If you’re looking for a way to manage your pre-orders and backorders, I just figured out how to do it with Quickbooks Premier. It’s super easy!
If you have a product that you want to sell to retailers, you’re soon going to need help with sales. Following up with current and potential accounts takes a surprising amount of effort, especially as your list grows to 100+ leads, which it probably will after a single trade show. That’s a lot for one person to handle, especially if that one person is doing everything else in the business. The logical next step is to find sales reps.
In my industry, brands rely almost exclusively on commission-only independent sales reps rather than in-house reps that earn a mix of salary and commission. The reps operate as business owners themselves, picking up lines of products that go together, showing them to stores that they have relationships with, and writing orders on your behalf. They will be the primary point of contact with your customer (which, by the way, they consider as their customer).
Being a sales rep is hard work. You are knocking on a lot of doors and showing the line to a lot of people before you get any bites. Bites large enough to pay the bills with a commission check, anyway. For that reason, I recommend going with an experienced rep who has a lot of relationships in place instead of someone who is just getting started or just really likes your product and wants to help you out.
At Po Campo, we have gone through a lot of reps and, in doing so, I have developed a couple ways to find reps. Below are my methods from most successful (as in, bringing in the most and best quality orders) to the least successful.
Some of Po Campo’s first customers were located in Germany and Japan, so I had to figure out the whole exporting thing early on. Each country seems to require different documents for importing (Thailand is the worst!), but there are two export documents that you’ll need to prepare regardless of which country you are shipping to: the Packing List and the Commercial Invoice.
You probably already have a packing list and invoice template that you use for your domestic shipping but the export versions look a little different and require some additional information. The first time we exported something, I downloaded templates of export documents off of the internet and just kept tweaking them until I found a solution that seemed to make everybody happy. This version is what I am sharing with you now. That said, I hereby absolve myself of any issues you may have with using my commercial invoice template or packing list template.
Most of the things on this template are pretty straightforward, like invoice # and PO #. Below are a few lines that might need a little explanation. Download the Packing List template.
The total number of cartons, weights and volume are automatically calculated and noted at the bottom of the spreadsheet.
Again, most things on this template are pretty straightforward. Download the Commercial Invoice template.
Shipment Labeling and Handling of Export Documents
After you have export documents prepared, email a PDF of each to both your customer and shipping company to make sure they are satisfied with what you will be providing.
If you are shipping your product on skids, load all your boxes onto the pallets and wrap with shrink wrap. Attach the packing slip to the pallet using a packing slip envelope or just tuck it behind the plastic wrap. Print labels for each skid with the following information:
If you are shipping your cartons loose, print carton labels for each box with the above information, but label the cartons 1 of 15, 2 of 15, etc, rather than the pallets. The packing slip should be adhered to the outside of the #1 carton.
Print two copies of the Bill of Lading given to you by the shipping company. Have the driver of the shipping company sign and date one of the copies for your records and send the other along with him.
Other Useful Tidbits
Did I leave anything out? Do you do anything differently? Please share in the comments below.
My post “How I Plan to Maximize Holiday Sales” from 11/18/14 outlined my strategy for cashing in on the holiday shopping season. Are you curious about how my plans worked out? Now that the dust has settled, I checked to see how well we did.
I pulled these reports with Quickbooks and Google Analytics. Details on how to do so are in each metric.
Overall Goal: Double sales over 2013
Result: Overall sales increased by 87.2%. So not quite double, but pretty close.
Analysis: Of course it always burns a bit to not quite hit your goal, but overall I am happy with how the season turned out.
How I know this: In Quickbooks, I ran a Profit & Loss Statement (P&L) for the holiday time period and compared 2014 against 2013.
Goal: Double retail event sales by doing many more events
Result: Event sales increase by 98.7%. Hurray! Again, not quite the goal, but pretty darn close.
Analysis: We did a whopping 8 events (as opposed to just one in 2013), and that strategy obviously worked. That said, we were all pretty exhausted by the end of the month. Next year we’ll skip some of the slower shows and enlist more volunteers so we aren’t working seven days a week.
How I know this: In the same P&L statement from above, I filtered it for our “Retail Events” customer. We didn’t set-up a Retail Events customer until midway through 2014, but since we use Square for credit card transactions at events, I was able to figure out the 2013 sales with a Square sales report.
Goal: Maintain the momentum of increased traffic to our website by 56% over 2013
Result: Traffic increased by 62.3%.
Analysis: I attribute the extra bump in traffic to just more people being online and shopping.
How I know this: In the Google Analytics Acquisition Overview report, I compared 2014 against 2013. I refer to “Sessions” to represent inbound traffic.
Goal: Increase referral traffic by roughly 50% by being in more gift guides
Result: Referral traffic increased by 41.2%.
Analysis: Despite not hitting our goal, I am very pleased with how this strategy played out. Our e-commerce conversion rate from referral increased to an impressive 9.73% (compared to 0.41% in 2013), and of course that is a better metric than just traffic. We will push harder for gift guides next year, and get started on them earlier.
How I know this: In the same Google Analytics Overview report, then just clicking on the “Referral” line to dive into that report.
Goal: Invest in social media advertising to increase conversions.
Result: Our traffic from social increased an impressive 435.7% and our e-commerce conversion rate increased 214%. The vast majority of both traffic and conversions came from Pinterest.
Analysis: Obviously the Pinterest increase is a huge win, and interesting because we didn’t put any marketing dollars there. We did advertise on both Facebook and Google, and hardly saw a bump from those advertising efforts. Next year we will double down on Pinterest and try advertising there instead.
How I know this: In the same Google Analytics Overview report, then just clicking on the “Social” line to dive into that report.
Goal: Keep drop ship account momentum going, which had increased 74.1% over 2013.
Result: During the holidays, our drop ship orders increased by 132.1%!
Analysis: We offered our drop ship accounts limited-time discounts on certain SKUs so that they would have styles to promote during the big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We also changed to shipping every day (rather than just Monday, Wednesday and Friday) so that they can offer more shipping days.
How I know this: In Quickbooks, I ran a report under “Manufacturing & Wholesale Reports” called “Sales by Customer Type” and filtered it for the “Drop Ship” type. Note: You have to be using the Quickbooks Premier: Manufacturing & Wholesale Edition to have access to this report. Another method would be to just compare sales from these accounts from one year to the other.
Overall I am very pleased with how the holiday sales turned out. It’s great to end the year on a high note and to sell through a lot of inventory. For 2016, I want to reduce the craziness by getting a headstart on some of these initiatives, especially pitching the gift guides and our social media campaigns earlier on.
If you had particular success with any of your holiday marketing strategies, please share in the comments below.
In mid-November, I was working on Po Campo‘s marketing plan for 2015 and realized it was largely based upon who we thought our customer was and what we thought she thought about us. We have a lot in the pipeline, both as far as new product development and marketing plans go, and I felt like it was time for gut-check with our customers to make sure we were on the same page.
Determining Objectives & Questions
I decided an online survey would be the easiest way to quickly check-in with our current and potential customers. From my past experience as a design researcher, I know that having concise objectives is key to a successful study. Using SurveyMonkey.com ($19/month for basic), I built a survey around answering the following questions:
I ended up designing a twenty-two question survey, which included a few more questions than necessary to answer the above objectives but it’s hard to resist the temptation of asking people things that you’ve been wrestling with while you have their attention. For me that included getting clarification on whether they see Po Campo as more of a bike, fitness or lifestyle brand to help us sort out our chaotic retail strategy and which brand archetype best suits us to help us determine tone of voice.
Insights from the Survey
We had 624 total respondents, mostly recruited through our newsletter list (88%) and Facebook (12%). Most respondents were existing customers (66%), while 30% were potential customers, in that they didn’t own a Po Campo product but were familiar with what we do.
For the first two objectives above, our assumptions were pretty accurate. We did learn that women value that Po Campo is a women-run business much more than men do, while men value that we are design-led much more than women do. That learning kind of plays into the stereotypes of men and women but so be it.
The answer to the third objective gave me pause: the majority of both our current and existing customers will probably not be purchasers of most of our new products as they do not engage in the activities we are designing for. On one hand, this is okay, because we can expand our pool of potential customers; on the other hand, marketing to a whole new group of people will be a lot of work.
Learnings from our secondary objectives were even more insightful as they challenged my existing perceptions of our brand. When asked what type of store environment would be the best fit for Po Campo, the majority of people (69%) chose either a bike store or a Athleta-type fitness store. The lifestyle boutique and designerly gift shop were much less popular answers, with 14% and 11% respectively. I always kind of thought of us as more of a boutique brand but our audience clearly has us in a more athletic context.
To help us determine our brand archetype, I asked a fill-in-the-blank question that said “When I think of Po Campo, I picture a brand that is all about…”. The clear winner to this question was the response that said “…being down-to-earth, reliable and trustworthy”, the answer that represented the “everyperson” archetype. I always thought of Po Campo as the Explorer archetype so this was something new. In researching the Everyperson, it does make a lot of sense to me, and has helped me understand the role we play in our customers’ lives better.
Analyzing research without laying out steps of action is a missed opportunity. Based on our research, this is what I will do next:
Click here to see the complete survey. Please note that logic was included in the survey, so not all people saw all questions.
Have you conducted any surveys lately? What tips do you have to share?
Have an idea for a bag design and want to get quotes from a soft goods manufacturer? One of the first things they will ask you for is the “tech pack” for your design, so they can make a sample of the bag to see how complicated/time-consuming it will be to produce. The tech pack generally consists of three things:
1) Sketches of the design concept with material call-outs. For simple designs, this can be a simple three-quarters view sketch that shows the front, side and top. Additional sketches may be needed to show how a pocket opens or other such details. Be sure to include stitch lines.
2) Orthographic / elevation drawings with dimensions. I take pride in providing our suppliers with very detailed drawings that leave little room for guesswork. This forces me to think through all the bag’s details in advance of sharing the concept with the supplier, which in turn helps the factory produce samples quicker and easier.
3) Bill of Materials (BOM). Again, the more detail you can provide here, the better off you will be. The factory may use other materials for the initial sample but it will always be clear what you are intending for the final product.
How long should the tech pack be?
Most of my tech packs are three pages long, one page for each item above. More complicated designs may require additional pages to explain some of the details and features. There is no limit to how many pages you can include, but in my experience, the more concise you can make things, the better.
What software do you use?
We do all of our technical drawings in Illustrator. I’m quite reliant on using its “Smart Guides” feature to quickly align objects, to find intersections and anchor points and to see measurements as I draw. I first draw everything full-size on a large artboard and then scale it down proportionately to fit on a letter-sized piece of paper. There is also an Illustrator CADtools plug-in that helps with dimensioning and material call-outs.
Besides the orthographic drawings, we make our BOM in Excel and then share it all with our factory as a multi-page PDF.
How do you show updates and revisions?
After you receive your sample, you’ll probably want to make some revisions. I’ve found the best way to do this is to clearly mark everything that is changed on the next version of the tech pack so that the sample maker can quickly see what needs to be done differently.
Do you have to create a pattern?
No, thankfully in bag design, you do not have to create the pattern. The sample maker figures this out based on your tech pack.
What if I’m unsure about what materials to spec?
If you don’t specify the materials, the factory will tend to use either what they have lying around or what they can get at a good price. In other words, they’ll use what’s easiest for them and not necessarily what’s best for your design. Therefore, I always try to specify something. If you have a sample of a material but you don’t know what it is called, send the sample and ask them to find something similar and include the “Sample Fabric A” in the BOM until you have a better name for it.
Is collaboration lost if you are being so “prescriptive” and “detailed”?
While we designers revel in concept development and iterative prototyping, you have to remember that factories make money from production, not sample making, and therefore every effort to streamline the sampling process is greatly appreciated. Expect collaboration to take the form of factories offering suggestions on how to make your design more efficient to produce.
It took me awhile to learn this. My first job was making bags for Arctic Zone, whose biggest customer was Wal-Mart. We constantly made samples without nary a grumble from the factory because they knew a huge order was the pay-off. With small companies, like Po Campo, there is no assurance of a huge order, or any order for that matter, at the end of the sampling process, so factories are much less interested in endless sampling. I have found working relationships best if we can get to the final prototype within 2-3 rounds of sample making.
Do you prepare the tech pack the same for both domestic and overseas manufacturers?
Yes. With native English speakers, there is less risk of things getting lost in translation, but I have found the importance of a concise tech pack to be the same regardless of where the factory is based.
Any other questions? Please leave in the comments below. Do you do things differently? I’d love to hear from your experience, as I’m largely self-taught.
I was recently updating the product descriptions, page titles and meta descriptions on Po Campo’s e-commerce site to be more search engine friendly.
The first thing I did was research keywords in Google’s keyword planner to find product types and descriptions with the coveted combination of high search frequency and low competition. Po Campo makes a niche product, which means I don’t expect people to search for products like ours a thousand of times per month. Rather, I look for words or phrases that are searched for about a hundred times per month and have a “medium” competitive rating.
Occasionally you find yourself with a few options of keywords that describe the same thing and are similarly appealing from a search frequency and competition perspective. One example of this for me was how to describe the synthetic leather on our bags. “Vegan Leather”, “Faux Leather”, and “Synthetic Leather” are all searched for a decent amount of times and have a low to medium competitive rating. So which should I use in our product descriptions? A mix or stick to one? To answer that question, I checked with Google Trends.
By comparing similar descriptions for fake leather, I learned that “faux leather” is clearly trending, so I updated all of our product descriptions to include that phrase.
With all else being equal, try using Google Trends to understand where the popularity of certain keywords is going so that you don’t choose keywords that are going out of favor. Plus, it’s fun!
It’s common nowadays to launch your product on Kickstarter or a Shopify store, but neither of those options were really around when I launched Po Campo in 2009. Getting our bags in physical stores was our main sales strategy when we were starting out.
That first summer, Po Campo was available in about a dozen stores in Chicago, which was a good start and we really have just built on that. One of the most common questions I get is “how do I get my product in stores?”. Well, this is how I did it!
Step One: Make a List of Stores to Approach
I made a list of about 20 shops that I thought Po Campo would be a good fit in, based on where I and my friends liked to shop, since we were my intended consumer. I also thought about which brands were complementary to Po Campo, in terms of style and pricepoint, found out where they were locally being sold and added those stores to the list. Small, independent shops are much easier to cold-call and get into than larger chains, so start there.
Step Two: Research
Before you start walking into stores, do some research on how to build out your sales program with wholesale pricing, minimums and terms. To find this information out, I asked store owners and other product companies about what they do. I have found people to be very helpful and forthcoming with this information, so don’t feel weird about asking. Specifically:
Step Three: Build Your Materials
Put together a (preferably one page) line sheet with:
I’ve found that it is immensely helpful to have a sample with you, even if it isn’t perfect. Samples about 90% of the way there are good enough.
A lookbook or catalog is nice but not necessary when you are just starting out. At this stage, you are the best representation of your brand. Introducing your product in person does more to sell your brand than a lookbook ever could.
Step Four: Start Selling
You’re ready to start going door-to-door! This is great practice for honing your pitch and learning how to clearly communicate the most interesting aspects of your product/brand. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be hard on yourself if your first visits are clunky. Here’s what I did:
And if she says she’s not interested? You have to train yourself to hear “not yet” whenever you hear “no”. Jot down why she said no (might just be timing or wrong color) so you know when to go back to her in the future. Then move on to the next store on your list.
Okay, that’s it! In some ways it feels like a numbers game, in that you’ll get a new customer for every 4 qualified stores (or whatever) that you visit. Try to make your pitch a little better every time by listening to questions people have and noticing what they are responding to, both positively and negatively.
Good luck and share your experiences!
Every year I say I want to increase our online sales because, like all manufacturers, we make mad margins on products sold through our online store, which in turn improves our cash flow and bottom line. While our online sales have grown steadily year after year, for 2014, I intend to make a concerted effort to grow them more aggressively. How will I do that? Good question! I’m not entirely sure but thought I could use this blog as a way to share my journey as I go and hopefully help you shortcut the process.
So, for some background info, my goal is to increase our online sales by about 38% to cover the majority of our overhead expenses. It seems ambitious, but I believe it is doable if I put a solid plan together of how that will happen.
Basic business education tells us that there are generally three ways to increase sales:
I want to consider working on all three things but we need to do some research first.
How do we get our sales today?
My first thought is to try and understand what’s been working so far. I generate the “Sales by Traffic Source” report from Shopify (our e-commerce platform) for 2013 to see where most of our purchasers are coming from and find out that the vast majority of traffic comes from pocampo.com, meaning most people go to our homepage before clicking into the store. Not terribly insightful. Next, I go to Google Analytics to dig deeper into how people end up on our homepage. (Disclaimer: I am definitely a Google Analytics novice, which means you may find better information elsewhere. However, being an entrepreneur means you spend time everyday figuring out something new, which is what I’m doing here)
Since I’m most interested in sales, I go to the conversions menu first, expand “Ecommerce” and check out our conversion rate and average order value, among other things. I plan to use these values for benchmarking our progress as we grow. Next, I click on “Time to Purchase”, also under Ecommerce. Here I find out that 88% of our visitors are purchasing on the same day that they are coming to our site and that 81% are purchasing on their first visit! This suggests to me that when people come to our site, they have already decided that they want to buy. To confirm that, I then opened up “Multi-Channel Funnels” and peek at “Path Length”. Yep, 70% of conversions have only one path, meaning the purchaser only clicked on one thing before coming to our store to buy, or just plain typed our URL into their browser window. While I like the thought of people exploring us on the web by searching through Google or whatnot, that apparently is not happening.
I’m curious what the first (and only) path is, so next I go to Acquisition>Channels and change the Conversions option to “Ecommerce”. Here I learn that Google is responsible for about 22% of both my traffic and online sales. The direct channel, most likely meaning people typing our URL directly into their browser, accounts for 19% of traffic and 27% of sales. Facebook comes in third place with 4% of traffic and 2% of sales. Our Mailchimp newsletter shows up towards the bottom of the list which surprises me because it seems like we always get a bunch of orders whenever we send out a newsletter. I suspect that some of the direct sales are from these newsletters and make a note to check our Mailchimp settings to make sure clicks are being tracked properly.
It’s now obvious that people have already decided that they want to buy a bag from us by the time they come to our site and that they are coming to our site from Google or just directly. If from Google, what words are they searching to find us? I go to Acquisition>Keywords>Organic to find out. Most are irksomely not provided, but there are a lot of variations of our brand name. So even if our consumers come to our website from Google, they already knew that they want Po Campo!
Okay, so it’s clear that people who purchase from our online store come to our website with the intent to buy and don’t dilly-dally. But do they come knowing which bag they want to buy, or do they just know they want a Po Campo bag and browse around a little first? To find out, I go to Audience>Overview and see that most visitors see about four of our pages before leaving. That hints at a little browsing and I’m interested which four pages people are going to most often, as well as the sequence of those pages. In Behavior>Behavior Flow, I sort by “Converters” and see that half of all traffic visits our homepage first. After that, most people go to the Bike Bags category, then to a specific bag, then to Cart. Sometimes after that third step, they go back and look at a different bag or look at a video. However, it does seem that people are coming to the site with a specific bag in mind.
Lesson 1: Our current customers know Po Campo well
Based on my first go at Google Analytics research, it seems safe to say that our sales are coming from people already very familiar with Po Campo. Therefore, it seems the best place to start is to figure out how to sell more to our current customers. See Part 2 for that.
Did I make any mistakes in my usage of Google Analytics? Set me straight in the comments below.