Before discussing the marketing strategies for wholesale distributors, let’s brush up the definition of wholesale marketing.
Wholesale marketing is all about promoting your goods to retailers or institutional buyers for wholesale orders.
Generally, wholesale orders are high-ticket size & bulk quantity. Therefore, they aren’t as easy to get or close. To be successful, you will need to plan & execute an effective marketing strategy.
While ideas are good, what really matters is execution.
In the US, the wholesale is one of the booming industries. As per a data, wholesale trade generates over $8262 billion in revenue every year. Moreover, it employs over seven million people.
To succeed as a wholesale distributor, you need to focus on the following 3 basics:
Related course: Foundations & Fundamentals of Marketing (LinkedIn)
With the aforesaid in mind, let’s explore some marketing ideas for wholesale distributors.
MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR WHOLESALE DISTRIBUTORS
1. Offer Referral Incentives To Existing Customers
Most of your existing customers would be happy to refer you a new customer. How?. Simply offer them an attractive referral incentive.
Now, you may think like “Even for an incentive, why would they refer their competitor?”. The answer is simple. Not all people belonging to a particular industry are competitors. There is something called networking.
Example: Imagine you are a wholesale distributor of electric wires. Can one of your clients (like a civil contractor) refer to an electrical shop or retailer?. Yes, the chances are high.
So, what are the different kinds of referral incentives you can offer?. The following work the best:
- Trade discount for next order
- Cash discount on outstanding payment
- Instant cash reward
- Free stock/goods or merchandise
- Priority service for next few orders
The quality of customers that you get with these referral programs are generally of high quality. Why?. Because they are trusted & endorsed by your existing customers.
What I like about this strategy is that it results in a ‘chain reaction’. How?. Since the referral ‘chain’ doesn’t end with a new referral. The new referred client can further refer a new client & take the chain forward!
Therefore, this idea is one of the most simple & effective marketing strategies for wholesale distributors.
2. Actively Participate In Trade Shows
Participating in a trade show is almost a sure-shot way to get a ton of qualified leads or customers. As you may know, trade shows or fairs are marketplaces where buyers & sellers meet up.
You can check for upcoming trade shows or fairs on https://www.tradefairdates.com. Alternatively, you may also join relevant industry associations who will update you on upcoming trade shows.
To be successful in a trade show requires an intense preparation. So, make sure you focus on the following:
- Book a prime location or slot
- Invest in attractive signages or displays
- Display as many products’ samples as possible
- Hire an experienced sales executive with excellent communication skills
- Prepare a spreadsheet to record details of all leads
- Offer a fair discount for spot orders
If planned & executed flawlessly, there isn’t a better lead source than participating in a trade fair as a seller.
Trade shows are best suited for exporters. Though, it also works well for domestic sales, especially to institutional or corporate buyers.
3. List On Industry Directories
Industry directories can make your wholesale business visible to your target audiences easily. Industry directories can either be in online or offline forms.
Some top online industry directories are:
Whereas, offline directories can generally association-specific. To list on them, you may need to become a member of the publishing industry association.
Based on locations of your target clients, you may need to list on city-level, state-level or country-level directories.
Make sure that you list all your important details like :
- Phone number
- Email address
- Postal address
- Business locations
- Brand names
- Incorporation years
You may also list on directory-cum-marketplaces like Alibaba. They have the potential to give you some orders as well.
4. Catalog & Take Orders Online
This strategy involves the following steps:
1st Step: Buy a domain name(like xyz.com) on NameCheap. The domain name should preferably be the name of your business.
2nd Step: Build an online store using Shopify. No, you don’t need any expert help. Shopify makes it extremely easy for any business owner to build an e-commerce store just by dragging & dropping elements.
3rd Step: Take pictures of your products & upload them on Shopify panel. Of course, you will need to add the description, price etc. as well.
4th Step: In Shopify, add an app called Catalog Maker. This app automatically generates catalogs for wholesale customers.
5th Step: Now, start promoting your online store & catalog link among your prospects. That’s it!.
Using the aforesaid steps, you can easily create a wholesale product catalog & distribute it digitally to your clients. Additionally, your customers can also order directly from the website.
The wholesale online store is a great way to:
- Update clients on prices
- Display products
- Distribute product catalog
- Accept orders & payments
- Update on industry news & happenings
As an addon, you may also use the wholesale pricing app called Wholesaler. This app helps you to have a tiered pricing on your website for different groups of your customers.
5. Partner With Influencers
Influencers are the people who influence the decisions of their followers. Think them like gurus of their respective industries.
Example: Kristen Cline, a blogger, is an influencer in the automobile industry. Her advice & recommendations carry a lot of weight. Therefore, she has the power to make or break an automobile brand.
Generally, influencers promote a product they like or admire for a commission or fee. So, why not partner with them for some meaty sales orders?.
You may use a platform like Influence to find some influencers in your industry. Alternatively, you may use industry contacts to get in touch with some known influencers.
The key is to convince the influencers to promote your products. So, make sure that you pitch to them tactfully.
To avoid tussle, it’s also preferable to enter into a legal agreement with the influencer. Make sure you include the following in the agreement:
- Period of promotion
- Promotion platforms
- Proof of promotion
- Fee or commission to be charged
- Mode of payment
- Frequency of payment
The quality of customers referred by influencers is generally of high quality. Also, you don’t need to pitch much to them. (Since the influencer has done the homework for you).
6. Merchandise The Customer Outlets
Merchandise is presentation material used to promote the sale of goods. Generally, they are found at retail outlets or stores.
They can be in formats like signage, glow sign boards, posters, stands, t-shirts etc.
Let’s get it simple & clear. Your products will sell only when people buy from your customers (retail stores). And, how do people buy your product from your customer?. Only when they know about your product. Merchandise materials exactly serve this purpose.
Therefore, invest money & get some merchandise materials prepared. After that, distribute the same among your retail customers.
Make sure your merchandise items:
- Are unique & attractive
- Contain contact information like phone number & email IDs
- Have your brand logo & business name boldly displayed
- Display your range of products
You can easily make merchandise materials by contacting agencies like
Merchandising not only helps in the selling of your products but also assists in marketing. It helps your brand & product in getting eyeballs.
7. Execute Cold Visits To Prospects
If done properly, this is one of the most effective ways to market your wholesale business.
The idea is simple. Schedule, plan & visit as many retail stores as you can. Maybe at least 10 stores a day.
This way (assuming a conversion rate of 10%) you should have at least 30 new customers every month!.
But, this strategy requires intense preparation & skill. The success of cold visits depends a lot on the marketing skills of the visitor.
So, make sure you delegate the cold visits to your most skilled (marketing) employee. Additionally, you may also need to get involved personally as & when the situation demands. For example, you as a business owner should personally visit reputed retail stores or customers.
Remember the number of visits is the key here. More the number of stores you visit, the more customers you would get.
For the execution part, I recommend you to prepare a spreadsheet with the following columns:
- Date of visit
- Name of prospect
- Phone number
- Order status
- Follow-up date (if not ordered)
Make sure that you hand over the following to the prospects:
- Visiting card
- Product catalog
- Product samples
- Business pamphlet or brochure
Cold visits are used as a marketing strategy by some of the world’s top FMCG brands. It’s also a great way to increase wholesale sales.
8. Offer Periodic Freebie Schemes
Offering periodic schemes is one of the most powerful marketing strategies for wholesale distributors.
Periodic schemes are all about offering freebies (like free products) to buyers for meeting certain conditions. Generally, such conditions are transactional & periodic in nature.
Example: You as a wholesaler may offer a scheme like : Buy 1000 units of a product ABC within a month & get 30 units free of cost.
Such freebie schemes can dramatically boost up your sales. Additionally, it can even spread positive words about your business.
The freebies can be in the following formats:
- Free products
- Turnover discount (TOD)
People love freebies & that is the reason this idea works. As already said, such schemes are periodic in nature. So, you may have schemes running weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly.
Related course: How to Prepare a Winning Marketing Plan (Udemy)
Many top brands use this strategy to achieve their periodic sales targets.
9. Become A Wholesale Dropship Supplier
Dropshipping is an online retail model where a retailer lists products on his eCommerce website but doesn’t necessarily keep inventory of the same. As & when the orders are received, the retailer requests a wholesale supplier to ship the ordered product directly to the customer.
So, the dropshipping model involves 4 parties:
- Online retailer
- Wholesale supplier
- Dropshipping platform (connects online retailer with wholesale supplier)
An online retailer creates, manages & markets an eCommerce websites. The wholesale supplier’s job is to fulfill orders directly to the customer.
So, using this strategy, all what you need to do is tie-up with platforms that facilitate dropshipping by connecting online retailers with wholesale suppliers. A few such popular platforms are:
- Jungle Scout
- Worldwide Brands
- Dropship Direct
Visit the websites of the aforesaid platforms & apply as a supplier. Once approved, you can ship your products (on behalf of online retailers) to thousand of customers worldwide.
Related post: 11 Best Made In USA Dropshippers And Suppliers In 2019
10. Tie Up With An Export House
Why just target domestic customers?. Why not look beyond the national boundaries?
That’s where export kicks in. If you’ve got quality products & service, export can be a great option for your wholesale business.
I know you may be skeptical of exporting your products because it involves paperwork, licenses, payment risk, shipping woes, etc.
Enter export houses.
Export houses are specialized agencies who can take & market your products to international customers. They’ve good base of international customers in almost all niches. Also, they’ll take care of all export formalities like custom clearance, shipping, etc.
Here’re a list of few sites you can use to find export houses in your area:
- www.buyusa. gov
- importexportfirms. com
- Yellow pages
Related post: How To Get Export Orders For A Garments Business
11. Partner With Affiliate Marketers
Affiliate marketing is a marketing model where a publisher(blogger or vlogger) promotes products of businesses in return of commission.
Example: A lifestyle blogger (affiliate marketer) ties up with a garments wholesaler & promotes it’s products on her blog. When the blogger’s readers click on the products (known as affiliate links) & buy them, the blogger will receive commission from the garment wholesaler.
Following are a few platforms that connect affiliate marketers with brands or businesses:
- Rakuten Marketing
- Commission Junction
- Click Bank
Most of these affiliate platforms require you to have a website. Without the same, it’ll be very difficult for them to track conversions & award the affiliate marketers. So, if you’re willing to use this strategy then I recommend you to build an eCommerce website. The process of building an online store has already been discussed in point #4.
Affiliate marketing is almost a risk-free strategy for businesses. Why?. Because you’ll have to pay the affiliate marketers only when their audience buy your products. Else, you’ve nothing to loose.
Did you know?: The world’s largest wholesale marketplace Alibaba has it’s own in-house affiliate management program.
12. Target Institutional Buyers
At times, wholesalers are so busy selling to retailers that they forget about other simple strategies.
One of such strategies to selling to institutional buyers. If you don’t know then Institutional buyers are bulk buyers who do not regularly deal or trade in the product getting bought.
- Public parks & libraries
- Railway stations
- School, colleges & universities
A school may require uniforms once a year. If you’re into garments, you can sell those to schools at wholesale prices.
Yes, it’s not easy to get orders from institutional buyers. You got to be persistent with your marketing efforts & also have great network with the management.
Nevertheless, institutional sales are very rewarding both in terms of sales & margin.
13. Send Cold Emails To The Prospects
This cold email marketing strategy is very powerful in terms of scale & reach.
Cold email is an unsolicited email that you send to someone who doesn’t know you. But you send such an email because you want to introduce yourself & do business with the receiver.
So, how does this strategy work?. Let me break down the steps for you:
Step 1: Use a tool like Prospect.io to find email addresses of your prospective customers
Step 2: Prepare your email content in word or Google docs
Step 3: Feed the email content & email addresses list in your email marketing software & bulk email the prospects
There’re various email marketing softwares available in the market like:
- Gmass (works great with gmail)
- Constant Contact, etc.
Choose the one that suits your needs the best.
Warning: You shouldn’t spam your prospects. Therefore, make sure the cold email is valuable & not just promotional in nature. And, also take care to include ONLY targeted prospects in your email addresses list. Mass emailing to random people isn’t ethical.
14. Word of Mouth Marketing
No matter what marketing strategy you apply for your wholesale business, at some point in time, you’ll have to rely on word of mouth marketing.
Word of mouth marketing means your satisfied stakeholders (like customers, employees, friends or family) referring business to you without getting anything in return. Consider them like brand ambassadors for FREE.
Can you solicit word of mouth marketing?. Not at all. It happens naturally when your products or service is awesome.
When your products themselve speak for you, customers get attracted to your business like magnet attracts iron.
I think the electronics giant Apple is the greatest example of how word-of-mouth marketing happens. Apple over the years has built a loyal fan following. Ask an Apple fan about one of Apple’s products, and she’ll talk about the same with passion & commitment. As if Apple is paying for the same.
So, how does word-of-mouth marketing happen? Here’s are a few tips you can apply to your own wholesale business:
- Build your own brand at least through private labeling (stop selling others’ products)
- Price your products generously (Price is the most important success factor in wholesale business)
- Coin a unique promise of your business (Example: Guaranteed quality, full return & refund, 24 hours delivery, guaranteed best price, etc.)
- Treat your employees well
- Provide top-notch customer service
- Never lie to your customers
- Keep in touch with your customers even if it’s not a business need (Example: Send birthday or christmas wishes)
Related post: How To Improve Sales Without Reducing Price
Word-of-mouth marketing is difficult because it’s organic in nature. But it works like charm. Who doesn’t want FREE customers every now & then?
Wholesale business is an exciting industry. With proper planning & execution, you can achieve tremendous success.
Related course: Fundamentals of Marketing (University of Pennsylvania)
So, what do you think of the aforesaid marketing strategies for wholesale distributors?. Please comment below.