Recently I’ve been writing blogs about beliefs, confidence, purpose and focus. All really important to build your foundation for personal and business success. Today’s blog has a business theme – I’m writing this really because, I was chatting with Samantha Kelly www.tweetinggoddess.com earlier this week and she suggested that as I know (and love) the beauty business so well, I should share my tips. I hope you find them useful.
As a retail pharmacist, pharmacy owner and later a wholesale distributor in the health and beauty sector, over the past 20 years I have worked with quite a number of beauty brands. Successful brands like St Tropez, Neal’s Yard Remedies, OPI, Proactiv, Sanctuary Spa, Smashbox Cosmetics – and many others. Also, with some not so successful brands, which even though they didn’t work out at the time, provided hugely useful learning experiences.
One of my favourite success examples is about when I was running my wholesale sales and marketing business. With every brand we worked with I always wanted to do the very best we could. I tell this story as it covers all 5 “To Do’s” when launching a beauty brand into retail. This all started with a feeling of connection—on my part. We imported many leading (sometimes not-so-leading) health and beauty brands from all over the world into Ireland, selling into pharmacies, department stores, beauty salons, travel retail, online stores and grocery. My company looked after all the warehousing and distribution, sales and marketing. It was a challenging business (as all businesses are), yet really exciting. The part I enjoyed the most was travelling to conferences and meetings around the world, looking for new “wow” brands, meeting people I wouldn’t normally meet, and being in places I wouldn’t otherwise be. Also, I just loved when a sales pitch went well – you know that feeling?
Early in 2007, I attended a conference in Monaco and came across a new natural face and body personal care brand called Yes to Carrots. I hadn’t heard of it before. I only discovered the brand on the afternoon of the very last day when they were getting ready to pack up and leave. I didn’t have an appointment to see them, and they didn’t have any availability to make time for me. But I just knew our company would make this brand a success in Ireland. I wanted to do this. This brand had instant high-impact and, initially, seemed to tick the boxes of my company’s requirements for a new launch. We had identified a gap in our portfolio for a natural, well-priced, impactful skincare range that had mass-market potential. All that remained, from my point of view, was to meet the people behind Yes to Carrots to see if we connected well and could work together. I’ve never succeeded with a brand or project where the people involved didn’t connect and engage well with one another.
I’m decisive by nature—some would say impulsive—and I made a decision there and then that I would not let this opportunity pass me by. I didn’t even have the opportunity – yet, but I still wasn’t going to let it pass me by. I mentioned Yes to Carrots to an American colleague at the conference, who had actually met one of the founders of the company at a previous event. I pestered her to introduce me and managed to get a very quick meeting with him and their team just as they were packing up to leave on the final day. I told them about my company, said we’d be a perfect fit, and let them know I really wanted to work with them in Ireland. I remember being so excited about the brand, the products, and the potential for huge success in our market. I later found out that Ireland, where I operated from, wasn’t actually on their radar as a launch market—too small.
It took seven months to get them to agree to work with us in Ireland, the longest time it had ever taken my company to reach a deal. I phoned every two to three weeks and emailed in-between calls. After a couple of months, their international representative (reluctantly) agreed to meet with me. I planned for this meeting like never before. The more I worked on the detail of an Irish launch and strategy, the more I believed that this brand would be hugely successful in the market.
The planning was worth it. Because of their timeline (which was slower than my ideal timeline at the time, but which turned out to be for the best), we had time to plan our launch and sales strategy in detail. I invested in quite a lot of inventory, more than ever before with an unknown brand. We immediately made a huge impact with this already impressive brand. Our sales strategy was perfect; PR and promotion worked really well. We even sponsored a big horse racing event and gave the horse a prize of a carrots hamper! We had fun with it. The brand won lots of awards. The result? Net wholesale sales of more than €1.25 million in the first year of working with a previously unknown brand in a small market. The best part was, this really was a job well done. It wasn’t easy, yet the goal was clear, because the brand (and products) was a great one. This gave us the confidence to take action. Interesting, also, was the fact that this success and the learnings from it gave me and my team further confidence in other areas of our work and business. Result!
So, to sum up the 5 “Must-Do’s” when launching a beauty brand into retail:
- Your product/product range must be the best it can be. It’s a good fit with your current company portfolio and your personal/company vision. Also, all cosmetics and beauty products must be registered for sale in accordance with EU regulations. https://www.hpra.ie/homepage/cosmetics/regulatory-information/selling-cosmetic-products-in-ireland
- You know your target customer inside out – both your retail and your end-user customer. You have done your research and you know your product will benefit them & how.
- You’re clear on your numbers. Your profit margins work – for you and the retailer and you have prepared a straightforward, accurate cashflow. This is key.
- You plan in advance:
- Pre-selling in advance for maximum impact is an under-utilised yet really effective tool. Pick a launch date and start to sell to retailers at least 3 months beforehand. It often takes more than one meeting for the retailer to say yes and to agree elements like margins, positioning, marketing plans, window display…
- Your PR and marketing land at the same time as your products hit the shelves. Use social media to build awareness & interest beforehand as well at launch, along with using other relevant media channels. Enter your products into every beauty award competition.
- Your retail point of sale lands with the stock so your brand makes a big splash in-store.
- You have a detailed sales plan with targets which you monitor daily, weekly & monthly. Crucially you are clear on who will deliver these targets and how.
The beauty business is a lovely business to be in – that doesn’t mean it’s easy however. But if you implement the 5 tips above you’re off to a great start.