Our 7 Favorite New Year Planning Resources for Makers on a Mission

 

We’re really into New Year’s.

Not the parties or the countdown, so much. But the chance to pause, plan, and reflect. For us, New Year’s has always felt like the end of one year, and the beginning of... whatever we want.

For the makers we work with, I think that there is even more of a sense of the opportunity of the new year, since Christmas orders finally taper off and they can start to have space to imagine something new.

This year, the transition between 2015 and 2016 feels especially significant to us, for sure. In 2015, Wholesale In a Box went from longing, to sparkly idea, to a promise-filled business that we love. And for us, 2016 is going to be about nourishing this community, these partners, these maker business so that we can be more deeply in service to people doing work they love.

In these weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, we’re taking time to ski, to make cookies, to be with family, and to dig deep into our reflection on 2015 and plan for 2016. We’re just starting that process. But we wanted to share some of our favorite New Year’s rituals and resources that you can pick and choose from to whatever else you do around this time.

Within your business, you might have to drill down and do more strategic and tactical planning. You might need to get really specific. Or you might need to get super-metaphysical and do spirit-level work. But in the middle somewhere, we think you’ll want to do the simple, deep work of simply looking at the year that has passed and imagining what is next.

In service to that, these are our favorite New Year’s rituals and resources for creative entrepreneurs and maker businesses:

  • Writing out a life painting
    I’m not positive where this came from originally, but the person who told me was Melissa Foster at Brilliant Life Design. And Anna Kunnecke told me that people tend to overestimate how much they can do in one year but underestimate how much they can do in three years. So I always pick a date three years in the future and just do a stream of consciousness writing exercise answering the question, “If anything were possible, what would my life look/smell/sound/feel/be like 3 years from today?” You don’t have to make an action plan from it, though that can be a great next step. Just the act of writing it down can be so powerful. 
  • Picking a word as a theme for the year.
    Whether it’s dominion, receive, bliss, give or grow -- the idea is to settle on a word that is meant to be the guiding value for that year in your life. I’m too indecisive/greedy to actually pick one word, but Anna Kunnecke does it and it’s working for her.
  • Elise’s Get To Work Book
    I know there are a lot of planners out there, but this is one I really admire. It is a flexible planning system with a lovely, minimal design. It’s been fun to see how different people use it, too. 
  • The annual review
    If you’re more of a spreadsheet kind of gal, Chris Guillebeau always does an “annual review” that is on the comprehensive and systematic end of things. Plus, he has a free spreadsheet goal-setting tool.
  • A beautiful wall calendar
    This might sound a little silly, but in such an electronic world, where most of what I do is corralled in pixels, I love to have a gorgeous market of time on the wall, like MARGINS’ moon calendar or Native Bear’s gorgeous wall calendar
  • Questions we sometimes answer, usually with colored sharpies:
    • What was great, successful, and wonderful?
    • What was challenging, sticky, a failure, or felt draining?
    • What do we want to let go of?
    • Who do we want to be and how do we want to feel this year?
    • If anything were possible, what would 2016 look like?
  • Other things we do:
    • Plotting out month by month when we want to do things during the year. Travel, trips to family, creative retreats, major milestones.
    • Writing thank you notes. There is something really cathartic, and energizing, and powerful and writing thank you notes to people who have given you the gift of inspiration, support, partnership, trust, or other equally powerful things. We’re doing a little batch of these to the people who have meant the most to our business this year, and it’s been one of our favorite rituals on a number of levels.

The most important thing is to set aside time to reflect on your year with both honesty and gratitude -- and then letting yourself imagine what’s after that. There’s obviously no “right” way to do this, and I tend to get overwhelmed when I see a million questions or an obsessively rational/logical/left-brained approach. So just grab whatever set of exercises or questions has a sense of fun or ease to it, a notebook, something delicious to eat, and listen to yourself for a few hours.

Let us know how it goes, and if we can be of any help or support -- we’re here. Happy 2016!

 



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

How We Choose the Stores We Send Our Makers

“How do you find stores that are a good fit for my brand?”

This is one of the questions we hear most often. We take it as a good sign when a customer asks this, because it’s an indicator that they are thinking about the right things.  

Some of the makers we work with have years of experience and some are just starting out -- but many are aware that their products will only sell to the extent that they get in front of the right stores.

What it means to be a ‘right store,’ though, varies from maker to maker and product to product. It’s our job to line up stores that we believe would be excited to see your email.

How we put together our stores:

These are the steps we use to find stores / stockists for our customers at Wholesale In a Box. We have the advantage of being able to gain insights across dozens of makers and hundreds of stores -- all of which we can put to work for our customers. That said, you can absolutely do this yourself; we just take the busy work off your hands and lend some insight about what we’ve seen work for other makers.

Each week we sit down, (usually there is coffee and often pretzels) and look at everything we have from our makers, one at a time. We look at their:

  • Website
  • Line sheet or catalog
  • Instagram, Facebook, Etsy profile and blog
  • Survey we sent them when they signed up with us.
  • Notes we have taken about their preferences and how they want to grow when speaking with them during their initial introduction to Wholesale In a Box and since then.

We are looking to see if anything has changed on their end, if they have any new products they are showing off, or new accounts they landed. For instance, if they just got 3 new accounts in the Bay Area in the past 2 months, that will tell us that similar stores with a similar aesthetic in other cities may be interested in that maker’s products. We ask what else is like that neighborhood and those stores. What do they have in common?  Maybe there is a place in Austin or Baltimore or Lawrence Kansas that is similar.

On the other hand, if a certain kind of store has been turning them down more than others, it may be time to pivot away from that type of store.

Then with all of that information in mind, we get to researching!

We look for stores that fit where our customer wants to grow, the type of store that they want to be in, and the stores that will be thrilled to be introduced to their brand.

For each of the stores, we are assessing:

  • The vibe of the store. Is it boho chic, does it have a surfing theme, is it more of a gallery store.
  • Other brands. What other brands do they carry? And would a buyer who bought those things by more or less inclined to by interested by our customer’s x, y or z?
  • The store’s audience. Who is their target market and how does that fit in with the type of market our customer is trying to reach.  
  • Specific requirements. Do they have any specific requirements other than the usual linesheet? Do they only place orders during certain months of the year or ask that they are directed to someone other than the owner?

We do this by doing a very thorough review of the store’s online presence (website, blog, social media, reviews, and press) as well as the results that our other makers have had with the store, plus our offline interactions, experience, or relationship with the store.

Once all the research is done, it also comes down to “gut.”. The stores that Vanessa gets, with her minimal bohemian jewelry and edgy brand are dramatically different from the stores that Clara gets, with her pretty, elegant stationery. We find that we have a pretty good knack for feeling these things out -- and no algorithm or checklist will really suffice.

In the end, it comes down to our passion for helping people do the work they love. With each store we select for a maker, we know we’re saving her time that can go to design or production. And with each store that places an order, we know that there is a growing community of people who are spending their time and money on what they love.

 



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

New around here: improved store profiles, an add-this-cool-store button, and more.

We're always working to make Wholesale In a Box work better for you. So we're often behind the scenes, tweaking and tinkering to adjust small things to make your life a teensy bit easier. 

This week, we adjusted several things that we wanted you to know about so that you're not surprised when you see them!

1. Neat new options for updating stores and stockists
You'll notice that we squeezed in a brand-new section on My Dashboard called "Stockists and Updates." Here, you'll be able to do two new things: 

  • View, add, or remove current stockists. Let's say you gained a new account through a trade show or other means -- and you want that to reflect in your goal count and stockist list -- you can add that with the "Add a Current Stockist button." 
  • Add a store for outreach. If you're walking along and see a great shop, or have a list that you keep meaning to reach out to -- just give us the name and city of the store(s) and we'll add full profiles to your My Stores list and integrate outreach for them into your calendar. 

2. You can now update store status in the calendar (as well as in My Stores). 
Before, you were only able to update store status on the My Stores page. We added the ability to mark a store as having placed an order, requested a sample or followup, or said no -- right from the calendar. You can also mark a store as "not for me" there too. 

3. There's a link to the Help Page on My Dashboard.
We also updated it with images to make it a bit easier to navigate. 

4. The store layout in My Stores is spruced up. 
You can see the store's city on that main page, and the store's status is a more findable at a glance. Links to Update Store Status and See More are now in the right column.

We'll keep you posted as we continue to tinker... 

And let us know if you have suggestions for other features or tweaks! You can always shoot us an email at team@wholesaleinabox.com.



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

8 Tips for Makers Growing Wholesale

Last week, we ducked into Moon and Arrow from a cold rain and tucked our umbrellas by the door. As always, we felt like we’d entered a palpably distinct space. Lights sparkle off glass and bronze and scents waft over lovingly made displays. There are tea towels by Native Bear nestled near jewelry by Forge and Finish, by a rack of vibrant vintage, alongside pouches by Peg and Awl.

  Photos from  Moon+Arrow

Photos from Moon+Arrow

It’s not surprising that Moon and Arrow has such a passionate following here in Philly (and renown beyond.) The store’s owner, Chelsea, has a love for creativity and making, a fierce work ethic, and a generous spirit that is deeply felt.

Chelsea was kind enough to share her insights on the best and worst things makers do when it comes to getting their products on her shelves. Her perspective is super-valuable; she’s a maker and artist, in addition to being the badass entrepreneur behind Moon and Arrow and the visionary curator and cultivator of the space. 

These are a few insights Chelsea and Sarah, who does communications, shared in our conversation:

 

On standing out

“Ultimately, what we buy depends most on whether it’s just a great fit for the store. We’re looking for things that are really unique. It’s a fine line -- not necessarily trendy, but fitting into a trend… we’re looking for something relevant and that people are excited about in a collective consciousness way.”

“We do also look for local stuff, and we’re careful to not have too much overlap with what we already have. So if we have a similar apothecary line but like what you have, we’ll sometimes buy the one or two items in the line that we don’t have yet.”


On connecting with stores

“Trade shows are like five grand, at least. I still think, for small businesses, cold-calling -- emailing stores that you think are right for you -- is still the best way to go.” 


On timing

“I’ve found not a lot of people realize how far in advance we buy. We buy in late summer for Christmas. People are emailing us [in late November] for Christmas and unless it’s a perfect fit, we just don’t have money for it. Sometimes we’ll buy things for more immediate timing, but those are usually things we’re just restocking. We’ll still be interested and look at emails and products we get now, but it would be to buy in a while, once we’re able to make more purchases.” 


On persistence

“There are just so many emails, that if you’ve heard back from us positively, it’s definitely effective to follow up -- as long as you give us the time to do what we need to do on our end. Once we tell you we’d like to buy, don’t follow up with us every week to hurry us along.”


On meeting her halfway

“I really want to give people a chance but people don’t send photos or functional links to their website and most stores are not going to bother to hunt for you. Or sometimes makers will put the wrong store name in their email and that just feels so, so weird.”

“Having a wholesale site or login is really great. And anyone who is willing to take payment when the order is ready [but before it is shipped to the store], rather than upon ordering, is really helpful. Or even a 50% deposit on ordering and the rest when the order is ready, is great.”


On packaging

“Packaging is a huge thing when deciding what to buy. Not everything has to have a fancy package, but for something like apothecary, you need to think about the kinds of stores you want to be in, and the packaging has to fit.” 

“You packaging doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to work -- a lot of the paper labels rub off.”

“The biggest thing with packaging is that people need to be told what they are looking at, and you need to communicate that without having it be too wordy. For instance, tea towels need to be labeled as tea towels, and it really helps when it says the dimensions so we’re not guessing or having to unfold everything for customers.”


On samples

“We don’t need samples for most things, but for anything with a scent or flavor, we want to try it. When you send a sample, make a nice presentation that shows what the product is like, but don’t go overboard where it’s almost pressuring us into buying.”


On delivering your order and following through professionally

“I hate ordering something for Christmas, and the order is so late that we get it on December 20th -- it puts us in a tough spot.” 

“if you’re going to change packaging think about how it’s going to affect the customer. Are you willing to take back the old stock if you are changing the product? We can’t have half of a product that looks one way and half of a product that looks completely different. Just email me and say, ‘hey, we’re rebranding, how many of the new boxes do you need?’ Those things make such a difference.” 

 


We think Chelsea’s advice goes to show that being brave and persistent when reaching out to stores pays. But so does being really sensitive to the store owner’s experience and perspective -- and helping her every step of the way. So many makers treat store owners like they’re some kind of adversary -- when really, most store owners are thoughtful, creative, generous people who deserve thoughtful collaboration and partnership from makers.

Thanks again, Chelsea!



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Why You May Not Get a Sale On The First Try -And Why That’s OK

If you’re a maker who is cultivating relationships with stores, it can feel discouraging. The fact is, most seeds you sow don’t take root; and most retailers don’t respond to your emails.

The flip side (and the good news) is that if you do steady, thoughtful, consistent outreach to stores -- and if your product stands on its own -- you will get sales.

But, far more common than getting an order right of the bat is needing to follow up with stores once or twice and then getting a sale or 2 or 3.  

 

Why you may not get a sale on the first try, even if your product is a great fit for the store:

Volume:
The stores you are reaching out to likely get flooded with emails so your chance of being seen increases if you (figuratively) come by occasionally and take your letter from the bottom of the pile and put it on top.  

Timing:
It’s a crazy time of year but even when it’s not store owners are busy and have businesses and kids and dogs that need to go to the vet. And as we all know, when things get crazy, email maintenance is one of the first things to go.

 

And that’s OK, because it’s not personal.

The story we tell ourselves that the lovely lady who runs whatever store is sipping her tea and reading your email and saying ‘who does this person think they are?! emailing me four times! And you call that jewelry?! ha! delete!’

I have never (literally not one time) heard of someone responding negatively to a follow up email.  I have, however, seen and personally received dozens of emails that say, ‘Thank you so much for bringing this back up to the top for me!’ or ‘thanks but not for me’ or ‘I just finished ordering for the holidays, would you mind pinging me in February?’ The truth is if they’re not interested they’ll just skip over it or tell you nicely, end of story.  

We can help you do the best you can getting your email templates in order and help you think through your line or pricing. But ultimately, if growing steady is your goal, persistence will win the day.  Keep at it!



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

3 Things You Can (and Should) Put in the Box With Your First Order

In previous posts we have said that reaching out to stores is a moment of great potential. This is never truer than when a store gets their first order. It’s an opportunity to start the relationship off right, to shake their hand (figuratively speaking) and tell them how excited you are to be working with them. 

3 things you can (and should) put in the box:

  • Something to make you stand out
    It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive but something sincere and on-brand is what you should be going for.  That might just mean a thank you card telling them you are there if they need anything. 

     
  • Help them make you look good
    You have more experience than the store in displaying your products well.  Consider sending them a simple easy-to-use tool to allow your products to stand out.  You don’t need to send them a six foot card rack if you are selling stationery, think small, something that you could package your order up in, for instance.  A great example we saw recently at a local coffee shop is how the Mast Brothers send their chocolate! 

 

  • Make it easy to reorder
    Make it easy for them to reorder by following up with a phone call and asking them how things are going, what’s been selling and what hasn’t, and if there is anything you can do to help. Robin Kramer and Tracy Matthews give the great advice of not being afraid of your buyers! While you’re on the phone with them, ask if they would like to ‘fill up’ on anything in particular that has been selling well. 


What do you include in your box? What has worked well for your company? If you need someone to think this through with feel free to set up a time to speak with us here! We are more than happy to help.



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Why Losing 8 Pounds Very Slowly is a Lot Like Store Outreach Right Now

Last Sunday, Marci of the famed store Lula Mae in California, was up until the late hours of the night swapping out Halloween skulls for stuffed bears with reindeer antlers. Like many store owners, Marci is in a mad dash to get things set up and unpacked for the holidays.

That means she's not as immersed in selecting new products to purchase for the store. She may be buying (it varies store to store) -- but not at the same rate as she might be in September or February. So, many makers will put their wholesale outreach and relationship-building on pause for a few months. Ultimately, we defer to each individual business owner about what is right for your business. You may want to take a break, and that’s fine. But here's what we know for sure: stores will be buying among their highest quantities as early as January -- and the best time to build the relationships that underlie those new purchases is now.

The best predictor of stable income and stable production quantities is to cultivate orders and relationships with retail outlets even when you’re at your busiest - because what you do now impacts what you get a few months from now.

It's kind of like my characteristically moderate health kick this past year. While most people hope to lose 10 pounds in a month (or a week!), I ate a little less and exercised a little more and lost 8 pounds in a year. Brownies were not off the menu and I did whatever exercise I actually enjoyed -- and never lost weight so slowly in my life. But this time, I feel healthier than I ever did when I lost weight fast, and I know it's sustainable. Similarly, your wholesale growth in November and December may not be flashy or mega-fast, but a year from now, you will see the results of the work you did now.

Yeah, but how do I find the time to do that?

One question I've heard from folks, though, is this: how do I find the time to do that outreach, when I barely have time to fill orders and deal with day-to-day? How do we tend to our immediate/cash-generating/urgent stuff while building the long-term/important initiatives that will benefit us in the future? This is a tension that is never resolved. The one thing that has worked for me in this area is just religiously blocking out a small-but-important chunk of time EVERY week. So, even 60 minutes per week, Friday at 8am. And you're not allowed to do anything in that 60 minutes except work on this long-term, important project. Once the time block is over, you drop it until next week -- but you always put in that time.

Ok, so how do I make the most of the time I spend?

There are a few things you can do. If you’re already a Wholesale In a Box customer, you’re already ahead of the game, as we make it less time consuming to find stores and simpler to manage the outreach. But we did want to share a few alternative perspectives on how to approach the season -- and your goals for engaging retailers. Some things to consider in your wholesale efforts this winter:

  • Shift your wording and what you request.
    While normally you’re politely suggesting an immediate order, you can certainly shift your wording to request that they take a look at your products and let you know if they might be a good fit for the store at some point in the next few months.

  • Adjust your own goals.
    Right now, your goals may be more about achieving a certain number of connections with stores, and less about orders placed. Once you hit January and February, you can return to an “orders placed” mindset -- but you’ll benefit from all the relationship building you did now.

  • Focus on building relationships now, and follow up for an order later.
    One thing you can do is shift your followup schedule so that you’re sending one (maybe two) emails now -- and then following up for a final time in January. As a Wholesale In a Box customer, you can can ask us to adjust your followups to be in January rather than now, to make more time for production in coming weeks, and also have a more relationship-oriented approach with retailers. If you're not a customer, you can always set your calendar up manually. 

As always, let us know what we can do to help. If you need a sounding board on your plan or feedback on your approach -- you can always feel free to set a quick call with us here.

 



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Do’s and Dont’s for Followup Emails to Retailers

As someone who who loves working on my own business projects, connecting with advisors, customers, and partners is a huge part of my life. So reaching out to people -- and then following up -- is also essential. 

I used to hate the "following up" part, though. My emails inevitably sounded whiny. I never remembered to do it and I didn't have a good system to help me remember (a big part of the reason that we built those reminders into Wholesale In a Box, actually.) Worst of all, I always worried I was being a pest. I pictured them getting my followup email and grimacing in annoyance. "That Emily," I pictured them saying, "She's driving me nuts." 

There was an experience I had that drastically changed my mind, though. I went to the Unreasonable Institute, a business incubator in Boulder, CO that was transformative for me. The incubator revolved around the involvement of mentors, and one day I was chatting with Teju, the wonderful man who runs it, about how they find those mentors. 

"It takes persistence," he told me. When pressed for more details, he explained, "It's just that a lot of these folks are really busy and get a lot of email. So it's simply not respectful of that reality to email them once and expect to hear back. Sometimes I've emailed mentors as many as 17 times before they were ready to commit." 17 times?! I was a little incredulous until Teju showed me some of these email threads and I saw that, indeed, Teju followed up with extraordinary persistence but also with deep respect, impeccable manners and thoughtfulness, and unparalleled good humor.

And it worked -- mentor after mentor would say some variant of "Thank you so much for your persistence -- this does look interesting and I'd like to be part of it." 

Since then, I've come to look at followup emails as an opportunity to be of service. When you send thoughtful followups, you take the onus off the recipient to keep your email top of mind. You give your project a chance to thrive in the world.

For Wholesale In a Box members, this process is a crucial part of makers' success. When connecting with retailers (who often receive hundreds of email per week), it's rarely enough to drop them a single note. Followups are part of the job -- and we believe it can be a joyful part that adds a lot of value to both you and them. 

To that end, these are some Dos and Don'ts in sending followup emails to stores: 

Do: 

  • Acknowledge that you're following up. 
    You don't need to sugarcoat it or pretend you're doing something other than what you're doing.
  • Express respect and understanding of their situation, in a friendly and positive way. 
    Assume they’re well-intentioned AND busy. Expressing that understanding in your tone (and even explicitly in your words) is a wise thing to do.
  • Include news or an update or additional discount.
    You don’t have to, but if you just released a new product or have a discount you can extend, a followup email is a great spot for that.
  • Decide ahead of time how much to check in and stick with it. 
    With Wholesale In a Box, we help makers set a followup schedule that is consistent -- so that they don’t have to mull over (or stress over) whether and when to follow up, every single time. Don’t decide anew with each one -- decide once what your plan is and carry it out.

Don't:

  • Don't be stern or act annoyed.
    Scan your email once you write it and see whether it is obviously friendly -- if it’s not, soften it up a bit with a few friendly comments so that the retailer is at less risk of feeling scolded.
  • Be sheepish. 
    You can be respectful and friendly without making yourself “less than” by using excessive qualifiers and apologies. 
  • Be too informal. 
    You should still use good formatting, good greetings and signoff, and a respectful tone in every email. 


Let us know if you want an extra pair of eyes on your next followup email! We’re always glad to help with fine tuning (just forward it to team@wholesaleinabox.com)

Emily and Etan



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Tips to Feeling Super-Confident About Your Wholesale Order Minimum

One question that comes up a lot from makers working to grow wholesale is: How much should I set as my minimum wholesale order?

You may well have some great thoughts about this -- so let us know! But we’ve put together what we’ve seen work, and some pros and cons of different approaches -- to hopefully save you some headaches down the road.

When it comes to building your wholesale accounts, it’s important to make it easy for stores to order with you. So, many makers ask: Why do I need to set an order minimum?

It’s a great question and it comes down to two things: exceeding expectations and sustainability. First, when a store places an order with you,they want to see if your products will sell and if you deliver professionally. When you ask for a reasonable minimum, it gives you the financial breathing room to produce quickly, attend to order details thoughtfully, and exceed expectations. Second, you are trying to grow, but in a sustainable fashion. If you stress your business with too-small wholesale orders, you won’t be supporting the long-term sustainability -- or sanity -- of your business.

So what should my minimum be, then?
There is quite a bit of variation by product type, price point, and store type. That said, we find that $250-350 is a good place to start for most of the makers that we work with and seems to be something of standard.

Another way to think about this is: what order you would not be resentful of? If someone called and placed a wholesale order for $23, you’d likely feel a little taken advantage of -- not a good foundation for providing the store excellent service or building a long-term relationship.

But what about maximums!?
The flips side of this is getting such a big order that it would mess up your production schedule or overwhelm you.  If you, like many businesses, are making things to order, you can consider adding something like this: “Each of our products is handmade from start to finish, so we ask that you don’t order more than 20 of a single item in each order.”


SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Don't worry about…
    Getting it perfect. You will certainly shift your policies over time to meet your evolving needs. So take a stab at what you think will work for you, and change it as soon as it doesn’t work anymore.
  • For a quick-and-dirty 3-minute fix, just…
    Adjust your line sheet to reflect what feels like a reasonable order to you, something you would be thrilled boxing up for the retailer.
  • Or to really dig in, consider…
    Ask yourself how else might you entice a new customer? What barriers could you remove to make it easy for them to order? What have stores told you in the past about what they’re looking for? When you meet stores needs in other ways, you can ask for higher minimums.


Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

A Little Trick Makers Can Steal From Silicon Valley

A big concern we hear from makers is that "stores only buy from brands that are already well-established."

And that can be so frustrating. How can you break into stores, if stores will only buy from makers that are already in a lot of stores?!

Our take? Yes -- this can be a huge barrier. Established brands feel less risky to stores because they believe they'll sell better and because they think larger companies will be more organized and professional. 

But the fact is that your relative newness doesn’t have to be a barrier. Your products may actually sell better than those other “more established” lines. Your stuff may be a better fit for the store. It may be higher quality, or more affordable, or just plain cooler. 

But how do you get the store owner to believe that? You give them proof. 

There is a concept called "social proof" that is popular with tech companies in Silicon Valley. It's common sense, basically, but has a lot of hype around it since it significantly impacts sales.

The idea is simply that people are more likely to choose to do things that other people are doing. It's less risky. It seems cooler. You don't have to think about it as much.

Stores have all of those human reasons to look for social proof -- plus, they have the pressure to only spend money on products that are going to sell. If they buy too many products that don't sell, they can't survive.

These are some examples of social proof that you can share with store owners in an email:

  • Other great stores you're in. 
    Of course you should link to your stockists page, but also be sure to mention in your email if there are likeminded stores that carry your products. 
  • Press and exciting news. 
    If you have press about your products, you should definitely mention it and maybe even link to it. If you have the good fortune of being featured in Fashion Week or other great event, use that! Mention it in the email and add a link to the moment on Instagram.
  • Sales facts. 
    Not everyone has something like this, but if you do, you should share it. For instance, "I've been thrilled to see that this line is selling well: when I put the first earrings on Instagram, they sold out within 6 hours." If you have anything directly from stores (in terms of reorders or how quickly your stuff sold), that's great too.

Ok, but once you have something that you'd like to mention, where in the email do you mention it? I think it's best to put it towards the end of a paragraph about your products or company. You can describe what you do and then have one of these pieces of social proof be the clincher that drives home the value of what you do. Sometimes it's even best to give this social proof line its own paragraph so that it stands out more to a store owner who may be scanning your note pretty quickly.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Don't worry about…
    sounding arrogant. This isn't about you talking about how great YOU think your products are -- it's about sharing a concrete fact that might be helpful to the store owner.
  • For a quick-and-dirty 3-minute fix, just…
    If you do nothing else, choose the stockist you're proudest of, and mention them by name in your email (along with linking to your stockists list.) Takes zero creativity and may help.
  • Or to really dig in, consider…
    brainstorming a list of 10 things that you could consider including as social proof. Pick 1-2 to share in your next email. Then, as exciting things happen in your business, add to that list of social proof so that everything is one place and you can pull from it as you need to.


Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

How to Double the Chances That Stores Will Open Your Email

By the time you actually email a store, you've invested thousands of hours in everything that went into that email. 

You've painstakingly selected the fibers, metals, paper or fabrics that make up your products. You've imagined and sketched and brainstormed to come up with the designs. You've spent hundreds of hours making your products, dozens creating a linesheet, you've invested in Wholesale In a Box, you've composed a heart-felt and personalized email. 

And then, in a split-second, a store owner will scan her inbox, read the subject line of your email, and decide whether or not to even open your note. All that work --  hinging on something as insignificant as an email subject line. 

Email subject lines matter because they are the "face" of your email. But it can seem mysterious, irritating, or just downright impossible to try to figure out what exactly the subject line should be. Most makers give up and just put something generic.

Here are our best suggestions for writing an email subject line that will actually get your email opened. 

The principles: 

  • Use words that paint a picture. 
    The problem with just putting your business name or "wholesale inquiry" in the subject line is that it doesn't mean anything to the person receiving it. Sure, when I hear your business name, I think of your unique style -- but they haven't heard of you yet. So it's better to use words that already paint a picture for them.
  • If in doubt, stand out. 
    Even a weird subject line is better than a generic one. Which email would you be more likely to open, one with the subject "I'm bizarrely obsessed with your prints!" or one that said "Inquiry regarding promotion opportunity." 
  • Solve a problem. 
    The ideal subject line touches on something that the recipient is already worried or thinking about. They might be wanting to round out their product offerings for an upcoming holiday season. They might be looking for a product that will be super-remarkable and so boost store visits. You don't necessarily know what's on their minds, but you can authentically share something specific that you offer that might be helpful or interesting to them.

Some actual subject lines you could try: 

  • Descriptive.
    For instance, "Jewelry line with the same strong lines as Eileen Fisher" or "Hand-painted holiday scarves that are actually affordable"
  • Enthusiastic.
    For instance, "I love North Boutique because you're soulful and quirky."
  • Hyper-specific. 
    For instance, "If you're looking for hilarious cards, I'm your gal" or "These prints go perfectly with your fall furniture" 

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Don't worry about…
    getting it perfect -- even a slightly better subject line will help a lot.
  • For a quick-and-dirty 3-minute fix, just…
    adapt one of the subject lines above and try it out. 
  • Or to really dig in, consider…
    brainstorming 25 possible subject lines. The act of thinking of a LOT of subject lines usually works better than staring at a blank screen trying to think of a PERFECT subject line. Brainstorm 25 in your notebook and then go do something else. When you come back, scan the page and see which subject line would stand out the most to you if it were in your inbox. Use that one for a while -- you can always change it if you think of something better.

Making these small improvements -- like a more specific subject line -- can seem insignificant. But if you make a couple of changes each week, you will start to see results.  



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.