China Toy Fair


Making a Case for Mass: Pitching Specialty Products to Mass Retailers

Amy Opheim HRby Amy Opheim, owner, C3 Marketing and Copywriting

It’s show time! The official start of the 2014 sales cycle is marked by Fall Toy Preview in Dallas. The show provides an opportunity for manufacturers to present product to mass market buyers, whose buying cycles are longer than that of specialty toy store owners.

While some product features make perfect sense in specialty—high price point, niche audience, not-so-self-explanatory—the mass market is the Holy Grail for many toy and game manufacturers. But with fewer mass market outlets than ever and thousands of products competing for a very limited amount of shelf space, how can specialty manufacturers catch the eye of mass market buyers?

A sales representative who specializes in selling to a specific mass-market account can help with lots of the legwork. They can help explain which aisle a product belongs in, who buys for that section, what is currently on the shelves, and how mass market buyers might feel about bringing in a new product. They’ll also explain the timing, fulfillment, and pricing requirements for that account. But, specialty manufacturers themselves are the ones who are the most vested in getting their products on the shelves, so they are the ones who can make the most persuasive argument.

Assuming the product line doesn’t feature the hottest kids’ property du jour and there is no extensive TV campaign, one very compelling argument to make to a mass market buyer is to show a proven track record of success in the specialty channel. Of course, success is subjective, so here are some key numbers you can track to help make your case:

  • Number of Doors: There are more than 15,000 toy stores in the U.S. How many of them carry your products? How long did it take you to reach that number?
  • Number of Reorders: Selling something to someone once is one thing, but getting reorders is key. What percent of your accounts have reordered? How many times did they reorder, on average, last year?
  • Number of Product Sold: In total, how many pieces of product did you sell last year?
  • Get Testimonials: Sometimes the personal touch can make a difference. What do store owners have to say about your line? How do they feel it moves in comparison to other products? Can they share any anecdotes (ideally about how customers were lined up to get in and buy your newest release)? Your reps can help you capture these statements.
  • Awards Won: Which awards has your product won? Some awards programs offer entrants the testers’ scorecards and comments, which you can use to grab powerful quotes.
  • Press Hits: Did you get good media coverage for this product in its first year out? Which TV shows, magazines, and newspapers mentioned your product?
  • Social Media Sensation: Did you make a splash online? How many Facebook followers does your brand have? How many of them entered contests to win your product? How many bloggers are talking about your product? What are they saying?
  • Research: Who is your key competition in the mass market? How are they doing? Why is your product better? And, speaking of social media, ask your followers if they’re shopping at the store you’re pitching—it would be great to be able to tell Target that 95 percent of your followers are also Target shoppers.
  • It’s All About the Booth: You’ll need to prove that you are a serious player who’s in it to win it, so your show booth needs to make a serious impression. Invest in the space you need to properly showcase your product, but don’t go so big that it feels empty. Go for professional signage and merchandising units and have your pitch down pat.
  • Cross Your Fingers: Sometimes a buyer’s decision comes down to a gut reaction or a personal connection to your product, so think positive and keep your fingers crossed!

Amy Opheim is the owner of C3, a consultancy helping toy industry partners create clear, concise, and compelling marketing strategies. For more information on C3’s marketing and copywriting services, call (562) 972-1855 or email amysnowopheim@gmail.com.