How a Start-Up Landed Shelf Space at Wal-Mart – Wall Street Journal
The most frustrating decision facing all consumer products marketers is the one they have the least control over – distribution. Unlike decisions related to product, pricing and promotion, meeting distribution objectives often means the marketer is at the mercy of retailers’ decision to stock a marketer’s product. This problem is especially challenging for marketers selling products in retail stores where they must battle many other companies that are also trying to convince retail store buyers to sell their products.
When it comes to buyers learning about a company’s products, the most common method is a "push" promotion approach, where salespeople knock on customers’ doors. While getting a meeting with a retailer’s buying staff is not hard for well-known companies, a selling opportunity like this is much more difficult for small companies that have yet to establish a track record. They soon discover that convincing a buyer just to schedule a meeting is as difficult as convincing them to buy the product.
For smaller firms, a better approach may be to use creative methods that capture the final consumers’ attention. Labeled as "pull" promotion, these strategies are designed to target final consumers with the hope they will then ask for the product at retail stores. Once enough voices are heard, it is hoped the retailer will agree to distribute the product.
Here is a story of one creative way that a small company used to build up consumer interest. After several unsuccessful attempts to obtain distribution through the use of sales calls, the company, which sells a somewhat unusual product – tongue cleaner - created a YouTube video that quickly went viral. The interest caught the attention of several retailers including Wal-Mart who agreed to place the product in 3,500 stores. While Wal-Mart claims the You-Tube videos did not influence their decision to stock the product, other retailers did point to consumers' interest in the videos as a key reason for their decision to handle the product.
Orabrush's Mr. Davis says he credits the company's social-media efforts for helping get the tongue cleaner into other retail stores. In some cases, he says store managers approached Orabrush on their own, citing requests for the product from customers who'd learned about it online.
What other techniques can a small company use that may work within a "pull" promotional strategy?