Learning how to become a wholesaler, how to run a wholesale business, and how to run a wholesale distribution business can be an exciting and financially fruitful undertaking. You get to choose the products you want to sell like wholesale seafood and wholesale meat, work with other business owners, and make money in the process. If you aren’t yet familiar with this business model, you should first research the wholesale definition and know how to get a wholesale license.
It takes time and thought to develop a marketing approach that wins new customers and sales consistently. Before getting your first sale, you need a B2B eCommerce platform (see what is eCommerce) and a thorough understanding of your audience.
Depending on your business model, you may be learning how to find vendors instead. Then, you need a wholesale marketing plan that cuts through the digital clutter and makes an attractive offer for your ideal customer.
Let’s look at how to create a wholesale marketing strategy, including modern principles that strengthen trust and drive wholesale sales.
Wholesale Marketing Meaning
Wholesale marketing is any marketing concept, strategy, or action that increases the customer base or profitability of a wholesale business. The wholesale marketing approach you use depends on the product(s) you sell, your customers’ needs, and your branding.
Successful wholesale marketing requires strong industry knowledge and tons of patience. You need a firm understanding of how to get more wholesale customers and what they are interested in.
Before you firm up your marketing plan, it’s important to identify key differences between wholesale distributors and wholesale businesses. Different business models equate to differing pain points and shopping preferences.
Marketing Plan for Wholesale Distribution
The business goals of wholesale distributors include building retail networks, selling large volumes of products like wholesale produce, engaging in bulk shipping, and maintaining a competitive advantage. Pulling this off successfully requires excellent sales skills, wise use of your budget, and most importantly, understanding your customers’ needs.
Here are valuable methods to use in your marketing plan for wholesale distribution:
1. Leverage Warehouse Inventory Management Software
Achieving momentum with wholesaling is difficult if you don’t prioritize warehouse organization. One great way of doing this is with a WMS, or warehouse management system. This software keeps all of your warehouse data and inventory information streamlined. A WMS gives you one program to collect important information from, rather than several.
Whether you work in the warehouse or have a team handling it for you, order processing should also be fast. Keep your picking and packing areas tidy so shipping and handling can go off without a hitch.
2. Build Your Retail Network Early
Mutual relationships are one of the most important areas of business, yet one of the most commonly neglected. Developing strong B2B wholesale relationships helps you deliver more in value than you ask in price, which is a fundamental principle of business.
Understanding where your products are most likely to be accepted and striking up conversations is a wise move. Keep an eye on new store openings or mall redesigns, as retailers are more likely to be open to new opportunities during these times.
3. Offer Great Buying Incentives
One of the hardest parts of launching a new wholesale business is breaking into the market. Due to the existing number of suppliers and distributors, many retailers are reluctant to take on more.
However, you can persuade them if they have good reasons for buying from you. Include frequent deals in your marketing, like buy-one-get-one (BOGO), limited time offers (LTOs), and customer loyalty points. Remember, you're competing with traditional direct to consumer brands who run promotions regularly.
4. Position Yourself Where Your Customers Are
It’s tempting to believe that as long as your business exists, people will buy your products, whether that's wholesale dairy or something completely different. Sadly, this is rarely the case. A remarkably effective way to reach your ideal customers is positioning yourself where they already look.
If there’s a wholesale directory that you know competitors are listed in, make sure you’re also listed there. Wherever you know your customers normally gather is a place you should have a prominent presence. Time spent researching the right wholesale marketplace will pay huge dividends in the long run.
5. Rigorously Examine Your Marketing Spend
One of the pitfalls of business is not holding yourself accountable for each dollar you spend. Marketing campaigns take time to pay off, but that doesn’t mean you should waste money.
Any eCommerce marketing strategy you launch--whether a brief online ad or a months-long product campaign--should have eCommerce KPIs. A key performance indicator (KPI) is a metric used to define the success of a campaign. If you don’t have the means to measure your campaign, this is a sign your marketing activity may not be worthwhile.
Every action taken to move your business forward, including awareness campaigns, should be measurable. Whether it’s brand impressions, downloads, samples requested, or email leads, decide what you’ll measure before the campaign ever starts.
6. Take Advantage of Your Competitors’ Laziness
One of the fun and challenging aspects of marketing is learning from what other businesses are doing. If your competitor is great at traditional marketing but wasteful or nonexistent with digital marketing, you can win by mastering what they neglected.
This recommendation completely depends on what your competitors are already doing. If your top competitor has a budget five times the size of yours, you’re going to need to think even more creatively than them.
First, observe what types of eCommerce marketing your competitor engages in and ask yourself what you’d change or replace. Then, apply those ideas to your business. It’s incredible what happens when you think outside of the box like this.
Marketing Strategy for Wholesale Business
There are many different kinds of goals wholesale business owners can have. You may want to engage in cross selling, which is selling more goods to existing customers. Perhaps your business is new, and you want to reach your first 50 loyal buyers.
Create a Memorable Brand Experience
There are so many wholesale providers in niches like food, clothing, and office supplies that customers can feel overwhelmed when shopping. However, today’s world of simplicity, ease, and speed has also molded customers’ expectations.
If your website is slow, difficult to navigate, or unappealing, shoppers will assume that your customer service matches. Your website should be fast-loading, navigable, and simple to understand. BlueCart offers a lightweight, speedy, and SEO-optimized eCommerce platform that can solve these problems for you. Something as simple as branded eCommerce packaging sent quickly with eCommerce shipping can help add that extra push.
If your shopping experience is effortless, customers will be far more likely to complete their purchase and come back later. These factors provide an even greater advantage when you sell in a competitive niche.
Run an Email List
Keeping an email list of your customers offers numerous benefits for your business. This goes for both direct to consumer companies and a B2B business.
One, it’s a low-cost way to reach all of your customers with just a few minutes’ worth of work. Two, it allows you to segment your customers into interest-specific groups for better targeting.
Three, an email list is a near-foolproof protection against social media algorithms and platform changes. If you ever lose reach on a social platform, you can count on your email list for greater deliverability. Four, it’s a fast way to send discounts, clearance deals, and any kind of promotion to your audience.
Email marketing is so powerful that you’re leaving money on the table without it. Pick an email platform that you love and set up some basic eCommerce marketing automation today.
Be the Yellow Zebra of Your Niche
In marketing, being a “yellow zebra” means you stand out amid anything that looks all the same. A yellow zebra among other black and white zebras would be instantly recognizable. It naturally piques curiosity about the zebra and why it looks different to begin with.
The same is true of business. If you offer a product with superior features, nicer material, or unique branding, customers will instantly want to know more. The more novel your product, the more it will capture the attention of your ideal audience.
Master Your Advertising Approach
Paid advertising is a fast way to generate a lot of new attention for your business. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to run an ads campaign that burns funds with little to show for it. In order to make your ad campaign profitable, you need to know the advertising platform in and out.
Advertising channels like Google AdWords/YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest are all different, so what may work in one might not work in the other. Each of the social platforms associated with these channels also offer demographic differences, so make sure your eCommerce PPC strategy is reaching a relevant audience.
Wholesale Digital Marketing
Introducing digital marketing to your wholesale business has the power to increase revenue by leaps and bounds. The beauty of wholesale digital marketing is that it can run parts of your business on near autopilot when set up properly. However, it’s still difficult to know where to start, because there are so many options.
Your digital marketing efforts can always be expanded and fine-tuned, but there are three channels you should prioritize: social media, email marketing, and SMS marketing. Let’s take a look at each one in detail.
Social Media Marketing for Wholesale Business
Setting up social media marketing for your wholesale business is simple and can have big payoffs. Here are some best practices to use:
- Choose a platform that matches your audience. The crowd you’ll find on Instagram differs from that on Twitter, which differs from that on YouTube. Social media may appear the same on the surface, but demographics and buying behavior differ to a significant extent. Do your research on the best platform for your business before you invest lots of time and money into one.
- Make original content. Most social media posts are a dime a dozen. If your content doesn’t stand out, no one will care about your brand. You should be familiar with what your customers want and how to frame it. If you aren’t skilled with graphic design, invest in someone who can produce remarkable visuals.
- Post regularly. One of the easiest ways to lose traction with social media followers is posting infrequently. Spend time on idea generation first, then use a scheduling app to plan all of your content. If you try to generate fresh content every single day, you may lose energy, which will only lead to more irregularity.
Wholesale Email Marketing
eCommerce email marketing can be your ace in the hole when you use it right. Here are the primary ways to use this tool:
- Start your list today. Typically the only regret of email marketers is that they didn’t start their list sooner. This speaks to the leverage and convenience with which you can make sales through email lists. All you need is an email service provider, a submission form, and some traffic to start.
- Learn subject line copywriting. Only a percentage of your subscribers click on your emails and only a fraction of those click on the links inside. In order to get people to take action, you need to spark their curiosity or stoke an emotion. Writing a great subject line is how to achieve this.
- Perfect your Calls-to-Action (CTAs). Many people get dozens, if not hundreds of emails per day. Keeping people’s attention on what you’re saying is a challenge for any marketer, but this starts with an irresistible CTA. You can become better at CTA writing by understanding the pain points of your audience. It also helps to incorporate basic psychological principles, like making the CTA color the opposite of your other branding colors.
SMS Marketing Wholesale
Sending prospects and customers a text message to keep them engaged is a relatively new marketing approach. Statistics show that 76% of smartphone owners have already received a text from a business, yet only 39% of businesses are using this form of marketing. Here is how to employ this strategy for excellent results:
- Use the right technology. Don’t try to manually keep a list of customers’ contact information. Instead, invest in an SMS platform that allows you to send individual texts en masse.
- Keep it short and informal. Consumers already know texting is a casual form of communication. As such, there’s no need to send lengthy texts--which are more likely to prompt unsubscribes. Craft a text that is only a sentence or two, perhaps an image, and of course a clear CTA.
- Offer an incentive. Your buyers understand that by giving you their phone numbers, you’re going to contact them at some point. To increase the likelihood they’ll complete a form, give them a reason to sign up for texts. This could be early discounts, event reminders, or something completely different. Just make sure it’s relatively unique from all the other communication they receive from you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wholesale Marketing Strategies
Starting a wholesale business is tricky enough, but that’s just the beginning. You also need a powerful marketing and sales plan to earn consistent income. Learn more about the basics with these frequently asked questions:
What is wholesale advertising?
Wholesale advertising is any advertising campaign that promotes wholesale products, like food, clothing, kitchen goods, and electronics. An ad campaign can be launched via social media, local publications, direct mail, a wholesale directory, or any other relevant ad channel.
Successfully advertising a wholesale business is similar to any other ad campaign. Start by having your target audience down pat and knowing what their budget range is. Then ask yourself, “What ad channel would my products be most likely to resonate in?” This is a good indicator of how responsive your audience will be.
How do you target wholesale customers?
Targeting wholesale customers begins with identifying which matches your business best: distribution networks, retail stores, or consumers. Each type of wholesale customer has different needs and expectations, so you should have a different marketing approach for each.
Distributors buy several products in bulk, so sending a direct mail campaign or cold email about discounted rates can get their attention. Retail stores are more selective in what they stock, so building direct relationships with low MOQs is a useful approach.
Consumers only buy a few product units at a time, so it’s best to target them similarly to how an eCommerce store would. Drive interest with content marketing and visual branding, offer reasonable per-unit pricing, and make it easy for them to buy from you.
Who are the main customers of wholesalers?
The primary customers of wholesale vendors are retail stores and distribution networks. Wholesalers buy in bulk, so in order to remain profitable, they must work with businesses that can sell in bulk.
By selling to distributors and retail stores, a wholesaler’s products are able to reach thousands of customers in a given week. This benefits each type of business along the consumer supply chain.
Wholesalers bring products from manufacturers to distribution networks, the distributors transport products to retail markets, and consumers purchase the goods at scale in a lower cost retail environment. It allows manufacturers to profitably scale their business without the marketing costs otherwise associated with reaching thousands of customers.
A Marketing Plan for Every Need
The wholesale industry moves fast; if you don’t adapt with it, you’ll be stuck with few sales. Using the marketing strategies laid out here will keep your audience close and buying from you frequently.
Remember that trust is the secret sauce that brings all elements of a marketing campaign together. Without quality products, an appealing wholesale price, and a human side of your business, marketing is just digital noise.