Author Topic: Things to consider before approaching big business.  (Read 8422 times)

Offline blue moon

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Things to consider before approaching big business.
« on: January 16, 2012, 05:28:24 PM »
Written by Dan Campbell, Dot Tone Designs

This article covers some of the issues of going after those big name customers and some of the buying characteristics of larger company's.

Things to consider before approaching big business.

* Not all customers are alike. I had worked at Disney for over eleven years and I thought I knew a good bit a bout how it's done in this industry. After approaching Universal Studios, I found that while they sell the same products and to very much, the same people I was quickly schooled. I learned that while they are theme parks and sit almost next door to each other and interchange employees, they do business completely different. Sea World does business differently than Disney. Universal is different than Cedar Fair etc. Some basic essentials run deep but the general buying and art developing process is vastly different with each. What works at one place may not work at the others. Take time to ask questions about the art development process and buying procedures. One theme park develops art four times a year while another theme park develops art only once a year for all four seasons but wants to see options for the same design for various seasons. Two different approaches.

* It's who you know. While this has some truth behind it, we can also ruin relationships if you don't "bring it". Someone you know can get you in the door based on what you've told them or relationships with others in the connection. You had better make sure you do know your stuff. Otherwise, you jeopardize that buyers reputation with his or her peers as well as your own with them. When you've been in this business long enough, you can tend to smell a hazard but we are only human so it's possible that someone can slip past our radar. Buyers are always wary of people promising big things because they've been down that road before and have been caught up in having to recover from it. You've heard the saying, "there's nothing worse than a scorned women" right?  Yeah, buyers are almost as bad as that. Once you've lost the trust, there's almost no going back with them. If so, it's due to outside sources that they don't control or you've done a ton of customer recovery. I remember one of my first times at a trade show where I had worked as one of the vendors in the booth. I listened to a few conversations and one stuck with me. Our sales person answered a guy by saying "We can do everything you want". The guy replied with buyer savvy and said "Nobody can do everything I want. Every vendors at this show has told me the same thing and when it comes down to it, nobody really can". I learned how people walked around at the show apparently being told time and time again by the average salesperson, "Yes, we can do that" Sure, no problem" No, we don't do it now, but we can". Make sure you can back up what you say. The buyers don't need you, you need them.

* Specialize in something. So you've been printing now for 5 years and you're pretty darned good at it. You now feel confident and want to increase your customer base and go after some big business. You do some investigating and get in contact with your potential buyer and are able to get a meeting to present your examples, what are you bringing? Are you ready? You do have a select group of samples right? Do you specialize in anything? Chances are, that your "big customer" is approached by new printers multiple times in every week in one form or another. With all of the different choices for buyers, how do you stand out? What do you offer differently than your competitors? The most common mistake that vendors do is they walk into a meeting and show basically the same thing that every other printers has shown. You say, well, we have the best customer service team available. That's great, but it's not enough. To obtain new business with big businesses, you need to specialize in something unique that can't be easily done elsewhere. That could be anything. Maybe it's creating unique hand tags or you offer a new way of doing flocking or you are able to print 20 colors or are able to do dip dyes. Just something unique that not everyone does that your potential customer might want. Once you have that (in), then you can build up business for them in other areas. Familiarity is a good thing. I know some vendors will sacrifice profit on 40% of their orders to occasionally get a few of those "nice orders" where they do make good profit. You have to weigh out the positives and negatives of that.

*  Not the only buyer for you. While you might have achieved some business from one of your contacts, ask them more about the business in other areas within the company. They may be handling only a small portion of the apparel business. If you have a good relationship with one, the word can spread. Buyers love to be the ones to share a good vendor. Recently, I've been reading up on SEO or Search Engine Optimization. One things that caught my eye is that you want other sights to put in information about you on their own sites.It's not as good for a search engine to find out that you have been planting your own web links allover the place. Search engines want to here good things about you from others. They have this way of sniffing out this self promotion type of web linking. Buyers are the same way. The efforts you put into a vendor relationship needs to be genuine and earnest. They are well aware that vendors want to cater to them, only to get more business. Make it a point to have everyone around you praising your name. I know of a vendor that will take a few buyers out for lunch, come back and then take the receptionist out as well or take them all out at the same time. Don't leave anyone out of your lunch outings. Invite the buyer, the associate buyer and the assistant buyer if they have one. Occasionally buy donuts and Star Bucks coffee for the entire department that your customer works in. Make your customer the star by having to share all of this stuff with everyone. Make your name known and remembered.

* Small shops can have giant customers. Many large company's work with different types of vendors. Some vendors can be a one man shop and other vendors have 400 employees. If you are a small or medium sized shop,  you can still be beneficial to a large company's business depending on what you have to offer. You might be able to provide something to the large customer that they can't get from the larger shops. One major benefit is being able to offer smaller production orders. In the theme park business, it used to be common to have vendors that had a minimum order quantity (MOQ) of 700 units. A vendor that would do 500 was sought after. These days, due to the economy and businesses watching  the money more closely, the business trend has shifted to ordering less but more often. They don't want to keep a large portion of money tied up into inventory and don't want to warehouse product. I know many printers who come into the this game thinking that they can offer buyers a better price if they would only order more and hold on to them. Wouldn't we all want that? It's not the reality these days. They would rather order faster and more often. You in turn, need to be able to react faster for your customer. Keep in mind though, what seems small to them may be large to your business. People often think that in order to do business with retail stores or theme parks, you must be able to produce high volume for very little money. While everyone wants the best for less, it's rarely the case in retail. Big company's such as a Disney, Chucky Cheese, Joe's Crab shack or a Universal Studios will be paying almost as much for apparel as the guy down the street who orders 144 or 288 of a (6 color print). They know that the less you purchase, the more the price goes up. Since they are ordering smaller, they are expecting to pay just a little more than they normally would...but are always looking for a good deal. Small shops are more accustom to printing these smaller orders (that are the average size for you). The only downfall now, is that these larger shops are aware of what they need to do and they are competing for that same business.  If you are local to the customer, you stand more of a chance since you may be able to react faster for the customer.

* Different business categories. Check with your large customers. Be aware that they may have large numbers of categories that other buyer might handle where your business can be a better fit. Some examples of standard retail categories are, Soft lines Adult basics/Souvenir, Mens, Missie's, Youth Boys, Youth Girls, Tweens, Toddlers, Accessories and Head-wear. Another area where new vendors thrive are Special events, Employee benefits/recognition, and what is known as rescue orders. This is where the company is running out of stock on an item and the normal vendor can't produce it fast enough or is far away and shipping will be a few days. It becomes more advantageous for them to locate someone local to handle it.

*  Let is simmer. As any women will tell you, A hot evening doesn't start when you take your shoes off, It starts when you put them on in the morning. Since large company's are constantly being approached by vendors, a good way to get something going is to let the relationships build up over time. Don't assume that your company is so great and you're such a great sales person that you can just call up the main number and they will hand over all buyer contact information to you. You make buyer connections by showing your product at a trade show where they would attend or though other connections. If you are lucky enough to have been around someone who has that contact information your looking for, get permission to name drop them but you still need to start out with caution. Try sending them an email first letting them know how you got the contact info (who was your connection) and that you just wanted to introduce yourself and let it go. Do not ask for any call to action such as "Please call me back or reply at your convenience. It's not necessary at this time and may seem intrusive or pushy. In a few weeks, send another email promoting some highlight about what you offer that is different. Send another update only about once every two weeks for at least three times, then make a your first phone call. This gives them some type of familiarity with you. They may not have been interested in the email at the time but they may have viewed your company name and it might be fresh in memory.  If a buyer calls you for some reason, you might find that some of the larger company's will have a phone system that provides the buyer with a random bogus number for caller ID.  This makes it look like you have the number they are calling from but you can't call them back so don't be surprised if the number doesn't work.

Dan Campbell
Dot-Tone-Designs
407-922-0664

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« Last Edit: May 26, 2014, 02:08:56 PM by Dottonedan »
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