If you’re a fashion brand that’s ventured into the world of wholesale or B2B (business to business) selling then you probably know how disheartening it is when your emails are ignored or a tradeshow isn’t as successful as you’d hoped. Don't worry, it happens to the best of us from time to time!
As a retail buyer and consultant, I work with clients in this area and they often ask me what’s really important to potential new wholesale customers. This post should give your brand a steer in the right direction as the principles in these 5 tips are the basis for everything I do in my work in this channel.
Wholesaling can be incredibly lucrative; I’ve worked with brands that make the majority of their sales through this route. It can also help as a way to promote your brand and get your message out to new parts of the country so it’s worth the extra time and effort involved.
In my work with both large high street retailers and with emerging brands I've seen clear patterns of what works and what doesn't. Here are my 5 top tips for fashion brands who want to get more sales at wholesale:
1. Be ridiculously unique and gain a cult following of ‘cheerleaders’
Don’t be scared of making your product and story really niche in the market and shouting about your unique qualities. The quote I use most when I talk to emerging brands is:
‘ Be everything to someone not something to everyone.’
Don't try to copy what someone else is doing, the more specific and unique your brand can be the better! The brands that I see grow successfully in all aspects of their business, but especially at wholesale, specialise in one area of the market.
In contrast, big high street retailers appeal to lots of different types of people and they do it well; you can't compete with what they've established (for now!). What you can do is carve out a section that's just yours, you can become experts and be the go-to brand for that product.
Building a brand in this way often means that you'll gain a cult following that's very passionate about what you do. These super fans will shout about your brand whenever they can and get quite loyal to the brands they love! They won't do this for the high street brands they buy from but they'll do it for the brand they 'discovered' and speaks to them in a way that nothing else does!
If you can create a genuine buzz around your brand then new wholesale customer will be seeking you out rather than the other way round! Large retailers would kill for a bit of this kind of passion for their brands so exploit it; especially on social media where an avid fan base can have a snowball effect on your reach.
2. Tell your story in whatever you do
To be totally frank, this is the only thing that really matters as it’s what drives wholesale customers to buy from you! Make every word and image on your website, in your look book and on your social media count and reflect your story. Wholesale customers want to buy into something that they can see will excite and capture the imagination of their customers.
Make your story pretty explicit and don't hide it; customers don't have time to coax it out of you! To help with this ensure you have a compelling and personal About Us page on your website; it's the first thing wholesale customers (and I!) go to after they've got a quick feel for your brand on your website.
Your About Us should do your brand justice so spend some time on it! I'll be writing a post about my tips on this soon as it's so key to a brands success.
3. Don’t overestimate how much your products will sell themselves
It goes without saying that your products should be excellent and unique in their field but there's also a lot of work and time that goes on behind the scenes when you're selling to wholesale customers.
As an example, there's a lot of groundwork that you need to lay in terms of networking. So much of this can now be done on social media but it still takes a lot of time, especially if you're doing it in a natural and thoughtful way (not in a spammy way!). Building an engaged and two-way relationship on social media could lead to sales and if nothing else can help make the emails you send less 'cold' so it's worth the time and extra effort.
4. Target your audience; don’t use a scatter gun approach
Another area that brands need to spend a lot of time on is targeting the right customers and making their communication with them considered and personal. This approach has a MUCH higher rate than a scatter gun approach to emailing.
At the very least it's key to find out the first name of the person you need to contact; people are much more likely to read an email that's addressed to them than 'dear sir/madam'.
If you're going to succeed then you need to spend a lot of time researching the right potential customers and targeting them specifically with information that you know will be important to them. By sending less emails you'll increase your chances of making actual sales!
The focus for wholesale customers differs slightly to your usual customers; for instance, they can't always spend their money when they want to. They're also businesses that are constantly balancing their ranges to ensure that they have a range of 'sure things' that pay the bills and newness that keeps their customers excited.
There could be all sorts of reasons why a wholesale customer might not be in a position to buy from you at that time you get in touch with them. For instance, they could have used up their budget for the season or already have a few new brands that they're trialling.
Asking for a little feedback can be useful to get an idea of there's anything you could be working on but chances are it's a timing problem.
Persistence is key (obviously don't be annoying!); keep the relationship open and don't give up on it. Keep engaging and having a meaningful relationship even if you're not selling to them yet, the timing will be right eventually if they really are the right store for you.
I also give practical advice for your wholesale problems like what the correct wholesale list prices are, when you should be selling, advice on pitching to buyers and much more.
In addition to my guides and I offer a spreadsheet of 300 potential customers details at nicoledavidson.co.uk. It's a great tool for targeting the wholesale customers that are right for your brand.