Monday, October 29, 2007

Make the call or do the show?

A received a message from Leah, who attended my presentation at Indigo’s Entrepreneur Series. (She even made a sudden detour on the subway to attend at the last minute! Thank you, Leah!) With a mompreneur friend, Leah has started a line of infant and toddler clothing named Belly Babies. She says, “Happily, the response so far has been great and we are interested at this point in trying out a tradeshow. Can you recommend a good trade show, particularly in Toronto or Ontario? Would you say that this route is the best way to get into retailer stores, or would you advise cold calling?"

There are a few considerations on both sides to weigh before making this decision.

  1. Tradeshows will expose you to dozens, if not hundreds, of potential buyers. A great opportunity to make a number of sales in a short period of time.
  2. Tradeshows will put you right next door to dozens of potential competitors. Buyers are often busy and rushed and it can be difficult to keep their attention.
  3. Tradeshows can have a high price tag with money going to booth space, displays and furniture, electrical, printed materials, and more, not to mention the time and effort involved in preparing for a tradeshow.
  4. Calling on accounts gives you a quiet opportunity to discuss your product one-on-one. This can be a time-consuming process. I recommend that you start with the retailers in your local area. Speaking one-on-one with retail buyers can be a great learning experience and something you may want to do before jumping into an expensive tradeshow.

Whichever you choose, and your answer may be both, be prepared. Have your pitch, product samples, price list, and order form ready to make the sale.

The tradeshows that I have had the best experiences with in Ontario are the CGTA and the Toronto International Gift Fair.

Happy selling!

add to sk*rt

When to use a distributor

In May, Diane Sam launched a new product MoBoleez, a breastfeeding hat. The hats are selling really well and have taken off much faster than she anticipated. But she is now getting inquiries from Japan, Singapore, Kuwait, and New Zealand from distributors wanting to represent her product line. Her question: What do I need to look for in a distributor? Am I better off just selling them through “head office,” or should I try and get distributors? If I do, how do I protect my brand, and make sure they are representing our company well? A couple of them seem like good opportunities, but what do I need to know about them before proceeding?

I also had a number of distributors contact me in the early years of Robeez. And often they seemed like a really good opportunity until we got into all the details. Overseas opportunities can be logistical nightmares. From quotas to customs to local legislation, working with an overseas distributor has the potential to suck up a lot of your time.

My advice: focus your energies on North America. If sales are picking up in Western Canada then look at distributing in the east. If sales in Canada are humming, take a look at the US market. There are loads of opportunities for distribution in both countries. And by focusing your energies on markets close-to-home, you avoid diluting your efforts worldwide.

When you do have extra capacity, you can spend time carefully researching the correct distributor for your product. You want to know how they will represent your brand, where it will be distributed, how it will be priced, and the level of service they will provide. All these elements must be in line with what MoBoleez is all about. If you do decide to work with a distributor, I recommend having a candid conversation with other brands they represent.

Congratulations on your new business!add to sk*rt