Finding the Right Point of Contact At: A Retail Chain

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Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 5.48.47 PMFor hyperlocal vendors grappling with expansion, a national retail chain can represent the big whale. With the potential to have their platforms adopted at hundreds of locations throughout the country with just single sale, it’s no wonder hyperlocal startups are willing to devote so many resources to developing partnerships with big-name clients. Of course, the challenges of attracting attention from a national retail chain, versus a small business, are clear. Whereas an SMB usually has a single owner and a clear point of entry, navigating the world of corporate retail chains is a bit murkier for salespeople who aren’t experienced in the process.

Here are five strategies for finding the right person to pitch at a retail chain, from executives at hyperlocal startups and consulting agencies who’ve had success landing these types of big-name clients.

1. Find contacts within the retailer’s marketing team. “Start off by finding multiple contacts within the retailer’s marketing team. Then, make an email inquiry simple and straight to the point. Examples for local SEO software solutions could include, ‘Who handles local search?’ and ‘Who’s responsible for local store optimization for Google+?’ or ‘Who handles your store locator?’ The email subject line might simply read ‘Quick Question.’” (Chris Reid, Rio SEO)

2. Attend trade shows. “When we make the first move in the relationship, I have found trade shows are a great place to connect. These companies are there to meet potential new vendors and want to learn about what is new in their industry. We work to set up meetings and demos at these shows, such the NRF Big Show in NYC. Most trade shows give you an opportunity to reach out to the attendees if you purchase a booth.” (Chris Campbell, Review Trackers)

3. Look for key words in job titles. “LinkedIn is one of the biggest indicators of whom to contact. LinkedIn profiles typically describe a person’s role, offering a good sense if he or she is the right person. Since all retailers are organized a little differently, we look for people with titles that include the words ‘digital,’ ‘interactive,’ ‘online,’ and ‘e-commerce.’” (Chris Reid, Rio SEO)

4. Network through mutual friends. “Vendors should network to the appropriate person through mutual friends, work associates, other suppliers, and LinkedIn. This often results in the retailer receiving your information and doing a quick analysis if the opportunity is worth a personal meeting. Other alternate approaches that can be effective are approaching sales through the marketing department.” (Mark Hyland, Masterpiece USA)

5. Make friends with the gatekeepers. “Go ahead and ask for C-level execs so you can speak with their assistants. Being nice to these assistants is a good way to get a lot of insight into the company. Make friends with the gatekeepers. If you approach them asking for ‘help’ in who to talk to, you’ll usually be directed to the appropriate person.” (Chris Reid, Rio SEO)

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.