Product Launch Checklist: 10 Tips for a Kickass Sales Sheet by Michelle Spelman

Image via cc flickr by Obie Fernandez

Image via cc flickr by Obie Fernandez

Congratulations! You’ve got your product delivered safely from the factory and you’ve sold some to friends and family.  Perhaps online orders are starting to trickle in on your website.  So, are you ready to sell your new toy or game to retail stores?  Then you’re going to need a kickass sales sheet to help you get your product out there!

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to drop a huge chunk of money on a thousand copies from a high-priced print shop.  Many a new startup company has wasted precious cash hiring a slick, expensive graphic design and print service, only to wind up with a sales sheet that is missing critical information needed to compel retailers to try the product. 

Consider doing it yourself to start

A DIY sales sheet, created using a desktop publishing program, can be printed on quality paper with a decent color printer in your office or at a place like FedEx Kinkos or Staples.  Print them in smaller quantities, as needed, in the beginning.  This strategy can be more effective than a pricey, professionally printed flyer to start out - if the right information is included.  

And here’s why:  if you do it yourself, you have the needed flexibility to revise as you go, tweaking your marketing messages, which often evolve very quickly, as you learn what works and what doesn't, in the early stages of a new product launch.  While the cost per piece may be more to start than if you ordered a thousand at a time, it’s cheaper than spending money on a large quantity that ultimately becomes useless because it swiftly becomes outdated and obsolete.

Give retailers what they need to make a buying decision

The key is this: You MUST give retailers the information they need to place their order.  It seems so simple, but you’d be surprised how many companies – and not just startups – forget to include critical pieces of information.  A kickass sales sheet that proactively answers a retailer’s questions will make it as easy as possible for them to pull the trigger and say, “YES” to your product.

Retailers are crazy busy all the time.  Their minds are going in a million directions.  You only get a few seconds to capture the attention of a buyer with your sales sheet before they move on to something else.  So make it count!

A checklist  of items to include on your sales sheet:

1.     Logo, Product Name and Tagline

Make sure it’s crystal clear what the sheet is about right away. Your logo, product name and tagline should be prominent – one of the first things they see.

2.     Clear, high resolution product images – at least one must be in full color

A spill shot

This type of product photo is most often presented on a white background.  It should include the product’s package and all contents that a customer will find inside it.  So, if you have a card game, this would be the box and the cards fanned out in front of it or arranged as they might be seen during game play.

An environmental shot  (Optional)

This is an image of the product being used or played by people.  Use care here. Keep background "noise" to a minimum so that the eye is drawn to the product.  Make sure that your people are in proper context and look fresh and current.  If the product is for toddlers, this shot should include a toddler engaging with the product.  If the product is for families, include people with a range of ages.

P.O.P. Display shot

This image should give the retailer as accurate of an idea as possible of what the product might look like on their store shelf.  If your product comes with a point-of-purchase box or other display, this image should show exactly what that looks like filled with product - preferably against a white background same as the spill shot.  If your product hangs on a peg, show that.  If it nests or stacks, show that.

3.     Unique selling proposition:  What is it?  Who is it for? What makes it special?

This is what a retailer needs to know in order to effectively pitch your product to their customers.

Make sure you articulate exactly what the product is, and who it is intended for.  So this means that if the product is a card game, say that! If it comes with a book, say it.  Don’t assume that it's obvious and don't make them scan the sheet trying to guess.  If it’s for babies and toddlers, then say that. If it’s for teens, tell them.  If it’s for families and a wide range of ages, make that clear.

If your product is a game, what is the object of the game?  You should be able to clearly articulate this in no more than 2-3 brief sentences.

Consider this:  Depending on your product, a brief telling of your brand's story - who you are, what inspired you, how you came to create the product - can be wonderfully compelling especially to specialty retailers because they love to share back stories on products with their customers.   It can be a powerful selling tactic for you - and ultimately them.

4.     Social proof

Testimonials are the one of most powerful forms of marketing you can leverage.  Ask your early customers for feedback.  Once you are able to get placement in a few stores and they have success selling your product, ask them for a testimonial recommendation that you can share with other retailers and add it to your sales sheet.  This type of feedback helps create momentum as you grow your roster of retailers.

By all means, if your product won an award or seal of approval put it on the sheet.  If you got some love from the media, include an attributed publicity sound bite if you have the room for boosted credibility.  (Ex. “As seen in Chicago Tribune “Best Party Games”)

5.     Product details

This is one of the most important parts of the sales sheet strategy.  If this information is incomplete, you won’t get sales. 

Offering promotional specials and discounts is a great way to attract retailers, but it is a marketing expense and you must account for it in your budget to ensure you remain directionally correct. 

Payment terms are also up to the you.  Offering Net 30 days or other delayed payment terms are attractive to retailers, but can present other challenges if you are unable to collect in a timely fashion. 

Product Number / UPC Code / Product Dimensions

Many retailers require a product number / UPC code.  If you don’t have one, check out GS-1.com for details on how to obtain one.  Give unit dimensions - this allows a retailer to estimate how many pieces will fit on the shelf and plan their merchandising strategy for your product effectively.

PRICING - must-have information

  1. MSRP unit price (suggested retail price)
  2. Wholesale unit price
  3. Case pack quantity
  4. Minimum order amount
  5. OPTIONAL:  Any special promotional offers or quantity incentives – examples include but are not limited to:  Free or discounted demo product sample with first order – this is attractive to many specialty retailers who hand-sell new products by demonstrating how they work inside the store.  Free freight on first order or with a higher than minimum quantity order (you must decide the specifics of this and discern what thresholds you can afford to offer).  Quantity discount – some manufacturers will offer additional % discount on large quantity orders.  Again, this is an individual strategic decision that only you can make and is dependent on your profit margins.  Delayed payment terms – giving a retailer extra time to pay can be an attractive incentive, but proceed with caution.  Retailers are notorious for taking advantage of this and then stretching it out even farther than the original offer to improve their cash flow.  You will have to be diligent with follow up on your accounts receivable to protect your own cash flow if you want to stay in business.

Payment Terms to consider offering

  1. Credit card at time of order
  2. Net 30
  3. Check, credit card or other payment via mail
  4. Blended: pre-pay on first order, extend net terms on reorders

6.     How to order

You can have the best sales sheet ever all set up, but if you don’t tell the buyer how to order, none of it matters.  Be sure to include:

A strong Call-To-Action. 

These are words that ask for the sale.  Examples:

  1. “Order Now”
  2. “Call Today”
  3. “Order Today, We Ship Tomorrow”
  4. “Buy Now”
  5. “Call by 2pm for Same Day Shipping”

Contact information

Make it personal!  Be real!  Retailers are human.  They like to do business with other humans - not faceless companies. 

  1. Name of sales manager
  2. Direct phone number
  3. Email
  4. Fax
  5. Business mailing address
  6. Company name and website address
  7. Social media profiles (this can be something as simple as the small square icons for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. that indicate you or your company can be found on those channels)

7.     Don't forget to proofread!

Have another set of eyes look at your sheet to find typos, text falling off the page, blurry images and check for proper alignment and scale. 

Be ready to revise.  As you go along through the process of increasing retail distribution, you will no doubt learn what is working and what isn’t.  Be ready to adjust the messaging on your sales sheet as feedback indicates.

8.     Keep the font simple!

 Aside from a branded font that might be used in your logo, use a simple, highly readable font like Ariel, Tahoma, Times New Roman or Verdana for all the text on your sheet.  This is not the time for fancy flowery or whimsical fonts.  Clarity and ease of reading is key.  Toys and games are supposed to be fun, but keep the business end of it serious.  It will help reinforce your credibility - which is especially important when you are new.

9.     Layout

How you choose to lay this information out on the sheet is up to you.  There are myriad ways depending on your product.  In general, keep like information together and strive for visual balance.  Create sections or blocks of information that follow this checklist. 

You may be able to fit everything onto one side of an 8.5 x 11 sheet.  But more than likely you will need both front and back to create a sheet that is visually pleasing and not crowded.  If that is the case, you can save money by keeping the color images on one side of the sheet and saving the back side for printed information in black and white.  This tactic can cut printing costs significantly.

10.    Printing tips

Printing on a glossy finish quality paper that is a little heavier than standard copy and printer paper will add panache to your sales sheet presentation. 

Various online printing services can be a good source of savings as they sometimes offer special sales and discounts.  Keep an eye out for specials and coupon codes from companies like Vistaprint, Staples, and OvernightPrints if you decide you really need to order hundreds or thousands of sheets at once.

 

**FOR THOSE WISHING TO LICENSE THEIR PRODUCT, INSTEAD OF SELL DIRECTLY TO RETAILERS, THIS IS FOR YOU:**

Are you interested in licensing or selling your idea to a larger company instead of selling it yourself to retailers?  If so, then you will need a pitch sheet.  This is similar to the retail sales sheet, but there are a few key differences.  If you want to build an effective pitch sheet suitable for presentation to inventor relations professionals, learn how by reading this white paper on the subject by Tanya Thompson, Inventor Relations for ThinkFun.  It also includes a preferred template.

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Michelle 2012.jpg

Michelle Spelman is Editor and Inventor Relations Liaison for Chicago Toy & Game Group. She is a game inventor, and co-founder of Flying Pig Games LLC, creators of award-winning Jukem Football card game. She is also founder of Cincinnati Game & Toy Industry Professionals group, and is the National Children’s Toy Examiner. An independent marketing consultant providing contract services, executive coaching and strategic direction, she’s in her sweet spot when she is working with companies focused on women and family-oriented products and services.    Find her on Twitter!