By Michael Berro, Partner and Distribution Expert at Big Idea Ventures.
Hopefully if you’re reading this, you’re staying home and staying safe during these times. If you are a startup, you’re probably wondering how to allocate your time when having in-person meetings is almost impossible. Here are six tactics to help you build a great distribution strategy from the safety of your home.
1. Create a target list. What stores and distributors do you want to be in over the next 90, 180 and 360 days? List them out by tab and put together a plan to secure them.
Create different tabs by trade channel, account size and desired date. This will help you work on sales forecasts and working capital models. In most startups, the more business you win, the more capital you are going to need. Take advantage of the extra screen time to determine how much capital you are going to need over the short, medium and long-term. We’ve seen more startups fail from running out of money than we have from slower-than-expected growth. After you’ve completed your financial and working capital models, you will also be in a much better position to raise capital from potential investors who will see that you have a buttoned-up business plan.
2. Get on LinkedIn. If you’re stuck at home, so are the buyers that you want to meet with or speak to. Connect with them and send them information about your products.
Refer to the tabs that you created and start reaching out to the people who can help move the needle in your business. Start connecting with buyers of desired accounts and potential brokers and sales reps for your products. If you can’t find some of the contacts that you need to move your business to the next level, ask for help on LinkedIn or other social media sites. There is almost certainly someone in your network that can help you with the connections you need.
3. Set up Appointments. When the virus is over, everyone will be looking to set up appointments with key retailers and wholesalers. Buyers will be buried with requests and catching up when they get back to the office. Now is the time to get on buyers’ calendars for June, July and August before the rest of the world does.
In addition to getting a head start on your competitors for buyers’ time and attention, you’re also demonstrating a tremendous amount of initiative that will be valued by your potential customers. In addition to helping you grow your business, showing this meeting calendar along with the aforementioned financial models will make your company look like a much more secure investment.
4. Reach out to potential investors. Yes, this is a difficult time to ask people for money, but that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time by speaking to them.
In order to get someone to write you a check, especially a large one, the first thing you need to do is get on their radar. When you’re done using your extra time to improve your sales deck, improve your investor deck, tighten up your projections, and lock in appointments, the next thing to do is to start telling people how awesome your business will be when all of this is over. Find strategic investors who will tell you “if you do half of this stuff, please come back to me!” Then, go out and make it happen.
5. Create a consumer email database. This tactic can not only grow your e-commerce business, but will also allow you to reach your consumers during these trying times to communicate with them about product delays, personnel changes, and any other important changes that may be occurring.
There are a bunch of ways to grow your database: offer raffles for customers to send you their email addresses, go through all of your emails while you are stuck at home to make sure any potential customers are in your database, and ask customers on your website and social media to sign up to receive emails about exclusive news and promotions.
Don’t panic. Every challenge is an opportunity. If you’re taking steps to grow your business while others are sitting idle, you will be well-positioned for success.
The only things we should worry about in life and business are the things that we can control. If you’re stuck inside for the next two weeks or two months, the only thing you should worry about is maximizing your time.