How to Sell to the World’s Biggest Retailer
During an interview, Duncan MacNaughton, Chief Marketing Officer at Wal-mart, U.S. said, “We are a pretty big company and our size can be daunting to potential vendors, but that isn’t true. We are constantly challenging our buyers to help us be relevant and local. And smaller suppliers play an important role in that. So if you think your company it too small to sell to Wal-mart, think again.”
Wal-mart is open for business and you can sell to them. What does it take to get on their shelves? You do not have to be a large publisher to sell your books to them, but you have to know what you are doing in order to be successful. The submission process is outlined on their website. Follow their guidelines and if your product looks promising, a buyer will contact you for a direct conversation.
Having a quality product is only part of the equation for a successful bid. Your book must be something that Wal-mart customers really want, and can be sold to them at a reasonably low price. Demonstrate that you have Wal-mart customers in mind, and you are not simply focused on selling your books. Your submission package should demonstrate that you have done your homework and should answer these questions on the buyer’s mind.
- What customer research have you done? Go to their website and learn about the company, its customers, objectives, policies and procedures. Visit your local Wal-mart stores to understand the types of books on their shelves. To what demographic groups does the selection address? What needs are being met? Does your content fit in with that selection? Talk with the category buyer to find out about their customers and products. Document your research in your proposal.
- What are the author’s credentials? Provide an author biography to answer the question, “Why is this person qualified to write on the topic?” If submitting fiction, what are your previous titles? What is your training in writing fiction? Do you have significant endorsements and testimonials? Has the author (or the book) won any awards?
- What is your marketing plan? Provide a summary plan rather than a lengthy document. Begin with a brief synopsis of your proposal. Define your target readers and how they fit into the Wal-mart customer composite. In 50 words describe your content and its relevance to Wal-mart customers. Where is your book sold currently, and what are your sales figures? What similar titles were (or are currently being) sold through Wal-mart? List competitive titles, prices and how your book is different and better. “One of the best ways to get your product on the shelves at Wal-mart is to offer us an innovation our customers can’t buy elsewhere,” says Mr. MacNaughton. “We work with some vendors and help them tailor a product to suit our customers. We love to be involved in this upstream innovation,” he adds.
- What kind of promotional support can you offer? Remember that simply having your book on the store shelves does not guarantee sales. What will you do to drive people into the stores to purchase your book? Describe your promotional plans and budget. Include your projected (or current) publicity efforts. What print or broadcast coverage do you anticipate? What is the publicity firm with which you are working? Do you plan to do any advertising? What sales promotional tools will you use to generate repeat exposure and store traffic? Is the author available (and wiling) to do in-store events?
- How can your business play a role in Wal-mart’s women’s economic empowerment initiative? Wal-mart has a formal supplier diversity program designed to expand its base of minority- and women-owned suppliers. Does your business fit into that category?
- What is your capacity to meet their supply-chain needs? Do you have a distributor currently selling books to Wal-mart? It is not a requirement, but it is a positive factor. How many books do you have on hand and how quickly can you print and ship additional copies?
One pitfall is trying to sell Wal-mart a product that has no customers. You might assume that if you can get your book on Wal-mart’s shelves, customers will automatically buy it. That is not true, and is one of the reasons why they have such a detailed product-submission process.
Mr. MacNaughton concludes, “When we manage our business we think about running one store at a time, one aisle at a time—and that’s the way to think about doing business with us. We truly are open to buying from companies of all sizes if they have the right products and plan.”
Brian Jud is an author, book-marketing consultant, seminar leader, television host and president of Premium Book Company, which sells books to non-bookstore buyers on a non-returnable, commission-only basis and conducts on-site training for publishers' sales forces.
Brian is the author of "How to Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns)," a do-it-yourself guide to selling books to non-bookstore buyers in large quantities, with no returns. He has written many articles about book publishing and marketing, is the author of the eight e-booklets with "Proven Tips for Publishing Success," and creator of the series of "Book Marketing Wizards." He is also the editor of the bi-weekly newsletter, "Book Marketing Matters."
Brian is the host of the television series "The Book Authority" and has aired over 650 shows. In addition, he is the author, narrator and producer of the media-training video program "You're On The Air."