"It's not what you know, it's who you know."
You've heard that phrase before and you know it's the truth. Connections are everything. You just have to have high-quality people looking at your fashion line for it to make it.
It's a complex connection - let me give you some more detail here.
Secrets of Connection
Want to connect with the perfect buyer for your fashion brand? You've done the hard work already - being a genius creative. Now, let's work together to let the world know about you through networking, connections, and building strong relationships with the right people. They are all vital when it comes to succeeding at marketing a brand.
Here are some methods to help you establish and ensure good relations between you and your buyers.
The Words You Want to Hear: It's a Match
The first step in this process is to find potential buyers, so let's talk about how to do that research.
One designer we know suggests using trade shows as a top tool to finding these prospective buyers. Trade shows bring together buyers, sellers, designers and dozens of companies who all want to work together to create successful partnerships. So pack your bags and bring comfortable standing shoes, because attending trade shows should definitely be on your horizon!
Modem publishes this helpful list of trade shows. Informa this calendar, which you can sort by date and location. Many pros recommend the LA Fashion Market as a “must attend” show. In the MidWest? Check out ChicagoCollective. and StyleMax. If you're marketing a shoe fashion line, your destination could be New York, for the New York Shoe Expo.
Make Your Own Luck By Planning
For trade shows, be sure to be prepared and start planning months before the show. Seriously, turn off that new Netflix series and get to work!
Check out lists of buyers who are attending in advance. Look them up on LinkedIn and see if you have any connections with them who can make an introduction. An initial email you send before the show might help, but don't be disappointed if you don't get a reply right away. Simply getting your brand name, or your name, in your potential buyer's mind and inbox is a small victory.
One week before the show starts, get back in touch with an email suggesting a meeting at your booth. Be sure you have a look book and line sheet created and ready to show to any buyers who do come to your booth. You can also send out that line sheet via email to the buyers you already know will be attending the show.
Your Booth Rules
It's time to put your best foot forward! Now that you've committed to attending a trade show, you have to think about the logistics of the weekend. Plan for how you will decorate your booth, make sure it reflects your product and is attention grabbing while remaining simple and not too overbearing.
To spice things up, you might want to consider bringing a tablet or laptop to show off your product's website to allow buyers to really understand who you are. A pro tip is to offer a spot for buyers to sit as they've been on their feet all day. You will also need space to sit and write orders.
When a buyer does decide to make an order, you have to be prepared with a system that allows them to do so (seems kind of obvious, but I have to make sure to say it just in case). Many designers have turned to mobile order writing as it's easier to keep track of rather than having papers flying around everywhere.
And another little tip: When collecting business cards, you can take a picture of each one so you have a searchable digital record of it. Applications like Evernote can even scan the business card so you can start your own database.
Post Show Followup
After the show, keep yourself fresh in the buyer's mind. Immediately follow up with them. You can use Brandboom's handy email template. You'll want to remind them who you are and what products you're selling. Picture yourself as a man who's attempting to woo the pretty girl sitting in the coffee shop, you have to be persistent, yet respectful, to win and keep attention.
From there, once you lock them down, you can go into the next phase and talk through shipping and other important details.
Tradeshow Sticker Shock
Trade shows can be expensive to attend, and maybe, as a young brand, they are not in your price range.
No stress if that's the case! You can discover potential buyers online using a platform like Brandboom which has an extensive database of buyers, and soon will have an artificial intelligence matching service on the platform available to qualified users.
A Budding Relationship with a Buyer
Whether you meet at a trade show or by using an online platform like Brandboom, after a relationship with a buyer is established be sure to contact them every couple of months to lead toward repeat orders. Persistence is key, so send along news about your design or simply drop a line to say hi.
Pro tip: All of your interactions with a potential buyer must have value. The rule of “give to get” applies, so if you don't happen to have news about your brand that would interest your potential buyer, consider sending along an article that would interest them, an infographic about their industry, or anything useful.
If you're writing an email that starts “just checking in” - stop yourself. You will need to provide more value to keep your potential buyer's interest.
If you plan on reaching out to buyers who were not at the trade shows you attended, you should still mention to them that you were there. Going to such shows legitimizes you as a brand and makes you more credible, which will in turn entice more buyers to take you seriously.
Get Your Intel and Protect Your Brand
Now that you've started to find some buyers, make sure you know as much as possible about them.
You were taught to never get into cars with strangers -- well, hopefully! Similarly, you should never do business with an individual or company before knowing who they are and what they're about.
Make sure your ethics, goals and business practices align with your business partners. Why? You've made a big investment in your brand, financially and emotionally. Don't blow it by getting into business with the wrong company. You want your customers to trust your wholesalers and retailers, too, as much as they trust you.
You can easily score some intel with a simple Google search for the brand name, or use Bloomberg's search function to dig a little deeper into the company's executive suite and business practices.
Let's Make a Deal
Deal making is fun, especially if you are coming from a position of knowledge. (See above: You want to know as much about your buyer as possible before you start talking deals. Don't be afraid to ask questions.)
Explore. You need to explore what you will get in return for the sale in terms of compensation, and percentage of ownership. Some creators might be shy about asking questions like that, but if presented with respect, they will only raise your stock in the eyes of a potential buyer. So, speak up!
Be clear. It's also up to you to make it clear to the buyer what they will be receiving for a certain price. Transparency and honesty always win.
Be patient. Buyers are busy with many brands and products so if yours is not always reachable, learn to be understanding of their busy schedules.
Be reliable. Make sure your orders are supplied on time and correctly. Whatever the agreement between you and the buyer is in terms of order, it is up to you to make sure that it is delivered to them efficiently and without error.
Invoicing and inventory control are key here. Platforms like Shopify and Brandboom can help.
Time to Get to Work!
As you can see, you have some very exciting work ahead of you! Look into what trade shows fit your product and start prepping to attend them, create all materials you will need to supply buyers with such as line sheets and a sample and work to build lasting connections to guarantee repeat orders. Your idea, passion and creation deserves to be shared with the world.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started!