Prospecting Tips for Artists Who Wholesale

Looking to gain new wholesale accounts? Customize your approach for best results.


Showing a wholesale line to a customer. Read about prospecting at


Sending out emails, and using direct mail to send line sheets and marketing materials, are common ways to introduce your handmade collection to prospective wholesale customers. Before you do so, you should verify that the recipients are a good fit for your work. You should also have the name of the owner, manager or decision maker.

Your correspondence should always address the prospect by name, and refer to their business, which indicates you have some familiarity with it. An email that begins with “Hi There” or “Dear Store Owner” is often headed for the deleted folder the minute it arrives. You owe it to yourself and your small business to do advance research so you can communicate as effectively as possible.

Sending form letters can be insulting to the recipient. When you use this approach, you are expecting your prospect to take their valuable time to read your materials, visit your website, or consider making a purchase – even though you never bothered to learn their name or include any information that shows you understand their business at all.

The more customized your messaging is, the better it will be received. If you are prospecting in your local area for the purpose of calling on retailers yourself, take the time to walk into the store simply as a customer first, and take a look around. Learn by examining the merchandise they sell and the price points of their inventory whether they are an appropriate prospect for your line, before contacting them at a later time for the purpose of introducing your line and setting up an appointment.

If you cannot personally visit the retailer, go to their website. What is the focus of their store? What other merchandise do they carry? Would your work cross-sell well with the lines they sell? Find out the names of the owner, manager or buyer. Then, write that personalized letter that refers to your visit, and presents your wholesale collection.

Commercially available mailing lists have been around for many years. But, they often contain outdated addresses, or are so general that many of the recipients are not appropriate for your handmade products. We recommend creating your own list instead, for several reasons. It’s more cost effective and to send to a smaller but more “qualified” list than to use a scattershot approach hoping to hit the target. And, the list is yours to keep.

If you use a commercial mailing list, keep in mind that you are only renting it. This means that if you have paid for one use, you cannot continue to mail to the list unless you pay each time. Lists are “seeded” with addresses of the mailing list owners, so they know when a mailing has taken place without payment, and will approach you about that. Building your own list tailored to the best prospects for your own business is time-consuming, but it is of much higher value to you as the wholesaler.

When you do a direct mailing or an emailing to prospect for new wholesale customers, it’s important to continue to stay in touch with those prospects on an ongoing basis. This is called “drip marketing” because your marketing messages drip out over time, putting your business name and products in front of retailers again and again. This serves to make your line memorable, and remind them that you are still around. In a world where small businesses come and go frequently, you will want to show staying power and consistency to build trust and be able to get traction with sales.

When your solicitations get a response, be sure to follow up in a prompt manner, hopefully closing the sale. Following up can be challenging, even for professional salespeople, but keep in mind that most sales are not made until numerous contacts have been made. Your persistence in contacting and communicating with prospective accounts will pay off.



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