Most craftspeople I have dealt with via my sales rep business or my consulting business have started their business selling directly to end consumers via craft shows, farmers markets or online marketplaces. Selling to end consumers is an excellent way to get a feel for your customers. The feedback you may receive is invaluable as you will know what folks are looking for and ways to improve your product or line of products.
What happens to that relationship AFTER you decide to wholesale or hire a sales rep? Balancing these two different markets is not difficult if you follow a few simple rules:
- Your sales reps and your wholesale accounts are NOT your competition! These folks are an extension of your marketing and should be treated as sales partners.
- Support your ‘marketing partners’ at every opportunity such as giving demos, offering signage or displays, etc.
- Always make your retail prices at or even a bit higher than what your wholesale outlets are charging. If you are exhibiting at a show, for instance, and wish to sell a product at a lower price point, make sure to add signage explaining the ‘show special’.
Terri Belford, author of Inspired Livelihood expands on these tips in her article: “7 Ways to Wholesale your Craft to Galleries, Sell Directly to Customers and Keep Everyone Happy”. Here are her suggestions:
- If you include your web address on your tags, be sure they are removable for the gallery. It would be unfair to them to have shoppers see the work at their gallery and then purchase it online directly from you.
- When you retail your work at craft shows, be sure to charge as much as your shops and galleries sell it for.
- If you sell directly to customers online, price your work just a tad above keystone so that your shops know you aren’t competing with them.
- Ideally, have separate websites for retail and wholesale or at least a wholesale link that is password protected and only those you’ve approved as resellers can access your wholesale prices.
- On your public website, have a “where to find my work” link that lists the stores that carry your craft. In addition to encouraging customers to support your wholesale accounts, you will also reach those who want to touch, feel and see in person. It also shows the shop owners that you are driving traffic to their store.
- If you are able, offer to do periodic trunk shows at the shops or galleries. Customers love to meet the artist and the shop owner benefits because you bring in more traffic.
- Show your wholesale accounts gratitude for their business. Always best, of course, is a hand written note of appreciation.