How to get your product in stores

The primary goal of any product-based business is to sell as many units as possible. For most types of inventions, that means learning how to get your product in stores.

This article isn’t about how to get your product sold in the Walmarts and Targets of the world, it’s about how to get into small retailers first. The mom-and-pop stores that will prove demand and ultimately help get the attention of the big box retailers.

Why sell your product in stores

If you sell directly to the consumer, for the most part, you have to manage every individual sale yourself. Some businesses set themselves up for that, but other businesses find the work load prohibits their growth due to opportunity cost of that time and resources.

Many businesses know, if you are able to sell to retailers who would then sell to those consumers, you can sell significantly more units with less involvement per unit sold. Learning how to get your product in stores is how you increase volume and scale your business.

Mom-and-Pop shops

Of course, there are countless resources to learn how to sell. But for this article, we are focusing on how to build your list of retailers to sell too. Particularly if your product is a niche product category. This article contains tips on things that can help.

This article is particularly for the type of product that can be found in Mom-and-Pop shops. Even if your product can also work well in big box stores, this article is for you.

Here are some factors that go into deciding if mom-and-pop shops are for you.

More likely to give you a chance

Mom-and-Pop stores are more likely to give you a chance. They offer the easiest path to getting into retail stores to start building a track record of sales. Sales that will then attract the attention of those big box stores as well as larger distributors. Mom-and-Pop stores are more likely to sympathize with the struggling entrepreneur just starting out. They are a lot more likely to give you a chance than larger companies.

Easier to reach the decision makers

It’s a lot easier to reach the decision makers than large companies with multiple layers of people. In a Mom-and-Pop store, you can often simply ask for the manager, or at least who ever does their buying. If your product can be sold in Mom-and-Pop shops, that fact is actually a strong advantage. It’s really really hard to get big box stores to listen to you. 

This easy access also has many additional benefits. The people you will talk too will have a much better finger on the pulse of their customer. They usually talk to their customer every day. This insight can be a significant benefit to you just starting out. They know your target customer well.

Timing your provisional patent 

When planning the IP protection, a provisional patent might be a smart move. But timing your provisional patent correctly can make a huge difference.

Building your contact list is an exercise that is really important to go through thoroughly before you file a provisional patent. The reason is, building these lists take time. A provisional patent might only give you one year, depending on your country. It is critical to make the most of that one year. Wasting it building lists is not a good use of time management. That’s why it’s best to really pay attention to timing your provisional patent well, often around building this list.

Same process as licensing.

This process is similar if not the same process as licensing your product. Or more accurately,  you perform a lot of the same functions in both cases. It’s all about effectively building as large of list as you can of people to reach out too. The main difference is simple the type of people you reach out too. Licensing requiring brands, retail sales being retail stores.


Market Landscape:

The first place to start building this list is to understand the market landscape. What this means is to learn as much as you can about the physical shelf space that your product would sit on. Record this information in a spreadsheet in a way that you can filter and sort.

In store research:

Physically go to the various stores or establishments your product would sell in. This is your in store research. Then figure out what brands would sit next to yours. They don’t have to be competitors, though that would be very helpful. This can just be any complimentary product or just anything related at all. If your product doesn’t have this, perhaps you should question if there really is a market for your invention? Or more importantly, how you expect to reach your target customer.

With these other products, write down what kinds of products they are and also who the specific brand names are. Look over their packaging for any clues as to who their distributors are. Write down any manufacturer’s sku number you find as well as any UPC or other code.

Online store research:

You can also perform online store research in much the same way as you did in store research. Online is easier to see markets and products that you might not have access to. But you likely don’t have as much information available not having the actual packaging in your hand.

Regardless, what you are trying to do is find out who all of the brands are at those stores in your category. But by also doing search engine searches of the type of products, you can find additional brands in the category. Brands that maybe weren’t represented in those stores.

Who do your competitors sell too

With this larger list of brands in the space, you can start searching their websites for lists of retailers they sell too. You want to find out who do your competitors sell too. Brands often publish this information on their website so that it is easier for consumers to find their products. They might be under “Where sold”, “Distributors”, “Retailer List”, etc.

Start collecting and combining these lists of retailers in the space. These are ultimately the businesses you are going to reach out too later.

Also pay attention to any mention of not just retailers, but also distributors and other wholesalers. These should go in their own category to contact later. For the most part, getting a distributor to buy your product wholesale is a lot easier once you have decent placement in stores. But you can also often go to these distributor’s websites and learn about even more products in your space, and their brands.

If you are finding it hard to find this information for any brand, try searching the sku number or even the UPC code. Sometimes that will show you distributor catalogues or other clues.

Pro tip:

You of course should record any email addresses you find for these stores. But you should also look for Contact Forms on their website and copy a link to it. The reason is, when you do contact them. Your email has a much higher chance of getting flagged as spam or ignored than a form submission from their website.

How to get your product in stores

Virtual Assistant:

You can also hire a virtual assistant to scour the web and build these lists. Those who specialize in building these lists can be surprisingly good at it. For the most part, they are overseas and don’t physically go to stores. But that doesn’t stop them from making very good lists.

You can often find Virtual Assistants on websites like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, etc. Their prices are usually very reasonable and they work fast.

There are basically two ways a virtual assistant will do this.

Manual research:

The most effective way are people who scour the internet to do manual research. They research and literally go to the websites looking for subject matter and then the specific contact information from the website.

You can also ask them to then try to also find any relevant LinkedIn profiles of the decision makers. Or ask them to collect other more direct ways of contacting the right people. Though that might be a level not needed until later, especially if this is a mom and pop shop. The general contact info is usually good enough.

One thing to have them pay attention to is what type of establishment they are. If they are a retailer vs a distributor vs they might find an actual brand who is just selling their own brand and might not be a potential customer. Make sure you differentiate what type of establishment they are as the strategy will be different depending.

Code or scraping:

Some use code or scraping software, or even build their own to scrape various places on the internet to compile a list. This can be effective and software has come a long ways. However, it’s not going to provide as accurate of information. There is still nothing like the human touch to only record the useful information and ignore the junk.

Business contact lists:

There are certain companies who sell business contact lists of the contact information for sometimes millions of businesses. This is usually by SIC or NAICS codes from sources like Dun and Bradstreet and other sources. Though this may have value to some, it is usually dated information. Or otherwise not complete enough to be of much value. Building lists manually or with the help of a virtual assistant are usually much better ways of doing it.

Email marketing lists:

You might find people offering to sell you email marketing lists of potential customers. These emails are usually billed as the potential end user. Often these are just random lists of emails with no actual connection as your potential target customer. These are basically lists of emails to spam. If that’s your thing, great, but it doesn’t add the value that you probably need right now.

The point in all of this is to build as large of list of potential retailers of all sizes to sell too, or build as large of list of potential brands to license too. The bigger this list the better. If you think your list is long enough, consider digging a little deeper to make it even longer. No one ever wished their contact list was smaller.

How do you reach out?

How to get your product in stores ultimately boils down to what you say and how you get them to read what you said.

There are a lot of sources on how to sell. Its important to note the context of those sources. For the most part, they are for general sales and otherwise how to step up your sales game fast. Though that is very important and something you will have to eventually address, now isn’t the right time to focus on that. Right now, you just need to know how do you reach out in the initial stages.

Your goal at this stage is to get those first sales to validate the market and start gaining experience on the process. 

Likely at this stage if you receive too many orders, you wouldn’t have the inventory, process or time to deal with it anyway. You likely are wearing every hat for your invention’s business as the only person on the team. Focusing on maximizing sales at this stage can easily work against you. That is why this slow but targeted approach is so important at this stage.

This is the process that works well for independent Inventors. But you will have to pay attention to the wind, and shift as needed in order to cater your particular niche.


Start with formatting the spreadsheet of contacts in a way that you can track who you contact, when and what you said. Using Google Sheets for this is ideal because you can access it anywhere.

You might consider looking for a free CRM spreadsheet or software that you can use to more effectively manage the process.


Go through the list and email them.

Be sure to record if you emailed or if you sent it through their contact form, or Facebook or whatever you used. This way you can start tracking which you had the best luck with. So you know to do more of what works.

It can also be helpful to record what test you used to also track which verbiage worked best. There is a lot of trial and error here to find what works best for you and your market.

Email again:

If you don’t hear from them, wait a certain amount of days before following up. But definitely try again. 

Sometimes your email is making the rounds through their company and they are deciding internally if/ how they will reply. Other times the email just got lost or went to spam. Either way, try again. 

If you emailed before, you might try their contact form this time. OR vice versa.


If after the second, or maybe even third account through email or their forms, you might try a cold call.

You can always call from day 1 of course. Just that calling isn’t always scalable. The secret on how to get your product in stores is it’s a numbers game at first. You can email hundreds of stores in an hour if you really try. But how many meaningful phone call conversations do you think you will get in that time?

If you do call them, have additional questions and things to talk about. If you are going to call, you might as well make the best of it. We suggest before you do, that you read our 3 part series on Idea Validation. Not that you are validating your idea at this stage, but a lot of the information is still useful.

In person:

If any of the stores are local to you, it’s rarely a bad idea to pop in and ask them directly. Of course, this type of sales tactic is far more effective than email, but it’s also a great way to hear what they have to say. 

These can be very informative conversations that you might not have been able to experience otherwise. The knowledge you gain from them can help you better craft your message to be more effective at sales.

But to be clear, now is most definitely not the time to hit the road traveling to talk to retailers in person. It’s a poor use of time and resources at this stage.

What is the message:

This is highly industry specific. But regardless, you want to be as quickly to the point as possible. While still making sure they know what is truly in it for them. 

Though the value your product adds to the end customer is important, what ultimately matters right now is what is in it for the retailer. The sales pitch is different for a retailer than it is for the end customer. The retailer mostly only cares about how much money they will make and how easy it will be to sell.

If you can, have a certain price for a certain quantity of items that includes shipping to their door. Make it very easy for them to say yes and not have to figure out any thing. Or help you figure out anything.

It’s usually helpful to study the art of saying more with less. People tend to ignore long emails. They just do. Your message should be crafted more towards catching their attention to want to learn more. And less crafted towards giving them everything they need to know right away.

You may also want to avoid including a file attachment at first. Even consider if including a link could cause your email to get sent to their spam box.

To help build this message, some of those sales books will be a great resource. There is an art too it for sure. 

But always remember that in your specific instance, your goal is more to prove the market as far as getting into retailers goes. Not to maximize sales as fast as possible.


When it comes to figuring out how to get your product in stores, it simply takes dedication and work. Some retailers are easier to sell to than others, and you can leverage that to your advantage by focusing on that type of retailer first.

You really can experience the snowball effect once it starts to click. And that is what you are really after. Use that as fuel to work yourself towards the Walmarts and Targets of the world.

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