When you open a retail store, you have about six months before your new neighbors don’t see you as “the interesting new store on the block,” and the hype you had when you first opened your door decreases. When you’re a new store, your neighbors want to see what just opened and help your store succeed. Connecting with hotels, cafes, restaurants, and other stores will never be easier than it is during those first six months.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/radiosaigon/3601177763/The idea of hitting these outlets quickly seems like a no-brainer, but given that it comes second to in-store tasks, it tends to fall to the back of the list. My advice is to have a plan of attack for networking prior to the launch of your store. This way you already know who you want to target and the most tactful way to approach them. This certainly irons out the process and saves you time when you’ll need it most.  By researching key businesses in advance, now you’ve just got to set up the meeting, give them the pitch, and close the deal. Given that you’re new, most places are happy to give you time and hear you out, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

If you’ve ever sold tea to cafes you know that price is important, but it isn’t always the primary concern for many small business cafes.  Many of the small business owners I’ve sold tea to don’t seem to care as much about the price as they do about customer service and the relationship I’ve created with them.  Additionally, they value the story they’re buying into and the reliability of buying from someone local.  I’ve found that people buy people, and that’s been the one issue we’ve run into when getting cafes to switch.

While setting up events with local places hasn’t been a problem for us, getting into some local coffee shops has posed a bit of an issue. It amazes me that I can offer a product of equal quality, lower price, comparable packaging, and next day delivery, and I still don’t get the business because the current supplier of tea is “such a nice guy.”  Good customer service can go a long way.

While this whole idea of a plan of attack for hotels, cafes, restaurants, and other close stores wasn’t as strong as one would have hoped, we certainly learned a lot and will be prepared for Store #4.