Just as LinkedIn replaced the traditional resume, digital versions of the traditional sell sheet can break out as an effective way for consumer packaged goods suppliers to attract buyers, writes Brandon Leong of RangeMe, a provider of an internet-based sourcing platform.

BrandonLeong-RangeMe

Brandon Leong

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been anything but business as usual. We’ve had to adjust pretty much every aspect of our personal lives and our professional lives.

Companies have had to adjust to how they do business—like restaurants transitioning to take-out-only and curbside pickup services or retailers moving completely online rather than relying on sales from brick-and-mortar stores—when people are limited to what they can do or where they can go. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst of change, in both good and bad ways, and it’s an adjustment process as we move forward.

LinkedIn replaced the resume. Why can’t we do that with our sell sheets?

If we narrow the scope of business to look at the consumer packaged goods industry, we see that this massive amount of disruption is driving change in just about every aspect of CPG, but particularly in product discovery. If we were still in “normal” times, we’d be in the thick of the CPG trade show season, with retailers and buyers attending shows across the country to seek out the latest and greatest trends threading through the industry.

But as most trade shows have been either canceled or gone completely virtual, brands have had to pivot and devise new ways of attracting buyers’ interest. Buyers and retailers are now going digital when it comes to new product discovery, which for suppliers means increasing and leveraging online channels to get their products in front of buyers. And to do that, you have to have a well-rounded strategy to power through the change in business operations, and the right tools to execute on that strategy. These aren’t nice-to-haves, they are must-haves.

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And one of those must-haves, can’t-do-business-without-it tools is the digital sell sheet.

Defining the sell

You’ve probably heard of a sell sheet, and if you haven’t, it’s basically a one-pager (sometimes more) you can use to promote your product to potential buyers. Your sell sheet is where you, as the supplier, can concisely convey the critical attributes that will make you attractive to new clients and buyers. These sell sheets can be handed out to anyone who is interested, and are often the first impression that can make or break a new account. But that first part is where we run into issues these days. A traditional sell sheet is a physical thing, and in these times of social distancing, physical assets have transformed into digital ones, including sell sheets.

Before you let the word “digital” in front of the words “sell sheet” intimidate you, know this—the digital sell sheet isn’t all that different from a traditional one. You still want your sell sheet to highlight your brand’s best qualities. You still want it to pique a buyer’s interest. You still want it to be enticing enough that buyers reach out to you for more information. You’re simply using it in a new way, and because of that, it’s important that your digital sell sheet is optimized for online usage.

Creating the digital sell

As buyers have taken their searches for new products online, brands need to be prepared to hook them before they can click away to another page. Similarly to how LinkedIn replaced the resume, why can’t we do that with our sell sheets? Online tools are accessible for brands to develop a robust profile and brand page that can act as an introduction to their digital sell sheet. And that means including some key information about your brand, such as:

  • A succinct overview of your product—What makes it stand out from others in the same category?
  • Your brand story—What is the mission and history of your brand?
  • Product images—Online product search leans heavily on visuals, and your sell sheet should reflect that with striking product images, and a clear, prominent logo.
  • Keywords—In order to snag buyers while they’re searching online for new products, you need to include relevant keywords in product descriptions, your unique selling propositions, or ingredients and materials that a buyer might use for discovery.
  • Working links—One of the many advantages of a digital sell sheet is that you can link to specific products or highlights right in the sheet. With one click, interested buyers can find out more about a product, so make sure you’ve embedded active links to take buyers where they want to go.
  • The essential details—Your website, your logo, your social channels—all the ways buyers can find you and check you out in the “real world” and see how you interact with consumers, and vice versa.

A sell sheet for all seasons

The great thing about the digital sell sheet is that you can leverage it anywhere, at any time. It’s not a “pandemic-only” product; it’s a marketing tool that you can use from now until whenever you say stop.

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If and when trade shows come back to being in-person events, digital sell sheets will still be relevant. While meeting in person has its advantages, it’s also beneficial to be able to easily follow up on in-person meetings with strategic marketing tools that you can quickly send to your new contacts, keeping you front of mind. To best capitalize on your digital sell sheet in these challenging times, make sure you optimize it for online use, with such features as well-crafted product descriptions and eye-catching images, so buyers can find all the information they need in one single space.

Business has changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and chances are it will never look the same as it once did. But the transformation that the CPG industry is experiencing is an opportunity for brands to leverage their marketing tools that will ultimately create a new way of doing business.

Brandon Leong is vice president, marketing and growth, at RangeMe, a company that helps category buyers connect with product suppliers and brand manufacturers. Prior to RangeMe, he served in senior marketing positions at such companies as retail analytics provider Quri.

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