Launching a new product or small business can be exhilarating. Your idea or invention has taken shape and can be shared with a community of potential buyers. The sky’s the limit. The last thing you need is to realize you missed a step in the process of bringing your product to market.
Even though a new small business can be up and running in as little as four days in the United States, according to the World Bank, take the time to conduct your research upfront about what is needed to make your idea a reality and position your business for success.
1. Start with a Strong Business Plan
The success of your brand relies on a thoughtfully crafted business plan, which will help to better position your product and understand your potential customers and competition. According to the Chamber of Commerce, poor planning is one of the most common reasons that small businesses fail. A business plan is also important because it is an exercise to familiarize you with your brand and what your expectations are for the business.
To develop a successful brand, you’ll need to have your small business registered before you can share your products with the world. What that means is fairly simple: Make sure you process all the necessary business and legal applications.
The structure of your business is the foundation for how you file your taxes and work with vendors. The sole proprietorship is the most common type of business structure selected by small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). How you structure your business will be up to you. The SBA provides many resources for entrepreneurs to determine what structure best suits their business and the guidelines for submitting the required legal documents.
“My advice to others is to make sure you have a plan and take time to really build your foundation,” said licensed cosmetologist Sonya Hernandez founder of Recover Restore Gro, a provider of plant-based options for breast cancer patients seeking to restore their hair after chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Sonya did extensive research to get her business up and running. She identified a chemist and a manufacturer, created a plan and opened a storefront. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she had to pivot and move her business online. However, because a strong website was part of her early plan, Sonya found that the website became the most fruitful source of income during the pandemic.
Link Your Products to Authentic UPC Barcodes to be Retail Ready
The Universal Product Code, better known as the UPC, is a crucial element of your product launch. Embedded in the UPC barcode are 12 numbers that are known as the GTIN or Global Trade Item Number – these numbers uniquely identify products. GTINs are available from GS1 US, a not-for-profit standards organization, and are universally accepted by many retailers, distributors, and other supply chain participants across the globe. In fact, when it comes to e-commerce sales, many marketplaces, including Amazon, will require that a unique GTIN is registered for each variation of a product listed for sale and that it accurately identifies your brand.
For LaBruna Skincare, which is an all-natural line of skin care products, Nina LaBruna had recognized early in the process of starting her business that getting an authentic UPC barcode was one small but important part of her product launch. Not only did it help with selling online and inventory management, but having that barcode in place was a turning point for Nina because when Nordstrom requested to carry her product, LaBruna was ready.
Hernandez described how the pandemic made room for more e-commerce opportunities, but only for those businesses that were prepared. “You have to take the time to know your competition, get a trademark, get the right UPC, know the laws that affect you. It’s a lot to think about, but don’t give up! You could be a week away from a big break that will bring in sales.”
Hernandez saw that type of growth success up close and personal when, as a Sacramento black-owned business, Recover Restore Gro was selected by Amazon as part of their accelerator program. Because Hernandez’s products were clearly linked to her business via UPC barcodes, she was ready to participate.
Market Your Brand across Multiple Outlets
A product launch needs a marketing strategy that will inform your product’s purpose, availability, and suggested retail price. When you begin to market your business, having properly registered your company and uniquely identified your items with GTINs will also help Google understand the products that you are selling. This will make your products searchable and help with marketing efforts, whether you are promoting your product in a retail store, on your website, through advertising, or on social media channels.
While the pandemic disrupted sales in retail stores for vendors like LaBruna Skincare, it also opened up a whole new world of e-commerce marketing. When COVID first hit in 2020, Nina was selling her products in multiple specialty shops, like yoga and fitness stores and clothing boutiques, that had to shut down. She pivoted to marketing online and discovered success through organic social media outreach. Social media influencers who promoted LaBruna Skincare products as a part of their beauty routines made LaBruna’s TikTok account go viral. “We’ve also gotten some press just from our launches and retailer promotion,” explained LaBruna. “We’ve been featured in Forbes and Into the Gloss, Shape, and others.”
Additionally, having built a marketing presence for his brand that clearly defined what the product was helped Jeffrey Lord of AGent+® expand his audience at the onset of the pandemic. AGent+ patented, eco-friendly household cleaning products are proven to reduce bacterial, fungal and viral contamination for up to three days after physical cleaning.
“Our naturally derived, water-based cleaning products use copper and silver nanoparticles to create a protective barrier on the cleaned surface,” Lord explained. “Then on March 19th, the government released a report on the ability of COVID-19 to live on various surfaces. Copper surfaces were tested to be the best at inhibiting COVID-19, causing a further spike in sales.” He explained that having established an e-commerce site and marketing presence was well worth the effort and assisted them in building sales, brand recognition, and loyalty. By mid-March 2020, COVID-19 caused their sales to exceed all of the previous year’s total sales.
Entrepreneurs who have a growth mindset can position their business for success by conducting research upfront and checking off the key actions that will give them the same sales opportunities as major brands. When a strong product presence is combined with a solid business plan and a tailored marketing strategy, you are ready to launch your product.
Michelle Covey, Vice President of Partnerships, GS1 US