How to source products for your subscription box

WelcomeSubscription Entrepreneurs. Today’s post is all about how tosource products for your subscription box. Let’s dive right in.

SomethingI see come up in a lot of the Subscription Box groups is that new box ownerstend to find it hard sourcing products OR just don’t know where to look tofind new suppliers. So I wanted to help you out and show you that it’s actuallya lot easier than you think.

When Ifirst started trying to find suppliers, I had this tenancy to over complicatethings. I kept thinking that I needed some insider knowledge to find thesemythical suppliers who would work with me. Truth is, that’s not the case.

Suppliersare becoming more and more accustomed to handling in sample size volumes, largeorders of a single unit and have an understanding of how Subscription Boxeswork.

Here’s abasic guide to sourcing the products/suppliers you need to create your monthlysubscription box.

1. Before you can source products for yoursubscription box you need to get your mindset right.



Ok, right now now you must be thinking “wtf does mindset have to do withsourcing products?” Well my subscription superhero in training, a LOT.

Mindsetis where a lot of new businesses are going to trip themselves up.

And thereason they do this comes down to one thing: FEAR.

They seethemselves internally as some very small, home based operation with little tono customers. Or, something I see a LOT of: they see themselves as needing tojustify every action they do with some authority figure, such as a brand,government body or even just a manufacturer.

What Imean by this is that there are no rules ANYWHERE governing how you can positionyour business to a supplier. You have to overcome this fear so that you canstart positioning yourself correctly to suppliers.

Try tothink about it like this:

YOU are a marketing tool for anyone with a product or service that wouldlook really friggin cool in your box.

You are going to be advertising their products directly to their perfectcustomer AND you are going to pay them for the privilege.

If thereis another way of a brand interacting with their target market in as costeffective a way – please tell me.  So – with that in mind you can nowstart reaching out to suppliers.

When youspeak to them, speak with confidence. Ask them for x number of units and TELLTHEM the maximum you are willing to pay to make it a viable deal. Tell themthat you have X number of customers who are looking for their product to trialand that you will be doing paid advertising to ensure they see what you areoffering.

Beconfident – you have got this. 

2.  Research using Facebook Groups


Browse posts in niche groups you are a part of
The first thing I find works well is to actually find out what your customerswant to see. I use the same process to find sales copy as I do for products –Facebook Groups.  Because any good marketer will tell you, that the bestthing you can sell people is exactly what they want.

GenerallyI’ll browse niche-specific Facebook groups and checkout what productrecommendations or reviews people are posting. I like to use the search tooland find products using queries like “newbie” “beginner” “love this” or even“where can I?”. This generally yields quite a few products (in my case –whisky) that I can then start to search for (in the next step).

I’vefound this actually works well with Instagram too, but more so by browsing myfollowers accounts.

An ideais to take a look at the likes, comments and shares on these posts to see howwell others with similar interests respond to these products, effectivelygiving you instant access to a free and unbiased focus group.

To helpstreamline this process, I create a spreadsheet to record all of the productideas you get browsing Facebook groups and then search for suppliers for all ofthem in one session.

GoogleSheets is an easy way to record all the info and suggestions
 

3.  Search for the Products and providers onGoogle



Yeah well – Google is still your friend when it comes to sourcing suppliers.BUT if you have a pretty good idea of what you are searching for it becomes amuch easier process. I don’t think I need to tell you how to google something(surely?).

A coupleof notes on this though. Try variations of your query when searching AND useother search engines. This is because different sites will be ranking fordifferent terms, so you may find that by mixing things up you actually get alarger selection of suppliers.

Example searches you can use:

  • wholesaler” “[my niche]
  • bulk supplier” “[product]
  • wholesaler [location]”
  • “order [my niche] supplies wholesale”

You will probably find you are trawling through page 4-5-6 on the search results but it will be worth it. So there is no magic bullet on this one – just a little elbow grease. Hey, even the Karate Kid had to wax on/wax off his way to martial arts mastery (even if he was the bad guy).

Bonus Tip: Use incognito mode and sign out of yourGoogle Accounts as you are searching – this gives you a much broader (lesspersonalized) search result. Google has a tendancy to start displaying the mostlocal suppliers to you as you keep searching, this can muddy the waters a bitwhen it comes to your results.  I personally use suppliers all overAustralia and the US so it doesn’t matter if they are local or not.

 
4. Produce Your Own Products


If you want to have greater control over product quality and increase yourprofit margins, one of the best things you can do is get into making your ownproducts. It’s surprisingly easy to have a product designed or customized foryou using services and market places like Alibaba.

Many ofthe manufacturing facilities will work with smaller entrepreneurs to createtheir custom products, though you could also keep all of your manufacturingin-house if you have the know how.

When youproduce some of your own products, you can still find products from othermanufacturers to include in your subscription box. You can also choose tomarket the products you make on their own as well to increase your sales.Making your own products opens up a huge number of possibilities forsubscription entrepreneurs, such as one time sales and wholesaling the items toother online stores.

In myopinion, this is a goal all subscription box providers should have in the longrun.

5. Position Yourself for Brands to Come to You


Any social media platform can be a long term asset
This is by far my favorite but it takes a while to get there.

If you’vebeen running your subscription box service for a while and have established agood reputation in your niche, it’s likely that you will be able to havebrands bring their products to you. To do this, you’ll need a strong marketingpresence and a large list of subscribers. However just having a strong socialpresence is often enough to get by (in fact, it’s worked well for me).

I wouldsuggest picking one of the following platforms and just dominating it withcontent:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Blogor website
  • Guestblogging on other websites
  • Bloggingwebsites, such as Medium.com
  • YouTube

The goodthing about having a YouTube channel is that you can use the videos toshow potential customers products that will sending in your subscriptionbox.

The pointof building up this audience is twofold. To start with, you should be doing itanyway to maximize your own business. The second reason, however, is that alarge following makes you an attractive marketing opportunity for brandslooking for exposure. If being part of your subscription box can help othercompanies to increase their volume of sales while building brand awareness,you’ll slowly see businesses coming to you as a marketing provider.

6. Reach out to suppliers via their socialchannels.


This one has actually worked quite well for me. Sometimes I’ll just browseInstagram and keep an eye out for cool products. In fact just by mucking aroundI was able to find these kick-ass glasses which were being made by a group inEurope.

Sharingand tagging helps build rapport with suppliers.
What I do here is share one of their pics and then tag them in the post. OnceI’ve done that I’ll send them a PM and ask them about the products. It’snothing major just “hey, I saw your product xyx on Insta and thought it lookedawesome. I’m actually looking for something like this for my subscribers andthought we should chat! Whats your best email?”

I’mtrying to take the conversation off Insta / Facebook and move it into emailmainly because it’s just easier to manage. Now this process is more an addvalue not a complete strategy, but I’ve been able to find some pretty sweetthings to sell to my customers this way.

Conclusion


Though these are the basics of how to get products for subscription boxes, eachentrepreneur will face his or her own challenges. Some suppliers won’t dobusiness with very small sellers no matter how you position it, and some nichesare far more competitive than others or need special licences.However, ifyou’re willing to put in the time to research and build relationships withsuppliers you will find that sourcing products becomes a massively simplertask.

Do youthink these processes can work for you? Do you do something completelydifferent? Let me know in the comments!