Are You Using This Simple Product Commercialization Checklist?

GeekThere’s been a lot of attention lately on innovation, agile development, NPD and product road mapping.  All are critical to developing new products but all fail dramatically in fully understanding the product commercialization process.

Miss out on successfully launching your product and not only will you miss your targets, but you’ll struggle to be credible with future product launches with your field sales team and customers.

With that in mind, here’s a comprehensive checklist to make sure you are considering the many facets of the commercialization process.                         

Market Analysis


Why are we looking at this product / service?

What is in it for us?

What is in it for the Channel?

What is in it for the End User?


What do we hope to do?

What is the timing to carry out the goal(s)?


How do we envision accomplishing this objective?

What are the short and long-term strategies?

What is the timeline for each strategy?

How will the product be positioned?

Impact on other products (cannibalization)?

What plants and markets?


Market Factors

What factors will help this product?

What factors prohibit us from meeting our goals?

What are the crucial market factors for this product?



What market research do we have to support product?

Define the channel and end-user(s) priorities

Define the market size and total opportunity for us


Define strengths and weaknesses of proposed product


How will product be positioned (high/medium/low-end)?

Who are the key targets for placement?

Who are the pull through targets?

What is our pricing strategies by channel?


What is the product called?

How will it be packaged?

Production Plan              

Clearly define production capabilities

Establish ordering procedures


Have we benchmarked other competitors in the industry?

Have we benchmarked other manufacturers outside the industry?

Measures of Success

How will we measure progress?

What will be considered a success?


Key dates for all product elements?

Develop an implementation roll out strategy 60/90/120 day

Sales Plan                                                                                                                                           

checklistSales Forecast

What are the sales plan by Region/Nationally (in units and dollars)?

What are the seasonality/current trends?

Other Measures                 

Clear and tangible outcomes?

What is the total brand budget to support new product?

Selling Proposition


What is the value proposition at each level?                       

Channel Customer                                                                                          

End User

Brand Support

Brand Plan

Define the communication plan for end-user/ customers/field sales?

Ensure product included in other programs

Social Media

Link our social media efforts

Website updates

You Tube, Facebook, Blog, Twitter, Pinterest


Define literature requirements

Develop technical facts to support new product


Produce product samples as required

Selling Tools

Determine tools required to support business proposition

Define product displays requirements

Develop plan-o-grams for retail customers


Will product availability delay photography (and literature)?


Determine artwork


Coordination of brand support programs

Define schedule and key dates

Field Implementation

new-bright-ideaImplementation Plan

Coordination of channel, product marketing, and brand efforts

Define processes and tools required for implementation

Determine channel programs (target accounts/promotions)

Develop time line for field sales communication

Provide advanced communication (90 days) to Sales


Establish internal and external product training schedule

(Field Sales/Customer Service/Channel Customers)

Training Vehicle

Develop training modules


Clear Outcomes                

Follow-up review of business strategy after 90 days/6 months

Develop bail out strategy if not performing

What else would you add to this checklist?


Are You Ready For Your Product Line Review?

Are you ready for your product line review?The line review process is a validation step for the retailer. Remember they are ultimately confirming that they are offering “the right product, sold for the right price, at the right place and time.”

The goal of the Product Line Review process is to ensure that your customers have the most competitive and compelling assortments available at retail.

To properly evaluate this, retailers routinely ask the primary manufacturers in each product category to educate them on the market opportunity, their company, products and go-to-market distribution strategies.

You are the expert in your product categories, not the retailer

As a supplier selected to attend the review, you are being asked to give open and honest feedback on the retailer’s current retail assortment. This feedback should include product, pricing, promotions, packaging, merchandising, logistics, services, and any other attribute that will assist them in growing their sales,  profit and market share while minimizing space and inventory investment.

You are the expert in your product categories, not the retailerA meeting with the retailer should include the following in a Product Line Review:

  • Company history
  • Financials
  • Capabilities and capacities
  • US total category size
  • Company market share within US market
  • Category market share by channel of trade
  • Suggested product assortment mix and pricing
  • Plan-o-gram (POG) set, point-of-purchase (POP) material and merchandising ideas

Once you and your competitors have had the opportunity to present their proposed go-forward business improvement strategy, the retailer’s merchandising team will make the decision as to which supplier(s) will be awarded the business based upon predetermined criteria which often includes components like these:

  • Management attitude and commitment to build a strong long-term relationship
  • Supplier’s ability to service, support and grow the business*
  • Product quality, innovation, design and exclusivity opportunities
  • Supplier market share and their ability and passion to help grow with the retailer
  • Current performance indicators, if applicable
  • Absolute best cost/value relationship

The typical Product Line Review is conducted in three steps

STEP ONE – Pre Line Review

All invited suppliers are sent an electronic file that often includes the following documents:

Confidentiality Agreement – Due to the sensitivity of the information being shared, suppliers are generally required to execute a Confidentiality Agreement. This ensures that your information will not be immediately placed in your competitors hands.

Product File – Before the actual PLR meeting, suppliers usually are asked to complete a standardized spreadsheet related to the existing assortment and add any new or non-comparable products deemed necessary to complete the new recommended assortment along with recommended invoice pricing. The file can also include:

  • Vendor contact & ordering information
  • Market share statistics
  • Advertising programs
  • Current item assortment and pricing (including any assortment adds or deletes)

Lately, retailers have wanted pricing to be quoted as Net/Net. This allows an apples-to-apples comparison between suppliers. Net/Net is defined as the retailer’s net cost, excluding all other added costs such as freight to their stores, distributions centers or cross dock facilities, payment terms, rebates or other back-end funds, marketing or co-op funds, over and above money, promotional funds, slotting fees, defective allowances, etc.

STEP TWO – Product Line Review

Here’s what retailers are looking for in a line review presentationSuppliers that have successfully executed step 1 of the Product Line Review process are invited to the retail headquarters to meet with the merchandising team.

Power Point Presentation – Generally, you will have 60-90 minutes to present your recommendations. The retailer wants to be sure they are offering “the right product, sold for the right price, at the right place and time.”

Here’s what the retailers are looking for in a presentation: 

  • Company Profile – This should include all necessary information to get a complete understanding of who you are, what you do, where your products are manufactured, distribution centers, company financials and management team.
  • US Market Share information – This should include any relevant information that would help us understand the total size of the category being reviewed (in US Dollars). Your company’s share, your competitors’ share, your retailer’s share and their competitors’ share of the retail, wholesale and direct markets and any other market share or industry information that may help them make a more informed decision.
  • Product Information – Educate the retailer on your products and programs, new technologies and innovations, and why you believe they should be stocking your products versus those of your competitors. Explain how your company can help them differentiate their assortments from those of our competitors.
  • Marketing and Promotional Plans – Show the retailer what we can do better and how you can help us drive more customers into their stores.
  • Competition – Provide retail price shops from the retailers that sell the most products in the category under review (these retail competitors should be agreed upon by both the supplier and the merchant). Help them understand what they need to do to be competitive in today’s marketplace. Educate them on marketplace best practices, success stories and any pitfalls to be avoided.

Recommended Product Presentation – All suppliers attending the Product Line Review will also be required to set up a plan-o-gram (POG) of their recommended retail assortment.  A POG is a visual representation of where and how to place products on your shelves in order to maximize sales.

This is a critical part of your Product Line Review story.  A good POG is based on historical sales data which indicate which products are the best sellers and which products work well when placed together – for example in improving impulse sales.

Discussions should surround how the newly recommended assortment is merchandised to help customers make an easier, more informed buying decision. Explain how the good-better-best sell-up strategy works and how the packaging and point-of-purchase materials tie the program together.

Ultimately, you must demonstrate how the new POG will improve the sales and merchandising the category while still meeting all the shoppers’ expectations of selection and price.

Decision Process – After all supplier presentations are completed, the retailer merchandising team will select its go-forward supplier partner(s) for the product category being reviewed.

Once a supplier has won a category line review; they will remain our supplier partner of record for the foreseeable future provided they continue to perform.

STEP THREE – Post Line Review

Often line reviews are completed a full year ahead of when the store transitions will be made. However, you will begin working with the merchant team to review, design, develop and implement the following:

  • Establish the final assortments
  • Finalize all retail pricing
  • Determine store counts
  • Develop or update all needed signage and  POP materials
  • Finalize logistics
  • Execute agreed upon discontinued inventory exit strategy
  • Implement new plan-o-gram(s) into retail stores
  • Train store associates to the benefits of the new program

Can you avoid the Line Review Process altogether?

Can you avoid the Line Review Process altogether?The line review process is a validation step for the retailer. Remember they are answering to their management team that they are meeting the corporate goals, aware of the market dynamics and pricing and ultimately answering that they are offering “the right product, sold for the right price, at the right place and time.”

That said, the Product Line Review process can either intense or a “softer” business review. If you focus on be a top supplier, you may be able to avoid highly competitive line reviews. Being a top supplier means:

  • Keeping the retail partner competitive by providing the best possible products at the best possible price
  • Consistently shipping on-time and maintaining an above average unit fill-rate
  • Establishing mutual annual business plans to effectively drive sales
  • Introducing your retail partner to new products and programs before full market introduction
  • Updating and maintaining plan-o-grams including packaging and POP materials

Bottom-line, by taking complete ownership for the success of your products, programs and overall business, you can win and maintain your business with the biggest and best of the retailers in the marketplace.

Good Selling!

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Are You Avoiding These Trade Show Spoilers?

Are You Guilty of These Trade Show Spoilers?If it seems like no one is in your trade show booth except other exhibitors or people trying to sell you something, you may be falling prey to these trade show spoilers.

Here’s what NOT to do.  That is, if you actually want to drum up any business.

1. Skipping booth training for the sales team.  They may be experts and know the customers but it’s critical to get everyone on the same page.

  • Make sure they understand roles, booth flow and products – especially the new ones.
  • Reinforce basic points like don’t chat with each other all day or make phone calls in the booth.

2. Having too many employees in the booth.  Remember that you are there to sell your product, not to socialize.

  • Have only those actually working the booth wearing logo-wear.
  • Everybody else should be in business casual.
  • Non-logoed team walks floor and looks at competition, new products and trends.
  • But have someone dedicated to scanning leads and handing out literature.
  • Designate one contact for press and other media inquiries.

3. Being unprofessional – ever – especially when talking about (or to) the competition. Don’t complain about the way the show is run or how unhappy you are that your boss made you attend.

4. Passing on show marketing opportunities. There are many options, with something that could fit almost any budget.  They range from pre-show mailers, upgraded directory listings and ads, event sponsorships, hall banners, etc.

5. Hoping customers will visit. Be sure to schedule appointments, dinners, coffees – all translate into a commitment from your customer to take the time to hear your message.

A trade show is not a vacation

Trade shows are not a vacationA trade show is not a vacation, even when it’s in a fun place like Las Vegas or Orlando. Those locations help create a draw for the customers you want to visit with.  Remember that you are on a business trip. Your pre-planning and actions at the trade show will either make a wonderful or terrible first impression on those visiting your booth.

For more great insights on how to maximize your trade show experience and dollars, we recommend reading Classic Exhibits article 13 Common Trade Show Mistakes and Whizard Strategy’s blog post How Manufacturers Can Get the Most Out of IBS.

For other thoughts on trade shows from Channel Instincts, see our post Are You Using these Trade Show Secrets.

Good Selling!