Selling your own line is hard work but you don't have to do it alone.
When I started thinking about what my sales and marketing plan should be I had a few people and places that I referred to help figure it out. Here is some of the advice I received that I DIDN'T end up following and I'll tell you why.
1) I was advised to send personalized emails to the potential customers instead of mass emailing. I started to do this but it was so incredibly time consuming and I never knew if anyone was actually opening the emails or going to the links I provided. So after a bit of research I decided to sign up with an email marketing site. There were a few things that I knew I wanted the main thing being TRACKING. I wanted to know who was opening my emails, who was clicking the links, which links they were clicking, what they were looking at, for how long, etc... What a great decision. I was able to see all that and more. Yes, you'll probably need to pay for the service but it's nominal really. Especially when you realize that your time will be more productive because you'll know who and where to direct your time and efforts.
2) Some people swore up and done that I HAD to do a show (by "show" I mean trade show). Shows are expensive. And assuming you are a new(er) company you probably don't have relationships with buyers yet. This means you may be spending a lot of money to sit and hope that buyers will come by, see your things, like them and will spend time to talk with you about the collection and hopefully make a purchase. When I was deciding whether or not to do a show I did a cost breakdown of how much the entire event would cost, wrote a list of worst case scenario outcomes (no orders by the end of the show), talked to a few people who have done a show and then made some decisions. The short version of this story is that I realized that I was much better off using those funds to hit the road and try to get appointments with the buyers. I met with them in their stores which helped me to see their layout, how they merchandise and where my collection would fit. Another reason I decided against doing a show this season was that many companies have slashed their travel budgets so they were not going to be attending shows that required travel. The last reason is that I have been to many shows in my career and unless you have buyers that you can't easily see that are attending the show and you have actual appointments with it may not be worth your time and money. There are a LOT of vendors at these shows. A LOT. And as a buyer it can be a bit overwhelming and draining. So save your money and get to schlepping. Your dollars will go a lot farther.
3) A few people had advised me to not hire a sales rep until I had sold $XX,XXX in goods. So my original plan was to sell the line by myself. I quickly, QUICKLY realized that I simply could not do it all. Research, design, develop, work with pattern maker, source fabric and trims, run the business side of things, price production, manage cash flow, look for funding sources, plan production, AND SELL! Selling requires a lot of phone calls, travel and follow up. And assuming you are starting with zero accounts the time you spend cold-calling and following up, following up, following up...well, let me just say that I was finding myself getting up at 2 a.m. and working until 5 a.m. to get all the other things done. Add being a wife and a mom to this list and I realized that something had to give.
So I did some research and made a list of the reps that I wanted to approach to sell my line. Man oh man, it was the best decision I made.
This is not the first time that advice that was given to me that didn't feel quite right, I went with my instinct and it turned out to be an awesome move. Sometimes we need to remember that we know what we know and that we learned it from experience.
GO WITH YOUR GUT. This is the most important thing anyone can tell you and it applies to everything. Luckily my dad taught me from a very young age to trust my instincts and go with my gut. He always said that it would rarely, if ever, steer you wrong.
Want to hear the best news of all? We are basically sold out for wholesale sales for this season. I had set a cap for production quantities (make sure to do this!!!) and we met them.
I don't know what a "jig" is exactly, but if you could see me I'm doing my version of one right now!