Episode 36 – Beating The Competition
Beating the Competition By Being Different.
Being unique in almost anyway can help you get an edge over the competition. Anytime you are looking for ways to grow your business, you have to be unique – doing something that nobody or very few other people are doing, so it becomes harder to shop around.
When most people think about the competition they think about the price. Someone is doing the exact same thing you are, so to get the business you think you need to sell it for less. That’s what we’re trying to get away from. There are alternative ways to beat the competition. It’s not always about price. Sometimes is just about being better in business and your processes – responding to customers, supplying quotes, addressing needs, etc.
As a consumer, you don’t necessarily want the cheapest price because cheap price usually means a cheap product. Neither the consumer nor the business is going to be happy with the end product.
As a business, you can be a price leader if that’s the direction you want to go. However, it would require a lot of upfront cost, because you’re not going to be able to run the business out of your home and be able to purchase supplies in bulk and run multiple machines. Then the business becomes about producing a product and not just a fun, enjoyable business you started because you like making custom apparel. You’re now in manufacturing where it becomes all about the numbers.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)/Competitive Advantage
What you do is unique enough that more than likely none of the competition can offer the same things you do. – This can be both product and services.
An example from ColDesi is that we are one of the few companies on the market that offer more than one type of custom apparel machine. So if you’re dealing with a company that only supplies embroidery machines, if you want to branch out into DTG or Bling, that company can’t help you any further. So ColDesi’s USP is that we are a one-stop-shop and can grow with your business. Another benefit is that Coldesi works directly with a supply company – Colman & Company. And the products that Colman & Company sell are being used and tested directly on the machines Coldesi sells. This is unique in the supply world. Often companies are buying supplies and there’s been no real-world testing experience, so there’s no guarantee as to how they’ll perform on the machines or with the fabrics. If a person has a question about a supply, the support reps can walk outside and test it, or have used it themselves.
What are some processes you can do to be unique?
How you take an order
How easy is it to make an order? Can customers easily get you on the phone or make an order online? It’s as simple as answering the phone, replying to voicemail and emails in a timely fashion, and following up. Believe it or not, most businesses are not doing this well.
Especially if you are doing your business part time and are not available Mon-Fri 9-5, there are things you can do. You can have your cell phone number or a home phone number or can set up a Google Voice number and have a voicemail message that says “Thank you for calling XYZ Embroidery. I’m going to be away from the phone during business hours. I’m happy to respond to you by email, please leave me your email address and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Or normally I return my phone calls the next day at 12 o’clock.” Set the expectations and then follow up on them.
Provide a clear, fair quote, with details about what’s included, on a form. Having a form helps you look more professional and if you have a form you always use, it’ll help you to make sure nothing is left out and the customer will easily be able to understand what is being charged. Plus you’ll know exactly what you quoted them at for that job, so no one forgets and you can refer back to it for future quotes.
Some of your competition is going to quote them verbally, which causes understandings, or a quick email quote such as “I can do them $7/piece” which doesn’t provide any details – they didn’t talk about tax, delivery times, etc. Plus the form allows you to collect more information about the client – their business, the date of their event they need the shirts for, etc.
Even if you chat with them on the phone and give them a rough quote, get all the details about what they need – t-shirt sizes, colors for embroidery/rhinestones/ink – then let them know you’ll follow up with a detailed quote, so they understand what’s in the cost, and can make any adjustments before you go ahead and start on the product.
This is also a great time to talk about the supplies you’re going to use – the quality of shirt and embroidery. “We only use ‘such-and-such’ brand shirt, and it’s guaranteed to last through 20 washes.” It separates you from the competition and can justify your higher price. If your customer is shopping around, you need to know what to encourage them to ask from the competition, because they may not be thinking about those things. Often people assume everything is the same, but that’s not the case.
If your quote is in within range of the competition, those little things like talking about quality, might tip them over to order from you, because a) the competition might be charging the same price, but using lower quality products, b) you’ve been open and transparent with them, providing amazing customer service that’s worth it.
If you’re the second call the customer makes, and they say they’ve already got a quote from another place, and what can you do for them, ask them a few questions: What brand of shirt did they quote you? What type of vinyl are they going to use? What’s their guaranteed delivery policy? What are their terms? What is their warranty that the vinyl is going to stay on the shirt? You can use these to establish your process differentiator.
Communicate the value of your product.
You have to be really friendly and not let the fact that you’re busy translate into your phone calls or emails. Have that part of your process – customer service, customer friendliness – make it a priority.
This could be that you offer more than just one type of decorating. It’s not just embroidery or bling or DTG. If you can mix media you’ve automatically cut off 80% of your competition. Often times that’s what folks want. You become a one-stop shop for whatever custom apparel they’re looking for, plus you can create a DTG shirt with bling on it (example).
Be involved in the design process with the customer, to create a unique shirt that more than likely the competition can’t deliver. The customer may not understand if you say “we can use vinyl, and DTG, and embroidery, etc.” But they’re going to know what they want when they see the design. And if they go to another business that only offers screen printing or vinyl, it’s not going to have that same wow factor.
It extends beyond just mixing media. If a customer comes in and simply wants an embroidered logo you can absolutely do that, but also let them know what else you can do. Perhaps vinyl numbering on the back of the shirt or a second version of their logo in glitter/spangles, etc.
Knowing your Product
If you’re just starting in the business and just have one type of machine you can still give yourself an advantage. First would be to learn your equipment well – understand its limitations and practice a lot. An example would be that you want to start adding embroidered patches. Some will be easier than others the create, but getting into 3D puff foam on patch material, you’re diving into multiple technologies, you’re doing something that’s harder to do and it’s going to take you some time to learn. Once you’ve mastered it, and your customer comes and says I want patches on baseball caps, then you can say, “Hey, have you ever thought about doing it in 3D?” and then show them an example. Then you can talk about the different hats they can choose from. Perhaps you’ve got a standard inexpensive hat, but also show them the higher end one.
Same thing with DTG, give your customers an idea of what DTG can do with its multi-color printing. Then if they take it to a screenprinting shop, they won’t be able to deliver the same product. Or if they come in with a beautiful design, you can say “Why don’t we print one now and see what it looks like. It’ll be done in 10 minutes.” Then you can ask if they want it a little bigger or a little smaller.
The personality you bring to the business and the target market that you serve is going to make a difference. Perhaps your target market is cheer moms and you’ve got some beautiful examples of cheer mom shirts. If a customer is looking for that type of product and they come across your business and another business that mainly makes MMA shirts, the experience and personality of the other business is going to be completely different. The client is going to prefer talking to someone who is just like them or interested in the same things. Matching your customer’s personality can make the difference on whether you get the job or not.
Being in a niche market will also help you understand the products that are right for them and make the right suggestions. Whether it’s the youth church group, so they want the cut to be modern but modest, or it’s for an MMA event and they need a shirt with sleeves that aren’t too tight, or something for boaters that keep them protected from the sun but that dry quickly. Know your blanks well, so you’re not cookie cutting everyone into the cheapest one you can buy.
You could specialize in particular kinds of blanks. You could be the only person in town that keeps a supply on-hand of infant wear. Or four different kinds of aprons for hair salons and workers at a grocery store. Rubber boots that can be embroidered on. Unique scarves or shirts. So what you’re doing is when you respond to a phone call or give a quote, you’re making it harder for the competition to compete apples-to-apples. That will give you a pricing advantage and an opportunity to upsell. “We could add an apron to each of these orders, for $X/piece.” They may or may not make the order right them, but you’ve got them thinking about it, and gave them a reason to be excited about talking to you because you’ve shared your knowledge.
Beating the competition is so important. These are ways you can beat the competition and not be the cheapest. But by responding to people, with mixed-media, different blanks you can offer, the personality of your business and how well you match your customers and understanding your equipment. Keep your mind open and make an effort – which each customer call you receive, or spending time looking for those unique blanks (and it may require a little bit of an investment).
Have a good business!