As an artist or craftsperson, you may be creating a production line of handmade goods in your studio, and selling wholesale to retailers. In that case, chances are high that you have some competition from products made by large commercial gift manufacturers that are sold into those same stores.
These manufacturers have to be profitable, and consequently use time-tested methods of selling product and driving repeat business. It can be helpful for artists to understand how those manufacturers think, and how they promote their lines to your buyers. You may be able to use some of these techniques yourself. And, your buyers are familiar with the concepts, so they are in a sense “trained” to expect this type of selling.
1. They don’t sell individual products, they sell packages. Manufacturers often promote their lines to retailers as a collection which comes as a package deal. You want to place an opening order for this new collection? $350.00 starts you out with a fully loaded display. Easy, right? Yes, it is. Buyers are busy. Quite often they simply say yes, and your sale is made.
2. They know that displays are incredibly important. Walk into any store and look at the displays. Even in the design stage, product and packaging is created with merchandising in mind. It must fit well on an appealing display fixture that’s not overly heavy, bulky or impractical, and that shows the product to its best advantage. Often the best place for merchandise (especially if it is low end) is near the cash register. Point-of-purchase (POP) displays show up here, and fit nicely right on the counter to become impulse buys for shoppers.
3. They offer “pre–selects.” As mentioned in No. 1, this is a package, with a pre-determined selection of goods. It could be a “bestseller” package, or maybe a selection of specific seasonal merchandise. Or they could be grouped by theme. For example, a floral collection, ocean theme collection, or an executive office collection. The customer chooses the pre-selected package they want, and you have your order without cherry-picking and hassles.
4. They introduce new product throughout the year. Moreover, they introduce that merchandise with strategic timing to encourage regular orders from their existing customer base. Many manufacturers have reps who call on most of their accounts on a regular basis. These new “product releases” give a great reason for the rep to call the buyer, who is always looking for something new. Meanwhile, after the buyer says yes or no on the new product, the rep can check on the sell-through of the rest of their merchandise, and place orders to fill in merchandise that has sold.
5. They stay in touch. As mentioned in point No. 4, manufacturers reps follow up on a regular basis because they not only have something to sell, they also want to check how their last order has sold. This is essential to do, whether you are a rep, or an artist or craftsperson working for yourself. The reason for follow up is repeat orders, and the simple truth is this – the bread and butter of your business is not new orders. It is the repeat business that you build over the years. Never forget that, and you will be well on your way to landing your next order.
Want a great example of an artist who has done very well with these techniques? Check out our interview with polymer clay artist Merrie Buchsbaum, who is having her best sales year ever!