How I dealt with a distribution dilemma
Friday, September 7, 2012/
When you know you’ve got a good product, all you want to do is sell, sell, sell. But what if you can’t find a way to distribute your product? This was the issue faced by Steve Riley.
Riley is the Australian distributor of NoseFrida, a Swedish device that allows parents to suck the mucous from their baby’s nose, enabling them to breathe better.
The tip of the tube-like device is held near the baby’s nostril and the other end is placed in the parent’s mouth.
When the parent sucks on the tube, the pressure removes the mucous from their baby’s nose. A hygiene filter inside the tube catches all the material, making it safe for parents to use.
Riley stumbled across the product online while looking for an ailment for his baby girl, who was born with a severe cold.
He was so impressed with NoseFrida he decided to become the Australian distributor. And while he knew he was onto a good thing, he struggled to find an effective distribution channel.
“I have a really good background in IT – I ran digital agencies in Brazil and England. Online marketing is pretty easy for me, so I thought I would do B2C,” Riley says.
“My premise was to make money but my underlying core values were to offer a good product at a good price.”
“Because I was a father as well, I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to someone else. I set it up online and after a month, I was offering free shipping, with 24-hour delivery, for $10.”
Riley soon found the majority of orders were for Express Post due to the nature of the product.
“The mums weren’t planning for their baby to become sick and, when it does become sick, they want [a solution] straight away – they want it there and then, on the day,” he says.
“I realised I would have to change from B2C to B2B.”
“It was more of a pharmaceutical product than a baby store product, even though I have good distribution in baby stores now, so I started to go to the pharmacies.”
“I approached all my local pharmacies and no one really wanted to know about the product. The only way I could get in was consignment, which was another mistake I made.”
“I also live on the Central Coast, which has the highest elderly population in Australia. If I was selling walking sticks, I would have made really good money but I was selling a baby product.”
Desperate to establish a distribution channel, Riley began promoting the product at baby expos.
“At the expos, there were 20,000 mums and every one of them was telling me that they couldn’t use another product available in Australia and they were having a nightmare,” he says.
“I had no distribution… until I stumbled across a new way to [enter the] market. A mum over in Perth asked if I could give her a box of 10 to sell to her mother’s group.”
“That was on a Friday. On the Monday, she emailed me back and said, ‘Can I have another 20?’ She sold 30 aspirators in only a few days.”
“I studied direct marketing… and put together a good email explaining what I wanted to do. I sent it out to everyone who had bought the product.”
“That was very much a major turning point. Mums believe mums, so I had 50 mums sign up [as distributors] straight away, which pretty much put me around the whole of Australia.”
On the back of this win, Riley decided to have another crack at the pharmacies. He exhibited at a pharmacy convention in Sydney, where NoseFrida was voted best new product.
“We got a lot of really good orders from that and now we’re really well covered in Sydney – a lot of the chemists on board are in Sydney. But I still had no national presence,” Riley says.
“I kept going to baby expos and I was at a Brisbane expo when all of a sudden one lady said, ‘Where is this product ranged?’ I turned to her and said, ‘That’s not a mummy question’.”
“She was one of the buyers for Terry White Chemist… They took the product on nationally and they’ve really backed me up. They gave me the distribution I needed.”
“There’s about 6,000 chemists [in Australia] and I’d be in under 300. Chemmart has now agreed to add the product into all their stores.”
“The other thing I was pretty stoked about was Guy Hinze from Bubs Baby Shops took it on, which is really good, and also My Baby Warehouse.”
Riley, who continues to operate as a sole trader, says while he’s happy NoseFrida has finally hit the shelves, he has no plans to slow down.
“The good thing has been even though I’m only in 300 stores, I am in 300 stores. I’ve also taken on about four or five other really good products,” he says.