How To Sell Your New Product and Grow Your Revenue
There are lots of ways to sell and distribute a new physical hardware product, and each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Making the right choice will depend on various factors like your product itself, your product’s retail price, and your target market.
In most cases I recommend that you take a bottom-up approach to sales. So start at the bottom by focusing on the easier distribution channels and smaller retailers.
Once you get some interest from the easier options, then you can use that success to move slowly up to bigger and bigger channels.
For example, I first sold my own product in a single local Ace Hardware store and in a few small niche e-commerce websites. Then, I leveraged those early successes to get other larger channels interested in carrying my product.
Direct Website Sales
The first sales option is to sell your product directly to customers through your own website. This method allows for the highest profit margin since you’re eliminating all middlemen.
Selling directly to your customers also has the benefit of allowing you to engage directly with the end users of your product, which gives you valuable product feedback and customer data.
It’s much more difficult to get data or feedback directly from your customers using most other sales methods.
Another big advantage of direct website sales is you get to keep the contact information for each customer, thus allowing you to sell other products and services to them in the future.
With all of the other sales methods, a third party gets to keep all of the customer data and not you.
Your customers are your most important asset so being able to stay in contact with them is a major advantage of direct sales.
One last advantage of selling direct to consumers via your website is you get paid immediately, or rather you get paid before you even ship the product to the customer.
You can even pre-sell your product on your website and get paid before you have it manufactured.
With the other sales options we’ll discuss you typically won’t get paid until at least 30 days after you ship the order to the retailer or distributor.
Although the downside with website sales is you are only collecting payment on a single unit at a time, so it may actually take you longer to sell your inventory unless you have high demand.
Also, website sales aren’t usually feasible for very low cost products with a retail price less than $10. This is because the shipping cost becomes too high compared to the price of the product.
For large or heavy products the shipping cost of course is even higher, so the minimum feasible retail price needs to be much higher for these types of products.
Ultimately, selling your product on your own website has the lowest barrier to entry, since there is no gatekeeper you need to go through.
You just need a website, a shopping cart, and some website traffic.
You can see the many advantages to direct website sales, which is why it is usually my preferred method to focus on initially.
However, keep in mind, you will need to handle every aspect of the selling process, including marketing, sales, shipping, customer service, and returns.
But, initially at least, I think it’s good that you are doing everything, so later you can better manage others doing those same tasks.
A second sales option is to sell your product on a third party marketplace platform like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Newegg, Tindie, etc.
These platforms have a wide reach and provide access to millions of potential customers worldwide.
However, they charge fees, competition can be intense, and you may have less control over your brand presentation.
Online marketplaces can be a good option for obtaining some initial sales and to get some eyeballs on your new product offer, but rarely will it be one of your larger distribution channels.
Instead of selling via large, open marketplaces you can sell your product through various specialty e-commerce websites.
There are both small and large e-commerce sites out there. The smaller ones will be easier to convince to try out your product.
Small e-commerce sites will likely be some of your easiest wins and from my experience most are very open to testing out new products from entrepreneurs.
Although I listed Amazon as a marketplace, which it definitely is, there are actually two ways to sell via Amazon. You can sell it as a vendor in the marketplace, or you can get Amazon themselves to stock your product.
It’s much easier to list your product as a vendor on Amazon, but if you can get them to carry your product that is even better.
This is what I did with my own product, but it required one of my sales representatives to have existing connections at Amazon, which is the case when selling to any large retailer.
Another option is to sell your product in bulk to brick-and-mortar retailers, who then sell it to their customers.
This method can move large volumes quickly and increase brand exposure, but it generally leads to lower profit margins per unit due to retailers wanting high volume discounts.
It also requires strong sales capabilities to secure contracts with retailers. This means you will almost surely need independent sales representatives with existing connections to large retailers.
For my own product I was able to build up a large team of independent sales reps all across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. Sales reps work purely on a commission basis, so you only pay them after their customer pays you.
That being said, I also personally had considerable success getting retailers to carry my product by directly emailing decision makers at various large retailers.
My first target was a vice president at Blockbuster Video back when they were everywhere. A simple cold email to him led to me presenting my product to them at their headquarters a few months later.
When selling wholesale to retailers the typical price markup is four fold. So, you sell your product to a retailer for double the manufacturing cost. Then, the retailer doubles it again to sell to the end customer.
This is referred to as keystone pricing which gives you and the retailer a 50% profit margin which is a good target. Although it does vary somewhat, and retailers will expect to make a profit margin anywhere from 40-60%.
Instead of selling directly to retailers, you can also sell to distributors who specialize in getting products from manufacturers to retailers.
This can simplify the sales process and quickly get your product into many outlets, but it can also reduce your profit margins further and put an extra layer of separation between you and the retailers selling your product.
Not to mention, it adds a second layer of separation between you and your real customer which is the end-user!
Distributors typically operate on much lower profit margins than manufacturers or retailers. A 10% markup is typical when a distributor resells products to retailers.
In this type of case, you and/or the retailer will take a little less than 50% profit margin to cover that extra 10 %.
If your product has business or industrial applications then you may consider selling it directly to businesses or indirectly through an industrial distributor.
One major advantage of selling industrial products is typically there is a much higher profit margin, and there is no retail price that limits your sell price.
You can also often eliminate the more expensive retail packaging that is designed to sell your product on a store shelf.
Selling your product as a promotional item is a sales avenue similar to industrial products in many ways.
A promotional item is something that another company gives away to their customers with their branding on it.
Common examples are mugs and T-shirts, but if your more unique product could have branding added to it, promotional sales might be an option.
You can sell your product to a promotional distributor who will then handle the process of adding custom logos and branding your product for their various corporate customers.
As with industrial sales, there is also no need for expensive retail packaging.
If your product complements an existing product from a well-known brand, you may be able to partner with them for distribution.
It’s a good way to leverage their existing customer base and distribution channels, but it does require careful negotiation and alignment of business objectives.
Growing Your Revenue
Growing your sales will ultimately depend on many variables beyond just the quality of your product.
Your ability to market your product to a large audience will be one of the most critical components of scaling your startup especially if you are selling it primarily online.
If you are selling via retail stores then marketing becomes a bit less critical, but still definitely necessary for driving sales.
With retail sales your growth will depend more on your ability to build and manage a team of independent sales representatives who will be out there pitching your product to lots of retailers.
Even if you do build a sizable audience and/or a large sales team, your biggest obstacle to growth will at some point be cash flow.
Your best option for improving or even eliminating your cash flow issues is to negotiate favorable payment terms with your manufacturer.
Ideally, you want to be able to pay them after you get paid by your customers. These terms will be challenging to obtain, but if your manufacturer truly believes in your product then it is definitely possible.
For my own product, my manufacturer gave me 90 days, after they shipped the order, to pay them.
This gave me the necessary time to collect payment from the retailers selling my product, since most retailers expect to pay you 30 days after they get their order.
Other options for solving cash flow issues are to use PO financing and invoice factoring.
In these cases you use an existing purchase order, or invoice, to take out a short term loan to pay your manufacturer before you receive payment yourself from retailers.
Unlike a bank business loan, PO financing and invoice factoring are based solely on the credit of your customer, and not on your own credit history.
A final thing to consider is that in most cases you can only grow a company so large by selling just a single product.
Once that first product is a success, you will have learned so much about what your customers want. Then, you can provide your customers with lots of other product solutions in the future.
Your first product is always the most risky and complex to bring to market.
Once you’ve gone through product development, certifications, and setting up manufacturing for your first product, it will be much easier to do for future products.
Selling your future products will also be easier since you will have an existing audience of customers and potential customers from your marketing work on your first product.
Other content you may like:
- How to Price Your Product for Various Distribution Channels
- Lesson 2: The Strategic Way to Develop and Sell Your New Electronic Hardware Product
- How Much to Charge for Your New Electronic Product
- How to Sell Your New Product on Amazon
- Episode #16 – Questions on Outsourcing, Distribution Channels, and the Cost to Market