This is an excerpt from my book ‘Secrets of Success in Brand Licensing’ published in 2011. I interviewed Sarah Swindell from Watermelon and Wendy Munt from Be Inspired Consulting about their experiences over many years in the retail industry dealing with licensed properties.
1. The Retailer needs a clear understanding of the licensed property
This needs to cover general strategy, marketing, merchandise plans, including TV, Movie / DTV / DVD, on-line launches and activity (where applicable). Is there any key competition already in the market place and if so why will your property be that much better? Keep the information focused and clear. They also need a detailed understanding of the market sectors and competitors that the Licensor is also targeting and an outline of any other retail deals and marketing campaigns already in-place and impact (good and bad) this may have. Understand what different angle or opportunity they can work with the Licensor to develop.
Make sure you provide:, regular market share performance updates, month on month growth and reasons for it, new licensees just signed up and in which categories, how the license is performing in other key categories, updates on activity on each licensed property, TV programming and outline initiatives of how a Licensor can help them achieve the same.
2. Understand your Retailers
Really know and understand the individual retailers you are targeting and working with, get ‘under their skin’ to clearly understand their short and longer-term strategies, challenges and priorities. These meetings will be face to face and at least fortnightly, backed up with weekly phone calls with the buyer so they are always up to speed on the latest position. Things move pretty quickly particularly in toy licensing. It’s important to have a two way conversation to build the relationship and you can’t do that through email.
Retailers all have their own unique strategies and methodology and have a clear vision of where they want to develop their business. So really take the time to invest in researching and understanding their market, target customer and core demographic, methodology both in-store and in their on-line merchandising operation before meeting them. Understand those categories on which the retailer is seeing strong sales and growth and then actively seek out suitable new licensed products within them which may be of interest to the buyer. Very often a retailer will expect a unique selling point and exclusivity in the offer. They need to be assured the Licensor has taken the time planning to ensure they give the best help and support to the retailer to achieve great sales. The key sales drivers, objective and over-all strategy for a retailer like Marks and Spencer is unlikely to be driven by Licensing.
Be clear on what the Licensors objectives are and what’s ‘in it for them’ if the buyer meets those objectives? What level of support or incentives the buyer is looking for eg early launches to market, guaranteed stock levels, trading terms, benefits etc? Get visibility of which licensees have been signed up and on what products ahead of supplier previews so that the Buyer can begin planning what space will be given to each property and on what categories. Licensing is becoming ever more important to many retailers and is key to driving great sales in many departments, but the over-riding focus for the majority of retailers firstly has to be their own brand. Work with a retailer’s strategy to develop a joint campaign to best suit both parties.
3. Meet regularly with your retailer
You need to meet regularly, at least fortnightly especially in the toy industry where the market changes so quickly. Follow up promptly with a detailed account of what was discussed and agreed in the meeting along with any updates since. A list of any further outstanding points still yet to be finalised and a realistic timescale of when the buyer can expect to receive a response to ensure product selection will be fine and sales won’t be affected by late deliveries or failed testing.
Ideally have one key point of contact and if the opportunity is substantial and covers multi product category it also makes best sense for the retailer to appoint a key internal contact to coordinate property or brand activity internally cross departments and with the Licensor.
Always meet with personnel at senior management level. Pre-empt any issues and concerns by offering a solution and support the retailer in the run up to launch and throughout the duration of a properties life span. Work together and support the retailer and licensees throughout the product development process to ensure a truly great product is delivered creating the best possible opportunity for the property or brand.
4. Present clear, accurate information and don’t change it later on, especially after range selections! Retailers need accurate product visuals and availability information as well as knowing whether a licensee has been signed yet or not. Otherwise this causes confusion, frustration for the Buyer, loss of faith in the Account mgr leading to wasted time and potential mistakes / arguments later on!
You often only get one chance to really impress, so ensure you are fully prepared and ideally present a focused concise and exciting opportunity aimed specifically at the retailer, which will hopefully have instant appeal and be at the forefront of mind. Present to the whole team and keep your presentation focused, with visual impact. Great samples and memorable / quirky small keepsakes help keep a Licensor’s property or brand in the buyer’s mind.
Buy your copy here so you have time to read it before the Brand Licensing Show.