The 2020s are turning out to be a challenging era for startups, once the darlings of Wall Street investors. Today’s new companies face all sorts of unique hurdles, not just when it comes to raising funds, but also with regard to acquiring customers in a cash-strapped economy still reeling from a global pandemic. Likewise, the modern startup has to deal with all the usual difficulties of opening a new business, like finding qualified employees, designing marketing campaigns, getting through that always-tough first year of operations, and more.
Making the right decisions about product packaging can alleviate many, but of course not all, of a new organization’s growing pains, financial struggles, and long-term planning goals. How can something seemingly as simple as a package do so much?
There are dozens of answers to that question, but key among them is that an item’s package is like a book’s cover, and serves some of the same purposes. When a consumer stands in a store aisle, or views a page on an e-commerce website, the first thing they see is the outsides of packages. This first impression is often a make-or-break moment for the potential buyer, who might be assessing which toothpaste, perfume, or dill pickle brand to purchase among dozens on display. Psychology plays a huge role in the process and often dwarfs more obvious differentiating components like price.
Why Startups are Different
Unlike established sellers of consumer or wholesale goods, startups have to do several things just to get their products “off the ground” and into consumer consciousness. Those special, one-time-only chores include:
- Making a solid, memorable visual impression
- Offering useful information to doubtful shoppers
- Standing out among a multitude of competitors on a shelf
- Being price-competitive yet still making a profit
- Introducing themselves to the public in an effective way
So, what can a startup company in the 2020s do to move ahead? Assuming your business already has a viable product, an effective operational structure, all the licensing and legal issues behind you, and are ready to package your product, step one is selecting the most suitable packaging.
Benefits of Consulting a Packaging Professional
What sorts of tick-points should be on your notepad? For starters, you and your team should be ready to sit down with a packaging professional and discuss things like packaging color, material, shape, and typeface. Additionally, examine issues like how to make your product stand out with custom packaging, where you’ll be selling your goods (from store shelves, e-commerce pages, print ads, etc.), how to control inventory expenses for pre-packaged goods, finding the most suitable package for what you sell, staying within budgetary constraints, and more.
The overall goal of packaging for startups is to get the most attention for your product for the best possible price. Remember, since your company is relatively new, you’ll need to be open to experimentation with different kinds, shapes, colors, sizes, and prices of packages until you hit on just the right mix of components for a long-term solution.
It’s helpful to learn from established products. Consider the fact that many of today’s most respected, successful branded beauty products, candies, and soft drinks went though a half-dozen or more packaging “experiments” before their companies landed on the right choice.
11 Packaging Tips for Startups
If you’re about to introduce your first-ever product to the public, you’re mind is probably spinning amid thoughts of promotional impact, brand identity, budgets, time-lines, and more. Face it. It’s a real battle to capture the attention of thousands (hopefully millions) of prospective customers.
And, if you’re competing in a consumer goods market that is already jam-packed with competitors, that battle is even more entrenched. The good news is this: you can solve several problems at once with the right kind and style of product packaging. Get it right, and you’ll be on the way to establishing a memorable brand and a profitable track record for your introductory effort.
Here are some of the key considerations that every startup should attend to when launching their first product and deciding about its packaging:
- 1. Match Product and Packaging: Some consumer goods need durable packages while others call for see-through plastic windows so prospective buyers can inspect the enclosed item. Food packages, for instance, typically need air-tight sealing and materials that protect the contents from light, moisture, and shaking. The key point is that packaging, in its largest sense, must meet the needs of products. Any seller of light bulbs, garlic sauce, or bowling balls can speak to this question with ease and expertise. For startup owners, it’s best to consult a packaging professional to gain a fuller understanding about how to match products and packaging.
- 2. Plan to Stand Out: Packaging is marketing. If you can afford to make your first product stand out on the shelf or e-commerce sales page, your “expense” might be returned many times over. Here’s an instructive fact: typical mid-career job-seekers, many of whom are financially strapped, spend upwards of $1,500 on résumé services. They don’t see it as an expense but as an investment for the sole purpose of standing out among a sea of applicants. Your package can do the same.
- 3. Consider Pre-Made Packages: One of the many ways to rein in cost yet get excellent value when you purchase packaging supplies is to check out pre-made options and then imprint them with your unique colors, designs, typeface, and logo. For startups, this is often a wise way to experiment with packaging variations without busting the budget.
- 4. Study Shape: Consult with a packaging professional to arrive at an appropriate shape for your item’s enclosure. Consumers have expectations about what certain kinds of packages hold. In most cases, it makes sense to match the shape of your item with the shape of the package for reasons of cost, durability, and customer perception.
- 5. Think about Risk of Over-Buying: Accountants know this maxim well. Yes, it makes sense to purchase packaging materials in bulk to save money. But, avoid over-buying. When you take too big of a risk, it’s possible to end up with unused packaging supplies that can’t be returned, especially if they’ve already been printed and emblazoned with logos. If you do opt for bulk purchases, consider using print-free stock and returnable bundles. Discuss this idea with your packaging professional for best results.
- 6. Use Color for Maximum Effect: Color plays a significant role in attracting consumer attention. There are no universally “successful” colors because each product has its own array of hues that work best within the product line, demographic, and selling venue. Get professional advice to explore which colors are ideal for your packages.
- 7. Use Bulk-Buying to Cut Costs: As noted above, buying packaging materials or entire pre-made packages can be a way of saving money and helping startups conserve capital. Avoid excessive quantities unless you can justify the potential sales numbers.
- 8. Understand the Importance of Materials: Here’s an area where a little professional advice goes a long way. People who work in the packaging industry have a clear idea about which materials work well for specific products. Typically, your choices range among paper, wood, plastic, glass, cardboard/paperboard, steel, and aluminum.
- 9. Decide on Your Selling Venue: Remember that it makes a difference “where” you sell. Will your goods be available on websites, or in retail stores? Further, will they be depicted in print ads, on billboards, or on television? Some kinds of packaging design work better for e-commerce, for instance, than for in-person retail selling. Discuss your options with a packaging professional.
- 10. Choose Typeface Carefully: Whether consumers know it or not, they respond to fonts and typeface styles. Next time you peruse a retail shelf anywhere, make note of the number of fonts you see. Chances are, you’ll lose count after 50. Marketing experts understand the immense power of the visual written word. In a way, every printed letter on your package is like a mini-logo, imbued with extraordinary potential to attract the human eye and mind.
- 11. Pay Attention to Total Costs: Every company has a cutoff point for expenditure on packaging. There’s a general rule-of-thumb, however, that can guide startup owners and their accountants. It’s this: out of the total cost to produce a product from conception to delivery, packaging accounts for between five and fifteen percent of the total. Think of packaging cost as an investment and you’ll be more apt to know how much to spend for maximum value.
Getting Excellent Packaging Advice
Attending to 11 packaging tasks right off the bat can be intimidating. Many startup owners simply avoid the importance of product packaging and opt for either the cheapest or most simplistic solution. The typical result of that lackluster strategy is something less than success. Often, it does nothing but waste the already limited financial resources of the new business.
At Mid-Atlantic Packaging, our team of experienced industry professionals can help you find just the right mix of design, cost, size, materials, and other factors that can make your launch a success. Whether you’re a current customer of ours or just looking for general information about how to deal with all the elements of product packaging, feel free to give us a toll-free call at 800-284-1332 with any questions you have about the topic. And for information about
the retail packaging supplies and services we offer, visit our website.