referrals, but it still doesn’t happen predictably. So it’s another nice bonus, but still not necessarily the best method to build a retail strategy around.

Lastly, it’s outbound. This is the most common path when learning how to get your product in store because it’s extremely targeted, efficient, and predictable. It also takes a fair bit of time, energy, and resources because here’s where you start knocking on some doors and personally contacting buyers.

The three most popular outbound methods are…

1/ Physically walking into stores and asking for the buyer
2/ Sending cold emails directly to the buyer’s work email address
3/ Signing up for a trade show and meeting buyers face-to-face

For best results, you should use all 3 to get the attention of your Dream 100 list of stores. In fact, even if a store isn’t in your Dream 100 list, you should still think about all 3 methods. That’s because while B2B sales may be pretty straightforward, it requires serious patience. Not everyone is going to give you the time of day when you need them too. And when they do, they might not be ready for what you have to sell them.

But as long as you have a great product and lots of persistence, it will happen.

4. Landing Your Wholesale Deal

The truth about learning how to get your product in stores is that it’s a game of B2B sales. I know, it sounds boring and awful. But because the results can be so amazing, it’s worth it.

At this point, if everything went right, you can now pitch your product in-person.

Here’s what you need to focus on…

1/ What you’re selling?
2/ Who is it for?
3/ Why did you make it?
4/ How is it different?
5/ Is it getting any traction?
6/ Demonstrate the product

If your sales pitch covers all of these areas, you’re going to make it a very hard time for your buyer to say no. This is particularly true if you have a great product with a great presentation and a great demonstration. So don’t just make it into a verbal product description. Make it a real pitch!

In addition to the pitch, you’re going to need a sell sheet.

A sell sheet is essentially the equivalent of a rate sheet. Basically, you’re giving them a quick summary of the product and how they can do business with you. More specifically, you want to lay out these data points…

1/ Product images
2/ Pricing information
3/ Ordering information
4/ Customer testimonials
5/ Contact information
6/ Call to action

It’s worth the hassle to hire someone to make it look and sound great. It’s also worth it to customize any information needed to fit the retail partner you’re trying to work with. For example, if your retail partner has a pricing structure, you can point that out and try to work your pricing into their structure. This will usually be known during the initial in-person pitch. Assuming you have no extra context of what to customize though, just stick to your deal.

Besides this, be ready to also send free samples to buyers.

Sometimes, buyers will just let you get straight to the chase by showcasing your product and letting your product do all of the selling necessary. 

5. Promote Your Retail Partners With Ads

Once your products are in retail stores, you should help market them.

This is not a mandatory thing, but it is something you should do if you have the resources. Not only will the sales become the proof you need to get into other stores, but it will make your current retail partners happier and want to keep you. 

The best part is that you’re probably already well versed here.

All you need to do is to work on local Facebook ads that target the exact areas your retail stores are at. This includes using features like Geotargeting and more. From there, it’s a game of using creative to compel people to go. 

There is one small difference about retail vs ecommerce though.

Ads targeted to your local retail partners will generally be more awareness based. This meant it’s not as simple as X dollars in, X dollars out per campaign. With that said, because the area targeting will make everything so much cheaper, it’s not a huge deal. Just put a small part of your budget to this and keep 90%+ for your regular advertising.

If you have an email list, it’s also worth writing an email newsletter to announce you’re now in certain stores.

How To Get Your Product In Target And Walmart

If you want to learn how to get your product in stores, you’ve probably thought about the big guy like Target and Walmart. Well, if there’s something you got from this guide is to not start there.

You want to work up to these guys. 

This way, you have proof of concept that your product sells.

But once you have that proof of concept, the next step would be to get the help of an agent. This is different from the normal process because you just manually doing the outreach yourself probably won’t work. When you’re dealing with big companies like Walmart and Target to get your food products or whatever into stores, you need an intermediary.

These agents specialize in talking and negotiating with these huge companies.

All you have to do is make the job easy for them. Hence why it’s so important to have a great product with real numbers behind them so your agent can sell the hell out of it and the decision makers have no choice but to say yes.

This is something very few “how to get your product in store” guides completely ignore.

How To Get Your Product In Grocery Stores

If you’re trying to figure out how to get your food product in stores, the good news is that it’s pretty simple. Just follow the steps above and you’re good to go. Here are the only modifications to it that I would make.

First, is to start the process sooner.

You don’t have to wait until you’ve made $1MM in ecommerce sales. Many food products with low 6 figures in sales have been able to get into plenty of stores.

Second, is your product must be extra good.

Grocery store retail space is hardcore competitive. Your product must stand out at all costs. So if your food product isn’t delicious and has an extremely good packaging and/or strong value proposition, you need to rethink your strategy.

Again, the goal here is to make it an easy yes for grocery stores to say yes.

How To Get Your Product In Boutiques

If you’re learning how to get your product in stores, then learning how to get your product in boutiques specifically is important. Particularly because it’s usually the 1st or 2nd step of the step up method to getting to bigger stores.

Luckily, they are a lot easier to get into. 

Again, just follow the step above to get the job done.

With that said, there is one thing you can do that can help the process. And this is through intense relationship building. You see, boutiques are small, by definition. This means it’s way easier to connect with buyers.

I’m not saying you have to be friends with them though.

What I’m saying is that it’s OK to take your time with them. These are the small relationships that can catapult you to huge success if you treat them with extra care.

How To Get Your Products In Local Stores

Learning how to get your product in local stores is easy peasy.

Depending on how small we’re talking, you’ll be able to find your way into these stores with relative ease. 

I’ve seen small Kickstarter campaigns with less than $100,000 in sales go directly into small local stores within a year of delivering all of their products. Of course, this is situational and not a guarantee than anyone can do the same. But it is possible.

The important part is to understand the local store owner.

If you can show them that you’re willing to get more customers in the door for them, it’s going to become an easy “hell yes”.

How To Get Your Homemade Products In Stores

If your product is homemade, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that your product is most likely very unique, which is a huge plus for any retail store. However, the bad news is that you lack scale. That’s a problem if you’re going retail because retail is a game of scale.

So, you have to think a little differently.

For example, this might mean having less retail partners because you can only handle so much volume. Another example is focusing on high end boutiques because they won’t need as much inventory since they’re focused on high end sales.

In all cases, the idea is to use your homemade product to your advantage.

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