How to get more stockists
I hate the term customer service. It makes me go “Hurrrghehhugheweeeuuughrgh.”
That’s not a happy sound. In Scotland we describe the unpleasant experience which often accompanies it as “shouting for Hughie.”
This is a post about customer service, so Hughie might be summoned repeatedly. I just hope he’s remembered to tape River Monsters, that’s all I can say.
So let’s say you’ve got one precious stockist.
One far-sighted early-adopter has exchanged cold, hard cash for the privilege of having your lovely thing on their shelves. This glorious state of affairs is the direct result of a lengthy process you embarked upon, perhaps months ago.
You identified this retailer as a potential stockist, sent them a eye-scorchingly brilliant submission and they said YES. Then you received their order, made the items, took payment according to your terms and conditions, lovingly packaged twenty of your lovely things up in a box and proudly waved them off at the post office.
Do you want a tissue? Oh, that was just a bit of dust in your eye. Okay.
You’re such a smart cookie. You know that, right? Seriously, you just made something wonderful happen through your own talent, determination and skill. You spun something out of nothing and you have the benjamins* in your bank account to prove it. I’m ridiculously proud of you.
Give yourself the night off.
Hang on a second. That was take the NIGHT off, not THE REST OF YOUR LIFE off.
Yes, I’m sure. I heard myself say it very clearly. Oy.
This where many artists and designers go wrong.
They expend a huge amount of time and energy tracking down and converting potential stockists, then the minute the order is dispatched they forget all about them.
Once business has been concluded, so to speak, they’re out the door and hunting for someone new. No having breakfast together. No cuddling until jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. No time to unhook the underwear from the ceiling fan.
Well, where I come from we have a name for people like that: DESIGNERS AND ARTISTS WHO NEED A LITTLE BIT OF HELP WITH THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE.
The reason I hate the term customer service (Hhhurrurhgghhheughrghughie) is this.
It’s the most corporate, de-humanising, mechanistic, soulless, insincere way possible to describe building a relationship with another human being. It puts us in boxes.
You = customer, buyer, entity whose very identity is expressed in terms of their ability and willingness to spend money. Me = robot whose sole purpose is to appease customer while simultaneously extracting the maximum amount of cash.
I don’t want to be part of that, and I bet you don’t either.
Happily, like all cliches and common usages, the term customer service (Hrururhghhhughierrrghgr) has something real and important at its core.
That’s the idea of service.
True service is doing stuff for other people. Making sure they’ve got everything they need. Using your gifts, energy and time to create a business that solves their problems, in whatever way you can. Doing this selflessly, not in the sense that you aren’t rewarded for your work, but because you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help.
Actually loving your customer. Wanting them to be whole and happy.
This kind of service doesn’t stuff anyone in a box, and it isn’t just about money. It’s a creative force that flows through your business and out into the world. It connects you to your right people – the ones who naturally love what you do. It’s the at the core of everything Rachel talks about in her branding post.
So how does this apply to you getting more stockists?
Well, answer me this.
Is service at the centre of your business right now?
Are you serving the shopkeepers who stock your work to the very best of your ability?
I learned a lot about what retailers want from their suppliers through writing Retailer Catnip. Are you doing these things?:
- Keeping in touch with your stockists regularly
- Letting them know when new items are available
- Thanking your stockists for supporting you
- Asking for feedback on your products
- Investing in the success of their business by offering to help
When you’re very clear about how you serve shopkeepers, two things happen.
First, you suddenly get a hell of a lot better at making your existing stockists happy. That means the re-orders, testimonials and referrals keep on landing in your inbox, even when other suppliers are being dropped.
Second, you get really good at tracking new potential stockists down. They practically jump out at you. No more sending out submissions and hoping someone (or anyone) will bite. When you know how you serve people, it becomes really easy to see the people who need you. Approaching these retailers about stocking your work is easy because you’re on the same wavelength. That means a higher hit rate and much less time and energy spent trying to get new money through the door.
Sorry, is that your business making that strange purring sound?
Oh, that’s what it does when it’s THRIVING LIKE MAD.
Thanks Hughie, it’s been a blast.