When we first started Wholesale In a Box, there was nothing in the space or on the market that existed like it -- not a single company that provided this service, though a couple have since sprouted up. We knew the method worked, based on our depth of experience in related approaches with makers and artisans around the world. We knew makers wanted it because we created it in response to the dozens and dozens (now hundreds) of conversations we had with makers in which they said, "I want to grow my wholesale, but it's a huge hassle finding stores that are a good fit, I don't have a good system to stay consistent, and I don't know what to send to stores or what to do when they don't write back."
But we didn't know specifically what kinds of makers would sign up with us. We didn't know how much of a difference training would make. We didn't know how successful we could help makers be.
The last 18 months have been a wild ride. And we've learned an incredible amount about which of our makers are most successful and which of our makers are least successful. Because the truth is that some of our makers are dramatically more successful with Wholesale In a Box than others. We have makers that got 5 new store accounts in their first two weeks with us. We have makers that get a new store account in their first 24 hours with us. And we have makers that go several months without seeing the results that we all want them to see.
So over the past few months, we have been on an obsessive mission to help all of our makers get the results of our most successful makers. We've asked the question: how can everyone we work with be wildly successful, both immediately and over the long term?
The result of months of work and days of analysis resulted in some pretty fascinating results. We found a lot of things that we could be doing better, to train and engage and equip our makers to the greatest extent possible. So we’ll be working on our end to put those in place. But we also found 7 "success behaviors" on the maker’s end that differentiate the makers who are most successful growing wholesale from the makers who are least successful growing wholesale. It’s a combination of super-concrete things and more high-level mindset pieces.
The 7 things that makers who are successful at growing wholesale do:
- They are hugely consistent in their email outreach.
Our most successful makers are like clockwork when it comes to sending emails. One maker logs in every morning at 6:30 am and sends every intro email and every followup until about 7:15 am when she moves on to other work. She sends every email on her calendar, and also adds additional outreach to stores she’s most excited about. We also have successful customers who are inconsistently consistent. That is to say that they work in spurts. Every two(ish) weeks they spend an entire afternoon sending emails and that works for them. Any way you work it, the ones who are getting stores are getting emails out regularly (which includes followups).
- Quality of product: they show stores what stores want to see.
Store owners are, by necessity, practical. They want to be able to tell a story about a brand. They want accessible price points. They want to know the facts about your pieces and also feel inspired that it will fly off their shelf. They need to know your work fits into a broader trend or zeitgeist in the market. Successful makers help store owners out by putting their minds at ease in relation to these dynamics. They can do that in photos, in narrative, in their line sheet, or in their outreach email -- but they address these things both implicitly and explicitly.
- They reach out to stores that make sense for them.
Whether you are working with us or not this one is essential. It’s one of those things that should go without saying but as many of those things go, does need saying. For our customers, this is one of the parts that we take care of by making sure that we send stores that line up with your brand and products. We take things into account like what a store owner is buying in a particular season, geography, style, offerings, and other makers’ experience selling to the store. If you are doing it by yourself, you may not have access to all of that information, but it is essential to make sure that the stores you are reaching out to would be a good fit for you.
- They are open minded about stores and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Our most successful customers don’t worry too much about "nos" or mis-steps. They are discerning but not picky when it comes to which stores to reach out to. They respond thoughtfully to stores, but don’t stress about every weird response. It is simply too hard to be consistent if you’re getting caught on the daily bumps in the road -- and consistency is where growth comes from.
- They have great quality outreach materials and packaging.
It’s hugely helpful to stores if your line looks great on the shelf. It doesn’t have to be fancy or have expensive packaging, but it is very important to be far away from ziploc bags and labels printed on flimsy paper. We also see this concept more generally -- pro makers focus on making great products, but also on all the “packaging” around them: their website, their photos, their line sheet, and working to improve those as time goes on.
Specifically one thing they do is purple cow outreach.
Seth Godin, a marketer we love, has this concept of the “purple cow.” The idea is that we tend to ignore products or marketing that is “just like everything else” -- and we are drawn to things that are remarkable, different, outstanding, or even weird. Our most successful makers are those that make themselves remarkable. That might mean a super-detailed and informative email template. It might mean a product line that is totally accessible but completely unlike anything else on the market. It might mean using penguin tactics. What it doesn’t mean is creating beautiful (but not unique) products and sending a competent (but not unique) email over and over again. Honestly, it’s more fun to be a purple cow -- and it definitely works better.
- They don’t get in their own way.
“Getting in your own way” could mean taking 2 months to draft an email template because you’re scared to get that first “no” from a store. It could mean quitting after a store owner says she doesn’t like your work. It could mean signing up for Wholesale In a Box but not investing the time or money to get good product photos that show your work well. It can be hard to pin down, but you can probably sense when you’re getting in your own way.
- They have endurance and take the long view.
There’s always a balance in business, between being persistent and ruthlessly cutting out whatever doesn’t work. We could never tell you the perfect balance. But we can tell you that our most successful customers are those who have good months, and bad months and forge on throughout. They’re the ones who say, “My focus is on growing my business over the next 12-24 months, so it doesn’t matter that much whether I get a new store account this month or don’t, as long as I’m making progress towards that goal over the span of several months.”
The one thing I can tell you for sure is that every single one of these things is something you can change, build, or develop. Makers who are successful at growing wholesale are made -- not born. We do our best to help every maker who works with us to develop in these ways -- as well as do everything we can on our end to make sure they have the tools to succeed. We also know that there is SO much more that we can do and are also in a constant process of improving.
So whether you’re a Wholesale In a Box customer or not, we want to cheer you on, on your journey. Wherever you are, there is room to grow and ways to get there.