It’s no secret that, in the furniture wholesale industry, referrals are the predominant means by which dealerships find outdoor furniture manufacturers. We’re not here to say that referrals aren’t valuable, because that just isn’t true. Word of mouth is a fantastic way to find out about vouched-for manufacturers from colleagues whose opinions you trust. With that said, in our increasingly digital world, it’s also important to acknowledge that relying solely on referrals may be limiting the potential of your furniture dealership. Today, we’re covering some important signs that it might be time for you to reconsider your outdoor furniture manufacturer–and maybe even branch out beyond word-of-mouth recommendations. Let’s get started.

It’s Not All or Nothing

Before we dive into the telltale signs that it’s time to look beyond referrals, it’s crucial to acknowledge that referrals are valuable. If you can get solid recommendations from colleagues and business acquaintances whom you trust, that’s a great way to make connections with new furniture manufacturers. With that said, relying exclusively on word-of-mouth recommendations can seriously limit your business from getting to know the thousands of great manufacturers out there.

This is especially true if you’re trying to establish a distinctive brand or signature style for your furniture dealership. The broader your pool of options, the more likely you are to hone in on the manufacturers who truly fit the needs of your business. With that said, let’s get into the signs that it might be time to start looking for them.

Your Showroom Doesn’t Inspire

This is a pretty vague point, but it’s no less valid. Are you excited when you walk into your showroom? Do your customers get a spark in their eyes when they walk in, or do they display more of a “meh, this’ll do” energy? You have complete control over the selections that are made for your showroom, and those selections should be true to the vision you have for your business. Whether that’s compatible with your personal style or not doesn’t really matter, so long as it’s true to the vision you have for your ideal showroom.

Your Network Isn’t Growing

If your network of fellow dealers and manufacturers isn’t growing, it’s a surefire sign that the referrals you’re getting from this network are stagnating. Luckily, there’s an easy fix to this problem.

The Internet has made it possible to significantly expand your network in just a few clicks. If you’re not comfortable looking for new manufacturers online, start by connecting with other dealers and furniture craftspeople whose work you admire, then maybe ask them for recommendations. As your network grows, the recommendations it brings in will diversify.

Your Numbers Are Stagnant

When was the last time your business went through a growth spurt? Has it been able to maintain steady, sustainable growth since then, or has it pretty much stagnated? We’re not saying that you should be doubling or tripling in size every year, but it’s important to aim for steady growth in order to avoid backsliding. If that hasn’t been happening for your business in the recent past, it’s probably time to reevaluate a few elements. Start by taking a look at the collections you offer and asking yourself whether they’re in line with your target customers. If not, or if you find that your target customer has changed over time, it’s back to the drawing board.

You’re Missing Either Style or Substance

The best outdoor furniture is the kind that delivers when it comes to both style and substance, not one or the other. If your showroom is stocked with beautiful pieces that fall apart within a year, you have a problem. If, instead, you’ve got plenty of sturdy pieces with minimal aesthetic appeal, you also have a problem. Take a long, hard look at your catalog and determine what its weak points are. Just like that, you’ll have found your primary search points as you surf the web for new manufacturers.

You’re Looking to Rebrand

What is your business’s identity? Are you a showroom that’s all about modern traditional pieces, or are you all about bold, eclectic styles? Do you prefer coastal or urban influences in your pieces? By determining your brand identity, you’ll establish a foundation from which to pull inspiration when considering manufacturers. If the collections you currently sell don’t give customers an idea about your business’s signature style, it’s probably time to look for new suppliers.

It’s not easy to find new furniture manufacturers, especially if you’re branding out beyond word-of-mouth recommendations. Luckily, there are plenty of signs you can look for to make sure that a furniture supplier is reliable: past customer reviews, thorough digital catalogs, and a seamless customer experience are all key. To learn more about how Windward delivers on all accounts, just click here and reach out to us.