Mostly, growing your handmade wholesale business is not a place for cheats or tips or tricks.
Mostly, growing wholesale is a long-term game where “boring” things like consistency, followup, respect, thoughtfulness, and gradual improvement of your product line are what work.
But! Since we spend all day everyday working with makers who are doing wholesale outreach, sometimes we’ll come across a fun tip that just is so simple and works so well that we think, “Gosh, I wish everyone knew about that.”
So, with the permission of the aforementioned makers, I’m sharing two of those tips.
2 handmade wholesale outreach tricks you might not have tried, but probably should:
1. Pitch stores in a city you’re visiting and set an appointment.
You’ve probably heard us say before that it’s generally a terrible idea to stop into a store and pitch your work, unbidden. Store owners want to be working with their customers when they’re in the shop, not reviewing your work.
That said, being able to show your work in person, being able to share textures, paper quality, or stitching precision can be such a wonderful advantage. So if you have any travel planned (or even in your home city), consider concentrating your outreach in one city, that you’ll be visiting in the next couple of months. Reach out to stores that are a great fit in that city, share your line sheet, and let them know that you’ll be in their city from X date to Y date, and that you’d be thrilled to stop by and give them a first-hand feel for the line. They can review the line virtually, but also opt into a visit if they want to (on their schedule.)
We’ve seen this be incredibly effective, leading both to higher response rates as well as a lot of sales for the couple of makers who have done this.
If you’re a Wholesale In a Box maker, you can let us know that you’re visiting a certain city and we’ll focus your outreach there during that timeframe. If you’re not a Wholesale In a Box maker, you’ll have to do the legwork to find the shops and track down contact information, but you can still certainly use this strategy.
2. Engage personally via Instagram before you reach out.
Another “no no” is to pitch store owners via social media. It’s just not professional (or effective) to leave a comment on a store owner’s Instagram post, pleading for them to review your line.
But -- one of our makers let us know that she’s making sure to follow store owners on Instagram about a week before she reaches out via email. She also engages in a thoughtful, real, personal way on one or two of their recent posts.
Then, when she does reach out via email, she’s finding that store owners feel like it’s a much “warmer” contact than it would be if she were reaching out totally out of the blue. It’s certainly not a manipulative thing -- just a friendly way to connect before it’s time to really pitch your products.
If you’re a Wholesale In a Box maker, the Instagram link for every store is included in the store’s profile, so you can just click through to engage. If not, usually a quick search within Instagram will do the trick.
Like I said, these tips aren’t going to change the game for you if you’re struggling with a product that’s not where it needs to be, or if you’re not playing the long game and staying consistent over time.
But they could be fun -- and super-effective, if these makers’ experience is any indicator -- to try within the context of a broader strategy.