Hear First Hand From a Retailer w/ Julie O'Brien
I'd like to interview a retailer and we'll kick it off by asking julie o'brien from sweet paper who's, also one of my boot camp speakers, some questions about her preferences for outrage in marketing and then after that, we'll dive into some of these other nitty gritty details that we've talked about in the intro. There she is. Hey, we're so glad to have you thank you for making the time to be with us today of horace. Thanks for having me. Absolutely so I wanted to start off the conversation by asking you to kind of describe the types of products that you carry it sweet paper because you're not just a paper store, you carry more than that cracked we carry all men are stationary. Obviously, we also do a lot of jewelry, candles, art prints. We carry small leather goods, small ceramic codes, tote bags, ribbon and wrap and gift bags, pens, pencils, party supplies like sprinklers, sparklers, that's like, wow, that's, a good thing sparkle cake, toppers, candles awesome. So it's a real wide v...
ariety, which is great because we have a wide variety of people watching this course from different industries, so I think your feedback to them will be really valuable, so thank you so let's talk about who your customer is, the end consumer this coming into your shop and buying products because I've been talking to everybody about the difference between retail customers and whole field customers so from our standpoint, you're our customer as the retailer but who you are selling too is different so how you're buying products really relates to who you're selling to. So can you describe what type of customer comes in to see paper? Sure, sweet paper is in the way, which is a pretty affluent area within san diego. Most of our clients are women, the retail or cash and carry clients are, you know, there's a lot of ladies who lunch there's a lot of state home moms um and we do have a client base of young professionals but it's a smaller percentage irritating the other two groups? Absolutely and the reason it's important for you guys to hear who julie's customer is is because that goes back to finding out who the right target is for you. If if young women and ladies at lunch aren't who are buying your products and julie store probably wouldn't be a fit for you so kind of making that connection between who they sell tio and whether like that's an indicator of it they're right fit so julie, in your opinion, what is the most effective way for a new line to introduce their products to you and what communication preferences are you? Do you prefer for me and I think the most effective way is a mailer I think that's a great way to start off then stand a mailer with a letter of introduction a little bit about yourself and then the catalog with product images and all the pertinent information that I need to order on then included order form um you know some people have product that's easy to sample you know greeting cards for example somebody could send you some of those pretty easily and inexpensively but if your you know if some of these lines are carrying jewelry or things that are a little bit harder to ship are of higher value our product images you mentioned those in the mailer is that sufficient for you or do you want some other way to view the product no I think it's typically the paper products that provide samples okay I think the other types of products as long as the descriptions are detailed enough so if it's a candle I want to know what the candles made up how long it burns if it's julia I want to know what material a jeweler is made out of you know if it's if it's paper there's no samples specify if it is letter press referred his foil or digital give us a much information as we need to make a decision okay how do you feel about email communication? I far prefer email to phone calls I think you know in our store customer service is really right so we don't have call waiting because we don't feel comfortable ever interrupted one of our clients to take another call so we try to keep the phone lines clear for just our customer and actions I think e mails great and I think you can time it out specifically so that it's frequent enough to be top of mind but not too overwhelming where someone's going to sick of hearing from you absolutely now we've talked in the past you and I about e blast and adding having manufacturers add you to their email marketing list versus reaching out to you on a personal basis s o I just wanted you know there for I wanted tio have you reiterate that reaching out to you on a personal basis is best for first? Is that correct and then yes and then are you ok with people adding you to a mailing list? I am and I think the mailing list is a great vehicle for things like new product launches or seasonal specials that you might have a review decide you're not going to get a specific show but you want to offer free shipping you know anything like that those air great just you know email blasted out all your customers but if you're introducing yourself to me and you want me to consider your line for my store I think it should be a little more personal totally eso that kind of leads into the next question. Really? Well, what kind of information should these designers these makers be, including in their pitches to you two really pique your interest? I you know, I think some of it's pretty basic, but definitely worth going over the name of the business. But I also want to know the name of the person who owns the business. And if that is not the same person that I will be dealing with for ordering who that person is, ok, I really wantedto the name of the people that would get we're dealing with all your contact information, email, phone, number's address and then also social media handles, because usually we carry someone in the store, we follow them on social media. Okay, what about product details or, you know, minimum order requirements? Do you want to see all that in the initial pitches? Well, um, I think that yes, I do, but not the email. If you're sending me, for instance, an initial pension via email that should be part of whatever you patching that has product image is great. You know, whether it's a line sheet and whether it's a catalog same thing in that it's actually physically mail that should that shall be in the catalog. Okay, you touched on this earlier, but when are so what are some good reasons for manufacturers to reach out to you? What type of communication do you want to hear? Well cut type of events do you want to hear about for sure, we are always dying to hear about the latest greatest if you have new products even if I've never ordered from you before this new product might just be the thing that makes me not be able to live without you so new products for sure and like I said, seasonal items because if you it showed me your catalog and let's say may um and it had some great valentine's day cards you should probably put those in front of me again closer when I would be ordered for valentine's day excellent okay and when would that beef in your case just so the audience can hear that such a bad example because retailers should order for valentine's day well, christmas, but we all do it right after christmas way didn't tell everybody earlier to have their like seasonal stuff, you know, sixty eight months in advance, so don't worry you're ok? So you and I have talked in the past two about social media etiquette and I think you have a really good take on this and I'd like you to kind of share your tips for do's and don'ts you know how social media plays a part and you finding new product for your shot but also some things you discourage lines tio you know, writing things to avoid essentially I do we lived to social media to kind of keep our finger on the pulse of what's going on in the industry in general there's a lot of hash tags you can use to kind of follow whether it's a trade show there's always a hashtag for a trade show there is of course your hashtag for all your limbs those are really helpful to us we follow other stationery stores in other parts of that country to you know, we kind of share ideas like somebody found a great new candle line and they're over in new hampshire that's that's how I find out about us and I'm not local yeah, I think for companies looking toe have their items and retail stores that social media is a great way to promote your products and to increase brand awareness I think it's not a right place to pitch retailers definitely not to complain about retailers and it's really not the place this little test solicit help or advice from retailers I mean there's and a number of companies that have asked her, you know, ask me personally for opinions or questions and that's fine and I love being involved in helping but not over social media yeah, that's definitely an area where I think if the relationship is there, you know, they're more comfortable doing that their email or phone call, if appropriate or, you know, depending on where the relationship stands, but that kind of stuff should not be on social media for everyone to see. So I do want to start taking some questions from the audience student, so I just wanted to mention it, start, you know, writing your questions down on get to them in just a few minutes, but you know how often, julie, do you want to hear from people like we're having about follow up earlier? And, you know, people are a little bit concerned about coming office, too feels the or following up too much and appearing too pushy in your opinion, how like, what do you want to see my father? How much is too much? Right? I think part of the not something fishy is more about the tone of the email than it is about how often you do email, okay, I kind of feel like that the perfectly send out your initial introduction, whether it's via mail or email, and I think about to accept that it's appropriate to email and say, hey, I said this, you, you know, so make sure you've got it give any questions and then I would wait a good three or four weeks and email again and I think you could even do one more subsequent after that but if they haven't responded to you then you should probably not reach out again until you have something new of value to add like we talked about their special or new products or something seasonal excellent okay and so they could see even if you didn't respond they could still follow up so long as it was new information that might pique your interest is not just a continued pitch at you like direct pitch correct and you have to keep in mind retailers I mean I probably received at least five a day I mean we get more than we can keep up with so keep in mind that lack of responses and a no and sometimes it's just not the right time totally I plan to talk about that a little bit more in the course too so let's hear from the audience is there anyone in the audience here in studio that has a question kristie and then we'll go to laura too has really my question is I've experimented with different sales pitches for retailers and I have a version where I link and say I have this many followers on facebook I have made this money sales and passed year I had I'm selling this many stores and I've also experimented with you know less of the their pitching myself and I just don't really know exactly that balance between sounding to brag e but also being like I am establish I do know what I'm doing where do you kind of find that perfect sweet balance in an email? You know, I think for me the how your catalog for instance is going to speak to me about hooks establishing how well put together your line is I usually can tell by that type of thing how many followers you haven't facebook when so in my opinion at all because it doesn't speak at all to how your product will work in my store right? For instance so I think you know, promoting yourself you should perhaps prevent more your product unless how will your business going on social media if I can interject real quick? What of our loans? Katie wilson from the good twin she has been using a tactic that's been really well received she's been putting in her email footer like her top three to five bestsellers I can't remember how many she includes and she includes the you know the skew and a link directly to that product and it's just always in her footer and she updates it as she needs to but I would assume julie that you know something like that might capture attention are be of more interest you know, in passing right right? Because what you're best salaries translates into how I could also make money right it means money which is that alright rolled right exactly laurie you had a question hi julie the question is about so if I'm interested in approaching different retailers in a certain area and I know that there is and it can I don't know quite the exact but obviously you don't want to stores that are right next to each other carrying you know what you're doing so in terms of from a retailer perspective I mean I guess within the industry what would be somewhat ideal in terms of who can I how many retailers can I approach in a certain area is there a certain distance or I I don't know is from your perspective what what do you think about that? Okay and I mean that's a very hot topic and I am going tio be completely fair to you guys and maybe sell out retailers a little bit but honestly if you think about what you said I wouldn't want my store into my approx and stores they're really close to each other but why is that because you don't want to upset the retailers I think that if you have your products in two stores that are in the same village for instance you have twice is budget a chance of selling your products so do I want something that's in my store to also be at my friend store down the street? Probably not but I also don't think it's right for retailers to dictate to you whether you can or cannot put your product and as many places as you need to you to make a living you know, to make your business growth so I think a lot of retailers are touchy about that and they want to have exclusive rights to products but I think that you should do what is right for your business sorry carry you had a question and then maybe if they're smiling questions after that and hi julie it's carrie underwood not next to each other boot camp I had a question about reorders so once you've established a relationship with the manager yeah, sure um do you want to be continuously, you know, ah contacted by them to say hey, are you ready for a re order? We have new stuff aside from just you know, the general marketing e mails do you expect them to follow up with you to ask you when you're ready to reorder? No, I don't expect them to know I mean, I think a great time to do that is as you mentioned when you have a new product because often if you have any product, I'll order that plus reorder whatever else I need to um but no, I mean, sometimes people email and say, hey how's it doing how it's selling how's it selling which is one of those e mails I would intend to get back to you but it's often trolls behind the some of the other things that have to happen that day are there any online question? Yes, katie nolan would like to know julie, is it okay to send an introductory email before you send a catalog and samples in order to gauge interest? I think it's fine to do that, but again I would caution that if you don't get a response, that doesn't mean there's a lack of interest it just maybe means the retailers behind is busy and I think I think is important for people to realize is that retailers don't necessarily make dr buying decisions on a daily basis so for instance, I don't the store with my sister so she and I will get together periodically at a buying meeting that's the time that we do all that so you for instance, if there's a company that doesn't want demand and you said that email and that meeting hasn't happened where the group that makes the decisions hasn't got together then perhaps it's not lack of interest it's just the timing yeah and then at least p asks if I'm lucky enough to arrange an in person meeting with a shop owner or buyer, how should I prepare for that meeting? What is the shopkeeper or buyer expecting? I think they'd be expecting tohave you two have a deck of your products so one of each things that they can see it and you know look at it in person definitely in order for him I would think they would expect you to fill out the order form of yours sitting there with them um and I would assume that they would only be with you in person they were planning on ordering you probably shows to be prepared for if it's a different type of meeting where they just wanted a direction to your line that perhaps they might not actually place an order. Um I want itto interject real quick and ask there's some retail shops that only prefer in person appointments with sales reps and there's others that will take one on one meetings with manufacturers do you have a strong preference for your specific shop? We have a small shop scrap it wise and I have one table that we would meet in that instance and I prefer to keep it open for walk in custom stationary her bridal appointments so normally no, we don't be one on one with, um people sometimes somebody who's local will come in and want to show us their very small line and of course you do you can to support your community of course, of course okay, tiffany has questioned you to a microphone um hi, julie so we talked about sending out mailers and these would be I sent out miller's to current customers should kind of gauge your interest in reordering but with snail mail it's really hard to track when it's ever deliver because post office it can be two days to l a or five days l a onda also is really hard to track of even got to their hands and they've opened it and so it's not like an email where you can kind of see you know who who has opened so for sending stand me all what's a good way to I want to nag and called did you get my mailer all the time so what's an effective way to check in I would still say an email given about two weeks and then send him an email and say I sent you you know this and I just want to make sure that you received it and find out if you have any questions I think that's the best way to do it. Okay um and is it uh on full pato ask the stores like, well, what do you usually order for valentine's? Like what? You're buying schedules so that because I know smaller stores have a kind of slightly different buying scheduled and larger ones so it would be good for us to know like when to actually reach out again as a reminder that's true I think I'm not sure it's a great question to ask impairs if you think about when you get into that although those smaller retailers will all have different schedules and that's going to come too much for you to keep up with as your business grows ok and again the retailers have a very limited amount of time and so answering those types of questions we're getting into that is going to be difficult to get them to commit to that time got it thank you my opinion on that too is that it it falls back on you to do your homework and that respect like you're going to need to know what the buying cycles are for your industry to so to julie's point that their time is limited you know really make that outreach count make make sure you're adding value rather than just trying to get your own needs met sound is there anything on yes let's see urban lux asks is there a different approach when pitching to retailers that don't currently offer your category for example pitching stationary to a clothing boutique it's a question I sort of feel like because we've been in that position and we obviously carry ten a stationary and once upon a time during the holiday season we carried scarfs just a little outside of our normal comfort zone but the pitch happened this a way really same process works and I think so okay and there a couple more questions one is where does julie look to see what is trending and is popular now for products I'm a couple dozen places as I mentioned we spend some time kind of scaring this a different social media for what other people are seeing not just in the station industry which is kind of our specialty but also the gift industry and even fashion bloggers you know all those kind of trendsetters we look throughout that and then we really pulled from our own experience what if I wanted to start what would I want to see what I want to find what I'm looking for a gift for my friend what is it that I want to purchase we hunted down and then there's the trade shows that are also a plethora of great new ideas with some chopped skis mixed in right yeah I care you had another question let's get it like just quickly any favorite hash tags you like to check well course kitty's t c b hello thanks for the plug I'll give you five dollars later kelly you had a question julie I just was curious kind of if you could give a percentage like how much of your time are you buying at trade shows versus you know on your own just scouting lines on your own like and what shows are you going to these days? Good question other than nss obviously I'm gay show my sister I didn't both go but my sister to go to the game show in new york this year on and we go to smaller shows in l a because that's our area I weigh do do a lot of ordering it the station the show she did a significant amount of ordering at the get show as well but there's always seasonal items that you know you run out of mother's day cards you have to order more there's always a budget that we set aside so that we are ordering monthly in addition to the borders of cho's thanks and smurfy had a question what are the peak times of year that you buy are there certain months that are better to send pitches? No well no like I said we order all throughout here obviously all retail stores we're going to start over stop in her store when the holidays are approaching at the end of the year um and then I know another time we get a lot of pitches is during the treats your time like around and assess or around the new york it shows because they are so big and so many people do go to those if you're not attending there those people want to get their products in the face of the buyers when they're thinking about buying so I usually ride in that regard I usually recommend that people try to reach out prior to the show rather than during or after the show, just simply because a better chance of capturing your dollars rather than if they retired out words on yeah, your wallets empty. So do you agree with that? I d'oh ok, I think we have time for one or two more questions. Yeah, there's one online so we can go to and maybe one other question the audience, but danielle charge oh, asks if you are not planning on attending a trade show, but know that it is a big time to release new things for industry, should you market at the same time? Or will that get lost in the jumble and be confusing to the retailer? Good question, it is a good question, I don't think it would get lost in the shuffle. We've had that experience with products and new lines that we brought on at the store, who did send out a mailer well ahead of the show saying, we're not going to be at this show, but we wanted to introduce ourselves and show you our great products, and it wasn't lost on me, I think is longer they're specifically saying we're not going to be the show, but we really want you to see what exciting thing we have to offer. One thing I would caution with that, though, is you don't want to send things to click like the week before the show because retailers are getting their shops ready for them to leave their getting their families ready to leave so you know, you're kind of really catching them in that that busy season of getting out of town which we can all relate to when we've traveled so you know, really if you are setting something around showtime and you wanted to kind of be fitting into that showbuzz make sure you're doing it, you know, three to four weeks part of the show so we only have a couple of minutes left chile, so I would like to kind of ask you just for your clothing closing thoughts are there any other general tips or things that we didn't touch on here that you really want to hit home about marketing to retailers and in terms of your specific preferences or just general rules of etiquette that you think people need to follow? You know, I think that comes to mind first is I really think it's important to keep in mind that it's not personal and you know, there's a lot of lines out there that my sister and I both absolutely love, but we know that they won't sell in our store so and that's what drives a buying decision a mature buyer will not put something in a short because they love it it has to be something that will sell and to also keep in mind, you know, we've been pitched by somebody or for, like, eighteen months, you know, eighteen months before we actually place an order, but we did ultimately disorder, so don't get discouraged don't take it personally, just keep at it. You never know what that one thing that's going to be. This goes for them to place an order. Absolutely. I just wanted to read a couple comments to you from the chat room because people are really enjoying this segment with you, I'm lemony says I'm so relieved to hear julie's say area protection is not an obligation on dallas from loot I loo paper, he says love julie's response regarding stores in the same neighborhood so people are really active in the chat room, enjoying your advice for them. So thank you very much. Yeah, I was so happy to help thank you so much for coming today, julian. Being a guest here, we've had a really great you offer such great advice. I always loved that about you, so thank you for sharing and taking the time to be with us today and for everybody here, we're going to jump now into, like, building a mailing list and some of the more nitty gritty logistics, which you heard julie talk about now, but we're going to put them into practice so I wanted you to get first, get a sense from julie about what retailers expect, what their preferences are. So then we can really kind of help you build your strategies and tailor your approach. So, thanks, julie. Okay.