Winning Against Bigger Businesses

Business Tips and News

We’ve previously done a post on You vs. the Competition and what we covered in there is how to be unique, how to use your personal touch to get an edge, and how to not be afraid of that competition. What we want to talk about specifically today is battling the big guys. You may be in a market like the Tampa Bay area, where there are a few solo-practitioners that do direct to garment printing, but there’s also this entry into the market from the really big printers like CafePress, Zazzle, and Ooh Shirts. Some of these companies have multiple warehouses across the country to fill the orders that come in. So they have the power and resources to do some of the things that you can’t do as a really small business.

Most of our customers are small shops. They’re usually a one or two machine, one or two person shop, that’s trying to compete against these big businesses. Luckily there are very effective things you can do to beat these big businesses, even if they offer a lower price.

Why does someone choose to do business with you and not with a big business?

It’s the personal touch that you can offer.

When you’re talking with the customer, you can let them know you’re the owner of the business. They’re dealing with you personally. It makes people feel good to do business with you if they like you.

They’re your biggest customer. They could be a big business’ smallest customer, or instead they could be your biggest customer. Let them know their business is important to you.

They may be a small business owner too, and so you’re in the same place as them. You understand them. You do things to help each other out. You support your customer’s events, use their services when you need a plumber or your house painted, etc. So you can refer business to them, and in return they’ll refer business to you. They’re not going to get that with a big business. Those companies have a sales team, who are just making the sale for a paycheck. Even if you do talk to a manager or owner, their outlook on business will be completely different. It might not make financial sense for them to spend 30 minutes on the phone with the customer. Whereas as a small business owner, you’re making money by taking 30 minutes to talk directly with your customers.

If by ordering from the big business someone’s going to save $3/shirt and they’re ordering 100 shirts, that’s $300. If they’re a service person – plumber, yard maintenance, etc. – one referral will make them that $300. There’s a real ROI for them to order from you.

You get to be nimble.

You can do those small orders of 10 shirts. And you can change it comfortably. If you’ve ever placed a big order for your business, imagine changing that order, and what that process is like – you’ve got to call and get a change order filled out, they may have to talk to their boss and get you a new quote, new shipping prices. It may take a day or more to have everything sorted out because the sales rep has to talk to everyone else. You, on the other hand, have the ability to change things on the spot. As a visual comparison, think of a cruise ship versus a motor boat – the smaller boat can turn around right away. You’re working directly with the customer the whole way through their order.

Taking advantage of the features of you and your equipment

Most big shops, have had their machines for a while. They’ve made a big investment and they’re stuck with the limitations of those machines.

As an example, the sewing field on an Avance 1501C embroidery machine is the biggest in the business. It is naturally larger than the sewing field on any multi-head. What that means is that if you want to sell against a big business, then all you have to do is convince the customer to make a bigger design. Do something that you know is going to be harder for the other business to do. Whether the competition can’t do it, or won’t want to do. We talk about that in regards to mixed media. If you do spangles, vinyl cutting, and embroidery you offer mixed media that’s got all three. You’ve just narrowed down your competition to potentially zero.

With a DTG machine, you can do a 16x24 inch image. Whereas anybody that’s doing screenprinting will never do that. There are a number of other things that screenprinters will be unable to do, such as gradients and full color. So you can show customers how good their shirt is going to look using DTG. They won’t be able to get that from screenprinting and so the screenprinter is going to have to un-sell the customer on all the colors.

Educate yourself on what your machines can do and what might give you the edge over the competition, who may be limited by their equipment. Part of that may mean calling up the competition and pretending to be a customer “I want to do some oversized embroidery on some jackets. What’s the biggest size that you’ll do without making these completely unaffordable for me?” “How many colors can I do on a shirt before it gets unreasonable?” Same thing with rhinestones, if there’s size limitations or customization limitations.

You don’t have to be afraid of any of these competitors. You should be excited, because they’re going to generate interest in people getting things created. All you have to do is be on the other end of the phone and be in touch with those customers.

With everything, there are going to be times where you’re not going to get the business, and you just have to let it go. You can’t spend your time focusing on that one client you lost to the big company. It can affect your business in a negative way. No one likes to receive the call from the client who says they’re going to go with someone else – perhaps they’re going to save $200 and they have a tight budget.

Winning Against Bigger Business

Go find a new biggest customer and tell them why they should be doing business with you.

Have a good business.


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