Today we’re going to talk about the latter – the mistakes and pitfalls which are likely to put you in the “no” pile as far as most retailers are concerned.
Because if you can cut them out, your pitch is going to improve right away. So let’s talk about them. Here’s the first one. Being vague about why you’re writing, or frankly, even who you are.
Anthony: We occasionally get pitches at our store that are so vague that you have to read them twice just to make sure that it isn’t actually from a customer instead of a potential supplier.
Clare: Yes, it can be a bit confusing sometimes when artists dance around what they actually want.
Anthony: Yeah, they just don’t get to the point.
Clare: They just don’t come out and actually say “I want to be considered as your supplier.”
Anthony: Yeah. Vagueness is kind of tiring too. I know when I’m busy, which is basically always, I haven’t got a ton of patience with it. If you don’t make it clear who you are and what you want, which is for me to consider buying your stuff, I’m much more likely to hit delete.
Clare: Absolutely. So next one, disputable claims. This is a fancy way of saying “bigging yourself up without anything to back it up.”
Anthony: Right. Yes, this is quite common.
Clare: It really is.
Anthony: So in this example, this makes me go, “You’re uniquely qualified? How can you say that? You don’t know my store.”
Clare: Yeah, exactly. It sounds good, but it’s not exactly truthful. The artist isn’t lying, but remember Innocent’s rule about being honest? Making big disputable claims like this is kind of breaking that rule.
It’s what you might call puffery. Big talk that’s supposed to impress us. And because we hear it so often, it makes retailers roll our eyes. It just eats away at your credibility so fast. So if you say stuff like this about yourself, we’re basically thinking, “Okay, can we actually trust anything you say?”
Anthony: Yeah. Okay, what’s the next one?
Clare: The next one is … yes.
Anthony: Yes. I recognise this.
Clare: I know. I mean there’s absolutely a place for this kind of detail, but it’s not your pitch email. I’m like, “I don’t care what kind of paper you use, my friend. Just tell me what’s on the paper first.”
Anthony: Yeah. I think being boring comes out of not knowing what to say so you fall back on facts, like the features of your product. And this can sound very professional and serious, like with the weight of paper here. And it fills up some of that horrifying blank space in a pitch email, but it’s not actually what the retailer wants or needs to hear at this stage.
Clare: No. It does not help us to know stuff in this microscopic detail at this point.
Anthony: No, it’s far too micro. You need to sell us on the idea of you as a supplier first, before we even get to your products.
Anthony: This is kind of the opposite of shaving the puffin, isn’t it?
Clare: Yeah. This is swabbing the puffin in some kind of ointment that’s going to make its feathers grow. Like, this puffin is not going to be ready for bikini season.
Anthony: No. Not by a long stretch.
Anthony: No, there’s just no warmth here. Obviously.
Clare: No human … Yeah. Like, human warmth.
Anthony: In what universe would I read this and go, “Oof, do you know what? I want to give whoever wrote this email £500 of my hard earned cash and promote their work to my customers”? It’s just not going to happen.
Clare: Yeah, you said it.
Anthony: Now, typos.
Clare: Not an absolute deal-breaker here. But it goes back to what you said a second ago about attention to detail. As a retailer, I expect you to have read the email you send to me at least a couple of times before you press send.
Clare: And if you press send and there are typos or big grammatical errors, I’m going to wonder how much effort and care you put into approaching me.
Anthony: Yeah. It’s a simple thing but it does make a difference. It makes us deduct those mental points.
Clare: Exactly. So that’s a really easy fix, isn’t it?
Anthony: Yeah. Ahh.
Clare: Oh, see yeah. This is one of my pet hates. It’s like when you’re out for dinner and the waiter says calls you “guys.”
Anthony: You really don’t like that, do you?
Clare: “Are you ready to order here, guys?” Remember when we were out at some fancy place with your family once and your grandpa, who was-.”
Anthony: He was over 100 at the time.
Clare: Exactly, he was over 100. And I was like, “I think Grandpa has earned the right to be called sir.”
Anthony: Yes. He didn’t mind at all, of course.
Clare: Well, he didn’t. But if you have to call him anything, “sir” works just fine.
Anthony: But you are a stuffy old coot.
Clare: I am. I am a coot.
Clare: But being too casual in a pitch email, that makes me question whether you actually know the right way to go about things.
It’s the same with pitching to a store on social media by DM or Facebook Messenger. I don’t know of any retailer who actually invites pitches that way.
A retailer might approach you that way. If they see you on Instagram, they might send you a message saying, “Hey, could you send me your catalogue and line sheet? Here’s my email address.” But I don’t know of any retailer who actually wants artists they do not know to pitch to them via social media.
It just makes us worry that you don’t know the rules of wholesale. Like, you don’t know how it’s all supposed to work. And that makes buying from you feel very risky.
Anthony: Yeah. So moving on from Clare’s etiquette lesson-
Anthony: What’s this one about?
Clare: As a rule, your wholesale prices absolutely do not belong in a pitch email.
Clare: Well, when you include them, when you highlight them in your pitch email, you’re giving the retailer permission to evaluate you on price. And if you make a handmade or a small scale product, that is not a battle you can win. Right?
Mass market producers will always be able to offer a products that’s similar but for a much, much lower price.
Anthony: Yeah. So if you can’t win that battle, then why get in the ring?
Clare: Yeah. Why are you getting in the ring?
Anthony: The price of your work isn’t irrelevant, of course, but if you’re an artist, it’s by no means the most interesting thing about you.
Clare: Not at all.
Anthony: Your craftsmanship, your experience, talent, training, originality, quality are much, much more pertinent.
Clare: Yeah, and the retailer can find out about your prices in time, at the right time, once he or she opens your catalogue or your line sheet. They’ll be ready to see them then. But it’s your pitch email’s job to get them interested enough to do that.
Anthony: Yeah. I like this one. No price-talk.
Clare: No. Next… Yeah.
Anthony: Oh, this one kind of says it all really, doesn’t it?
Clare: It does. If it looks like reading your email is going to take a life-age of the earth, most retailers just won’t do it.
Anthony: No, we don’t have the time or the bandwidth.
Clare: No, we don’t. It’s just way too much effort. Your pitch email needs to be short, broken up into easy sections that actually get shorter as you go along.
Clare: There’s just way too much starting friction in a big wall of text like this.
Anthony: I agree. This one’s interesting. This is where the artist doesn’t actually put their pitch in the body of the email, they attach it as a PDF?
Clare: Yes. Which is just a hassle. Your pitch should be in your pitch email, not attached to your pitch email as a cover letter. You have to earn my click.
Anthony: What does that mean?
Clare: As the retailer you’re pitching to, my click – and by that I mean one click of my mouse – is a kind of currency that you can spend. Imagine that it’s a shiny gold coin. You earn my click by writing a good, persuasive pitch email. If you do that, you get me interested enough to want to know more about you, and I grant you one golden coin.
In most cases, you are only going to get one – one click of my mouse over to somewhere you want me to go. A click to open your catalogue, for example. That would be a really smart way to spend it. And you’ve got to convince me to do that. You’ve got to persuade me it’s worth my time and my energy.
So if you add your pitch to your email as an attached document, and your email only contains a line like this asking me to open it…
Anthony: To open your cover letter.
Clare: Yeah. If you send me a pitch email that only says, “Please read attached file,” then I’ve got absolutely no reason to do that. I don’t know anything about you. I’ve just opened this email that says, “Please read attached file,” and I’m like, “No. This could be spam. This could be malware. And even if it isn’t, you absolutely haven’t earned my click.”
Anthony: It’s just putting a hurdle in the way.
Clare: Yeah. Exactly. So the easy solution for this is just don’t do it.
Clare: Put it in the body of your email.
Anthony: It’s a step that doesn’t have to be there.
Clare: Precisely. So, this is where we’re at. It’s perfectly reasonable for the buyer to assume that you have put work and time and care and attention into your pitch email. We want to believe that you value our store and our time, or why would you even be writing to us in the first place? So we’re assuming that you just didn’t dash it off in two seconds. You put time and thought into it.
Anthony: Yeah. Whatever shape your pitch email is in when we receive it, we’re going to assume that this is the best you can do.
Anthony: If your pitch email contains the mistakes we’ve been talking about, it’s likely that retailers will quickly deduct mental points, and that means your chances of hearing anything back fall off a cliff.
Clare: Next time, we’ll look at 4 things you can do if you’re nervous about pitching to stores.
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