100 Ways To Get Stores Placing More Orders
Tons of ideas to keep retailers coming back.
1. Ask if the lovely thing you make is the best it can be.
If it isn’t, make improving it your top priority. Retailers often buy solely from product photographs. So if, when their first order arrives, it becomes clear that there are quality issues, they’re unlikely to come back for more.
2. Set aside time for your wholesale business.
Not just the making, but the selling too. If you want your relationship with your stockists to flourish, it needs your care and attention. Block out two, three or six hours a week, and actually work on wholesale during that time.
3. Become a catalogue connoisseur.
Sign up for the Boden, Toast and White Stuff catalogues, or find companies who sell this way where you live.
Get on their mailing list and when the catalogues arrive, study them. You’re a busy person, right? How do they make you want to drop what you’re doing and read their catalogue instead?
How are they using photographs and text? Make a list of ideas you could use in your buyers’ pack.
4. Get feedback on your current buyers’ pack.
Your buyers’ pack is the bundle of information you send to a retailer when you ask them to stock your stuff.
It includes your pitch email or letter, your catalogue or line sheet, your terms and conditions and your wholesale prices. The quality of your buyers’ pack has a huge influence on whether you receive orders from stores, so you need to be confident it’s pulling its weight.
Show it to someone who knows about selling to indie retailers and ask them to tell you the truth. What’s missing? What can you do more of? Where are you shooting yourself in the foot? Even small tweaks can have a big effect on sales.
5. Draw out a contact timeline.
For each stockist you have so far, sketch out how things have developed. How did they find you in the first place? What questions have they asked? How many orders have they made, and for which products? What feedback have you heard from them?
Plotting out the significant moments shows you where you are and gives you ideas on how to move the relationship forward.
6. Be contactable.
Provide a phone number and email address and be available when your stockists have questions or problems. Put your contact details in your buyers’ pack, on your website, in your email signature – everywhere.
You’d be surprised how many second and third orders are never placed because we get tired of trying to track suppliers down.
7. Fine-tune your branding.
It informs not just your logo, but the design of your website, the styling of the photos in your catalogue, the feel of your packaging and the emotional tone of the emails you send.
If you don’t know who you are, we won’t either.
8. Mark up a calendar with buying seasons.
Make a special effort to get in touch with your stores when they’re naturally thinking about spending money. Christmas buying, for example, runs from around May to late October.
9. Break big tasks down into little ones.
Instead of scribbling “Pitch new collection” on a post-it note and freaking out when it doesn’t happen, take little steps. What’s the smallest thing you could do today to make the big goal happen? Take care of that now. Do another one tomorrow.
10. Set up a wholesale section of your website.
This allows retailers to browse, buy and pay all in one place.
11. Find out what your stockists hate.
What drives them nuts about buying from suppliers? What frustrations and bottlenecks do they experience again and again?
Lack of communication? Huge lead times? Badly packed boxes? Identify the sticking points, then make it incredibly clear that they won’t ever have those problems with you.
12. Spend money where it matters.
You’re going to be directing hundreds of potential stockists towards your buyers’ pack, so spend money on it.
Stay within your means, but don’t scrimp on the things that determine the success of your business.
13. Be a real person.
Wholesale is about relationships, and it’s pretty hard to relate to a robot. Allow yourself to have a work personality and let it shine through in your interactions with stockists.
If you’re witty, be witty. If you’re silly, be a little silly. Let them see who you are so they can grow to like and trust you.
14. Pick interesting names for your products and collections.
Getting my customers excited about your new collection, thrillingly entitled “Necklaces,” is going to be tricky. Choose names which spark the imagination or tell a story.
15. Set up a mailing list that’s just for your stockists.
Rather than adding them without permission (thereby breaking international laws and cheesing off both the buyer and your email provider,) invite them to join. Show why it’s worth their attention.
16. Sign up for your stockists’ mailing lists.
Pay attention to what’s going on in their stores. The more you know about your retailers, the better you’ll understand what they want and need from you.
17. Have something interesting or valuable to say.
When you get in touch with your stockists, offer a discount or promotion. Show them new items. Tell them more about how your work is made.
Train them to look forward to opening your messages because there’s always something good inside.
18. Create an on-boarding process for new stockists.
If you were them, what would make you feel welcome and appreciated by a supplier?
19. Pick a default way of keeping in touch.
Maybe you email them personally. Maybe you ring them up. Maybe you drop in and see them.
Find a method that works for both you and your stores, then do it consistently and well. That way, when they’re ready to spend money, you’re front and centre in their minds.
20. Ditch your zombie blog.
That’s a blog which is visible on your site, but which you haven’t updated since that post about scotch eggs back in 2013. I know you keep meaning to get back to it, but until you do it’s not showing you in the best light.
You want your stockists to feel good about being associated with you, so clean up any un-dead material that’s lurching around.
21. Turn off blog comments and reviews.
Even the most frequently updated blog is undermined by every post displaying “No comments.” The same goes for product pages which all say “Be the first to review this product.” If you don’t have fresh stuff to go in those places, turn them off.
You can always turn them on again when you have a strategy for generating comments or reviews.
22. Fall in love with indie shops and shopkeepers.
Search them out and visit as many as you can, whenever you can. Be interested in them for their own sake. If you think of your shopkeepers as boring-but-necessary middle men they’ll know.
23. Offer to create a window display.
This can work brilliantly if you have local stockists. They get a break from thinking up new ideas, your products take centre-stage in their displays, and you both have lots to talk about on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram…
24. Find your confidence.
If you act like you’re amazed I want to order from you again, I may start to wonder if you’re right.
25. Offer personalisation.
Customers love to have items personalised so if you can provide that service (and turn orders around quickly enough,) pitch it to your retailers.
26. Make it easy for staff to learn about your work.
Retailers need to teach their employees about the items they stock. So create product knowledge sheets, pictures or even a series of videos showing how it’s made and, more importantly, why that makes it special.
When customers have questions, you want every sales assistant to know the answer.
27. Talk directly to your retailers.
Say “you” instead of “shopkeepers.” And if you’re a one-person business, say “I” instead of “we.”
The fact that you’re small is one of the major advantages you have over the big dogs – you can provide a genuinely personal service. There’s no need to pretend you’re a vast corporate machine.
28. Get some testimonials.
Quotes from retailers carry the most weight, but a few enthusiastic words from customers are good too. Use them in your catalogue and right across your website – not just on your testimonials page.
29. Tell your retailers what to do.
Tell them what to click on to place their next order. Show them a big, clear How To Order page and lay out exactly what their next step should be.
Making decisions is exhausting so take up some of the slack for your stockists. You’ll receive more orders and they’ll think you’re a breeze to work with.
30. Simmer down about selling.
Retailers are salespeople at heart. We don’t think selling is unseemly or icky – we enjoy it. So just tell us about your offers or items in normal, non-salesy language. Be relaxed and conversational.
There’s no need for any angst or hand-wringing.
31. Write less.
When you don’t know exactly what to say to a stockist, or you’re uncomfortable saying it at all, a common escape route is to write reams of text. But the less you say, the more powerful each word becomes.
32. Make it easier to give you money.
Bank transfer, cheques, Paypal, GoCardless invoices – there are now lots of ways to accept payments from your stockists, and that vastly decreases the hassle factor of placing an order. If you currently only accept one method, see if you can add a couple more.
33. Put your photo on your About page and in your catalogue.
To be clear, that’s a current photo of you looking at the camera, in which your whole face can be seen. No hiding behind books or holding up a moustache on a stick.
Artists are sometimes uncomfortable having their picture taken, but it’s important to show your stockists who they’re doing business with.
34. Make your writing easy to read.
In your emails, pitches, website and catalogue, white space is your friend. You might also consider boosting your font size up a couple of points.
35. Send out a stockist survey.
That goes for brand new stores who’re just in the door, and old friends who’ve been ordering for years. Ask for their opinions then actually listen to their answers. You’ll make them feel valued and important while gleaning insights and ideas.
36. Refresh your terms and conditions.
Look back over the size and value of your recent orders and ask yourself if your carriage paid level or minimum order could be tweaked. And remember that a change like this, even if it’s an increase, is a great excuse to contact your retailers.
37. Send letters shopkeepers want to open.
We get a lot of boring mail so when you send something by post, make it look interesting. Find a way to be different from the three other submissions I received this morning.
(But don’t stuff your envelope with glitter, confetti or anything else that makes us have to get the hoover out.)
38. Put a time limit on your offers.
Open-ended offers, or ones which run for a long time, encourage your buyers to sit on the fence. If you give us the opportunity to put off making a decision, we’ll usually take it.
When you send out a discount or promotion, therefore, give it an end-date in the near future. 10% off till Friday, for example, or free shipping on all orders received by 5pm tomorrow. Don’t rush or pressurise your stockists, but make it obvious that if they don’t take action soon, they’ll miss out.
39. Learn from other companies.
Think about the bad and good service you’ve received. Where did those companies drop the ball, or what did they do to make you keep choosing them over their competitors? How can you apply those ideas to your business?
40. Welcome complaints.
Sometimes things go wrong. That’s to be expected.
When they do, however, a lot hangs on how you respond. You’ve let the retailer down, and by complaining they’re giving you a chance to rebuild their trust.
So it’s not enough to just give them what they were expecting in the first place. You’ve caused them trouble, inconvenience or extra expense, and the way you handle the situation has to take that into account. If you don’t, they’ll simply find someone else who treats them better.
41. Keep your stockists in the loop.
If there’s going to be a delay, let them know. This shows you care about what’s important to them, which is getting your work on the shop floor as quickly and easily as possible.
42. Actually ask your retailers to buy.
So many artists are reluctant to do this, which is a great pity.
Retailers are always looking to spend money – if we don’t our shops quickly begin to suffer. We need lovely things and you’ve got them. So just ask us to buy. It’s not pushy or presumptuous to ring up and say “I thought you might be ready for a top-up, and I’ve got a couple of new designs I think you’ll like. Can I drop you a quick email with the details?”
You’ve already done the hard part by getting the retailer to trust you enough to place their first order. Don’t suddenly get shy.
43. Create starter packs and collections.
Indie retailers have chronic decision-fatigue. It comes with the job. Give your stockists a break by doing some of the thinking for them.
Group items that go together into a starter pack or a collection, take a picture of the whole thing, and give it a single price.
You won’t know it, but this will make particularly tired shopkeepers want to kiss you.
44. Design robust packaging.
Shops are tactile environments. Almost every customer will pick an item up, sometimes several times, before they decide to buy. That’s a lot of fingerprints and your packaging has to be up to the job.
If your work doesn’t still look great after normal handling, your stockist is unlikely to order more.
45. Give compliments (when you mean them.)
Running an indie shop is a rewarding but sometimes lonely business. A well-timed compliment can have a big effect on a shopkeeper – if you mean it, of course, and it doesn’t sound like you’re just sucking up.
46. Put new retailers on your stockists page.
It’s a little thing, but it shows new buyers that you’re on top of the details and that they matter to you. Plus, asking them to quickly check their information is another reason to get in touch.
47. Visit a trade show.
Encouraging retailers to re-order is easier when you understand our world. Visit a show (wear flat shoes), talk to everyone you can, and get to know how wholesale really works.
48. Box your deliveries with care.
Processing deliveries is infinitely easier when the boxes have been sensibly packed. That means light things on top of heavy things, strong cardboard, a packing slip listing everything that should be included, and no stowaways (we once found someone’s sandwich wrapper.)
Also think about the environmental impact of your packaging, and give advice on how to responsibly dispose of it.
49. Check in with your stores.
A week or two after an order arrives, send the buyer an email saying “Just a quick line to see how your latest delivery is selling, and to ask if there’s anything I can do to help you.”
Many artists are scared to do this in case their work isn’t selling at all. If you overcome that fear, however, you’ll hopefully get some good news and you’ll have impressed the retailer.
50. Surprise your stockists.
If you know, for example, that customers often ask the same four or five questions about your work, maybe you could send new stores a short series of emails explaining the answers.
If you know your product looks best when it’s freshly polished, maybe you could slip in a special cloth with their first order. Put yourself in the shopkeeper’s shoes and think about how you can make their day a little more pleasant.
51. Delight your stockists.
Here’s a crazy idea. After you dispatch a store’s first order, record a two minute video saying thank you to the buyer. Stick it on YouTube or Vimeo, and email them the link. They’ll be AMAZED.
52. Promote your stockists.
Nominate them for industry awards. Interview them on your blog. Suggest them for a magazine feature. They’re championing your work – do the same for them.
53. Suggest a joint event.
Indie retailers love to give people another reason to visit their store, so if you’re prepared to go along and run a demonstration, workshop, talk, exhibition or another kind of event, get in touch.
It’s a chance to raise your profile, make a personal connection with the shopkeeper and grab their customers’ attention.
54. Design an event that can run without you.
If you can’t be there in person, create a ready-made event. If you want a store to throw a launch party for your new collection, for example, create playlists, posters, graphics, invitations and decorations – everything they need to make the event suitably fun and festive.
Then hand it all over to the retailer. The more work you can take off their plate, the better.
55. Share your success.
When things go well for you, pass on the news to your stockists. If you win an award or are featured in a magazine, send them ready-to-go tweets or photos they can share with their mailing list or on their facebook page.
Your success makes them look good and it gives them a reason to talk you up to their audience.
56. Write down your plan.
Storing ideas about your wholesale business in your head is fine in the short term, but if you want things to start happening in the outside world, write them down. Turn them into a plan, with an end-date and lots of little steps which will get you from here to there. Otherwise, your brain will assume you’re still in dreamy, oh-maybe-one-day territory and go back to sleep.
57. Create template emails.
Think you have to write every personal email you send to your buyers from scratch? You don’t. Make templates for your most commonly-used emails, then add the stockist’s name and a few personalised details before you send it.
You’ll get more orders if you stay in touch with your stores, and you’ll be better at staying in touch if you’ve got a few time-saving tricks up your sleeve.
58. Track your contact.
Keep a note of when stores place an order. Use content management software or a big piece of
paper on your studio wall.
You’ll be able to see at a glance which stockists are happy bunnies (because they’re ordering often,) and which are in danger of cooling off.
59. Remember Mother’s Day.
And Father’s Day, and Easter, and any other occasions that apply in your part of the world. Shopkeepers will be looking for extra stock around these times so make sure you’re on their radar.
60. Say sorry.
When a retailer has difficulty with your systems or you get something wrong, apologising should be the first thing you do. Even if the problem isn’t your fault, like a computer glitch, say sorry for their trouble.
If someone visits your home and your chihuahua does something dreadful in their handbag, you apologise. The same principle applies in business. If a buyer has a bad experience on your turf, say sorry. Then fix it, lickety-split.
61. Give your stockists shareable content.
Thinking up something to say on social media is a never-ending, time-consuming task. So make it easy for your retailers by sending them a pack of pre-made content.
Beautiful photos of your work, a video, maybe a craft tutorial they can post on their blog – whatever you choose, make sure it’s in the right resolution and dimensions so all they have to do is press publish.
62. Create a loyalty scheme.
This can be as simple or as complex as you like. Maybe you give stores 10% off every second order. Or, if you can handle the admin, you could come up with a points system so they get discounts, free shipping or free products once they reach a certain level.
63. Build anticipation.
Create a buzz about your new collection. Give your retailers sneak peeks of prototype products and glimpses behind the scenes of your latest photo-shoot. Or allow a limited number of pre- orders for your latest items.
Retailers want to feel excited about you. When they are, they’ll pass that enthusiasm on to their customers.
64. Answer the phone like a professional.
If you receive work calls on your mobile, enter your stockists’ numbers so you know when they ring. That way you can sound polished and professional even if you’re in Tesco buying loo paper and a mini tiramisu.
65. Make exclusive products.
Shopkeepers love to get one up on their competitors. If you can provide exclusive products or designs, tell them about it.
66. Merchandise your catalogue.
Make your products look desirable and attractive. Then guide your stockists through your collection by highlighting bestsellers, new items, or items which are back in stock.
67. Take photos of your work in a store.
If you can swing it, photos of your work in a real shop can be very persuasive. Ask a local stockist if you can take pictures of their displays, then use them in your catalogue and emails to your wholesale mailing list.
68. Get to know your buyers’ behaviour.
Look for patterns in the way stores buy from you. When do buyers ask for new catalogues? What size of order do they tend to place at the beginning of the year? How frequently do they buy? When do they place Christmas orders?
When you know their rhythms you can adjust what you’re doing to match.
69. Reward your best stockists.
Put extra time, attention and thought into your dealings with them. Create bespoke offers. Pitch collaboration ideas which are unique to their particular store. Find ways to show them that they’re not just another name on an invoice.
70. Emphasise your shared values.
Analyse your stockists and figure out what you have in common. What philosophy or viewpoint do you share? A strong point of view on environmental issues? A similar attitude towards customer service? Find the common ground and emphasise it.
If your buyers never let one of their customers walk away unhappy or disappointed, let them know that you have exactly the same policy towards them.
71. Show that you respond to feedback and ideas.
If, for example, your stockist survey suggests improvements to your packaging, send a message to your wholesale mailing list showing them a before-and- after. Prove that you’re listening.
72. Take a little longer than you have to with your buyers.
If you have a couple of minutes to spare at the end of a phone call, use them. Ask if there’s anything else you can do for them. Ask what’s going on in their shop this weekend.
Don’t hold them back if they’re in a rush, but allow space for a conversation to develop.
73. Know how you come across in emails.
Sometimes what sounds perfectly reasonable in a phone call comes across as terse and abrupt in an email.
If you think this might be an issue for you, put some effort into warming up your writing style. You don’t have to plaster emojis everywhere, but nudge the emotional tone up a notch.
74. Remember your anniversary.
When a store’s been stocking your work for a year, surprise the buyer by wishing them a happy anniversary. To say thank you, offer them a special, personalised discount or promotion.
75. Remember their birthday.
The store’s birthday, that is. Find the date a shop opened on their About page, or by scrolling back through their blog or facebook page. Or just ask them in the survey you send to new stockists. Then, when the time comes, send them a birthday card.
76. Pass on helpful information.
If you see an article, idea, recipe or video that might be of interest to a particular buyer, send it to them – especially if it has nothing to do with wholesale. This shows you’re thinking about them even when they’re not giving you money.
77. Tell stories with pictures.
Retailers are visual people so show them photos that please the eye. Take them on a journey through your collection and your brand.
78. Get organised online.
Is your inbox the place emails go to die? If I were to scroll back far enough, would I find handprints and charcoal drawings of mammoths?
If so, it’s time to clear it out. Create a folder for each stockist and group together the emails that need your immediate attention.
79. Get organised offline.
Do the same with your papers and invoices. That hedgehog will just have to hibernate somewhere else.
80. Go one better than they expect.
Under-promise, over-deliver is a cliché for a reason.
81. Remove old catalogues.
There’s nothing worse than spending an hour making up an order, only to hear back from the supplier that their prices have changed. Delete and replace digital catalogues as soon as the new one is available so your stockists always have up to date information.
82. Do what you say you’ll do.
If you say you’ll ring me tomorrow, or check a shipping rate for me, or check in with me in a month, be as good as your word. Show that you’re safe, trust-worthy and reliable.
83. Follow up on other stockists’ feedback.
If one or two buyers ask a question or raise an issue with you, share the solution with everyone. The chances are other shopkeepers had the same experience but were too busy to get in touch.
84. Respond faster.
When a buyer leaves you a message or sends an email, get back to them right away. Leaving it for days sends a message about how much they matter to you.
85. Send prototypes.
Test out ideas for new products by sending selected retailers a sample. Ask for their thoughts and suggestions in return for a discount on the new collection, or the chance to get it in stock before anyone else.
86. Tell them why they should care.
Join things up for your stockists (and their customers.) You’re a trained lampworker? That means the glass beads in their necklace are strong, bright and crystal clear.
Your personalised print is available in a range of colours? That means there’s an option to suit their baby’s nursery, even if they haven’t chosen the paint yet.
Rather than showering them with facts and leaving them to figure out the benefits for themselves, do the work for them.
87. Move your stockists on.
Sometimes retailers get stuck in a rut of ordering the same products, time after time. That gets boring, both for them and their customers. So make it easy for them to try new things.
Get in touch and say “I know my flower earrings always go well for you, but how about trying some of the rosehip collection this time too?” Put together a special, hand-picked package, or offer them a discount on a different collection.
Sometimes we stop buying from a supplier because it’s simply not exciting any more. It’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
88. Clean up your writing.
Spelling and grammatical mistakes diminish your credibility. Proof-read your copy or find someone with fresh eyes to check it over.
89. Write a snappy description for your new collections.
Sum them up in a sentence so I immediately understand what’s on offer and why my customers might want to buy those items.
90. Offer hi-res pictures.
Taking product pictures can be a lengthy process. If you can provide high quality photos for the retailer to use on their website, make sure they know.
91. Offer product descriptions.
Three or four bullet points followed by a couple of sentences is generally a good format. The shopkeeper can always tweak each one to match their house style.
92. Don’t overestimate your importance.
No matter how well your lovely thing sells in their store, your stockists could always replace you. So don’t get complacent, even with shops who’ve been stocking your work for years.
Earn their business, every time.
93. Speak their language.
Pay attention to how your stockists talk and write, both as individuals and as a group. The more you can reflect those words and phrases back to them, in your emails, product knowledge sheets and buyers’ pack, the more they’ll feel like you can somehow read their minds.
94. Find ways to meet your stockists in person.
Exhibiting at a trade show, for example, is a great excuse to invite your existing retailers to come and see you. When they do, have something special for them. A goodie bag, perhaps, or a voucher for a free coffee as they walk around the show.
Make them feel welcome and special.
95. Offer unexpected gifts.
Got some old, end-of-line stock that’s in good condition? Get in touch with a store who’s bought that range in the past and see if they’d like it – just for the cost of the shipping.
At Christmas, send your stockists a pre-paid Starbucks card so they can buy themselves a pumpkin spice latte on you. Gestures like these make shopkeepers feel all warm and fuzzy.
96. Be consistent.
This isn’t always easy when you’re a one-person business, but the more steady and reliable you are, the more goodwill and trust you’ll build up with your stockists.
97. Share display ideas.
If you’ve got thoughts about how your work can be displayed, pass them on to your stores.
In design magazines, you sometimes see a feature called something like “One sofa, three ways,” where they show how styling can change the overall look of a room, even when the basic components are the same.
You can do the same thing with your products. Shoot three different display ideas using the same items, then put the photos in your catalogue and share them with your mailing list. If they want to, your stockists can save time by copying your set-ups.
98. Learn their preferences.
Great restaurant owners and maitre d’s make it their business to know their customers’ likes and dislikes. They find out which table they love, the dishes they enjoy and the level of personal attention they prefer.
What do you know about how your stockists like to buy? Which payment methods do they use? Do they like to get you on the phone or are they happier ordering by email? Use these clues in your interactions with stockists to make them feel respected and understood.
99. Be loyal to them.
By buying your products, your stockists are taking a chance on you. Show that you’re worthy of that investment by dealing fairly with them. Don’t say they have exclusivity within their area, for example, then suddenly change the rules when their arch- rivals also want to stock your work.
100. Say thank you.
Send new stockists a card saying “Thank you for giving me the chance to supply your shop. I truly appreciate your business and I hope you were happy with the service I provided. Please don’t hesitate to call on me again.”
At the end of the year, send your best stockists a note saying “Thanks for always paying your invoices on time. If only all of my stockists were like you!”
Simple, human touches like these make shopkeepers fall in love with you. When they feel like that, why on earth would they buy from anyone else?
Hello, I'm Clare Holliday. I'm a shopkeeper who's helped thousands of creative people sell their work to stores, galleries and regular customers all over the world. Now it's your turn.