The Grind

Want to Land a Massive Retail Deal? Be Careful What You Wish For.

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

For those of you following my mini entrepreneur saga, we got into Target! We're pretty excited but as you can imagine, we're also a little in over our heads. I feel like I've already learned a lot in the process of snagging a major retail deal.

For those thinking of approaching mega companies, here are a few tips:

Related: How Pivoting Helped This Startup Win Over Nordstrom

Focus on growth first.

Maybe try to scale before you pitch large retailers. I'm not saying you can't do it the way we did: lots of plans in motion, none of them finalized; no inventory ready; everything getting done after we get notes. I'm just saying we've maybe never been this stressed in our lives. It might be helpful to look into national barcodes, manufacturing guidelines, inventory management and shipping criteria before you're in a meeting frantically scribbling notes and trying to keep up. Study the retailers you want, and get to know their policies as well as you possibly can... ahead of time. 

It is not a retailer's job to sell your products, it's yours.

To a certain extent I believed a retailer like Target was akin to the golden gates of business heaven. "If we get Target, we'll be instantly famous." False. The work has just begun, and the pressure is on. Once we are on shelves, we have to prove that people want us -- and fairly quickly. Remember, a large retailer does not have time to waste on a product that does not sell. They're taking a chance on us, and we need to show them they made the right choice, right away.

Related: Why Landing at a Big Retailer Wasn't Our Golden Goose

Be ready with a full marketing plan that includes social media, an editorial PR plan (that's already in place, not one you're just starting) and reassurances about how you are going to support the consumer and the store itself. 

It is just one step.

A large retailer can feel like the end all be all, but it is just a step on your growth path. Don't treat it like you're all set and there's nothing left to do. How will your company shift internally to adjust for the new business (and how will you continue to handle your other business)? What are your plans beyond your launch? Where do you see your brand in five years? Ten years? You should at least be thinking about all of this before a large retailer is on your radar (or vice versa)!

Do. You. Have. Cash. Are you sure?

Like totally and completely sure? Have you talked to other brands, buyers, brokers and people who know about money and asked all of their opinions about the cost involved in this type of launch? Better yet, do you have a CFO? Because now is maybe the time to get one. Just when you think you have it all figured out, a gigantic (and totally required) cost will pop up. And I'm talking up to six figures. Maybe that doesn't make you queasy, but I think for many young companies this part can make or break your ability to meet the needs of a large retailer. 

I am definitely learning as I go, so don't think that you have to be 100 percent prepared or you'll fail. More than anything, I hope these tips just make you more ready than we were. I feel so lucky to get to go through this, and I want all businesses to experience the same things as us…just maybe a bit more gracefully. 

Related: How This Startup Turned an Inventory Nightmare into a Customer Gold Mine