The Downside of Spamming as a "Tool" for Developing Suppliers
One of the downsides of business in the digital era is that there is close to zero cost of duplicating information. Hence, instead of targeting ones effort there is the tendency to take the shotgun approach to everything. A case in point would be the abuse of the otherwise beautiful tool called email marketing. But email marketing for many has just turned out to be a matter of spamming large lists of untargeted email addresses.
I have observed a similar trend in ecommerce businesses locating wholesalers. It is not unheard of for ecommerce businesses to buy large lists of suppliers from a site such as ebay.com or craigslist.com. The next step would be to send out a mass mailer to the entire list, asking them to sign up as a supplier on your ecommerce website. As is obvious, a very large email list would lead to some people signing up.
But what is the value of a supplier that you would sign up without any due-diligence? Ask yourself some basic questions before you signup a new supplier:
- What kind of a future do you envisage with a supplier who you signed up through email spam?
- Do you think this supplier will be reliable?
- Do you think this supplier will be able to scale up as your needs increase.
Where and How Does One Locate a Wholesaler?
Though you could begin your search by trying to do as the competitor does, over a period you should strive to develop your own set of wholesalers. Here are some leads on signing up wholesalers:
- Sign Up Directly With the Manufacturer
In cases where the manufacturer is not too large, it might be open to direct relationships with ecommerce merchants such as you. A direct relationship can be quite valuable as it cuts the middleman. In addition, the speed that the manufacturer can provide is seldom matched by wholesalers who have to stock inventory from a large number of manufacturers.
- Get the Manufacturer to Connect You to the Right Channel Partner
Instead of signing up the first wholesaler you come across, make sure to give the manufacturer an opportunity to point you in the right direction. Often this might be as easy as sending an email to customer support on the manufacturer's website.
- Evaluate B2B Marketplaces
Depending upon the industry vertical and territory, there is usually a large B2B marketplace where wholesalers ensure their presence. These electronic platforms are the quickest method to locate suppliers. Especially when you are planning to enter either multiple product categories, or multiple territories simultaneously, a B2B marketplace might help you to move fast.
- Visit Trade Shows
Despite the world of business turning virtual, we are still observing an increase in the number of trade shows that take place around the globe. In all product segments, there are one or two major trade shows that are must-attends. Make sure to visit them and meet up with wholesalers in person. In the de-personalized world of ecommerce, cultivating personal relationships can turn out to be highly defensible business strategy.
- Participate in Industry Forums
There are several online industry forums, discussion groups, LinkedIn groups, even Facebook groups that connect wholesalers and retailers. In addition to these virtual platforms, there are chambers of commerce, industry associations and other physical venues for interacting with potential channel partners.
As competition and customer expectations increase, ecommerce players will increasingly have to rely on a reliable and efficient supply chain. Make sure you invest some effort in selecting the right wholesalers.