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How to get manufacturers to respond to your emails

Have you sent an email to a manufacturer and not got a reply? I outline the 3 common reasons why you may not have heard back, and how to make sure you get manufacturers to respond to your emails.

One of the most common complaints I hear about UK manufacturers is that they don’t get back to your emails. You get perturbed and disillusioned and you give up.

You might even…shock horror…start contacting overseas manufacturers instead. Who will all get back to your emails straight away (and I’ll come on to why that happens a but later).

So why don’t manufacturers respond to your emails?

I’m not trying to excuse them, however, when I get contacted by people saying that they’ve not had a response from a manufacturer, I dig into it a little deeper, and I usually find that it’s for one of the following three reasons:

  1. The email was too vague
  2. The email was too long
  3. The email was just plain rude and disrespectful!

Now I know you would never fall into category 3, so let’s focus on addressing points 1 & 2.

1. Ask clearly

Think of it like this. UK manufacturers are all pretty busy at the moment. They can afford to pick and choose who they work with. And they are probably getting several hundred emails like yours a week.

If they look at your email and it is unclear what the end result for them might be….then they’ll more than likely move onto someone else whose email is clearer.

Your request needs to clearly state what the product is that you want to make. For instance…if you say you’re making sportswear, that would be too vague. You need to define the sport that it’s for and the technical names for the products. There is a big difference between the garments that you’d wear for skiing compared to the ones you’d wear for cycling. 

Think of it like a department store. You’d never have all of the products in that one store made by the one factory. Let’s take the womenswear department as an example. Within the womenswear department there are lots of different sections. You might have eveningwear, casualwear, lingerie, accessories and so on.

If you break that down even further, using the women’s accessories department as an example, you might have a handbag department, a footwear department, gloves, hats, jewellery…you get the idea.

In a department store there is probably a buyer for each of those different departments. And within each of those departments the buyer might work with half a dozen different factories. So the footwear buyer may have 6 factories – one produces high heels, one produces boots, one produces slippers, another flip flops etc. And each one of those factories is a specialist in what it does. The evening wear buyer may have a factory specialising in lightweight silk, whereas one of the buyers in casual wear may work with a factory just making jeans.

So can you imagine how many factories just the womenswear department alone has across their portfolio? And menswear and homeware would be the same.

So if you send an email to a manufacturer and say you want to make womenswear, can you see now how vague that might be for them?

Whereas had you sent an email saying that you were looking for a manufacturer that can make lightweight silk blouses, and the manufacturer that picked up that email DID make silk blouses (also because you did your research in advance and looked at their website and got an idea for the type of product that they made) you’d have a much better chance of getting a response.

One caveat here is that sometimes manufacturers don’t have very clear websites, so it is often quite difficult to define what they make just be looking them up online. But in this instance, I’d always recommend a quick phonecall anyway rather than an email. Provided you had already defined what it was exactly that you needed from them.

2. Be concise

You email not only needs to be be clear, it also needs to be concise. Don’t make it too long and detailed giving them your life history, your inside leg measurement and the name of the person that lives next door to you. You need to think – what do they need to know in order to ascertain whether they can provide the service that you need. The family details can come after. Once you’ve sat down with them for a cup of tea and you’re making chit chat.

A manufacturer is going to be skimming your email looking for an indication that here is some good potential business in it for them…not afternoon tea with your granny. When you’re communicating to a manufacturer you need to think ‘what’s in it for them?’ Are they reading your email and seeing potential business? Or are they looking at it thinking ’that sounds like a lot of hard work!’

So I know what you’re thinking…”Kate, if you say that unless we do all this a UK manufacturer isn’t going to bother getting back to me…so in that case I might as well go overseas right from the start. In fact I’ve already contacted a few manufacturers in China / Turkey / Romania (delete as appropriate) and they have got straight back to me and been super helpful already.”

Well, they probably have.

You see the difference is that there are lots and lots of factories in the countries that I’ve just mentioned. And they’re all vying for your business, because their factories are probably not that full because there’s so many of them. They probably have several people working in their sales department responsible for bringing in new leads.

Those overseas manufacturers that are super keen to respond to you when they want your business, may not be so helpful when there is a problem and your product is 3,000 miles away.

The best manufacturers don’t have big sales department because they don’t need to, they sell their services through word of mouth because they are so good. Which is often why it’s difficult to start a conversation with UK manufacturers.

But once you do get to work with them, you build up a partnership that works for both of you, and they are just on your doorstep if ever there is a problem.

So it REALLY is worth persevering and doing the small amount of research and preparation that you need to do in order to find the right manufacturer for your products.

Just remember, when you email a manufacturer, if you want the best chance of a response, be clear, be concise and be respectful.

And if you were a manufacturer reading it, how would it answer the question of “what’s in it for me?”

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Kate Hills UK Manufacturers
Hello, I'm Kate Hills

I’ve been passionate about UK manufacturing ever since I had my own recycled clothing company and micro-factory in the early '90s! After 20 years as a designer and buyer developing products all over the world, I launched Make it British to support creative small businesses that want to make sustainably and locally.

Over the last ten years, I've helped 1,000s of businesses to work with UK manufacturers. Now it's your turn!

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