I’m a retailer, here’s how to pitch to me...Part 2
by Dean Salakas, The Party People
Since my last article “I’m a retailer, here’s how to pitch to me part 1“, I have been showered with ice creams, milkshakes, cookies, macaroons and even fairy bread. The fringe benefits from writing that story were so good, I had to do a follow up! That article focused on how to approach your first contact when reaching out to a retailer. The reality is, your chances are a thousand times better if you have a prior relationship with the retailer before pitching.
As much as I would like to think I make all decisions objectively, I am sure there is more emotional than objective decision making than I would like to admit. When considering whether to entertain a vendors pitch, the fact is that if I like you, I am more likely to keep an open mind when listening to what you have to offer. After that, your relationship with the retailer is just as critical because often “fit” is a critical part of decision making for us and this is often decided subjectively rather than objectively where we “use our gut”.
The best way to build a relationship is to give the retailer value for free. That comment probably seems self-serving coming from a retailer but the idea is so that the retailer recognises you as the authority in the field and also so the retailer has a sense of wanting to repay such value. Think of it this way, if we have a problem, the first thing we are going to do is look up someone we already know and see if they can help.
Below are a few strategies to build such a relationship;
Blog/Vlog/Social Media/Email Marketing
Posting great content on a blog, video blog, social media or to an email database is an excellent way to establish a relationship with a retailer. Its also probably the most effort as you will need to constantly provide value over an extended period of time to avoid being unsubscribed/unfollowed. We get hundreds of emails a day so it’s got to be damn good information or its likely to be deleted or even put on the “I’ll read that later” pile which we never get to despite our best intentions.
The Free Report Or Whitepaper
Free reports and whitepapers are a good way of establishing a relationship with a retailer and you can get these in front of retailers through an industry publication, email marketing campaign, advertising campaign, speaker mention, media mention or in conjunction with another software vendor. I personally download lots of free reports as I am always hopeful that I will get one or two gold nuggets. I would certainly recommend requiring an email address to download the report and then email the person who downloaded it to ask why they did. That said, most reports I download don’t add any value whatsoever and have a negative effect on me. I’m usually left thinking that the vendor isn’t really an expert at all so if you are going to provide a report or whitepaper, it must deliver real value.
Speaking At An Event
If the vendor is speaking on a topic at an event or conference, they start with a disadvantage because us retailers automatically assume their trying to sell their product. We assume a bias to the information being explained and we are sceptical when you show best practice because its always convenient that the vendors solution just happens to have all the features the speaker considers best practice. That said, speaking is much like providing a downloadable report because if its really good, you will have us coming up to you after wanting the slides and also wanting to know more about what you do. If it’s not good, then we assume you’re not much of an expert at all. My top tip for this would be to get a retailer to talk on stage instead of a vendor representative. Get them to talk about the journey on the topic and their learnings not specifically about your software. It’s a far more credible, we get more from a retailer who puts a retailer spin on it and we are more likely to come up to another retailer to ask more about the software than to a vendor representative.
The Free Event
If you can create an event that draws potential retailers along, most of the battle is won. You are sure to establish some kind of relationship as we are always grateful for some food, drinks, good time or a combination of these. It also gives the vendor the opportunity to have a personal relationship with me which you just never get from a call or email. This is by far the best way to build a relationship but it also the hardest as we get invited to lots of events so tempting us is always going to be your biggest challenge. Also if it’s not a full day event, I would suggest considering the timing of the event is important for maximum attendance, lunch events are great for digital marketers because it’s on work time but not as great for C levels as it breaks up our day, breakfast is good for C levels with young families because they are used to early starts and dinner/drinks are best for C levels who don’t have kids. C levels with older kids might be a little more flexible but I haven’t got there yet so I cannot talk from experience.
Meet At An Event Or Conference
If you are attending an event or conference, a good approach is to find that retailer to have a personal chat. Ideally you know who they are (look them up on LinkedIn) or you get introduced to them (preferably by another retailer but if not an event organiser is another good option), but if not, going up to have a chat is worth a shot. If you do go up to them, certainly don’t just interrupt them, It happens a lot to us and its not cool. Ideally if you catch me in the coffee line or at the bar, you can be sure that I am not going to knock back your offer to buy my drink and my last article deals with your strategy from there.
We retailers love to have fun and love to learn new things but we hate being pitched so build a relationship before you pitch to increase your chances of getting your message across. The above strategies definitely work best if you do a combination of them rather than just one. Remember you’re building a relationship so just doing one is better than a cold call but ongoing value over an extended period of time is the best way to be top of mind when we need what you’re selling.