Q: We make temporary tattoos for expectant mothers. Online sales are great, but retailers aren't buying. How do we get stores to step out of their comfort zones?

Laura Silverthorn
Mother Ink

A: As a tattoo impresario, you of all people should recognize the importance of surface appeal. Product packaging matters less on the Web, but in stores, life-size products jam the shelves, screaming for attention. That means your packaging must be assertive, informative, and desirable.

Packaging's first job? To make it instantly clear what the product is and does. "If a customer doesn't see the use just by looking at the packaging, that's not good," says Ellen Diamant, founder of Skip Hop, a New York City designer of baby products. Also, avoid packaging that looks as if it were made on the computer in your bedroom -- even if it was. For extra polish, point-of-purchase displays can be ordered online from sites like Displays2Go.com for less than $20 apiece. "The tattoos may not have a 'home' in a maternity store," says Diamant. "A display makes it easy for the retailer to put the product on the counter."

Once your packaging is spiffy, it's time to knock on doors. Small, local doors. "Don't go straight to the larger retailers," says Jen Bilik, founder of Knock Knock, a Venice, California, company that designs stationery and novelty gifts. Big-box stores have stringent shipping and fulfillment requirements, and your infrastructure probably can't handle the volume and turnaround times. Instead, think niche -- for example, independent maternity stores.

For maximum exposure, you can't beat trade shows, such as the Mom2B Trade Show and the New York International Gift Fair. If you exhibit, don't let buyers leave your booth empty-handed. Bilik, for example, created a catalog of her quirky stationery line with photos and product descriptions. Your materials might include pictures of products on display and fun facts about how they are made. And don't be shy about highlighting yourself. "It's more exciting when you can read about the person behind the designs," says Diamant. "That's the kind of story that's going to resonate with retailers."