February 4, 2014

3 Tricks to Removing Risk from Your Sales Pitch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 12:43 pm


Every day I get sales calls and emails. Most of them are asking me for money right off the bat and if I said yes to them all I’d be out of business. Whether you’re selling manufacturing services, web hosting, or even your product line wholesale the biggest worry your customer has is that dealing with you might lose her money. I’m not buying ad space on your blog because I might not get any sales and you still get the cash. I’m not buying your product to put in my store because my customers might not buy it from me and then I’m stuck with it. I’m not manufacturing a new product in your factory because it might not sell and I’m stuck with that inventory. That’s the kind of thought every customer has when you try to sell to him or her.

The good news is there are ways you can eliminate this worry from your sales pitch.  If you’re 100% certain your customer WILL benefit from your product or service, offer to prove it to them. Here are a few ways you can do it:

1. Money Back Guarantee
If you’re certain your product will sell in a store, make that promise to a potential wholesale customer. Next time you’re talking to a boutique owner you want to close, tell her you’re so sure your product will sell that if she’s not happy with the sales after 30 days you’ll send her a prepaid mailer to return any unsold merchandise and issue her a refund for those items.

This will help ease your customer’s mind because now she knows she can’t lose money working with you. You can try this approach with service based offerings too. If you can’t get people to buy ad space on your blog offer a money back guarantee on the ad space. If you are confident your advertisers will make money working with you, you shouldn’t have any problem with this and it will get you a lot more “yes”.

2. Partnership (We make money if you make money)
Selling something your customer pays for before she sees any benefits is difficult. Another way to circumvent this risk is by offering an arrangement where you only make money if your customer makes money. This is the model Square has adopted. This credit card processor provides its customers free hardware and comes with no service charges. The only fee Square charges is a percentage of sales. So if Square’s customers are selling products and benefiting from their service, Square gets paid. If the customers aren’t selling anything, Square gets nothing too.

You can use this approach for product-based businesses too. If there’s an online retailer you’d like to work with offer to drop ship products as their customers order. That way the online retailer doesn’t have to buy any inventory up front. If the products sell, you and the retailer make money. If the products don’t sell no one loses anything.

This is actually the model I use for my t-shirt printing service DropShipDTG. Since we print t-shirts for designers as orders come in, there’s no need for the designers we work with to spend any money up front. We only make money once they’ve made money.

3. Free Trial
A free trial is a great way to allow a customer to try before they buy. If you’re selling a service, offer that service for free for a week or two so the customer can decide if it is something worth paying for. If you’re selling a product you could consign the items to a retailer for a short period so they can make sure your product line sells before they spend money on it.

This business model is also starting to become trendy with web design/hosting businesses. You’ve probably seen commercials offering to build, host and market your business website for free. The idea is that these all-in-one service providers will do all the work and if you are happy with the finished product you pay them, if you’re not you don’t.

The biggest catch with removing risk from your sales pitch is that you have to be really confident that you’re selling a product that’s going to truly benefit your customers. If you’re just out for a quick cash grab and don’t care about the success or failure of your customers, not only will this approach fail, you probably won’t stay in business very long.

Have you come up with a clever way to remove risk for your sales pitch? Tell us about it in the comments below 🙂

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January 23, 2014

Is Bigger Better?


In perusing Etsyology, you might get the impression that bigger is better. This site displays statistical data on sales activity on etsy.com, and offers a fascinating view of what makes for a successful shop and what people buy. One thing you’ll notice on this site is that many of the shops with the most sales also have the most products available, giving the impression that bigger is better. The more stuff you have for sale, the more orders you get, at least that’s how it appears. Is that really true? Let’s discuss:

1. The Long Tail
In terms of retail strategy, the long tail refers to selling a many unique items with relatively small quantities sold of each. This is the strategy used by many of the high performing shops on Etsy, and no doubt retailers all over.

What are the advantages of this retail philosophy?
– It allows you to have something for everyone. If you make posters and you’ve got posters about dancing, beer, baseball, cookies, etc. then regardless of a person’s interests, you are likely to have a product that suits them.

– Metaphorically speaking, this approach is like buying many lottery tickets. The more tickets you have the more likely you are to win. Simply having a lot of stuff on Etsy or Amazon or the internet in general means there are more chances to get orders.

So what’s the downside to this approach?
– The obvious big problem with this approach is that it requires you to design a lot of items AND stock a ton of inventory! It’s a big job to offer something for everyone and not everyone has the space to stock so much product or the creative juice to design a zillion things, especially products the designer may not be passionate about. This approach is well-suited to products that can be made-to-order, but might be a real headache if your product has to be produced in bulk.

– The other drawback of this approach is that is may detract from brand cohesion. If you want to build a brand that’s all about food and cooking, you can’t start making products about baseball and robots and kittens. It would detract from your singularly focused brand identity.

So who should employ this type of strategy?
If doing a lot of online sales volume is your primary goal this strategy can be great. It’s a proven way to make money selling stuff online and if you care more about bringing in the cash than following your vision this could very well be the way to go.

2. Keeping it Short and Sweet
If your goal is to keep a tight cohesive brand offering something for everyone may not be ideal for you. You may want to keep your brand focused on a specific theme or aesthetic and offering 1,000 different items may not be possible.

What are the advantages of this approach?
– Keeping your product offerings limited means you can maintain a cohesive theme or aesthetic for your brand. This may be especially helpful if you want your brand to be known in the brick and mortar world. Think about brands like Sanrio, Ed Hardy or Paul Frank. All of their products have a very similar look that’s easily identified with those brands.

– Keeping a limited selection of products also makes it easier to manage and stock inventory. If you have a product you have to manufacture in large quantities to make your margins, it may be necessary to limit your product selection. For example if you design shoes and your shoe manufacturer requires you to order 500 pairs of each kind of shoe you may not want to have 100 different shoe designs.

What are the drawbacks of this strategy?
– Not everyone is going to be your customer, in fact, most people won’t be. So you’re going to have to work extra hard to connect with the people who are. You’ll need to think more in terms of relationship-based marketing. You may not sell as much volume online as other online shops because you can’t sell to everyone.

– Since your product offerings don’t appeal to everyone, you’ll need to make sure the people who are a fit for your brand really love your product line. You’ll need to produce more “hits” to make sure everyone who might buy your product will buy it. For example, if your brand is all about birds you better have some of the most amazing epic bird art ever so that every bird lover under the sun will definitely want your products.

Who should employ this strategy?
If you are more interested in wholesale than online retail this approach may be a better fit for your needs. This strategy also makes more sense if you are trying to maintain a consistent theme or style for your brand. If your products have to be produced in high volume before they are sold this approach may be your only option.

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February 12, 2013

7 Time, Money and Sanity Savers for Doing Trade Shows

trade shows

It’s trade show season, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite trade show tips. While I’ve seen lots of great articles online about doing trade shows, there are several insider hints that I haven’t seen other trade show veterans talk about, so here are 7 things I’ve learned with experience that I wish someone had told me before I ever did my first trade show:

1. Do not do it without a car
If you are staying in a hotel right near the convention center hosting your trade show, you might think you can get by without a rental car. While getting by without a car can be cheaper, it can also be a serious hindrance. In most cities, a car is indispensable for several reasons (some of which I will talk about in a minute). First and foremost though, if you forget to bring something with you and you need to get out and replace it you are totally screwed if you have no way to get out and procure the replacement.

When we did our first trade show in Las Vegas we realized we were short on Command hooks and forgot our display for our belts entirely. Thank goodness we had a rental car, we were able to find a nearby Target and collect the items we needed to complete our trade show booth.

2. Be strategic about sustenance
Convention center food is overpriced and gross. Save your taste buds and your wallet by stocking up on non-perishable food items at a grocery store (again, having a car comes in handy in case you need to drive to a supermarket). Think about things like apples, carrot sticks, pita chips, nutrition bars. You want food that’s easy to carry, easy to eat quickly and neatly, won’t smell funky and will hold up okay if it’s in your bag all day. Energy drinks are also helpful, especially since trade shows often involve schmoozing at after parties that can go fairly late into the night after you’ve worked all day.

Having some bottled water and mints on hand is a good idea too. You can get dried out and your breath can get smelly if you are talking to people all day. Avoid offending by staying hydrated and minty. (Select mints over gum, you don’t want to be chomping on gum in front of customers.)

3. FedEx is your friend
If you are flying out of town to do a trade show, the cheapest way to get your booth gear out to the show is in your luggage. That said, for most exhibitors that’s not going to cut it. I know we end up having to ship stuff when we do trade shows. If you need to ship items keep in mind that the trade show will try to sell you on using their shipping and receiving services, but those conveniences come with hefty fees. Even shipping your stuff to your hotel or a FedEx location in a hotel or convention center gets expensive. They charge handling fees on every box and it’s based on how much those boxes weigh. The costs really add up.

You can save yourself some money if you are willing to pick up your shipments at a FedEx location nearby. (Again, that rental car is making itself useful!) FedEx will hold shipments for customers for 5 days at no additional charge. (Unless it’s a FedEx in a convention center or hotel, they will charge you a small fortune.) You just have to pay the shipping costs (way cheaper than paying for shipping AND handling fees at a hotel or convention center). When you ship your items, just indicate that you want your shipment held for pick up and then retrieve your items once you get into town.

4. Do a dry run booth set up
Set up your trade show booth at your home/office before you leave for the show. This accomplishes two things: First, it helps you actually see what the booth will look like, sometimes things look different in our minds vs the real world. If you’re stuck on how to set up your booth google for pictures of other people’s booths to get ideas. For example, if you are showing a Pool Trade Show in Las Vegas you can google image search “booth at pool” and find some photos of booths to see how other people did it.

The other thing that a practice set up accomplishes is helping you build a list of what to pack for the show. Which brings me to…

5. Make a pack list
You want to make a list of every little thing that needs to come with you to the trade show. This can be stuff like scissors, pens, an exacto knife, packing tape, samples, promotional materials, etc. Write everything down so that as you are packing for the show you can check the items off your list and make sure you didn’t forget anything. (Honestly, there’s a good chance you will forget something but if it’s something you can’t do without, having access to car means you can likely go buy another one once you get into the city where the trade show is.)

6. Don’t buy stuff before you go
If you need more clothes hangers, Command strips, tape, photocopies of your price list, etc. don’t buy it before you leave and then pack it to send out to the show. It’s a total waste of money to pay to ship something you can just go buy when you get to the show. Make a list of what you need to buy and then once you get into the town where the show is being held go buy it there. Every town that’s hosting a trade show is full of Targets, Home Depots, Office Depots, etc. You can get hangers and photocopies in Las Vegas or Orlando or wherever you are going just as easily as you can at home.

7. You cannot live without these three tools: notebook, pen and stapler!
While lots of stores write orders at shows, there are just as many that do not. You’ll have people who come into your booth and seem interested but for whatever reason don’t pull the trigger. Here’s what you want to do with everyone who gets into your booth:

First, determine if they are a buyer. If they are not, get them out of your booth. You are there to meet buyers and you don’t want a buyer passing you up because you looked too busy to pay attention to them. People trying to sell your SEO, manufacturing, PR services, etc will talk your ear off if you let them, so do not let them. You say “thanks for stopping by but I’d like to make myself available to buyers, feel free to leave me your card and if we’re interested we can follow up after the show.”

If you are talking to a buyer you  want to gauge their level of interest in your product line. You can do this by chatting with them a bit. You want to get a name, where they are from, what products they seem to like and a little bit of info about their store (i.e. where is it, what are their customers like, etc.). In a perfect world, the buyer will write an order during the show. You can incentivize with show-only promotions like free shipping or discounts, etc.

If the buyer still won’t buy at the show, here’s where the notebook, pen and stapler come in. If you got a business card from a buyer staple that into the notebook with notes about what they liked, what their store is like, etc. If you didn’t get a card, still make a note of who you talked to, where they are from, etc. When you get back from the trade show you’re going to want to spend your time contacting these warm leads and trying to close those sales. You want to be armed with as much info as possible to help make that happen.

Even if the buyer does buy at the show, you still want to write down any info you were able to glean from chatting. These details can come in handy when you are trying to get them to re-order. It shows that you are really paying attention and giving them personalized service. For example, if a buyer tells you their customers are mostly teen girls and you have a new product that’s perfect for teen girls it’s helpful to know that is who the buyer is shopping for so you can steer him or her towards that product.



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October 1, 2012

How to Cope with Net 30 Terms

Filed under: Wholesaling — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 7:53 am

If you sell a product to wholesale customers, you’ll routinely be expected to offer net 30 terms. (This means your customer doesn’t pay for the goods until 30 days after you’ve sent them out.) This can be a real strain for a small business, since at any given time you may be owed tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that you can’t collect for weeks. Meanwhile, you might need to pay rent, production expenses, employees, etc. How can you survive with net 30?

1. Get terms from vendors
If you have good credit and a working relationship with suppliers and vendors see if you can get net 30 terms from them. (For example, if you buy blank t-shirts from the same supplier all the time, see if they offer net 30 terms.) This buys you some time to collect on the cash owed to you. While you might still have to pay the suppliers before you collect on the invoices owed to you, the gap in time will be smaller.

2. Sell your invoices or get PO financing
There are companies that specialize in fixing this problem for businesses. They will loan you money to finance the production of an order (Purchase Order financing) or buy your net 30 invoices from you. Imagine you did a trade show and Bloomingdales wants to buy $100,000 worth of product. Let’s say producing the order will cost you $60,000. If you don’t have the $60,000 you need you can turn to PO financing. They will lend you the $60,000 and when you get paid by Bloomingdales you pay back that lender. This of course means you’re paying interest on that loan, so instead of netting $40,0000 you might net 35k or 37k (depending on the terms and interest rate). You’ll want to keep in mind that in order to get PO financing you’ll need good credit.

Another thing you can do is sell your invoices. There are companies that will buy a net 30 invoice, pay you up front and collect on the invoice when it’s due. Again, you are giving up a portion of the value of that invoice to do this, but it’s a way to get cash right away if you’re strapped.

3. Early payment incentives
You might be able to get your customers to pay their invoice before the invoice is due if you give them an incentive. You can offer a deal like 3% off for paying within 7 days, 2% off for paying within 14 days and 1% off for paying within 21 days. Not all customers will go for this, but some will and it gets you paid faster. Again you are giving up some income to get paid faster, but sometimes this is cheaper or more viable than the alternatives.

4. Personal credit
If you’re totally strapped and you can’t get paid fast enough falling back on personal credit is also an option. Check your credit cards to see if any have a low or 0% APR balance transfer option. This would allow you to pay for the production of an order with credit card A, balance transfer to credit card B and then pay off credit card B when the invoice is paid. (Still a better deal than paying 18% by just leaving the balance on card A.) Make sure you read all the fine print before attempting something like this so you aren’t hit with unexpected expenses.

You might also be able to draw cash from a home equity line of credit if you qualify. Interest rates for that cash are typically low and any interest you pay is tax deductible in the US.

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August 21, 2012

3 Business Opportunities To Beware

Filed under: Growing Your Business — Tags: , , , , , — Meredith @ 12:12 pm

If you’re a new to running a business the marketing and sales opportunities can be overwhelming. Which ones are good; which ones are a dead end? Here are 3 popular opportunities you will want to consider with caution:

1. Flash Sale Sites
Why it sounds appealing:
Flash sale sites come in so many flavors these days: you’ve got sites like Fab, Gilt Group, Groupon, Living Social, etc. They’ll often come with compelling promises of promoting your brand to millions of consumers and selling a ton of product for you.

What might be wrong with the deal:
These sites are often looking for a below wholesale price from you on your products and they aren’t looking to agree to a minimum purchase. Meanwhile, they’ll want you to set aside inventory you could be selling at full price just for them, and at the end of the sale they will expect you to turn around and ship your goods out within a day or two and it could be anywhere between a few pieces or thousands — either result can be problematic.

What if they only sell a few units? Are you willing to set aside hundreds of units of product you could be selling at full price on the chance the flash sale will call for them? Are you willing to then part with only a few pieces for below wholesale if the sell-through isn’t great?

What if they sell thousands of units? Is it realistic for you to ship out that volume of inventory with a short turn around? What if they are paying on net 30 terms (which means they pay 30 days after you ship)? Can you afford to produce all that inventory you won’t see money on for over a month?

Why you might do it anyway:
Flash sale sites really vary with their models these days. Some do purchase inventory up front, like a regular wholesale customer. Some give you a longer turn around time to deliver goods. While there are plenty of flash sale sites with unfavorable terms, some flash sale site operators are getting wise to the fact that bad terms means it’s harder to get brands to participate and are offering more flexible terms to woo brands.

If you’re in a position to work with the flash sale site terms and can make it a break even or profitable proposition, the exposure can be a huge boon to a brand owner.

2. Consignment
In a tough economy retailers are looking for ways to cut costs. One way they might do this is by accepting your products on consignment. This means they take your products and you only get paid if the products sell. If the products do not sell you can take them back or leave them on consignment until they are sold (depending on the store). If your products sell you will get, on average, about 50% of the retail price. So if your item sells for $20.00 you get $10 and the store owner gets $10.00.

Why it sounds appealing:
If you are having a hard time getting your foot in the door consignment can be a great way to prove yourself to a retailer. It gets your products in the retail space where customers can see them and allows you to beef up your list of stockists.

What might be wrong with the deal:
I’m not a big fan of consignment; here’s how I see it — I’m parting with a product I can sell myself at full price and trusting a retailer will drive foot traffic, merchandise my goods to sell and then actually follow through on paying me. If all goes well, I’m only getting half what I’d get retailing the product myself. All the risk is assumed by me and the reward isn’t substantial enough. Plus, it’s an administrative headache for me to keep track of which stores have which products, how long they’ve had them, whether they’ve sold or not, etc. For a product like mine, with a relatively low price point (my products all retail for less than $50.00) this nickel and dime game isn’t really worth the hassle.

Why you might do it anyway:
There are really only two good reasons to consign your products:
1. You have a product with a high price point and significant margin, for example an expensive bag or art or piece of jewelry AND you found a retail partner who wants consignment terms but also has a storefront with a significant amount of foot traffic and moves a lot of product. If you have that situation consignment might be worthwhile since your retail partner only has to sell a few pieces for you to make money at it.

2. You have a retail partner you want to work with who is on the fence about working with you. You feel your product would sell for them, but they aren’t convinced. You can offer to consign some inventory with them on a trial basis to demonstrate its sellability — but this is really only worth doing if you expect the retailer will convert to wholesale terms once you’ve proven your product will sell for them.

3. Product Reviews
These days you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who has a blog, and product reviews are a popular way bloggers like to get “paid” for their work. They’ll ask you for a free sample of your product in exchange for writing a review about it.

Why it sounds appealing:
When you’re desperate for publicity any write up can sound attractive. You might also be wooed by the idea of link building if you’re trying to improve your SEO. Bloggers looking for products to review might try to dazzle you with stats on their blog traffic or the size of their mailing list to entice you, making it sound like a pretty sweet deal. Just send them a freebie and get this awesome plug on a blog.

What might be wrong with the deal:
Most successful/high traffic blogs aren’t spending their time soliciting freebies. They already get plenty of offers and are making their money from advertising, affiliate programs or selling their own products. If a blogger is asking you for free stuff, it’s not really “free” for you. You still have to pay for the product and shipping. If you keep sending out product every time you get a request those costs can add up.

You also have to consider whether the blogger actually has substantial traffic and whether the traffic is targeted enough. We constantly get requests for free product from mommy bloggers with only a few hundred readers who focus on blogging about topics like coupons and living on a shoestring. With our youth apparel at a $25 price point, we know we’re not selling a product that appeals to shoestring budgets. These offers aren’t a good match for us demographically speaking, and even if they were, the readership isn’t significant enough to make it worth handing out free products.

Why you might do it anyway:
If your product’s sample costs are low and the sample requests are coming from media outlets that cater to your target audience you might want to consider ponying up the goods. If you sell a product like food or skincare goods, you can probably package samples in a way that makes them cheap enough to produce and ship to reviewers.

While I wouldn’t recommend giving away freebies to everyone who asks, a review on a site with decent traffic that attracts your target market can be quite worthwhile.

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June 29, 2012

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

I’ve been so busy with running my company that I’ve hardly had time to share great links, so today’s update is a bit long. Before I get to it, I wanted to tell you that one of my favorite biz coaches, Sarah Shaw, is doing a free conference call on July 10th about how to get your business to $1 million. You can sign up for it here.

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June 28, 2012

Growing Your Brand With Distribution Channels

Filed under: Growing Your Business — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 9:07 am

I obsess about pretty much one thing 24/7 — getting my brand and products in front of as many eyeballs and into as many consumer hands as fast as possible. This might sound like a no-brainer for a product-based business, but I’m always surprised when I talk to other budding entrepreneurs who limit their distribution channels.

When I talk about distribution channels, I mean all the ways you are getting your brand and products in front of consumers. While I won’t say it’s impossible to make it with a single distribution channel, it is much more difficult. If you rely only on Etsy or only on craft shows to distribute your product you’re missing out on a lot of other ways to build brand awareness, boost sales and ultimately make more money.

When you think about distribution channels, think about the options that are a best fit for your product and brand and think about all the different options within a type of distribution channel. Here are some examples of distribution channels you may currently be overlooking.

1. Online
While most of my readers do some form of selling online, there are tons of sub-channels within online sales such as:

  • Your own wesbite
  • Marketplace websites (Ebay, Etsy, Amazon)
  • Deal-a-Day Sites (fab.com, Living Social, Zulily)

The more online venues you use to sell your product the more consumers you can reach. If you currently sell online, look into more places you can sell online, instead of relying on a single venue.

2. Wholesale
A lot of creative entrepreneurs are wary of getting into wholesale. You have to learn some lingo, talk with confidence to total strangers and try to sell to them, and get your product to a price point where you can sell it for 50% off and still make money. Admittedly, there’s a lot to know but it’s not an insurmountable challenge, you just have to educate yourself. (Side note, I LOVE this wholesale e-course. If you want to get into wholesale this is a top notch resource!)

Within wholesale, there are lots of ways to sell to stores, you can try:

  • Sales Reps – Reps will sell your product to stores for you, though they take a percentage of gross sales. Usually 10-15% depending on the industry. You’ll need a price point such that you can pay a rep, sell for half off and still be profitable to make this work.
  • Trade Shows – Trade shows are events where buyers and store owners gather to shop for products to carry. Be prepared to invest about $10,000 to do a trade show. (You’ll be paying for booth fees, booth decor, marketing/sales collateral and most likely hotel, air fare and rental car.) They’re not for the newest of newbies but if you have a little experience under your belt and the cash to invest, a trade show can be a great way to get seen by stores.
  • Cold Calling – This requires the least outlay of cash, though it will eat up a lot of time and you’ll need to be comfortable with calling up stores and asking them to carry your line. My company has had a ton of success with this method.

3. Events
I love events, it’s not only a great way to sell a lot of product directly to consumers, it’s a great marketing tool. I always go to events with a sign up sheet for my newsletter and a huge supply of the most adorable swag you’ve ever seen. People love it. I always leave with thousands of dollars in sales, hundreds of new email subscribers and thousands of people taking my free comic strips and stickers with plans to adorn their laptop, car, fridge, office, etc. with my branding.

I recommend vetting events carefully, choose events that attract your target customer and have a large audience. These things are a numbers game so you are likely to make more money and get more marketing impact out of an event with 50,000 attendees than 5,000. Here are some kinds of events to consider:

  • Craft shows – I am not crazy about craft shows for my own business but lots of people love them. There are all kinds of craft shows from the alternative variety that attract the young and hip to traditional craft shows that attract suburban moms.
  • Conventions – I have had great success with comic cons, but there are conventions for nearly every niche interest such as scifi, tattoos, steam punk, etc. Check local media or convention centers for lists of upcoming conventions.
  • Festivals – think music festivals, food festivals, wine or beer festivals. Pick festivals that attract your audience. Check out your local chamber of commerce, newspaper or other local/regional publications for listings and ads for upcoming events.

Distribution channels feed each other
The more good distribution channels you have, the more the other channels benefit. I’ve found stores to carry my line doing events and I’ve had them contact me online because of my web presence. I’ve had retail sales online shoot up from having my products and brand seen at events and in stores. I’ve had my event sales grow because I go to the same kinds of events all the time and people recognize and like our brand, sometimes they recognize us from seeing us online or in stores.

They more you do all of these things the more they boost each other and the more overall revenue your company will see. Experiment with different channels and sub-channels to see what gets you the best results. You need not do every single channel, but you’ll likely see a big boost to your business from working on more than one.

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May 11, 2012

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Happy Friday! Below are my favorite reads from around the small biz blogosphere this week:

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April 11, 2012

5 Clever Ways to Build Your Store List for Wholesale

Filed under: Wholesaling — Tags: , — Meredith @ 2:30 am

I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of buying store lists for doing wholesale. So how can you go about getting a good list of stores for pitching your wholesale line? Here’s some great resources:

1. Yelp
Yelp is an indispensable resource for finding brick and mortar businesses. You tell it what area to search and what kind of business you’re looking for, it gives you the list. It even tells you about similar businesses in an area. So if you find one boutique on Philadelphia you want to pitch and then you plug it into Yelp, it will give you a list of a bunch of other stores just like it that are also in Philadelphia. Just check the right hand column for the list titled “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed…”

2. Other People’s Store Lists
Some designers share their store list on their website. If you know of some brands whose products you can see your own products sold along side with, check to see if they’ve got a store list on their site.

3. Trade Shows
Trade shows are a great way to discover stores to pitch and meet with buyers face to face. They can be pretty expensive to do, but it will save you some online sleuthing time if you’ve got the cash to do trade shows. Be prepared to not make a ton of money right off the bat with trade shows. Some buyers take months to place an order so it’s much more of a long term investment.

4. Similar Web
Similar Web is a great tool for building both your press list and your store list. You plug in a site you know of (like a store website), it gives you a list of websites that are like it.

5. Fans
Your customers know their home town best. So if you sell online and have a bunch of customers on Facebook or your mailing list ask for their help. Let them know you’d love to have your products sold in their home town and ask them to suggest stores for you to try. Super fans might even be willing to lobby stores in their area on your behalf to get your stuff on the shelves.

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November 30, 2011

The Case Against Buying Store Lists and Media Lists

Filed under: PR,Wholesaling — Tags: , , , , — Meredith @ 10:53 am

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of fellow biz bloggers and biz coaches are selling press or store lists (or offering them as a value-add for premium products). I’m pretty much against buying/using pre-made store or press lists, and here’s why:

1. They might make me lazy
It’s tempting to use someone else’s list. Making a list of stores or media outlets to pitch is time consuming, so why not let someone else do the work? Because working from someone else’s list is like working with blinders on. I promise you, there are more stores and media outlets that are great for your company that are not on that list you just bought. If you’re relying on a pre-made list, you might not go hunting for them.

2. They don’t give me an edge over my competitors
If someone is selling a list of store or media contacts, you have to wonder who else bought the same list. Are those stores or editors being bombarded with pitches from your competitors? That’s going to make it tougher to get them to focus on you.

I love when I find a hidden gem of a contact and it pays out for me. I’m great at thinking of unconventional places to pitch my work that competitors might not be trying. As a result, I can stand out and probably get a better response. Some of my best media placements for Ex-Boyfriend haven’t been Good Housekeeping or Elle or Design Sponge, they’ve been outlets that focus on niches relevant to my products, like geek culture blogs or outlets with a focus on animal lovers. Other tee labels might all be fighting for a placement in the same dozen or so coveted outlets, but personally, I prefer to skip ’em. I’d rather go where my competitors haven’t thought to look.

Case in point, earlier this fall my company was featured in a magazine about cheese. We saw quite a few orders stemming from the placement. The average clothing company might not think about working with an outlet about cheese. By working with a media outlet that isn’t the first one our competitors think of, we were able to score a win.

3. They probably aren’t perfect for me
Even if I take competitors out of the equation, if a friend who had a jewelry line or a handbag line offered to give me her press list or store list, I’d still say “no thanks”. Media lists and store lists have to be highly customized to be valuable. The press contacts and store lists that are good for another business are not necessarily useful for mine. Even if I could get lists another clothing company was using, it probably still wouldn’t have all the stores and media outlets I should be pitching.

There’s more to your products than being a shirt or a necklace or a bag. Our products have so many niches they could appeal to that it’s important to build our prospect lists with those niches in mind. Hopefully there aren’t a lot of businesses out there with your exact combination of product types and niches, which is why the best store or press list is going to be the one you created yourself.

Purchased Lists as a Jumping Point
The case can be made for using pre-made lists as a starting point. You could use them to get ideas for your own custom list and cross off the ones you don’t need. This can work okay if you understand that the list you’re getting isn’t “your” final list and you want to spend the time checking out each contact on the list to see if they’re a fit for you. It’s not my preferred approach, I’d rather spend the same hours just making my own list, researching my own niches.

If you do decide to start with someone else’s list, make sure you’re not taking their list as gospel. Be prepared to spend the time checking each contact to see if they are suited to your business and then spend the time adding your own contacts that aren’t on the list initially.

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