This is the first installation in a four-part series. To read more on this topic, check out Parts 2, 3 and 4.
A product line review, also known as a “retail line review,” is a beauty contest, college application, science experiment and MENSA test all rolled into one. Awesome, right?
More precisely, a PLR is a presentation made at the home office of a big box retailer like a Lowe’s or Home Depot. During the PLR, the retailer assesses whether or not your product(s) are a match for their merchandising goals, pricing and what they perceive to be the key components in an ever-changing market. In other words, do they want to invite you to mix and mingle at their party?
The ability of retail buyers at big box stores to shape your business—for better or worse—after a 60-to-90 minute presentation is an intimidating reality. Which is why we’re firm believers that “winging it” is not the way to go. Instead, research-based insights that show the retailer you know your product, the market, andtheir store better than they do is what will get you the win.
First things first:
Winning a PLR isn’t about gaming the system.
The buyers you’ll be pitching to know their business. There’s no cheating your way to a win.
There’s also no need. The real goal is earning a buyer’s trust. Stride into your PLR with guns blazing, and your arrogance can cost you a win. Show them that you’re as serious about growing their business as you are about growing yours, and you’ll prove your value.
Is it possible to get your products on the shelves of a Lowe’s, Target, Petco or Home Depot without going through the hassle and formality of a pitch? Unless you’re an established category leader, probably not. And while making connections with buyers at trade shows and conferences may land you the chance to pitch, it’s no guarantee your product will be accepted.
RELY ON RESEARCH-FUELED INSIGHTS
Contrary to what most people believe, the focus of a PLR is not on selling your product. Any salesperson worth their salt can push a pencil. Instead, a successful PLR is the result of:
Arming yourself with insights
Creating a compelling story
Understanding your product, your competitors, your audience and retail strategy at a level most companies can’t—or won’t—be bothered to learn
Sure, sometimes a product is so fantastic that it sells itself. Sometimes terrible, poorly designed products with awful marketing and execution make it onto the shelves. How? Who knows? All we know is it hurts our eyes (and our little marketing hearts) to look at them.
TELL THE BUYER THINGS THEY DON’T KNOW
For the vast majority of brands out there to shift the balance of power in a product line review—meaning you’re steering the conversation instead of the retailer pummeling you—you have to tell the buyer things they don’t know. Your strategy should always be to go into a PLR knowing more than the buyer does about a category, and definitely knowing more than your competition.
SELL SOLUTIONS, NOT PRODUCTS
Knowledge, however, is only one side of the coin. The flip side is being able to use that knowledge to offer solutions. Think about it. Companies show up on retailers’ doorsteps every day, announcing why the features of “Brand X” are superior. And maybe they are. But who cares? What retailers want to know is how you’ll use those features to bring more consumers into their stores and online and help them sell more product. Period.