It’s one thing to come up with a business idea. It’s another thing to turn that idea into a reality. And yet, even when you have a product in hand, you still don’t have a business. If you want to achieve that, you have to find the customers who actually want to use your invention.
Here are a few takeaways I’ve discovered throughout my years working as a marketing and distribution professional. Use them to navigate through the complex challenges that come with launching a brand in the U.S. marketplace.
1. Pace Yourself
The number one piece of advice that everyone should embrace is the need to pace yourself. Launching a brand never takes place overnight. Even wunderkind brands take time to become established and gain the public eye.
It doesn’t matter how incredible your business idea might be. When you start off, you’re the only one who knows that truth — and it takes time for others to catch onto that fact. If you want to succeed with launching a brand, especially in a marketplace as large as the U.S., you need to maintain perspective.
On the surface, things can be pretty intimidating. The Small Business Entrepreneurship Council reports that there were 6.1 million employer firms in the U.S at the last count, and the vast majority of those were startups and small businesses. Even if you zoom in to a particular sector, like the health and wellness industry, you still face the competition of tens of thousands of other brands.
This isn’t meant to discourage potential entrepreneurs, but to set expectations. If you head into the market expecting the public to receive your products or services as if they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, think again.
No matter how innovative of a product you have, there is going to be competition, and it will take time to show consumers that your option is the best one on the market. So take a deep breath, create a solid strategy, and then be patient. If you can do that, the results will follow in time.
2. Diversify Your Launch
There are a lot of different ways to go about setting up retail channels in the modern market. Most of these are lumped into two broad categories: e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. If you’re debating which of these options to pursue, I would recommend both, starting with an online marketplace. Here’s why.
E-commerce is a powerful and growing form of retail. The pandemic, in particular, saw a staggering 50% growth in e-commerce sales between 2019 and 2021. Everyone is moving their products and services online whenever possible. Even restaurants offer their very physical, real-world, time-sensitive products in an online format now. You can view menus, place orders, and have the food delivered without getting up off of your couch.
What does all of this have to do with launching a brand? E-commerce offers a uniquely accessible way to reach consumers that can scale to the size and resources of a smaller company. You can set up a storefront, create marketing initiatives, and reach customers across the globe, even with a shoestring budget.
It’s always worthwhile to establish a brand online first. Along with being accessible, it also gives you an online presence, which can be a crucial part of the next tip, reaching traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
3. Don’t Underestimate Traditional Retail
I’ve found over my years of experience in the retail and manufacturing sector that everyone tends to gravitate toward being either a brick-and-mortar or an e-commerce apologist. Everyone picks a side and then unapologetically fights to explain why that option is the unequivocally correct choice for launching a brand.
This has led me to ask the question, why do we need to pick a side? Seriously, why can’t we view both of these sales channels as key elements of a successful brand launch?
If you want to get a new product in front of consumers, the quickest and easiest way is to launch online. As you establish an e-commerce presence, though, you don’t have to stop there. On the contrary, you can then use that pre-established street cred to court the attention of larger brick-and-mortar retailers.
Whether it’s through attending an ECRM conference, direct contact with a retailer, reaching out through your network, or any other line of communication, brands that are already established online should use that momentum to get their products on store shelves, too. When I represent clients who are launching in the U.S. to national and regional chains, like Walgreens, CVS, or Target, I tell them about a new brand, and often the first thing they do is look them up. If they find a well-established company online, they’re much more willing to treat them as a legitimate prospect, which can open the doors to some of the largest retail channels out there.
4. Find Partners You Can Trust
My final tip is always to work with someone you can trust. You wouldn’t represent yourself in court. You’d hire a lawyer with experience and knowledge, right? The same goes for launching a brand. Unless you’ve launched a brand in the U.S. before, you’re going to be facing a lot of unknowns as you try to get your company off the ground and running in a competitive environment.
Working with an established distribution partner may come with some upfront costs. But in the long run, it can streamline much of the process. A launch partner can provide key insights and distribution strategies that come from years of experience. This can accelerate your success and ultimately save you untold quantities of resources.
Plus, any industry-specific distributor worth their salt should already come with a solid network of companies that they work with. This immediately puts you on the inside track.
If you want to launch quickly and effectively in a competitive market, you need to think bigger than just having the best product or service. That’s an important starting point, but you also need to assemble the right team to make sure you can take your invention to market and get it in front of consumers promptly.
Launching a Brand in the U.S. Marketplace
The U.S. is a competitive marketplace. But it also is the biggest retail sector in the world — and it can yield untold benefits for any brand that can establish itself and gain momentum.
The important thing is going into the process with the right mindset and strategy in place. So set expectations, treat e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales channels with equal respect, and find a partner that can supercharge your launch strategy. If you can do that, you give yourself the best chance for success as you attempt to take your brand into the largest market in the world.
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