Almost every maker we talk to says, “I really want to grow wholesale -- and that, in itself, seems like a huge challenge. But even more than that, I want store accounts that are real relationships, and that place orders regularly over the long term.”
And we hear store owners say some variation of: “I placed an order with a maker, but after I paid my money and got my shipment, it was just ‘crickets.’ It means so much if makers follow up, check in, and make themselves available to get me any extra packaging, swap out pieces that aren’t selling, or see if there are any issues.”
Stores want and need you to follow up and support them after the sale. Makers want and need reorders. So we want to help you connect those dots.
We are big fans of reaching out to stores, and growing wholesale accounts -- but we also know how crucial it is to cultivate your existing accounts, which is why we are launching a big change to our product that will make it easier to do just that. Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement in the next 2 weeks!
Not every wholesale order is going to turn into a long-term relationship. In fact, most of your accounts won’t turn into long-term relationships. Some things won’t sell in some stores -- and there’s not always something you can do about that. But our most successful makers are those that are active about cultivating one-off orders into relationships. And there are several reasons for that -- not all of which are obvious at first glance.
3 reasons that caring for your current wholesale accounts is as important -- if not more important -- than getting new ones:
1. You can turn a $150 account into a $3,000 account
If a store orders once from you, that order might bring in $150, just as an example. That is fantastic! And it is a huge leap forward for folks used to selling $10 at a time. That same account, if they are really selling the product, could place an order with you every 3-4 months, over the span of the next several years years. $150 x 4 orders-per-year x 5 years = $3,000. That’s called the “lifetime value” of that account. Your first order with them might only be worth $150, but the potential lifetime value of that store can be many multiples of that. This doesn’t even account for the ‘follow-on’ effects of being in a store that is a good fit for your brand, such as new stockists that come from the exposure of having that account, traffic, and direct sales through your website.
2. You are supporting an ambassador of your brand
If you were going to pay a passionate, educated, well-connected person to advocate for your brand, tell your story, and share your products -- and if they were going to do that 8 hours a day, several days a week -- how much would you fairly pay her? $15/hour? $50/hour? That would be so valuable, it would almost be impossible to pay her enough. Well, the incredible news is that when a store owner chooses to carry your line, they are also choosing to be an ambassador of your brand. They succeed only as much as they succeed in telling the stories and advocating for each product they sell in their store -- so believe that they are telling the story of your product. That means that anything you do to support your store owners in succeeding, and support them in feeling happy and satisfied with their order from you, is something you are doing to support an ambassador of your brand. In that context, almost no effort on your part could be too much.
3. YOU’RE CREATING THE KIND OF WORLD WE WANT TO LIVE IN.
One of the makers we work with, Jonnie Estes from Grey Theory Mill, got an order from a store across the country from her. The store owner shared precisely why she connected so much with the line, she is also a maker, and why she was so excited about the work. Jonnie then emailed us letting us know how much this relationship meant to her on a personal level:
“I mean, I'm stoked on the order, but being on the same page as another maker who is on the other side of the US totally made my stressful-anxious just ok-day to a wonderful one.”
And to us, that is what it is all about. Why take extraordinary care of your stores? Well, beyond the potential financial value, beyond the value for your brand -- there is the value that exists in cultivating relationships. This little handmade world we are a part of simply cannot thrive unless we all contribute towards weaving together the relationships that make it possible. And every little bit of energy you put out, in cultivating your relationships with your stores, is a contribution to creating the kind of world we want to live in.
All of which is to say: treat every store as if they are a $3,000 customer, a brand ambassador, and a partner in creating the world we want to live in. Because they are.
“Ok, ok,” you say. “But how do I do that?” Ok, that part is actually the simpler part. And it’s something we’re going to be digging into over the coming weeks and months. It’s also why we are building an exciting new piece of Wholesale In a Box to address it.
Today, we want to share one simple concept that we think can be really powerful for cultivating and caring for your store accounts:
Don’t treat your customers who are 2,000 miles away like they are 2,000 miles away.
No matter how you get an account -- if they reached out to you or if you introduced yourself -- that is only one (though often challenging) part of the job. After that, the work of cultivating that account, taking care of them, and developing a relationship that leads to reorders is a crucial component.
One way to frame it is to treat every wholesale account like they are your first and that they live right down the road from your house. Because 90% of the things you would do in that situation ARE things that you can do for every single store account that you have.
Some things you might do if they were your first account and down the road:
- Set a reminder after you send your order to reach out and make sure everything looks ok and see how things how things are selling.
- Ask them what you can do better to help them with the display, how can you make it easier for them. Ask how you could have made the ordering process easier.
- Bring them a little gift or treat with their order.
- If there are certain things that are selling and others that aren’t, perhaps offer to replace the things that aren’t for free.
- Put them on a separate email list for when you announce a new product. They are your people: tell them first.
- Reach out at appropriate intervals (we recommend every 2-4 months) to see if they would like to reorder, just pinging them to check in.
- If they say no, that’s OK, move your energy to other accounts.
Not every order will turn into a 5 or 10 year relationship, but the best way to find out if they will, is by creating a system to cultivate those accounts instead of letting them fall off.
Keep an eye out for some big changes to Wholesale In a Box in the coming weeks which will will help you create a system to manage your existing wholesale accounts -- and turn many of your $150 sales into $3,000 sales.
How are you tracking your current accounts? What tools are you using currently to know when to follow up and when someone ordered last? We would love to see and hear how it’s been working for you! Comment below what has been working and not working for you to cultivate your current wholesale accounts.