Questions and Answers from the CAS Community

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Sales and Marketing Q & A

Questions and Answers from the CAS Community

How important is my logo?

It’s not really. In the past, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on our logo, and then nothing on advertising and marketing after that. I would say that having no logo is fine, having a great logo is fine, but having a bad logo can scare away business. But neither having no logo, or a great logo will generate business.

A bad logo can hurt you in a couple ways though. If it’s not a very good quality, it’s going to be hard to digitize, and therefore may not turn out well if you wanted to print it onto any clothing. And it could be expensive to print. If you look at some of the most successful businesses, most of the time all they are is a font – no crazy graphics. Keep it simple.

How important is it that from your website a customer can calculate their final price for an order?

We have mixed feelings on this. Because we’re an e-commerce site, everything should have a fixed price on it, and the customer should be able to see if there’s a quantity discount, and how much it’ll be to ship. However, when we talk about a custom apparel business it gets tricky. If you’re an embroiderer it’s not always about how many stitches are in the design, but how many trims, how long is it going to take, how many colors is it. So it can get complicated.

For the initial success of your business, getting the exact price is of low importance.

If your business is local, then the website having exact prices for customers isn’t important at all. As long as you have a general price range, and you’re dealing 1-1 with people either over the phone or in person, then you have the opportunity to discuss final prices with the customer once you have an understanding of what they need.

If you’re dealing nation-wide and you have thousands of customers, who are ordering directly online (example CafePress), then you have to be able to calculate prices. Because you’ve gone hundreds of customers making different orders every month, so they have to be able to do that pricing themselves. You don’t have the time to do that yourself. And if you do this you need to be 100% confident in your pricing structure.

If you’re interested in setting up a website with exact pricing, then you’ll want to check out our post on DecoNetworks. They do make it as easy as possible to create an online store.

What pictures for website and fliers are best suited to attract my target market when I have diverse markets?

You don’t have to create just one piece that attempts speak to ALL your markets. Printed materials are not that expensive. And once you have a website, additional pages are free. So our advice would be to create the perfect piece that appeals to the dance market and use that to approach them with, and another that’s perfect for the contractor market.

Find a formula that works well with one niche market and then replicate it for other markets. And for more information check out our podcast Spaghetti Sauce & Apparel Decorating.

What would you recommend for reasonably priced software for keeping track of orders? (Images of finished projects, customer information)

It depends on how specific you want to get to the industry. Business Hub from DecoNetworks is designed to do exactly that. But you can do a lot of things inside applications like QuickBooks or Zoho CRM. A CRM is great for keeping track of customer orders. It will depend on what software you currently use and how they integrate together.

What’s the most you should spend when breaking into a new market?

As much as you are willing to lose in order to learn, and as much as you’re willing to not have a return on for at least 3-6 months. So for a small business start with 3-4 digit numbers at least.

We did a blog post on knowing the value of a customer, so you should know how much a customer is worth to you when considering how much to spend. If you can figure out that a new customer will gain you a $100 order and will be worth $1200 all year, you can figure out how much to spend to make it worth to get that customer. Once you have a formula down, which will take time and investment, then the answer is, there is no limit.

What’s the opportunity? What’s the risk? What’s the reward?

If you already have an embroidery or rhinestone business, you’ve already made a big investment and may have to spend another $50-60,000 in supplies and staff to get into that new market. However, if you start doing the math and figure out how much you will earn over time, you can see if it is worth the investment.

How do you go from a face-to-face business to an online service?

A lot of our customers see that as the next step. The first thing to keep in mind is that you’re probably not done with face-to-face business. There are a lot of different vertical markets to go after in a particular area that maybe you’re not tapping into yet.

But to answer the question, you’ve got to have an attractive website. You’ve got to do the SEO and pay for ads.  And the easiest thing to do is think about, do you have customers now, that are repeat customers, that might be willing to buy online from you in one way or another. And if that’s the case, you can start with existing customers and see if you can transition some of that manual work into the more automated system of an e-commerce store.

One thing to ask yourself before you build your online store, is why do you want to have an online store? Is it because you want to try and grow your business, or is because you find dealing with customer face-to-face unpleasant, or if there’s something else that’s preventing you from expanding your face-to-face business.

If it’s just for existing customers, and repeat designs, then you may just need a shopping cart and a PayPal account. If you’re also looking for new customers, new designs, then I would look into a more significant website.

What’s the usual charge for embroidery per thousand stitches?

There are some blanket numbers that a lot of people talk about, usually $1-3. But it’s not always about that, it’s about machine time. So you’ve got to think about how long does it take to sew out 20 letters. It may be only 6,000 stitches if they’re really small, but it’s going to take a lot of time compared to a 10,000 stitch logo that’s only one color, with one trim.

Think about how much you want your machine to earn per hour, how much you can sew out in that time, and do the math that way. Take a look at the design you need to embroider out, take a look at the local competition online, find out how much they’re charging and then decide if you want to charge a little bit more or a little bit less. Consider more what the market will bear.

picture of embroidery thread which is good to have in any embroidery business

Having embroidery thread on hand is important


How do I go into schools and ask for business? Do I create a design for each school with their logo and colors?

The first thing you’ll want to find out is who do you need to speak to. Who’s in charge of making those decisions? What’s the probability of me closing the deal? Are the decision makers actually at the school? From there think about ‘is what I’m going to provide them going to blow them away?’

While it’s nice to do an embroidered logo, not a lot of people are going to go “Wow!” when they see their logo in embroidery. But if it’s rhinestones, that’s a different story. If you have a rhinestone or a spangle machine, they may have never seen their logo in rhinestones or spangles, so that would be something new. If it’s a printed or embroidered t-shirt, it might not be that exciting unless you believe your embroidery is that knock-out.

For embroidery and print, I wouldn’t worry too much about going in with their logo. You’re just going to give yourself work ahead of time. But I would definitely walk in with samples of your work, you at least you’ll have something to show, that will give people an idea of your capabilities. And I would bring something is that is profitable for you and a reasonable amount of work so that if the customer says ‘yes I’d like that one’, you know you’re going to get a reasonable profit from it.

What’s the best format for online ads?

We’ve discussed online ads in our blog posts before. And I would recommend formatting the ads into a cost-per-click type of ad. Where I can pay for an ad based on clicks, and am willing to place a bid on how much I’m willing to pay. There are several ways to do that, such as with images on Facebook, or Google has that as well with display ads. Or there are just text ads for search.

We’ve found that Google ad words, Bing and Facebook have been the most successful for us. Google and Bing for just text ads, and Facebook for display ads. Each one of those has formats posted.

Has Etsy been successful for anyone?

There are some successful printed t-shirt designers on Etsy. It’s just like doing ads and doing tradeshows, it’s really not the portal or the environment that you’re doing it in that will determine whether or not it’s successful for you. It’s how you do it. Etsy is definitely a community-based sell. So you have to be on Etsy, participate in their groups, describe the products in the right way, comment on other people’s stuff. It’s an ecosystem. It’s the same thing as if you’re doing ad words, you’ve got to study the response rate, do your testing. You just have to work that venue. And have a pretty specific market – just like any other place you market, you’ll have better success if you cater to a niche market.

How do you reach out to contractors? (Where do they congregate, what’s the best way to get in front of them?)

They congregate just like anyone else at industry trade shows. There are conventions for each of the types of contractors. But you may want to try and get creative. Let’s say you want to go after electricians, think about who sells to electricians. There are distributors that sell to electricians, and what you could do is to partner with one of their sales reps and trade leads. Or go to their business and prospect them. Another way is to go to local small business events. And this can help you get in touch with other niches as well. Or if you’re willing to spend the money you can get a list of all the contractors in your area, and go to their business, call them, or put advertising in front of them.

But we recommend finding events where they’ll be at. Find out if there’s an after-hours event that perhaps you can pay extra to be at, go to the social side of the event.

What would you suggest for expanding your custom apparel business?

If you have more than one type of custom apparel – you do screen printing, vinyl, embroidery, etc. Make sure all your customers know that you do all of those things. You have a customer that orders screen printing from you, make sure they know you can do all the others as well. You assume customers know what you do, but you often need to remind them.

And because that’s such a broad question, we recommend you go and listen to more of our podcasts and read more blog posts to find out what you’re not doing that you could be.

How do we get started with social media marketing?

Advertising on social media is a short answer, go to their sites, and read their resources, watch their videos, and set aside a little bit of money to start playing around.

Facebook is the easiest to start with, it’s the most accessible and most widely distributed platform that you can get into. And create a business page. But you have to provide people with content that they’re going to want to look at and share. So if you make cool t-shirts you’re going to want to take pictures of them and put them on that page, and ask people to share. You can also videotape your machine embroidering an order and then put it on your Facebook page, and let your customer know it’s there. Always think about: is the content shareable and useful?

A lot of ColDesi’s social media strategy is being useful to you, so you have to think about that for your customers, what do they want to see?

picture of social media's effect on things

Use social media to promote your business


Do you ever find your ideas get copied off social media?

Sure. Your idea will be copied from anywhere people can see them. It’s not just social media. If you’re doing a good job, then you will be copied. And really, you should embrace that, there’s nothing you can do about it. Just put your best stuff out there and move on. Chances are if another small business takes your idea, the process of going through to try and get compensation for it, is probably not going to be very fruitful for you. Your time will be better spent working on the next great design. Especially as things are always changing, and what’s popular will shift and evolve.

If there’s a Google ad that takes your exact image, then you can write a letter to ask them to take it down.

What’s better a phone meeting or an in-person sales call?

It depends on whether you’re better in person or on the phone.

Some of us prefer to do things in person if possible. That way you can make more of an impact, you can be more personable. If you’re a small business people are buying from you, they’re not buying from a company.

When you’re on the phone you can make more calls. You can touch more people in the period of time you have.

But do what you’re good at. And mix it – call all those businesses, prospect on the phone, find out who you need to speak with, decide who’s worth an in-person visit, and then go see those people. And test it. See what is working better for you, what’s generating more business?

How can a new business improve SEO (economically)?

First thing, check out our blog post on Getting Found Online. And do all those things – they’re free.

Create a listing on Google and Bing, get a Facebook page, and link back to your website. When you do all those things, be specific about the words you choose, make sure they’re the same across all of them. And this is an ongoing process.

We’re having trouble breaking out. Recommendations?

Make sure your customers have an easy and comfortable experience dealing with you. And then take a look at how you’re getting your customers now, and how much you’re spending on marketing.

Mine your existing business, then go to advertising and marketing. You’re not going to grow your business by doing the same things every day.

Make sure you’re efficient across all boards. Make sure you’re reducing any errors. Look at the entire system, from taking the order, all the way to its delivery to the customer. Do everything you can to enhance the experience of the customer. Make them excited to come back. And ask for referrals.

In what direction do you think the custom apparel business is headed?

I don’t think the custom apparel business has one direction. Because the technology keeps getting better, and continually less expensive over time, both businesses and consumers will have more choices. We’ve found that people are growing their business by adding new technologies.

And we’re in a world of customization, where people like things that are theirs. The custom apparel business can only benefit from that.

How far ahead of a holiday should I offer a product or design?

If you go to a box store they have their advertising up ridiculously early. But I think it goes back to testing. Valentine’s Day is just over a month away. You can start advertising now, and see what the response rate is. And it’s going to take time to know what works for you and your customers. Is your customer base last minute so none of your designs sell until Feb 1st? If your market is businesses that have Valentine’s Day apparel that they wear, they’ve probably already made those decisions.

If you have a website, the easiest thing to do is advertise for the next holiday. So once Christmas is over, put your ad/images up for New Years, and then when the New Year comes put your Valentine’s Day stuff up.

How can we get more business sales?

You have to get in front of businesses. Whether it’s advertising to businesses, creating keyword ads. Or by knocking on the door. Be active in your local events, and talk to people.

But your first step is to get your systems and business structure in place so that you can handle those large orders. You don’t want to over promise things. You don’t want to spend four days just creating those t-shirts, while everything else is forgotten and backlogged.

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