The Build Cycle Podcast #050 – How to get your product chosen as OEM spec

This week’s episode is very short, under 30 minutes, but it’s packed with valuable insights about how to get your product spec’d as original equipment on something larger, or just get your product, service or tech bundled in as part of a bigger finished good.

I met the product managers from Marin Bicycles at an outdoor cafe while at a major mountain bike event in France to ask them how and why they choose the parts that go on their bikes. The lessons they shared are applicable whether you’re hoping to get your product on a bike, car, used as part of a retail or entertainment venue, or bundled in with another product to help drive sales. Or maybe you just wonder why you see the same parts and brands spec’d on so many different things?

If your product can be used to add value or functionality to something else, this episode explains the product manager’s thought process and walks you through the steps you need to follow to make your product a viable option for OEM spec!


01:40 – It’s about after-sale service and support…
04:30 – …and global brand relevance.
05:50 – Why do you see the same brands getting all the OE spec?
07:00 – Why brand relevance matters.
07:36 – And country of origin matters, too.
14:34 – What should a brand do when meeting with OE buyers?
20:40 – What about limited editions with your components?


The supply chain and service issues seem obvious once you hear them laid out, and the explanation is pretty clear. If a brand sells a product using your components and you’re not able to service those components anywhere the main product is sold, that’s a problem. Brands don’t want to sell products that come with built-in potential problems, so it’s easier for them to spec components from global brands with their own service centers already established. Yes, that’s a big hurdle to overcome, but knowing about it means you can get creative and come up with solutions instead of spinning your wheels trying to get your components spec’d and getting nowhere.

Is your brand relevant?

The other side of the equation is brand relevance. Do customers know about your component or brand? Is it desirable? Does your brand or component add value to the whole product? Does it help sell the product? Or do retailers have to educate the customer? If it’s the latter, you have a lot of work to do. At least in the bike industry, margins aren’t there to justify a long sales process. Shop employees don’t have the time or incentive to educate the consumers about a new brand or component. And, often times, the consumers aren’t as interested in trying something that, to them, may seem new and unproven. It’s much easier for everyone to sell and buy brands and components they’re already familiar with and trust. If you’re a small brand or making a new or different component, how can you pre-educate consumers and make them want (or even seek out) your particular part?

What about the sales & supply chain?

Another thing to consider: Where are your parts made? Is that close to where your OE buyer’s product is assembled? That can have a huge impact on things like delivery time, warehousing, tariffs and duties. The easier and cheaper you can make it for a company to spec your products, the more likely they will.

One of Matt’s key tips is to work with the right sales agent. Someone who can help introduce your component to both the brand and the manufacturer. Sometimes they can recommend your product and, if they’ve built a reputation as a credible source, they can carry a lot of clout with OE buyers.

Make sure your product does what it says it will

OE buyers are also looking for proof that your company can do what it says it can do, the product will do what it’s supposed to do, and that its durable and safe. If your part breaks, that reflects poorly on the main product brand and substantially decreases the likelihood that you’ll get any future spec from them or anyone else.

What about using special edition builds to break into the business? For example, Marin did a run of bikes with drivetrains and other components specifically for the German market. That worked because they could get a big enough order to justify their assembly plant switching gears to create these special builds. As a small component brand, we might see this as an opportunity for a bigger brand to do something special and cool, but you need to understand it from their side: It’s time consuming, expensive, and if it doesn’t sell, they’re potentially stuck with aging inventory that becomes irrelevant and hard to sell. And that product sometimes ends up going to discount resellers (for bikes, it’s usually the online mail order stores that offer blowouts), which can end up devaluing your brand and theirs.

Matt wraps up by saying it’s not any one of these things. It’s all of them. If you’re looking to get your product spec’d as OEM equipment on a larger item, here’s what you need to do in order to improve your odds:

  • Create a good product that adds value to the finished good
  • Make sure you can service your product wherever the finished good is sold or used
  • Be able to prove you have quality manufacturing partners and can meet demand
  • Prove your product is safe and performs to spec
  • Create brand awareness and desire before going after OE spec

Huge thanks to Matt and Chris for making the time to share their expertise with us!

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