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PR, Sales & Marketing

PR, Sales & Marketing

How to Prepare to Sell Internationally

Q: I want to sell clothing internationally. I have a CA number. My label is not the full licensed name, just the brand. What other information do I need to be able to sell internationally around the world?

Susan Langdon says:
If you're hoping to sell to the United States, you'll need an RN number which is similar to Canada's CA number. You might also be wise to trademark any brand names in the country you're targeting to prevent any chance of trademark infringement or copying.

Do you work with a customs agency and logistics company? Both will be invaluable when it's time to ship and it's best to have these set up before your start selling so that you're aware of duty and freight charges as these will affect your pricing. Otherwise, all you need to do now is to participate in some trade shows in order to reach buyers. Trade shows are the most cost effective way to introduce your brands to a large group of retailers.

How to Promote a Fashion Contest

Q: Q: I work at a corporate apparel company, and we are thinking of launching a fashion design contest for second year grads that would offer a prize (to be determined) and possibly an internship leading to employment.

Since we are just in the planning stages now, is there any information you can share or suggestions that will help us to promote this contest?

Our aim is to encourage students to pursue a fashion design career with us bringing fresh ideas to the table for our retail line of clothing starting in 2010 and beyond.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Christine Faulhaber says:
Contests can be a great idea and a great opportunity for emerging graduates.

A few ideas for promotion include:

· As this contest would be of great value to students, contacting local design schools could get you in touch with teachers. These teachers could allow you to speak directly with classes to bring awareness to your company and promote the contest.

· Create an email e-blast for teachers to distribute to their class lists.

· A postcard-flyer and poster distribution campaign throughout local colleges.

· Creating a Facebook/Myspace page – this is a great way to promote and update information regarding the contest, as it has extremely large reach.

· Twitter – twitter.com is a free social messaging utility for connecting with interest related focus groups. It allows for the instant spread and update of information.

Door-To-Door Sales

Q: Hi. We produce unique and inexpensive custom made price tickets for boutiques in small to large quantities. Where could we find agencies across North America that could sell these tags door to door?

Karen Hartman says:
Dear Door to Door Sale Force Seeker,

I would recommend against using door to door sales people to market your product. Door to doors sales people are just as popular as telemarketers. Furthermore, the odds are stacked against the salesperson because they are showing up to the business without an appointment and they are not even sure if the decision maker is there to look at the products. It’s huge investment in time and money without a very good sell through rate.

Instead I would do some research on how other hangtag/ swing tag companies market their products and develop your own marketing and sales program.

Here are some ideas:

If you do not have a website for your products, create one. If you are concerned about the cost and time you can buy a template for around $65 and have a web designer customize it for a couple hundred dollars. My favorite template company is www.templatemonster.com

Once your site is up, you can drive traffic to your site by starting a Google ad campaign. This is particularly effective because you can choose the geographic areas you want your ad to run. Effective ad campaigns can be run for as little as $50 per month. Here’s the link for Ad Words: adwords.google.com/select/Login

You should also do some research with your target market. Talk to a few store owners. Ask them where they buy their hang tags. I believe many of them will tell you at the tradeshows. Most tradeshows have a section for business support. A variety of vendors exhibit, including companies that offer packaging and labeling. I would consider attending several tradeshows before deciding which ones to exhibit at.

Attending a tradeshow is also a great way to build up your client database. You can go booth to booth and speak to each company about your products. This is much better than paying a sales person to drive all around the country. You should follow up after the tradeshow with a personal email or phone call.

But don’t stop there...gather up all of the business cards and use them to build mailing lists for your company. This way you can keep your clientele updated on new products and developments with your business. You also can use these mailing lists to drive traffic back to your website. This site offers a great review of free mailing list programs www.wilsonweb.com/reviews/free-lists.htm

Because your business involves making customized items, you should consider using some project management software so can easily communicate with your clients, manage files, and monitor deadlines. 37signals makes great web-based project management software called base camp. www.37signals.com/

Good Luck!

Identifying the Target Consumer

Q: How does one get to know/understand the end-users of your goods and is that important information for you and/or the buyer?

Susan Langdon says:
It is the designer/manufacturer's responsibility to tell you who the target consumer of their product is. They must know that information in order to create a marketable line that is geared to that demographic.

It is your responsibility as a sales agent to identify which stores are suitable to the target consumer outlined by the designer/manufacturer to ensure optimal chances of making a sale. If you are not sure what type of demographic shops at a specific store, the best thing to do (before contacting the buyer) is to physically visit the store during a busy time. Don't identify yourself, just look and observe at who shops there and what they're buying. Look at the other lines carried in the store - are they of comparable style, quality, price of the line you're selling? What kind of products does the store sell? Do they buy Canadian or just US or European goods? Do they buy only big brands or also new ones?

A buyer will be annoyed with you if you don't know who shops at their store. They expect you to have done your research before contacting them. I can't
tell you how many calls I've received from buyers asking me, "Can you please tell your designers that we do not sell menswear at our store? We only sell
women's wear. They are wasting our time and theirs."

Making a Sale - How to get that first appointment

Q: What are some basic ways around a retailer or buyer's response that they don't current have any open to buy dollars or simply that they are happy with the existing lines they carry?

Susan Langdon says:
When it's not a busy time, ask the retailer for his/her expert advice or opinion about a line you're carrying. Promise to take only 15 - 20 minutes of the buyer's time and stick to your promise. Be prepared in advance to ask the buyer for his/her opinion about the quaility, fit, pricing, branding materials etc. Be very careful not to turn this feedback session into a sales call, no matter how tempted you are to do so. The point of holding these sessions is to:

1. Meet the buyer face-to-face. It's always easier to connect a second time once you've met each other before.

2. The session will provide you with valuable, honest feedback about the line that you can take back to the designer/manufacturer to help them to fine tune their product and/or offerings.

3. You and the buyer will discover immediately if the line is right or wrong for their store

Starting a Sales Agency - contacting retailers

Q: When starting an independent sales agency, does one simply sell to the retailer’s first-come first-serve? In other words, how in the beginning can I try and avoid not being strategic regarding retail availability?

Susan Langdon says:
Your financial objective and obligation to both your client and yourself should be to make sales and generate revenue. Therefore, yes, sales are done on a first-come, first-served basis so it's best to target your strong leads or any key accounts first and radiate secondary targets geographically from there.

Becoming a Sales Agent

Q: I currently have my own jewellery line which I manage and run by myself. I was recently employed by Holt Renfrew but chose to leave due to a needed career change. I want to follow my dream and become a sales rep for a fashion line! I have excellent people skills and I can pretty much sell anything to anyone. I have had amazing opportunities to perfect my skills and would love to represent and help build success to a new line that's fresh on the market! Please advise me in the following ways I can make this happen, Thank you so much for your time!

Susan Langdon says:
The best way to become a sales agent is to work for a professional sales agency. This will expose you to how business is done at this level, what agents look for in lines they carry and why, what it will take for you to launch your own agency and you can also develop relationships with key retailers; future contacts for your business. You'll also find out what happens when deals go wrong and how agencies handle those situations. Be prepared to start at the bottom perhaps as a junior assistant or even as an intern (if you can afford to volunteer).

Once you've gained several years of experience and have developed an impressive list of retail contacts, you'll also have developed industry credibility and a track record. These are important factors when designers sign an agent as they are not just hiring someone with great selling ability, they are hiring someone who has contacts with the stores they are targeting.

Be patient and be prepared to pay your dues. Good luck with your future plans.

Making Sales

Q: My family owns a denim factory in China and we are looking to make sales in the U.S. Do you know how should I start as I don't know anything about North American denim market?

Elena Conte says:
The denim market is very large and competitive in the US and Canada . Your best route is to research trade shows which would be best suited to your product and target market. Trade shows are the best tool to promote/market your company, and make sales. The other option would be to find a sales representative in the US to market and sell your line(s). It is important to know that many sales reps scout trade shows to find new lines to represent, so you may also find participating in a trade show beneficial in this way.

Creating a Website

Q: I am a clothing designer who is in need of a website, do you have any recommendations of where to start?

Christine Faulhaber says:
A good place to start would be with a student who is studying website design or graphic arts. You can always try and see if they are responsive to working with you on a project that will enhance their portfolio. If you are not comfortable with this idea, I would look into a reputable website design company. It's important to get quotes from different companies and to ask what would be included in the website package.

Role of a Sales Rep

Q: How do I go about getting an agent to manage my line? Will they book me to take parts in shows, contact stores to see if they would like to purchase my line?

Rosa Costanzo says:
In order to get an agent to manage your line, you have to do your homework. A great place to start is the TFI resource center, as they have an updated list of fashion agents. Each agency is different, so it is important that you ask questions to each one that you contact. All agencies will sell your line to their existing clients, but there is no guarantee that all the stores will purchase your clothing. Once you have your agent, determine with them what your expectations are from them, such as preparing trunk shows, etc...

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