It’s that time of the summer! Did you just show at POOLTRADESHOW or MAGIC? Maybe you’re getting prepped for Capsule in NY or you just showed at NY NOW. Or maybe you’ve said enough this season and will be doing your own buyer preview in house. With trade shows abound and buyers ready with their OTB (open-to-buy), it’s an exciting time to be a brand. To ensure a selling season that sees results, follow my ultimate guide to selling wholesale.
- Create a smart outreach schedule. Implement project management apps like ASANA that will help you organize your calendar and to-do list. You can delegate to team members and approve and share docs. If you want approval on your invites – stop sending them out on emails and share them with your team in a way where everyone can see each other’s feedback. Every week for the 6-8 weeks around the buying season, you should be emailing, calling and sending out postcards. No response is not a no.
- Check your email open rates. Tired of sending out well-thought-out emails to individual buyers and not getting feedback? They may not even be reading your emails. Implement Streak (my favorite tool) to see if your subject headers are having any results. If no one opens it, it’s time to resend the same email with a different subject header.
- Build up your perceived value and tell everyone about it. Use your social media channels, newsletters and individual buyer emails to pump up your brand. Include your best press outlets, the influencers that love your brand and any important retailers your audience would want to know about. You want to create the impression of “Wow, this brand is getting traction, I need to know about this”. Anytime something great happens think of the 3-5 places you can syndicate it out to.
- Yes, numbers count. Your buyers, editors and influencers will check your social media numbers. Even if you’re a new brand and just launching, it doesn’t matter. Most brands are building up their social media channels 6-12 months before they launch so they can get some traction. If you’re doing this super last minute – not the preferred method – I suggest the following: 1. Streamlining your social media channels to Instagram and Facebook. 2. Front-loading your channel with lifestyle, product and brand-centric images. Take the time to build your following. If you haven’t gotten your brand into great shape with social media, you may not have a chance at market without a strong online presence. The alternative is that you can start building organic now and do your big market push in February instead. No need to rush something so important like your brand presence online.
- Get innovative with selling tools. Who says you need a full-scale printed lookbook and linelist with all of your products? There are so many ways to get your brand noticed. Some of my favorite ideas include custom USB sticks. I also love the idea of using a smaller, directional-printed book- something that really just highlights the direction, mood and feel of the collection. You can always email the full-stack loobook and linelist to the buyer. Another favorite tactic is to do a 4-week postcard campaign with a different image from the collection on each one. What a great way to tell a story!
- Be cohesive. If your website isn’t in good shape, why waste time pitching? When I was a buyer, I would always check out someone’s website and see how they present themselves. Are you echoing the same message on your social media channel? When you write your emails and create branded assets, do they all have the same verbiage? Every email you send is a branding opportunity. If you do not brand yourself, you will be branded! You don’t need to spend a fortune on an amazing site. With careful planning and the right help, you can get a full-stack buildout for $3k- it’s true. Look like you’re funded- even when you’re not.
- Look at it like a long-term game. No matter how seasoned you are, you need to remember that buyers are people. They want to build relationships- not just buy products. If your entire business rests on sales from a single season, you shouldn’t be in this business. You’d be better off investing your time into something that doesn’t require so much relationship-building and time. There is no magic replacement for hard work.
- Present with perfection. Yes, you need branded hangers. Yes, you need garment bags. Yes, you need stickers to add to boxes when you ship out samples. It’s all in the details. When you’re one of a thousand pitching brands and you get the opportunity to put your product in front of the buyer or send them samples, you’ve increased your odds to one of a few hundred. Why blow the opportunity by not making it the best darn presentation you can?
- Pitch 365 days a year. Well, technically no, but you cannot just communicate with someone when you need them. It’s like a friend who only asks you to coffee when they want you to lend them money. This is why brands hire showrooms and sales reps since they keep the relationships warm year round. You should be planning your month off communication so that when the official selling season is over you’ll still be in touch. This way if you have any immediates (products with inventory on hand) or want to chat about exclusives or even the next upcoming season, you’ll have their ears.
- Know your operations! This is a no-brainer. You have got to know what kinds of payment terms, minimums, shipping deadlines, EDI requirements, chargebacks and logistical elements buyers will ask for. Can you work on drop-shipment, cross-shipment or consignment? If you’re not prepared with the backend, all the front-end work and product development you’ve done will have been for naught. If you’re not familiar with the logistics and operations, educate yourself right away.
Best of luck this selling season! I know it’s difficult to sell your products to retail buyers. As a consultant for brands (and former buyer), I’ve spent the last 15 years in this industry and witnessed rapid change. Fashion veterans don’t know how to play in the new landscape of wholesale, retail, pop-up shops, mobile commerce and social media. You need to arm yourself with a strategic plan to leverage the best of your brand and then build from there. Your business model may be different from that of your peers, but finding the right model for you will help you achieve longevity and success. Here’s to a successful selling season!
Are you looking for one-on-one support as you expand into the wholesale business? Contact Scaling Retail for expert guidance from industry professionals for the likes of market entry and wholesale strategy, building relationships with buyers and more. Email email@example.com to schedule your consultation session today.