3 Tips to Work With Small Businesses (and us!)

Since taking over NGNG in August, I've been extremely privileged to have been able to work with so many amazingly talented people. If you're familiar with us, you'll know that our stock varies across heaps of categories - more than anything, we care about who we work with. We are super lucky in that we get approached by amazing creators, artists and makers on a near-daily basis, asking for consideration for their products. This is incredibly flattering; we understand the sheer amount of hard work, innovation and creativity that goes into making beautiful products. On the other hand, what is a shame is how often we are approached with what feels like a copy and pasted email that doesn't feel personal to our business at all:

Hello small business owner!

I love your shop. I make ________ and would love for you to consider stocking my work. If you would like more details, please let me know!

Kind Regards

______

This blogpost isn't targeted at anyone specific that's reached out to us in the last however many months - this genuinely makes up for about 80% of our emails from enquiring suppliers. We also receive similar emails from charities and university societies, asking for donations for raffle events - we try our best to donate when it's within our means, but when asked to make a donation, we feel that it's reasonable to only consider those who've made a meaningful effort.

For the first couple of months of running NGNG, I - perhaps naively - made an effort to respond to every email. For those who sent a copy and pasted generic email, I took time out of my day to respond. I'd often compliment their business, although would politely decline their offer and give feedback that could hopefully help them approach stockists more successfully in the future. This feedback was often well-received. 7 months later, we've become inundated with work (which is never a bad thing in today's climate!) so I wanted to write this post as a bit of a summary of the feedback I would often give. Hopefully, it will help at least one reader have some success in their endeavours!

1. Be Personal

I think I've already highlighted this, but this has to be the most important point. The first time you reach out to a business, it's often going to be the first impression you'll ever make with them. It's the equivalent of writing a cover letter for a job application - in which case, I hope you're not copy and pasting the same cover letter to every job vacancy you're applying for! We focus on working with independent suppliers - often just one or two person teams who work together to make something fantastic. Like any business, we want to work with people who we can rely on to deliver stock on time and that we can communicate with reliably. A lot of trust goes into a relationship between supplier and stockist; in this sense, it doesn't fill us with confidence when someone sends us the same generic email (see example above) that they've copy and pasted to 30 or 40 different businesses. Not least do we see that someone isn't willing to put in maximum effort with us, but we also don't get the impression that they even know about us as a business or what our ethos is - how could they know if we're really a suitable stockist to represent them? 

We appreciate that by the time you've spent weeks (or even months) researching, imagining and creating your products, that you're going to be a bit burnt out. The last thing you want to do is spend hours writing tedious emails, but this is the last step to getting your work on a shelf in a shop! A way to quicken this process could be developing a template which allows you to be half way between the efficiency of a copy & paste email, but where you still have flexibility to address the business personally.

Dear <business name - or the person who runs the business if you can find this information (+1 brownie point)>

I have been a big fan of your business for a while and I love that <something you like about the business>. I make <talk about what you sell, inspirations, etc.> and think they would be a perfect fit for your shop because....

It makes a huge difference, at least to us. In fact, any emails that get sent to us where the effort hasn't been made will often get overlooked in favour of the small proportion of people who have been able to make their email personal.

2. Be Selective

This, to a degree, will tie in a little with the last point. I would really encourage you to spend an extra day finding businesses that you think are perfect for your product or your idea and create a shortlist of them. Make notes of why you think they are a good fit for your work, and if you can't think of any good reasons, then it's probably not worth your time! Stockists are super selective with the work they want to sell (we only have so much budget to spend on new stock!), it's really important you to be just as selective, spending time thinking about who you want to represent your hard work. 

Equally, if you've spent time choosing stockists that are best suited to your work, you'll have no problem reaching out to them and engaging with them in a meaningful conversation about working together. We believe that 30 minutes spent researching and reaching out to a business that's a great match is a super effective way of establishing a great working relationship, opposed to spending 30 minutes copy and pasting an email to as many businesses as possible.

3. Be Positive

Unfortunately, it's not within our means to work with everyone that approaches us - whether it's to potentially supply us with stock, put on a workshop with us or to ask us to donate to a charitable cause. Especially at the moment, our budget is tighter than ever - as it will be for many other businesses. If a supplier is unable to work with you, there's a ton of reasons why that may be the case. It doesn't mean it's a bad product!

With us, if it's a timing issue, we'll ask you to get in contact with us again in a month or so. If we don't think the product is a good fit, we'll also tell you as we believe transparency is really important. If you truly believe in what you do, you'll almost certainly find someone else who believes in it too.

 I hope this finds its way to helping someone. Thank you so much for spending some time reading this! If you want to work with us, please get in touch.

Comments 2

Karen on

Hi Alex

It is kind of you to share your advice, it’s not something that is easy to come by, as time is so precious to so many.
I would dearly love to see my work in your wonderful space, but I am not ready just yet. But when I am, I will be aiming for a gold star for effort!

Becky on

I’m just looking into how we could move into wholesale with small independent shops and approaching stockists in incredibly daunting. This blog is so helpful and has spurred me on to bite the bullet and start researching shops that will fit with our products. Thank you!!

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