I strongly believe that having the opportunity to learn from what others have done well AND have failed at makes us better because, in the thick of it, we don’t always realize where we stand. It isn’t until afterward that you have the chance to reflect and realize that you’ve either had a big win or epic failure. We've all been there, and while making cringe-worthy mistakes isn't fun, there is always a lesson learned. I've made a TON of mistakes throughout my career but have also had some really great mentors along the way to help me figure things out. It’s something I am beyond grateful for.
As a product based business, you've probably asked a question here or there in a facebook group thread or forum and heard crickets. Unfortunately, many makers + product based business owners tend to keep what they’ve learned to themselves. When this happens, we don’t have the opportunity to learn from others and tend to repeat the same actions which lead to the same mistakes. Wouldn’t it be nice if, as a community, we could all be more willing to share a peek behind the curtain to help each other out?
That's why today, I’m sharing some of the most common mistakes I see product based businesses making because I want you to know that 1) you are not alone and 2) by identifying the problem now you can take action sooner than later.
Mistake #1 You haven’t set a foundation for your business
Want to know a seriously awesome feeling? Seeing an email hit your inbox asking if you wholesale. As tempting as it is to say yes IMMEDIATELY (while you’re poppin bottles and happy dancing at your desk!) it’s important to take a moment to examine where your business is today and identify the gaps you need to fill in order to be successful with wholesale. The rules of wholesale are different and if you don’t take a moment to take a hard look at your line to make sure it’s optimized for wholesale you might be setting yourself up to make some costly mistakes.
By setting a foundation BEFORE jumping in you are positioning yourself to be professional while making it easier to do business. A few things you’re going to want to have in place before you get started:
Your Terms + Conditions
Your Terms + Conditions detail everything from how to place an order, minimum order requirements, how you handle returns, cancellations, and backorders etc. It outlines how your policies, practices and how you do business. Want to make this step simple? Head over to the shop and snag a copy of my Terms + Conditions template!
A Website + Social Media Profiles
The first thing a buyer is going to do when you pop onto their radar is to head to your website and look for you on social media to learn more about your products and company. Have something in place for them to see! A website doesn’t have to cost a lot, I’m a big fan of Squarespace because it’s easy to navigate and you don’t need to know anything about coding or plug ins. Don’t worry about the number of followers on your pages either, a buyer isn’t necessarily going to buy your products because you have 5K,10K or 20K followers!
A system for inventory
Most small businesses start tracking inventory with a spreadsheet. While this may work for a bit, one mistake can mean you’re promising products that you don’t have in stock. Be aware that as your biz grows you’re going to upgrade your system. Quickbooks is a great next step because you can integrate inventory and track your orders in one place.
Your Wholesale Pricing
It’s so important to know your numbers inside and out! Do the math before hand so you can accurately quote pricing and are prepared for when a buyer asks you for an additional discount. Getting handed a big order means nothing if you’re losing money to fulfill it.
Is your Biz ready for Wholesale? Snag your FREE Checklist!
Mistake #2: You started reaching out to buyers without doing your homework
While it’s tempting to say, “I want to sell to everyone!” your bottom line will benefit from being strategic especially when you’re just starting out in wholesale. By targeting the stores that are the best fit for your products you’re giving them the greatest opportunity to sell. When your products sell well, chances are the store is going to place a reorder.
The key to connecting with buyers is to be genuine. You’re one of the hundreds of emails in their inbox that are product related so craft a killer pitch and tailor it to each retailer. DO NOT under any circumstances use a generic template and BCC every buyer to try and save yourself time. Make it a point to visit the store, spend time on their website and learn as much about them and their customers as possible.
Mistake #3: Your line is underdeveloped
If you’re starting to sell to stores and don’t have a ton of products your line could come across as pieced together. Retailers and buyers want to see a variety of product options before placing an order. When you line appears to be developed buyers become more confident in your business because you don’t look like the new kid on the block (even if you totally are!) The more designs and products you have in place the greater chance you have at landing an order simply because there are more options for a buyer to choose from.
Mistake #4: Your pricing is all over the place
The biggest mistake a business can make is not running the numbers. Not every product is destined for wholesale! Sometimes, the numbers just don’t add up. In general, your wholesale price is going to be half of your retail price. So that $10 art print would wholesale for $5. Sometimes you’ll see that slashing prices in half doesn’t work. When this happens you have two options:
Re-source the item and try to get the price down
Put it aside and focus on the other styles where your pricing works
Want to make sure your pricing is on point? Snag a copy of my FREE pricing workbook!
Mistake #5: You don’t have a follow-up strategy
Buyers have a lot on their plate so there’s a good chance you won’t hear back from them for a few days, weeks, or at all. While it’s frustrating, it’s extremely common. There’s a fine line between following up tastefully and coming across like a sales stalker. While they might not buy right away it doesn’t mean the answer is going to be no forever. Having a strategy to remain connected is key! Find ways to connect that don’t even mention placing an order like follow them on social media, leaving meaningful comments and send the occasional sneak peek of your latest designs. Eventually, when the timing is right and if your products are a good fit, those efforts will pay off.
Mistake #6: Your product photos are weak
Having great imagery is critical when it comes to signing new accounts. Buyers rely on your images when they can’t see the samples in person so you want to give them the best picture as possible. It’s important to have crisp images shot on a clean background so colors and features stand out. I also love stylized images because the give the feeling of what it feels like to use your products. If your images are too small, grainy or don’t depict enough detail you’re setting yourself up for buyers to pass.
Mistake #7: You’re hard to get in touch with
As a designer + product maker you wear a ton of hats. When this happens, sometimes things fall through the cracks. Stores that have invested in you should be at the top of your list in terms of service and care. The easiest way for you to enhance the level of service you provide is to make it easy for customers to get in touch with you. By making your contact information easy to find and being responsive to requests and questions on social media you are setting the tone that you are indeed there for your fans, followers + friends. When people feel like you are easily accessible they are more inclined to purchase from you because they know if there is any sort of issue it will be easier to resolve.
Mistake #8: You are inconsistent with your social media and posting without a plan
One minute you’re posting pics of your products, the next your cat or kids, your dinner or anything else non-business related. Posting for the sake of posting and sharing EVERYTHING you think is worthy without a plan sends a confusing message as to what your profile is actually all about.When you confuse your followers you’ll inevitably lose a few and have much lower engagement.
Consistency is key when growing your audience. Not only is keeping imagery consistent important to telling your brand story but so is how often you post. If I’m interested in a product but see your page hasn’t had any activity on for a few weeks or months I’m going to start wondering if you are still in business. I’ve shared some of my favorite Instagram tips for product based businesses here!
Mistake #9: You haven’t set any revenue goals
We all know how important it is to set goals for our business but how many of us actually do it. (um hello, they can be scary!)
Setting revenue goals now will help you plan and strategize just how many stores you’ll need to open and orders you’ll need to fulfill in order to make your projected revenue.
Mistake #10: You’re letting rejection get the best of you
Being rejected never feels good but as a product based business, it can sting even more because that rejection can feel so personal. (after all, the designs did come out of that fabulous brain of yours) It’s painful and depressing but I promise you that every product based business owner has shared those feelings and been in your shoes. It’s important to remember that as much as you want it to be, your product isn’t going to be for everyone. Learn as much as you can about the no and move on. I promise, there is someone just around the corner who is ready to love on your products HARD.
Want to hang out with people who have been there too? Join the Free Facebook community and connect with other product based business owners!