The quickest way to scale your product-based business is to sell wholesale. Rather than try to increase the number of customers you sell individual product to, you sell a large number of items to a handful of wholesale buyers. The best way to find new wholesale customers is through sales reps.
How sales reps work.
Sales reps present merchandise for the lines they represent. They work out of a showroom or they travel within the territory they cover. They will have exclusive sales rights in the territory that you agree to. If sales reps are not successful with your products they will not continue to sell them. The reps are paid strictly by commission so they tend to show the retailers lines that will sell well so they get re-orders.
Sales reps take orders and then forward orders to the manufacturer who then ships the order.
Sales reps require free samples and marketing materials to help them sell your products. The more tools the sale reps have the better they are able to sell your products. The retailers that buy from the sales reps need to be able to see, touch and feel the products before they purchase. You will need to make sure that you build the cost of the samples into your pricing.
The first year I hired sales reps I remember spending a lot of samples and catalogs for the sales reps. However, it was definitely worth it as my business tripled in size that year.
Sales reps are paid 15% commission for orders that are sold at the regular wholesale price.
The benefits of working with a sales rep.
Experienced sales reps mean less management time for you. The rep will handle customer service issues and product knowledge questions for you.
The sales reps know the area they serve better you will. The benefit of having local knowledge always helps understand the needs of retailers they work with.
How to find sales reps for your product-based business.
Trade shows- I found my sales reps by walking the trade shows and looking for showrooms that were a good fit for my products. One of the things to think about as you are looking for reps is to make sure that your products are a good fit with the other lines they carry. The reps like to be able to get multiple orders from each store as they are paid on commission. It makes it worth their time if they can show multiple lines on each sales call.
Referrals- Most manufacturers that have been in the industry for a while will have connections with various rep groups. I got a lot of referrals by just picking up the phone and asking vendors I met at shows what rep groups they enjoyed working with.
Online- There are a few websites where you can find connections on such as greatrep.com or saleshunter.com.
Trade Journal- Often times sales reps will advertise in the various trade journals. I did an article with a list of trade journals here.
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Like it or not peak shopping season is around the corner. With more than 55% of consumers planning to shop in stores and online between Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales volume will be high. Make sure that your online shop gets a piece of those sales.
Last year, U.S. eCommerce revenue set a record $3.34 billion on Black Friday - a substantial 21.6 percent year-over-year growth rate.
More people are increasingly ditching the old way of going to a physical store for their holiday purchases. Consumers are actively spending more time online to search Black Friday promotions.
If you are running an online business, you better have the best Black Friday ideas ready to boost your sales. I'm going to share some sales promotions I have done in my business that have worked for us.
1. Make Your Own Gift Guide- Target specific people as a reminder to those that will be shopping for those people. As an example, teachers, hair dressers, work friends, neighbors, sisters, mothers.
Here is an example of an item targeting specific people out of my husband's gift guide for his business. (law enforcement)
2- Offer A Gift With Purchase - Consider offering your subscribers a free gift with purchase. It doesn't have to be anything larger or expensive. It can be something as simple as a cookie cutter or an ornament attached to it.
3- Offer A Gifts To Go Section - Have gifts wrapped or bundled together to make it easy for the shopper to grab and go. We used simple cellophane bags with crinkle paper in it and a ribbon tied at the top. These kind of gifts are great for neighbor or friend gifts.
4- Run A Door Buster Campaign- During a door buster a particular item or a selection of items is given at a special discount price for a limited time.
5- Run A Mystery Box or Bag Deal- This is a promotion we did all the time during the holidays. I loved running this kind of promotion because it helped us get rid of inventory that we had discontinued or had overruns on production. We made the value more than the cost so it was a win/win for the customer and for us. I have attached an example of how we promoted it in email and on social media.
A few tips to consider while preparing for your holiday sales.
1. Make sure you have an opt-in to gather email addresses of all the people hitting your website.
2. Use the hashtag #blackfriday and #cybermonday on your promotions. A lot of people will be using these hashtags looking for gift ideas.
3. Have an abandon cart app in place to capture abandoned sales.
I have a free training here that you can go watch all about Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. It is only 30 minutes and I have over 15 examples of the various promotions along with samples of the campaigns I did in my business. Go watch it here.
I wanted to share with you a resource list of retail trade magazines today. Trade magazines are one of the best ways for learning what is new in your industry.
The magazines are also a way to see new trends in product development as well as finding new resources for your business. You can stay up to date with trade shows, find new manufacturers and more. You can subscribe to the online version as well as order the magazine.
If you are an online shop looking for wholesale products to resale you will find many new resources in the magazines.
One of my favorites is Gifts and Dec. This magazine serves retailers, manufacturers, and vendors of general gift products, decorative accessories, stationary and greeting cards, collectibles, personal care products, jewelry, and gourmet food items.
The magazine talks all about retail industry news, wholesale trade show news, new product introductions, and trend information. This is without a doubt one my favorites for staying up to date on the gift industry.
I would suggest that you review the list below. If there resources here that would help your business then you should jump on their mailing list. I would also follow them on social media. It is amazing how up to date you can stay on the industry just by following their social accounts.
If you attend the trade shows that are relevant to your industry you will find most of these magazines are given away free at the entrance to the show. This is how I became acquainted to most of these magazines just by picking them up at the trade shows. I subscribed to the ones that were relevant to my business.
Here's list of trade journals for the retailers, online shops and wholesalers.
Gifts and Dec Gift industry
Home Accents Home decor industry news and more
HFN Home furnishings news
Smart Retailer Resource for wholesale merchandise for gift and home decor
Gift Shop Magazine The modern retailer's essential resource
Stationary Trends Industry resource for trends, paper and stationary
Apparel News Industry resource for apparel
National Jeweler Jewelry Industry
Home and Textiles Today Home and textile market news
Kids Today Juvenile retailers resource
I hope these resources helped you and your business. I love working with makers, manufacturers and retailers that want to scale their business. You can learn more about how I can help you here.
You can watch my free webinar replays here.
One of the things that helped my candle business be so successful was designing my products around the trends. I spent a lot of my time watching trends both in fashion and in home decor.
Have you ever wondered how all the retailers know what the trends are? You walk the mall and see all the same colors in the windows? Well, it doesn't happen by accident. If you have a product-based business and you wait until you see trends at retail it is too late to make products with those trends. By the time you get products made, new trends will be out.
The bigger my business got the more time I spent studying trends. I always wanted to make sure that my products were on trend while the trends were hot. It was especially important for me to be on trend in a down economy. While people were tight on funds they wouldn't buy new furniture, get new carpet or paint. They would, however, buy a new pillow, a rug or a candle to shake up the room and make it feel new.
I wanted to guarantee that if my customers bought a new rug at Target or a pillow at Bed, Bath and Beyond or even Walmart that the color of my wax would match.
One of the ways to know what the trend colors will be is to watch Pantone.com. The folks at Pantone watch the fashion and home decor trends very closely. They put a forecast out for every season a year ahead of time in addition to their Pantone color of the year.
The trend forecasters know what the colors, motifs, icons, and fabrics will be years before they hit the retail stores. Most of the innovative trends start on the runways in fashion. The European trades shows also tell us a lot of what will be coming to the USA in a year or two. I always enjoyed walking the Frankfurt show to see what trends were coming our way.
Here are Spring 2018 color predictions from Pantone. The Pantone color of the year for 2018 will be announced in early December. I like to guess what it will be before and right now I am leaning toward Meadowlark Yellow or maybe Cherry Tomato because I am seeing so much in those two colors.
Think about how you can use the Pantone colors to design a few of your new products with some of the new trend colors. If you go to Pinterest and put in 2018 Pantone colors you will see a lot of manufacturers already have products out with those colors.
Here is a screen shot of my Pinterest when I put the words Pantone Meadowlark and Pantone Cherry Tomato into the search. You can see how many products are already in those two colors and it isn't 2018 yet. The manufacturers that are watching trends will be ahead of the curve and have products made and ready to launch in 2018 now.
Pantone color of the year 2017 was Greenery. This is a screenshot from my Pinterest page showing all the products that have come out this year in Greenery. Every year when the Pantone color of the year is announced manufacturers all over the world will start making product in that color.
Here are a couple pages out of my sales catalog from a few years ago to show how we used trend colors to design products. I started every meeting with buyers explaining what the trends were and then showing how we designed around them. It always helped close more sales.
Tell me in the comments, are you designing your products around the trends? If not are you going to try and do that this year? It will increase your sales if you do.
Like it or not the holiday selling season is upon us. You still have time to plan some marketing that can bring in big results if you don't have anything planned. I have used all these marketing tactics in my business and they all worked well.
#1 - Have A Friends and Family Day
I have done a lot of friends and family days over the years with my business. I have found the best time to do it is Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The reason I like to do this before Thanksgiving-- I wanted customers to spend with me before they went Black Friday shopping.
I would create a coupon code and hand out to all my friends, family and employees. I tell them to hand the code out to all their friends and family members that would enjoy a 25% discount in my store or eCommerce shop. I had a firm start and stop, day and time, as to drive the sense of urgency. For example, I would say from 1:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. on a specific day they could redeem their coupon code on my website or in my store.
I discovered that my friends, family, and employees were great free marketing through word of mouth. Once they bought my products and enjoyed them I had new repeat customers. If you figure the cost of Facebook ads or newspaper ads, it was less money for more sales without advertising costs.
Give it a try, set a date and make a coupon in Canva for a discount of your choice. Once you get the momentum going each holiday with your friends and family sale they will look forward to the discount each year.
#2- Try A FREE Gift With Purchase As An Incentive To Buy
They say success leaves clues so I always liked to watch the big boys and see the kinds of promotions they were doing. Since I was in the candle space I watched Yankee Candle Company and Bath and Body Works a lot. I figured they had huge marketing budgets so I liked to watch what they came up with.
I would sign up for their email lists and calendared when they did promotions, how often they emailed and what their discounts were.
One of the things I saw them do over and over was a gift with purchase. I started following along and doing a gift with purchase myself.
I found I was the most successful when I had the purchase price be $35 or less. For example, I found some candle holders that were .59 but the perceived value was at least $10 retail. I could advertise spend $35 and get this FREE. The promotion was win/win for the customer and me. They were able to upgrade their gift with a holder and not just a candle.
You can find all sorts of items at wholesale or below and use them as a gift with a higher perceived retail value. You can find items like this on Amazon or AliExpress. There are also a lot of jewelry companies that supply to the wholesale space. A few of the companies I liked to use was Accessories West Imports as well as Lava Accessories. You can find all sorts of scarves, jewelry, and accessories with large enough margins for a FREE gift with purchase.
#3 - Make A Bundle Pack To Increase Average Sale Price
Bundles are a great way to turn a variety of products into a high-ticket gift or purchase.
The best way to sell more bundles is to take three or products and put them together in unique packaging. This can be as simple as a gift back and tissue, a gift box or even cellophane bags with a ribbon.
The best way to price the bundles is to make the price a little better than what it would cost to buy them separately. This is an incentive for the customer to purchase as they are saving money and have the package wrapped.
As an example some of the most successful bundles I have done....I had lotions that were $9 each. I put them together in a cellophane bag with a ribbon and a gift tag on. I priced the two pack for $15 and promoted with ads that said gift-wrapped lotions 2 for $15. These simple gifts flew out the door quicker than I could package them up. You can buy cellophane bags on Amazon and put something together like this yourself. Everybody is looking for gifts under $20 for neighbors, teachers, co-workers and more. If you make it quick and easy for your customers you will sell a lot.
Have you thought about making bundles with your current products? Leave us a comment and let us know what your sales promotions are this holiday season.
Make sure you sign up for our NEW webinar to get more ideas to grow your product-based business here.