Managing retail leads for store brand suppliers

When you’re developing a new product, one of the questions suppliers will often — and should — ask themselves is if the product would be a good fit for private label. More often than not, the answer is yes, as private label continues its steady climb in popularity, skimming away shares from national brands.

But, like any brand, once you’ve done the hard work of getting your innovative idea off the ground and into reality, you have to sell it.

How hard can that be, right? After all, you’ve done your research, so you know there is a need for your product, and a consumer base that would be happy to hand over their hard-earned money for your product. You know what consumers want the product to look like, or feel like, or taste like.

However, as a smart supplier ready to jump into the private label world, you know that it’s not just the end consumer you are pitching your product to — private label means you’ve got to sell to retailers that are on the hunt for new and innovative products to add to their store brands.

And in today’s retail environment, retail buyers are on the hunt for products that will set their private label offerings apart from the competition. Consumer demand for private label is increasing, and differentiating through store brands is critical to many retailers’ strategies. It’s become even more important these days, as more consumers are eschewing bars and restaurants because of the ongoing pandemic; research shows that in May 2020, 22% of consumers bought more retailer brands than they did before the pandemic. 

Pairing up with retailers on private label products can be a challenge, but not an impossible one. For emerging brands, the first step is understanding how to construct a pipeline for leads and track and manage those leads, which can aid you in getting your foot in the door with retailers.

Setting the sales stage
First things first: trying to pursue success anywhere in CPG without developing a strong sales strategy will get you nowhere. Determining that sales strategy is the first building block in generating leads. To do so, you need to ensure that you are communicating your message and product well. Your marketing toolbox — like social media channels, digital sell sheet, or creative content — must be in order. Most importantly, you must have clear language and evidence that you are pursuing retailers for private label products.

Once a sales strategy is set, sales pipeline development can begin. What’s a sales pipeline, you ask? Good question. In short, it’s a step-by-step structure for your sales leads, and each stage gets that lead closer to being a new customer. It also can measure the value of each lead, depending on the stage they are in. (What it is not is a sales funnel, though the two are often confused. The sales funnel differs in that it looks at the conversion rates of prospects during the different pipeline stages.)

The common denominator that keeps the sales strategy humming, and the pipeline flowing, of course, are those sales leads. The meetings you have at trade shows with buyers — leads. The emails you send to retailers that get responses — leads. The samples you send off to interested parties — leads.

But in recent months, as much of the CPG business has shifted to online, suppliers have had to rethink how they uncover new, potential leads. In the past, a lot of that discovery took place at trade shows. With the cancellation of shows due to COVID-19, retail buyers are going digital in their new product discovery. If suppliers want to make and create relevant buyer engagements (ie, leads), they need to make the switch to incorporate digital selling as well.

And as the shift to digital discovery continues, suppliers need to track where those leads have bubbled up from, so they know which of their strategies to attract new clients worked, and which might need some work. Brands that can organize their leads in one centralized, accessible place, easily manage lead activity like buyer contacts, retailer notes, and lead status, will have a leg up over their competition. After all, having leads organized and easily accessible allows a supplier to see which of their practices are working, and where there are opportunities to engage with buyer contacts.

Being able to track leads means better, more efficient management of a retail sales pipeline — using the needed tools to effectively engage with retail buyers, following up appropriately, responding to queries retail buyers may have, and ultimately giving the potential retail client the attention they’re looking for that will make them want to work with you. 

Brands that track, lead
In today’s ever-changing CPG environment, tracking and managing leads isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s essential if you want to be successful, especially when it comes to breaking into the private label world. And when it comes down to it, brands that track and manage their leads, well, lead. Why? A few reasons:

  1. Using tools that help brands track and manage leads shows you understand how to create and effectively use an efficient sales pipeline for retail leads.
  2. Centralizing lead information in a single place enables you and your team to easily follow through on lead queries and requests.
  3. Managing and tracking leads using real-time tools and best practice resources helps suppliers effectively engage with buyers on and off digital platforms.

There are more opportunities than ever these days for private label growth and a supplier has to make their private label interests clear and visible to retail buyers if they want to be successful. Pursuing and tracking retail leads ensures private label suppliers are moving forward and meeting set targets. And much of CPG shifts to online these days, digital platforms are at the forefront of helping suppliers grow their business.

Brandon Leong is vice president of marketing and growth for RangeMe, the online sourcing platform that streamlines new product discovery between suppliers and retailers. Large and independent U.S. retailers use RangeMe as a way to discover innovative new products and manage the inbound product submission process.

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