Whether you exclusively deal with niche products or stock just a few, it’s essential to pay careful attention to specialty markets in order to stay competitive at every point in the supply chain. At Sex Toy Distributing, we are known not only for stocking items from the biggest brands in the industry, but we also have a strong reputation for niche representation. We carry some of the most in-demand fetish products, apparel and accessories, and our staff has honed their trend-forecasting skills to keep customers and partners in-the-know regarding the next big thing.
But niche markets have their own unique needs and concerns, and it takes attention and skill to be able to handle them head-on. Here’s how companies like Sex Toy Distributing have learned to navigate this important category.
Know your people like you know the products.
The first step in effectively servicing a niche is knowledge — at least learning all you can. From product specifics, competitor details, or end-user needs, Sex Toy Distributing considers all of this information to be invaluable and there are a variety of resources that can be used to stay up-to-date:
• Learn from your distributor. SexToyDistributing.com provides one-on-one customer service to assure clients have access to friendly and informative information about almost anything related to the business. Take advantage of our vast industry experience and insider knowledge about pretty much every niche under the sun — guiding our customers to success is one of the best parts of the job!
• Learn from niche manufacturers. They are a fountain of information about their products because, oftentimes, they designed and developed them from scratch — often because their communities needed something that the industry lacked at the time. Whether that be a lifelike ejaculating dildo or a portable (and powerful) sex machine, these manufacturers understand the ins and outs of each item and are happy to share their knowledge.
• Research online. Trends and reviews can change overnight, so we like to search online about various products and niche needs on a regular basis. Never underestimate the power of an Internet search — you never know what you might learn before anyone else.
• Take advantage of Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts, and other similar services to cut some of the search time and dig into the depths of the Internet. You can find blog posts, message board conversations, and other important (and less-mainstream outlets that can give you a glimpse into what’s on end-users’ minds.
• Be involved in the lifestyle your product affects. If he lifestyle simply isn’t your “thing,” work with a distributor who gets it. Sex Toy Distributing is unique because many of our staff are intimately acquainted with the niches we serve, which gives us a valuable perspective and understanding of the products and how to sell them. We love helping our customers achieve new levels of success, and one of the benefits of signing up with SexToyDistributing.com is having access to this kind of first-person “insider” information.
Pay attention to trends that relate to the niches you’re hoping to serve or the products you’re working to promote. Trend-forecasting can take some time and patience, but the more proactive you can be, the better your chances at success.
• What are end-users talking about? Stay up on what your current or potential customers are discussing, requesting, reviewing, or even ranting about online — that includes message boards and social media platforms. Searching keywords and hashtags on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are valuable, but don’t forget platforms that cater to more targeted communities, like FetLife and Reddit.
• What’s going on at the store level? Notice how stores display, merchandise and promote niche or fetish items to shoppers. Are they using lingo that you’re unfamiliar with? Can you get inspired? Are stores hosting workshops or special events dedicated to certain kinds of play or products? Take note of what’s getting the most attention in stores.
• See what is being supported by bloggers, reviewers and sexuality educators. These people can be amazing allies and have their fingers on so many pulses. Check out their workshop schedules, see what they’re working on and promoting, and (if you feel it might be helpful) visit them at their events and see if a partnership or business relationship might be valuable to you and your staff.
As a distributor, it’s essential to maintain strong relationships with manufacturers and this is something that Sex Toy Distributing works hard to do. Because niche products are specialized, the number of manufacturers making them is often small, which makes them accessible and invested in everyone’s success. They make great allies, so remember our customer service advice from last month’s column: go above and beyond, not only to serve them as a customer, but take care to learn about them and show genuine interest in their lives and success. Talk with them as you would a friend, compromise if/when possible, and always work to build the relationship even stronger.
The same can be said for retailers and end-users. Know your people like you know the products. If they are anywhere in the chain from manufacturing to end-use, they are your people. Get to know them, their needs, their concerns, and their motivations, and you will better understand how to sell, improve and use the products you’re making for them.
Effective communication on every level is critical and Sex Toy Distributing takes this very seriously. For instance, customers need to know if there are delays in manufacturing or delivery, regardless of the reason. Let them know when products are available and be sure to keep customers updated on when new or interesting items will arrive. When possible, offer sales or display support, let them know when optional display or signage materials are available with a minimum purchase, and remind them of products that have alternative uses so that sales staff know what to say in their pitches. Customers always want to know of new ways to make more money,so never forget upsell advice — is there an add-on item that would go well with a higher-ticket product? Are there impulse buys that can make shoppers feel they’re getting even more bang for their buck?
Setting up trainings for sales staff should be a primary goal. This is especially true if the product you’re promoting or the sub-culture it pertains to isn’t self-explanatory. Retail staff especially need to feel comfortable with niche products, know their uses, and be able to highlight benefits for end-users — this helps inspire and maintain a trusted relationship between the end-use and salesperson, which can result in repeat customers.
• Training can be in-house or simply clearly written literature made by the manufacturer.
• Sales tools like shelf-talkers, instructional pamphlets, or even demo products are invaluable to the end-sale and should be made available as often as possible. The sales team should be familiar with the concepts and able to confidently answer questions from customers with information that can also be found on these materials.
• Products that aren’t intuitive or require explanation need more attention than most to ensure a sale, which is especially important with products that require more technical knowledge. Encourage customers to request and schedule trainings for their staff, and if that’s not an option, give them as much information as you can – this will establish you as a valuable resource to them, which is nothing but beneficial to your bottom line in the long run.
Your end goal is the end sale, with customer satisfaction and return sales a priority, and this can be challenging — but worth the effort — when working with niche products. Utilizing these tips will help you stay competitive while catering to the most in-demand, hard-to-find specialty goods, and we can’t recommend enough to create and develop business relationships like the ones Sex Toy Distributing has with our customers.