Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

4 Tips for Pitching Retailers

Ready to dip a toe into wholesale? Learn how to craft email product pitches that retailer buyers won't be able to resist.

By Rena Tom Apr 3, 2014
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Photo by b is for bonnie

Are you chomping at the bit to start expanding your sales to wholesale markets? A few key strategies can take your pitches to potential partners to the next level. For many sellers, effective outreach can be as simple as hitting send on a strategically-drafted email.

Pitching your business or wholesale line in person  is generally a no-no, unless you've scheduled an appointment beforehand. Cold calls by phone are less than ideal as well, since the odds are slim you'll get someone on the line during the day. Unless you have a personal relationship with a store, pitch by email. The best, most obvious  benefits of email are that it is fast and free. More importantly, it can be accessed anytime a buyer has a free minute. For instance, she may initially scan your pitch on her smartphone while standing in line at the post office, and if intrigued, return to it the next day on her office computer.

It might seem tricky to figure out the “right” thing to say at first, but it’s not as hard as you think, especially if you’ve already taken stock of your business after reading the Seller Handbook post 4 Signs Your Business is Ready for Wholesale. Read on for four fundamental elements that should (or shouldn't) be included in your pitch email. (One quick tip: Once you’ve formulated a basic email template, adapt it to each store in order to save time. )

1. Put your business name in the subject line.

Buyers often receive dozens of emails a day. They may scan your email and decide to come back to it later, so make sure it’s easy for them to find you by making your subject line relevant. “Hand-Hammered Brass Jewelry from Cleveland by Modern Smithy” is good; “Wholesale Inquiry” is not.

2. Keep it short and sweet.

Generally, two or three short paragraphs are enough to get your point across. The first paragraph should indicate that you've personally researched or  been referred to their store, and concisely express to the buyer who you are and what you do. The second paragraph should highlight your current line and offer information that you believe will pique the buyer’s interest based on their customers. Stand out by highlighting unique elements of your product, using buzzwords like local, recycled, one of a kind, or sustainable; call attention to values that you know the store finds important. You can mention other reasons the store might interested in your line, such as an upcoming holiday, a juicy bit of press or price points in line with their offerings.

Your last paragraph should be a focused call to action. Try not to give too many options for what should happen next. If you will be at a local trade show selling your line in person, let them know. If you are attaching your linesheet and want them to email orders or questions to you, say that. If you’re a part of Etsy Wholesale, your closing paragraph is the perfect place to share your Etsy Wholesale line sheet and guest pass URL! Last, but not least, be clear about when and how you are going to follow up with them.

3. Attach small images.

Choose one to three representative images of your work, and either attach them to your email or insert them into the body. Don’t forget that buyers might be looking at the email on their phones and unable to open giant image files, so keep image sizes small. (And don’t worry — if they need larger images, they’ll ask.) The images should be intriguing to a buyer and offer some variety. For example, you could include one “hero shot” that represents your product line, one simpler shot of a single product on a white background and one shot of a product detail.

4. Keep the door open.

Now that you've sent your email, there are a few things that can happen: your prospective client will write back and say they're interested (yay!), they’ll write back and say "No, thanks," or they won’t write back at all.

If they don't write back, be sure to write to them on the day you said you'd follow up. At that point, if they still don't respond, move on; don't take it personally. There are countless reasons for radio silence; maybe they lost your email, are inundated with emails, on vacation, too busy with work, or at a trade show. If you really want to land this store, try again one more time when you launch a new collection, but after that, focus your energies elsewhere.

If a stockist does write back, but isn’t interested in your work, don’t miss out on a great chance to learn and network. Send them a final message to thank them for responding and ask for one more favor. Your "ask" will depend on the nature of their response: If they mentioned your product’s not right for their store, see if they can recommend another store in the area that’s a better fit. If they had a comment about the product, pricing or packaging, request permission to contact them again after you make any adjustments or introduce new lines. If they love your product,  but say it's the wrong time of year to buy or that they don't have the  budget right now, ask if you can put them on your retailer-only newsletter so you can stay in touch with them.

The important thing is to keep the door open for the future. Stay organized with a spreadsheet listing the names of the potential retail clients you've written to and when, with notes on responses and dates for follow-up. Enjoy the journey, and don’t forget to give yourself some serious credit for being brave enough to dream big.

Author

Rena Tom from renatom

Rena Tom is the founder of Makeshift Society, a coworking space for creatives and entrepreneurs based in San Francisco, with a new location opening in Brooklyn. She’s the former owner of Rare Device boutiques, and  consults and teaches "retail-readiness" to independent designers.

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