(This article was originally published in the Feb-Apr 2016 issue of the The Brass Herald. In Part 1, Dan explains how the idea for ChopSaver Lip Care first came to him. In Part 3 Dan describes the day he found out ChopSaver was going into 7,400 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide. While ChopSaver is no longer sold in CVS stores, this was still a major accomplishment in out product journey.)
A few years into the process, we began to get noticed by dermatologists as the product had tremendous healing properties for even non-musicians. Dermatologists often prescribe drugs for treating severe acne that can also cause extreme lip dryness and chapping as an unwanted side-affect. With a new customer base, we began to market in the medical world despite the fact that the costs were much greater than marketing in the music industry.
Despite years of hard work, I realized our distribution, impressive as it was, was not enough to sustain the company. But the jump from music distribution to mass distribution is a large chasm indeed, and many things needed to happen to position the brand on that level. So I began the process of figuring out what changes needed to be made to even think about doing business with a large retailer. I drew up a “real” business plan, increased our manufacturing capacity and looked for assistance in sales, design and marketing.
Approaching a major US retailer like Walgreens®, Walmart®, and CVS® is a very different process than calling on music stores. The only way you get access to the decision maker (buyer) is to attend trade events in their industry that are tremendously expensive – just to get a 10 – 20 minute meeting. And they rarely say “yes” to a new product the first time they meet you, so you know multiple meetings will have to take place before they will consider taking your product. In our case, we had five meetings over the course of two years with CVS® along with several other major US retailers. Some of these meetings are best described as “speed dating” where you have 15 minutes (timed!) to pitch to a company before moving on to the next. Other meetings that we managed to secure at various corporate headquarters were slightly less frantic!
But it wasn’t just showing up five times that sealed the deal. Just like taking auditions, one has to accept the criticism, improve what you can, and then take another swing at it. Major US retailers make changes to their offerings only once a year. So if you don’t make the cut, it is a long time before you get another opportunity. But I will always remember one meeting (number 3, I believe it was!) when the CVS® buyer said, after showing her our new packaging concept, “Oh, this is infinitely better than your old packaging!” I knew then we were on the right track!
(In Part 3, Dan describes the day he found out ChopSaver was going into 7,400 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide!)