Dear Design Doctor
I contacted a well-known craft gallery two months ago, but I haven’t heart back yet. What should I do? I don’t want to be pushy, but I would love to sell my work there. What to do if you don’t hear back from a retailer?
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, answered this question as The Design Doctor in Crafts Magazine September/October 2016 (page 42) where it was titled ‘Reeling the galleries in’:
‘This is a question I get asked frequently. Often it’s the case that you won’t hear a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ from a potential client, but that you don’t hear anything at all! Often new makers get worried then. Some even take it very personal and wonder if anybody is interested at all in their lovely products.
The reality is that your potential buyer is a very busy person.
Even if they intend to be friendly and kind they have very limited time, and get so many emails each day that they can’t respond to them all. Especially emails are very easily lost. Only if your subject line grabbed their attention immediately or they already know of you, is it likely that they will respond. After two months your email will be deeply buried in their overflowing inbox, and it’s very unlikely that they will remember you or that you will get a response now.
Time to move on and create a better plan of action if you want to build a thriving craft business!
It takes a lot more than sending out one email to get a wholesale order, and you need to start casting your net wider but also more specifically at the same time. Start with identifying around 25 places where your crafts can be sold; including galleries, specific niche shops and boutiques, museum shops, interior designers and commissioners, online shops and platforms, craft fairs and trade shows.
Do your research and make sure there is a good match between your products, positioning, values and the vision and clientele of these selling opportunities. Find out what the name of the buyer is, who else sells there (are they your peers?), what the price level is, and who their clients and visitors really are. Check out if there are admission criteria and costs, and when the next deadline is. Start following them on various social media networks and in the trade press, get onto their PV list and sign up for their newsletter, so that you know what’s going on.
Then next to each of these 25 opportunities on your list write down why they would be interested in you and your crafts.
What is so special about your work? Why should they stock you?
Then brainstorm a wide variety of ideas to approach them. On average it takes 7 conscious interactions with someone before we remember them, so you need to get creative and become more proactive and consistent. A short and to-the-point email that shows that you have done your research, introducing yourself individually but professionally is a good start, but there is much more you need to do.
Engage with them on social media, comment on Instagram or Twitter, or even write a blog post about your visit to their gallery to get noticed. When you are doing events invite selected buyers by sending a VIP card in the post and include a handwritten note or introductory letter. When you launch new products send examples or include a visual wholesale price list or a link to an online wholesale brochure. Make sure that you are aware of when they are most likely to buy (early September is perfect for the Christmas season!) to increase your chances.
If you get any press then leverage that opportunity by promoting it via targeted email marketing and social media, and include on your website or blog. Think about ‘excuses’ to get in touch with people, by doing events, winning awards, and launching new collections regularly. Find out if somebody can introduce you directly too, as referrals are one of the most effective ways to get that first order. Get creative with your approach (and a bit cheeky too!) and have professional images. Ensure that you understand trade price terminology and have realistic pricing expectations. If you have already got some retailers then include them on a stockist list and feature them in your social media too. Sooner or later you will get noticed.
My marketing mantra is ‘people only buy from people they know, like and trust’.
You need to build your reputation over time, and keep potential clients informed. Hopefully you will get some orders, and others will not be interested (yet).
But expecting major results after only one email is actually a little naïve or arrogant even.
It takes time to get noticed in the crowd, to remember your style of work and your name – especially by buyers and other professionals who see hundreds of makers like you a year. They will expect you to stay in touch and to sell yourself to them. They are used to it: they sell every day and actually love it! So don’t be shy or worry about being pushy.
Once you realise that you need to be proactively and consistently building relationships with the people who are mostly likely interested in your craft, things will start to happen. You will get noticed. Marketing will get easier. People will start contacting you. More people will see and remember your work. Orders will be placed. Hopefully again and again. But it’s up to you to start now to set that flow in motion.’