How do I market my wholesale business?
💡 Quick Answer: To successfully market wholesale products, you need to follow a targeted wholesale marketing strategy that consists of building brand awareness, creating engagement, generating leads, capitalizing on conversions, and consistently working on retention/expansion. You’ll need to keep in mind that all of these points should be catered specifically to wholesale selling. In a nutshell, you’ll need to do the following when marketing your wholesale business:
- Build out your brand’s media and content
- Join marketplaces and directories
- Attend trade shows whether virtual or in-person
- Leverage email marketing
- Use referral incentives
- Get institutional clients onboard
- Enter international markets
Decided to wholesale but stuck on next steps?
Excited by this opportunity but struggling with conversions?
If you’ve picked up on the new wholesaling trend, you’re on the right track. With competition in the retail space skyrocketing, smart eCommerce entrepreneurs will be looking to shift into a less saturated space with more potential for growth.
The great thing about selling wholesale products is that you can often run this alongside your retail business stream (if you have one), but you have to look after fewer customers and get much larger order volumes. An ideal scenario, if you think about it!
As with any eCommerce business, a multi-pronged marketing approach with a solid strategy behind it is key to maximizing profits.
To help you along on your journey, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide on how to market wholesale products. Following our step-by-step instructions will easily set you on the path to success.
The importance of marketing your wholesale business
As you’re no stranger to the eCommerce space, you’ll know that marketing can really make or break your business – and wholesale products are no different here.
You may have done all the market research, found a killer product, and negotiated with your suppliers like a pro – but if your potential customers can’t find you, you’ll be sitting waiting for sales until the cows come home. And the longer your marketing strategy takes to show results, the longer it’ll take until you can actually start paying back your initial investment and start paying yourself (whoop!).
Many businesses really struggle with this step and unfortunately often go under after months of unsuccessfully waiting for their product to take off. That’s just never going to happen unless you are personally driving your brand’s success through awareness building, customer engagement, lead generation, and conversion tactics.
How to market your wholesale business (step by step)
By this point, you should have done your market research, found a promising niche and product, negotiated with a supplier, and have your stock ready to go (or at least on the way to you).
With all of these crucial first steps in place, you can now start thinking about getting your products to the people. We’ll look at this process step-by-step, going from the Awareness stage all the way through Conversion. Let’s get started!
During this stage we want to make your potential wholesale customers (who at this stage will have never heard of you) aware of your brand and plant the seed for future sales and business relationships.
1. Create a website
As an eCommerce business, you obviously need a digital presence where people can find you. Your digital shopfront, you might say. Your website should be well-designed, with clear branding, and showcase your product catalog. It should prominently display ways of contacting you to potential customers, and may include a checkout function allowing them to order directly from your website. (Although this is less common within the wholesale realm, as order volumes are so large and usually need some negotiating)
This is also a perfect place for inviting people to subscribe, and start building your email list (more on this later). Your website should include:
High-quality images and descriptions
Definitely invest in quality imagery for your products, as this will be the main selling point – people are visual creatures, after all. But also don’t neglect product descriptions outlining all your products’ benefits.
Tiered pricing and MOQ
Wholesale suppliers always have a minimum order quantity, as buyers get to buy products at a lower per-item price in exchange for ordering in bulk. Be sure to display your MOQ, but also consider offering tiered pricing to encourage larger orders (i.e. the more you order, the lower the per-item price). Some suppliers also offer the option to order sample products before placing a ‘proper’ order, which is a good way to get buyers on board who may still be on the fence.
A connection to your D2C website
If you’re already selling your product direct-to-consumer (D2C), it’s a smart move to redirect wholesale customers from this site, as it will already be established and have good SEO in place. And when you’re advertising to consumers, you’re also reaching other business owners who may be interested in stocking your products. You can target them by creating a dedicated ‘Wholesales Enquiries’ page.
A dropshipping offer
If you’re happy to work with retailers under a dropshipping model, this could open you up to another whole branch of business opportunities. Dropshipping means that consumers will order products through your customer’s retail website, but you’ll be fulfilling those orders, i.e. sending them to the consumer’s address. This approach entails setting a special dropshipping per-item price (usually significantly higher than the wholesale price).
2. Perfect your pitch
Before you approach any potential retailers or business partners, you need to work on how you’re going to pitch yourself and your product. Why should they work with you? What sets yourself apart from the competition? What are the product benefits? What consumer problems does it solve?
Prepare a product demo
Whether you’re meeting your potential buyers in person or negotiating digitally or via email, you should prepare a product demo showing what your product can do. This could be a presentation (slide-show style), or a slick video (very powerful!), or a well-practiced speech with an opportunity to touch and try the product firsthand (great for food and beverage products, or cosmetics). When people feel like they know and understand what they’re getting, half the work of convincing them to buy is done.
If you were to meet your number 1 dream customer in the lift, what would be your 2-line lift pitch to get them on board before those doors open again? Make sure you know what this is because those moments do arise and you often don’t have much more time than the length of a lift ride together.
Approach retailers by email
Have a think and do some research into retailers that would be a great fit for your brand and product. You can usually find an email address on their website, so send a well-crafted, to-the-point email with your lift pitch and product demo. You may need to send a few of these, but if you’re targeting the right retailers, you should get a good number of positive responses.
3. Print marketing
The rise and rise of the internet and its advertising power may make you believe print is dead, but this is far from the truth. Particularly when thinking about how to market wholesale products, industry publications and print merchandise are often some of the main ways retailers find out about new brands and products they may want to stock.
Ads in industry publications
Do some research into your niche and the industry around your products – what industry publications exist in the space that have a high print run and are likely to reach lots of people? Consider placing ads in industry-specificic magazines and publications, and look to see if there are any wholesale product catalogs your product could get featured in.
Postcards, flyers, catalogs
If you’re dropping in and introducing yourself to retailers in person, or sending trial products, flyers or leaflets can be a great way to add a physical element to your marketing campaign that is going to remind people to come back to you at a later date. Another idea is to add a welcome discount code to these – more on this a little further on.
Once you’ve created some awareness around your brand, you can move forward to the Engagement stage. This means a few people already know about you, so now you can create some excitement around your brand and products by engaging potential buyers (and consumers, which will in turn make retailers want to approach you) directly.
4. Build out your owned channels
Social Media and other content is a great way to garner an audience and get people talking about and engaging with your brand. Even though social media isn’t as strongly utilized in wholesale marketing as it is in D2C marketing, don’t overlook this valuable and essentially free channel. Millennials and Gen Z are becoming more and more of our audiences – and this includes wholesale buyers! In these groups, almost half say they will research a brand by looking them up on social media.
Social media accounts
There are a few worthwhile channels out there where you could set up your brand, the most popular being Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (the latter being especially relevant for wholesalers). Although Pinterest or Medium can also be very successful, depending on your brand. Think about who your target end-consumer is and where your buyers are most likely to spend time, and focus your efforts on those channels. The advantage of Facebook and Instagram is that you manage them both from the Meta Business Suite and post content simultaneously to both.
Start a blog
A blog is a great way to drive traffic to your site which is going to improve your SEO and mean that you’re more likely to come up high in search results. Use your blog to address topics relevant to your product and potential buyers, and push content out into your social channels too.
Reach out to complementary brands
Which other brands sell things that complement your own products? Since wholesaling doesn’t require a huge number of customers to grow, striking a partnership can be a really valuable move exposing you just to that many more retailers.
For example, say you’re selling mattresses, you may want to partner with another wholesaler selling sheets, and advertise on each other’s websites and social channels. Famous examples of brand partnerships include Red Bull and GoPro, and McDonald’s and Oreo. Social Media is a great way to forge these partnerships as the other brand can get an immediate impression of what you’re all about.
Once your brand is getting better-known, and you’re creating some excitement and talk around your products, it’s time to think about lead generation. A lead is the same as a ‘prospect’ or someone with the potential to become your customer. This will already have been happening throughout the previous two steps, but there are a few things you can do to really hone in on creating those leads.
5. Join marketplaces and trade associations
Wholesale marketplaces & directories
Marketplaces and directories are amazing resources and we highly recommend you register your business with a few that you know are going to deliver (such as the SaleHoo Directory). Basically, these are like a more sophisticated online version of the yellow pages, where businesses can register a profile, often showcase products too, and potential buyers can find and contact them. When choosing where to register make sure the platform has good reputation and a significant number of users and potential buyers.
Trade associations and organizations
Joining a trade association or organization relevant to your product category can be a very smart move. It means you’ll be included in their business newsletters, website listings, or print publications targeted at members and wholesale buyers. This is often where retail businesses look to find their next suppliers. Some examples of trade associations include the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) or the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA).
6. Attend Trade Shows
Trade shows has been the way for wholesale businesses to make connections and find new customers for years and years, and it’s certainly still very much worth the time and investment.
There are trade shows for pretty much any retail category you can think of. They entail wholesale businesses (like yours) showcasing their products at stalls, with retailers and potential buyers strolling around trying samples and waiting to get won over by someone/ something.
Google ‘Trade Show Directory’ + your country to find which trade shows will be the best ones for your business to attend.
7. Phone sales and client visits
Increase customers in your local area by visiting suitable retailers in person, or calling prospects over the phone. Talking to a real person will give potential customers a better feel for the company and what it stands for and creates a strong interpersonal relationship. As we all know, humans are social creatures, so they’re much more likely to respond to and remember a conversation with another human (especially in person) than they would a simple email.
The final step in your marketing strategy is what it all boils down to: conversion. Here your leads are finally being converted into paying customers, making all your hard work pay off. Hopefully some of your above efforts will have already been leading to a good number of conversions for you, but here are a few methods that have excellent conversion rates.
Also, be sure to keep looking after them and treating them well, so that they turn from ‘new’ to ‘loyal’ customers. Good customer retention means you don’t have to start all over again in a few weeks’ time.
8. Leverage email marketing
Email is one of the most powerful marketing tools in your toolkit. Conversion rates for emails are excellent – much higher than any paid ad – and sending out emails to your mailing list doesn’t cost you a cent.
Build your email list
It’s for this reason that you want to be thinking about building and increasing your mailing list from day dot. A sign-up form on your website is paramount for this, but your social channels should also include a link to this form. Trade Shows and networking are also another surefire way to collect contacts in the wholesale industry.
Not electronic dance music, but rather Electronic Direct Mail Marketing, which refers to marketing emails sent to your email list. Creating campaigns or special discounts you can send out to your customers this way, will mean people are more motivated to buy. Make sure you always include a clear call-to-action (i.e. Buy, Shop Now, Learn More etc.) for people to click through (the fewer steps and the less friction the better).
Periodic schemes and discount codes
As mentioned above, discount codes or time-limited offer schemes are a great way to attract existing and potential customers to place an order. Examples of this could include a percentage discount if they buy a certain amount, or a certain number of products for free on certain orders.
Just remember: as wholesale margins are generally smaller to begin with (due to the bulk ordering aspect), make sure you’re still getting a healthy margin for yourself even after discounts.
9. Use referral incentives
The ‘Refer a Friend’ scheme is old news by now, but it’s still highly effective, particularly in the wholesale space. You’re basically rewarding your existing customers to do your marketing and acquisition work for you, and that’s not worth a small amount in wholesaling (because of the size of the orders). So if an existing customer can bring another big customer on board, you can reward them quite generously (say $200+ off their next order, depending on your average order value), which will motivate existing customers to bang the drum for you.
Retain and Expand
Once you have a few good regular customers on board, you know you’ve made it off the starting line. Congrats! Not every business makes it this far. Now it’s all about retaining those existing clients, and perhaps to start thinking about expanding your business to new unchartered waters.
10. Establish and maintain good relationships
Before you even start thinking about taking your business any further, you’ll have to make sure your existing clients are happy and looked after. Client acquisition is notoriously more expensive than retention, so you want to be keeping loyal clients happy and repeating their orders. To do this, you’ll want excellent customer support (ideally 24/7, can be via email, live chat, or business phone system), continuing product quality and speedy shipping, special offers every so often, and to check in regularly to find out if people want to order more.
11. Enter international markets
If you started on a national level (which is the easiest for beginners), start thinking about expanding to international clients – as this will take your business to a whole new level. You will have to take into account various logistical aspects such as shipping costs and legal considerations (e.g. import and export law), but it’s the logical next step, especially for a wholesale businesses such as yours. Make sure you’re doing your research and consider getting professional advice (e.g. from a lawyer or trade expert).
12. Get institutional clients onboard
Another great way to expand your business is to score large institutional clients, such as schools, nursing homes or hospitals. Obviously, it depends on the type of product you’re selling, but these sorts of large organizations will keep having to place large repeating orders and can really cement your future in the wholesale space.
How does marketing a wholesale business differ from a retail business?
Marketing wholesale is quite different from marketing straight to consumers. For one thing, retail buyers are also in this industry so they’re a lot more clued up about selling strategies than the average consumer would be. Two, you’re selling something that other people will want to sell too, so that’s a very different viewpoint than selling something people will want to use themselves. In saying that, there is also plenty of overlap, as you could see from our strategy plan above.
Here are the main things to remember when marketing to retailers:
Retailers need to make their own profit
This means, your wholesale pricing needs to be low enough so that retailers can add their own margin and still sell it at a price that consumers will be happy with.
Retailers are less likely to impulse-buy than consumers
You’re not going to win with flashy imagery and catchy headlines here. Retailers will be considering their large orders very carefully, so they want all the facts, benefits, and finer details listed out for them before they will decide that yours is a product they want to invest in.
Retailers will use industry-specific sources to find products
While all retailers definitely hang out in the consumer space too (so it pays to have a presence there), they go to specific industry-related places when working to find suppliers. So you need to meet them where they’re looking (such as directories, marketplaces, and industry publications).
Winning one wholesale customer is worth a lot more than one retail customer
This means you can afford to allocate a little more marketing budget per customer acquisition than you would in the retail space – simply because the wholesale customer’s orders are going to be so much larger.
To Wrap it All Up
We hope we’ve been able to give you some valuable insights into how to market wholesale products. As you can see, many of the same strategies you would use in retail marketing still apply – you just need to look at everything through a slightly different lens, and be more targeted in your approach.
The great thing about wholesale is that you need much fewer customers to make a profit, so if you really hone and maintain those relationships, your business is bound to thrive.
If you’re interested in exploring an incredibly successful wholesale directory that has been making people money for over 15 years now, check out the SaleHoo Directory, home to thousands of suppliers offering millions of products to happy customers.
And don’t hesitate to reach out to our world-class support with any eCommerce-related questions. They are available 24/7!