Disruption is nothing new to many of us who work within the CPG services sector. That's why we sleep with one FMCG eye open. Anytime somebody even hints about a new technology we sit up and listen!
Poland is an exciting market! If you are an established household name with connections to the big discounters.
But it’s an even more exciting market if you are a fast growing producer operating in smaller markets. For those, Poland is the gateway to other large European markets.
Sadly, the majority of producers who launch new products in Poland, fail.
There is a magic recipe. Although it only works for those producers who have bucket loads of money to throw at marketing. If you are in that league! You don’t need much more than a keen marketing company and a traditional distributor..
But what if you don’t have vast trade marketing budgets? And can’t afford the margin requirements of a strong established distributor? Can you still get traction on the Polish market?
With the perfect products. A clever approach and the right support it is still very possible to become “a new” household name in Poland.
Knowing how to create a winning go-to-market strategy. Which includes tweaking, selling and promoting your products. Is the first critical step towards that success.
You will no doubt have heard it a million times, but it’s worth saying again. „Digital has broken down traditional market entry barriers for the smaller producer”
Even though big brands will always beat you for marketing spend and on-shelf positioning. If your product is right for consumers, positive consumer sentiment will beat marketing spend every day of the week.
My top 10 tips for launching your brand or product in Poland
1. Meet Consumer Needs
Always put consumers first. Do not try to please distributors and retailers above consumers.
So many new producers do everything they can to wow distributors and win retail buyers. Even to the point where many have very little left in the pot to create a compelling customer message.
If consumers do not like your offer. Forget about meeting a distributor’s margin expectation. You are going to burn money just to please the weakest link in the supply chain.
It’s hard to find a distributor who has an established network. And harder still to convince him or her that your product will be a good investment for their business.
If you meet a distributor and he doesn’t fall in love with your products. It means his gut is telling him it’s not going to be easy to sell them to his clients. This should be your first red flag.
But it rarely is for us, right? We typically fight harder with increased marketing budgets and rebates to win his or her love.
And, while it’s very normal that if you throw lots of money at a huge distributor he can fall in love with your product. The chances of selling your product to his clients may only have marginally improved. That love can disappear once the budget evaporates. And trust me big visibility budgets are never sustainable.
Two common scenarios for a sales representative managing a new brand in Poland,
- “Hi, I can give you rebates and rewards to place these new products in your store”
- “Hi, we can point x value in external marketing activity at your store if you list these products”
The less common scenario, but most sustainable way for a new brand with smaller marketing budgets.
- “Hi, I can prove that consumers love this product. And these are the proven reasons you should stock them”
Your go-to-market strategy should place consumer needs, communications and care as priority.
We love our products. And we can get too excited when we enter a new market. Particularly, if we can meet and beat the price, size or quality of the leading competitor.
That is a perfect first step. But you also should keep in mind that consumers love brands too. They are loyal to whom they love and will even pay a premium for what they love. As we said earlier, positive consumer sentiment beats marketing budget every day, but it can also beat price too.
Try to forget what your established customers or other markets love about your products. And start the learning process all over again. Do you need to change your packaging sizes, flavors, or tweak your ingredients for a new market?
Learn this and you are halfway home.
Of course it might be that these new consumers equally love your products. We hope so! But until you know for sure, don’t be too excited about being able to beat a competitor’s price. Price is super important in Poland but so is brand loyalty.
Producers who only factor competitor category share, price, packaging and shelf dominance. May struggle later on. Remember our rule? “Consumers first” – well that applies here.
Try to find out what it is about your competitor’s message that resonates with consumers. You might learn that it’s not always price. Do it right and this creates new, more positive options for your pricing strategy too.
3. Test, test test
FMCG in Poland is littered with the headstones of thousands of impressive products. Many who have had to leave Poland as a gaping whole in their international expansion strategy.
If consumers don’t like your products. And if distributors do not reach out with tears in their eyes and hug you upon first sight of your brand. More than likely something needs to be tweaked, and it may not be price.
Testing is so critical and so often neglected, it’s not worth skipping this step.
Also, depending on your distributor agreement. It might make sense to have an independent team test your product for you. Or save money and have your own team do it, but don’t skip this step.
4. Be ready to Tweak
So if you are one of those brands who has international distributors falling at your feet! Congrats, you are already a huge success. For most of us we will need to tweak our products to suit Polish consumers.
Sometimes even subtle changes can have a dramatic impact on consumer adoption. During the tweeking process, you may even learn some things about your brand which can help grow sales in other markets.
5. Spend wisely
These days it’s obvious digital is going to be your most cost effective path to consumer adoption.
Although, if you can land it! An in – out with Biedronka, Lidl or Dino is definitely your fastest route to consumers. But also going to be your most costly and sometimes even most damaging market launch strategy. At lest for the long term.
You have to decide carefully where to spend. Don’t get misled by your distribution partner. They may do everything they can to squeeze listing or marketing budgets for easy traction. Because Bedronka and Żabka will always list your products if you throw enough cash at them. But for how long can you throw money at success?
You have to ask yourself what is the most sustainable path to customer adoption. We feel a digital strategy will always be your safest and most sustainable path to adoption.
6. Pre Marketing
If you plan to enter any new market without a website, a basic landing page, social channels or customer support. You should have a very long talk with your marketing manager. Because it’s just a critical element for any brand these days.
If a consumer who sees your new product in their local Carrefour, they might like to know more about your brand. In FMCG this usually won’t happen at point of purchase, like it would within other CPG categories, but that shouldn’t mean you ignore it.
No local presence or customer support is a big red flag to a consumer.
At some point they will fall in love with your product. Next step is to have them join a mailing list, leave a positive review. Or visit your site to try to find some other excellent products.
That’s the dream right?
The reality is that you need to find your first few thousand consumers. Likely they are not going to find you organically. So be ready to invest some energy in finding your early adopters and brand ambassadors.
7. A solid supply chain
Thanks to the digital revolution. Poland is a shoppers paradise. We have a near perfect infrastructure for producers who need cost effective supply chain solutions.
B2B and B2C fulfillment partners are everywhere. They are better, faster and cheaper than old fashioned „and sometimes” expensive distributor solutions.
It costs peanuts to set up a local legal entity. And for a few more peanuts you can manage your whole supply chain capabilities in Poland, from anywhere in the world.
Finally, we meet the elephant in the room. If you don’t have access to an army of sales professionals, what hope do you have to make an impact on the Polish market? Right?
Indeed, It can be difficult. But that doesn’t have to mean your choices are limited. Building your own sales force or paying for access to a distributor’s sales force is not the only path anymore.
There are other options available to the more cost conscious producer.
MS Services are the best option, obviously!
MS operates teams of sales agents. Who can pitch your products alongside a well established portfolio of products. We can also help you build and manage your a dedicated teams when the time comes.
The option to use your dedicated shared resources to sell your products, offers a lot more savings & control. Particularly on how and where your products are promoted by the sales teams.
Meaning you are not left at the mercy of distributors teams. Who might favor the brands with the higher marketing budgets.
So finally you have your product next to a wall of colorful competitors! What happens next?
Probably, very little if you have skipped step 6.
Now is the time to get creative with consumer marketing. Both online and offline retailers will bite your hand off for a piece of your consumer aquisition budget. And Mr Zukkerburg will happily empty your wallet, faster than you can say “metaverse is the future”
Having the correct marketing and content strategy for your brand is essential. But remember, very few marketing paths lead to glory, an agencys job is to sell you every option.
If your brand or marketing manager ever signals that you are one viral video from your brand’s success. You may need another marketing manager.
The holy grail of marketing is how to get your product in front of the greatest amount of eyeballs for the least amount of money.
Ignore the holy grail because it most likely lives really close to the temple of doom.
You need to build a marketing strategy which fits your market expectations. And in a sustainable way, sends the right messages to your target customers.
Sometimes you don’t need a blogging strategy, sometimes you do. Sometimes you don’t need an email strategy and sometimes you do. Every brand is different, be creative and think long term with your marketing spend.
If you want to know why your brand is not selling? Listen to your customers.
If you want to know why your competitors have more market share? Listen to your customers.
If you want your customers to tell other people why they love your brand? Prove to them that you listen to your customers.
It’s not possible to launch any market without opening engagement channels for consumers. These days consumers fundamentally expect to be able to communicate quickly with their favorite brands.
Aleo, if you are not there to hear what they are saying about your brand, be sure that other customers and competitors will be.
To finish as we began… consumers are the only people you must please all of the time.
If you are a producer interested in launching your brand in Poland and would like some information (without most of the sarcasm) please feel free to reach us at MS Services. We have been supporting sales in Poland for more than 20 years, we are not a distributor we are a sales support team meaning we usually only earn when you do.