Clare: Welcome back! Last time we talked about avoiding the common mistakes artists often make in pitch emails. But would you like to back off the whole pitching thing for a second? It’s getting a little intense.
Clare: And instead we can talk about warming up retailers before you pitch, so you’re more likely to get the response that you want?
Anthony: That sounds great.
Clare: Okay. I’m going to show you four quick ideas for connecting with a buyer before you pitch to them. These are ways to reach out so that you’re not an absolute stranger when they get your email.
Anthony: Right. So, if you’re a little bit nervous about pitching, then that might feel like an attractive plan.
Clare: Yeah, it’s a way to lay foundations ahead of time – at least several months before you pitch. It’s not a must-do, you absolutely can pitch cold and be successful, I’ve been teaching artists how to do that for almost a decade now, but sometimes you want to ease into it. So here’s the first one. It’s super easy, comment on their social media stuff.
Anthony: So, comment instead of just hitting like?
Clare: Yes, you can like things, too, but commenting is essential. Likes get lost. They’re often anonymous and they take the smallest possible amount of effort.
Anthony: Yes, clicking “like” on a store’s Facebook post is not exactly a grand gesture, is it?
Clare: It’s not going to sweep anyone off their feet, doing that. Commenting requires a little more effort. Not much, but if you do it consistently, and you say worthwhile things, it can get you noticed by a store.
Anthony: You don’t want to come across as sucking up, though, do you?
Clare: No, don’t suck up. But be honest, be natural, shave the puffin, only say things you mean. That’s a really low-stakes way to get on a store’s radar.
Clare: The next step on from that is sending the store a personal email.
Anthony: All right, so you’re not pitching at this point?
Clare: No, no pitching whatsoever. You are simply dropping them a line to say something nice, like congratulating them for winning a award, or being featured in a magazine or on a blog, or to say that your friend really loved a present you bought from them. That kind of thing.
Anthony: Okay, so it has a kind of peer-to-peer kind of feel.
Clare: Yeah, like you’re colleagues, you’re in the same industry, and you’re an admirer of theirs, and you’re just dropping them a little note to say, “I noticed this about you, and I think it’s cool.” You’re not really introducing yourself or your work except in passing, nothing like that. It’s simply about making them feel good. And again, be sincere.
Anthony: Yes, only say stuff that you mean.
Clare: Yes. The next idea is going to a live event in a store, or online.
Anthony: So not just a normal visit to buy something, you’re actually attending some kind of event.
Clare: Yeah, like a craft evening, a talk, a fashion show, a demonstration of some kind. Anything like that. Or, it could be an online event. Sometimes stores do Facebook Lives to launch a collection, or they host a Twitter chat, or anything similar that’s happening in real time. Whatever it is, all you have to do is show up and say enough for them to register your presence.
Anthony: So, you don’t even have to talk to them?
Clare: You don’t have to talk directly to the retailer. I mean, it would be good if you did, and if you participated, but you certainly don’t have to get them in a corner and deliver your elevator pitch.
So if it’s an in-person talk, you might ask a question during the Q+A, then introduce yourself to the retailer at the some point. Like “Hi, I’m Ella Wilde. I’m a textile designer – thanks so much for organising this talk, I’ve really enjoyed it.” Same goes if it’s online. You can be a lurker and remain completely silent and anonymous if you like, and just concentrate on getting a feel for how they do things, but for best results say something. There’s no need to be impressive or original. Just be pleasant and allow them notice you.
Anthony: Okay, that’s quite easy. And a live event could be the basis of a compliment email, couldn’t it?
Clare: Yeah, it could, it could. And it could give you some meaningful praise to include in your pitch email. And lastly, this one.
Anthony: Oh, interesting, what’s this about, then?
Clare: Well, this one works if you have an active blog or newsletter. If you haven’t written a blog post or a newsletter since the Obama administration, then you suddenly write a post about this store, then that’s probably going to look a little bit fishy. But if you do have a decent-looking blog or mailing list, even if it doesn’t have a huge audience, or tons of engagement… if it’s active, if it’s alive… you can write a little post about the store.
Not an interview with the buyer, you’re simply sharing your enthusiasm for the shop. You’re saying why you like it, what’s special about it, why you think your own audience should be aware of them.
Anthony: The “no sucking up” rule applies here, too, right?
Clare: Yes, it shouldn’t be blatant flattery, but just a little bit of writing, some good photos of their store or something you bought from them, and say nice things about them. That’s not going to do you any harm. And then, once it’s published, you can email the store and say, “Hey, look, I love what you do, I wrote this post about you, please take a look here,” and give them the link.
Anthony: Okay, so… you could actually do a series of blog posts about shops you love. That would be even better, wouldn’t it?
Clare: Yeah, it would. And that solidifies it, in a way, it makes it very clearly not just about sucking up. It’s a series on your blog. And it’s a way of giving the retailer an unexpected snausage.
Anthony: Ah, everybody loves a snausage.
Clare: A little treat, which is being told you think they’re wonderful, and potentially directing some traffic their way, especially if you… as most people do… you share your blog post on all of your social media channels. So the feeling of this is, “I like you, and I think more people should know how brilliant you are.”
Anthony: You’re contributing to the store’s success.
Clare: Yeah, in a small way for sure. But the small stuff gets noticed.
Anthony: It does.
Clare: So, best practices for warming up. Now let me be clear, stuff like this can go wrong if you don’t do it carefully and consistently, if you do it too fast or if you get too intense about it.
Anthony: Yes, there’s a fine line.
Clare: There is. But if you really do want to lay the foundations with a store…maybe it’s a store that you’re very excited about, they’re your dream stockist, you really want to give yourself the best shot with them, then these ideas could work for you. It gives you a very gentle lead in.
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