Archive for November, 2008

Defining Your Value in the Client’s Eye

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Sales come when your customers and clients determine what you have to offer is worth exchanging their money. It has to be fair in thier mind. If they’re uncertain or if money is tight, it makes the exchange process much more difficult.

We’ve all heard about defining a “Unique Selling Proposition” or “Marketing Message.” This is the single sentence or few words that differentiate you from all of your competion. It’s much more difficult to do than you might thing. Some people call this the 15 second elevator speech.  Whatever you call it, it’s critical you clearly define your USP in a way that’s catchy and memorable. This is how you want to be known by your base.

Your value is built upon the USP. The USP is the starting point for separating you and gaining the attention of your market. That attention is brief and you need to keep them engaged. Engaging them means focusing on the benefits of doing business with you.

After many years of studying my competition as well as those who are highly successful, I’ve come to a conclusion. That conclusion is the most sucessful companies go well beyond just the technical aspect of delivering excellent quality printing. They create a complete experience around their goods and services. I can’t tell you what that is for you, but it’s a sure bet you can go much further than you are right now. Here are some ideas.

Understand exactly how your customers and clients use your decorated shirts. The more you know about exactly how they’re used, the more opportunities you can find and expand upon. Focus on finding ways to make it easier to use what you offer. Think about how you can cut time or increase organization?

Are there any other items, goods, or services you can add that would make the experience more complete or easier to use? For instance, if you’re doing event shirts, provide a complete contact list of the local media so the group having the event can quickly get the publicity they need to maximize turnout. This is particularly important for fundraising events and nonprofits.

Think about WHO you know that would also be able to help your customers and clients. These are people, companies, and organizations that’re complementary to those using the shirts. They could be other suppliers. It might also be someone who would benefit from a successful t shirt promotion. An example of this for a fun run might be restaurants, coffee shops, and juice bars located close to where an event is scheduled to take place.

Defining your value goes well beyond just the basic product. Make it easy and fun to do business with you. The more involved you are in how your product is used by the customer, the more opportunites you have to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

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How Do You Use Pricing in a Down Economy?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

With the exceptions of Obama Tees and Mixed Martial Arts (UFC) there doesn’t seem to be much going on across the county. I think everyone’s in a very conservative wait-and-see mode. They don’t want to spend anything, opting to conserve what little available cash they have. This is understandable. In light of all of this, what options do you have for bringing in new business?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to drop your prices in an attempt to get the business. This is the natural, automatic reaction when things slow down, but it doesn’t do you any good. What you’re discounting is your profit. You’ll end up  working that much harder to make any money. With consumers being battered with 40%, 50%, and even 60% off at the retail level BEFORE the Thanksgiving Holiday, it doesn’t look good for the retail season. But all of this retail discounting is effecting us as well. The point being, with discounts this deep, your customers are going to be looking for the same kind of steep deals from you.

We all know this business doesn’t support retail pricing. Heck, it barely supports wholesale pricing. The key strategy for us lies in one word: VALUE. I used to think value was defined as the point at which your customer gets his wallet out and writes you a check for your goods and services. I’ve come to change view that over the past few months.

A normal purchase has a fairly high degree of impulse in it. If the buyer is even remotely intersted in what you have to offer, there isn’t a great deal of effort required to get him to make the purchase. However, in a contracting market like we have right now, it takes a great deal more than an impulsive decision. Value has to be defined from the users’ perspective.

Think of it this way. Our job is to deliver far more value to our client than just the image on the shirt and good service. We must discover where the actual value is found. In a commercial situation, it’s in creating new business. So for us, we must now define our value in these terms AND we have to find a way to measure the positive results. It’s very hard to argue with traceable results.

If you’re working in a nonprofit area, here value is defined in how often and how proud the members are of their shirts. The more you see them around, the more valuable they are in getting the message of the group out. Think about how you can use your shirts and their graphics to strengthen and grow their community.

The next few posts are going to look deeper at this concept of VALUE and how you can tap into it.Share/Save/Bookmark

Obama’s T Shirt Success and Web 2.0

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Now the election is finally over, a few things are worth noting. I was particularly impressed with how the Obama campaign used printed t shirts along with their use of Web 2.0 in their campaign. It’s no secret the Dems have used social media very effectively in the last two presidential elections with a high degree of success. Howard Dean used it to mobilize his grass roots campaign four years ago and Obama absolutely killed it this time around. When combined with a targeted age group (young first time voters) it was a most effective one-two punch.

Not only did they raise almost $200 Million in donations through websites and blogs, they were equally effective using t shirts as premium items when soliciting $12 - $20 donations.  I traveled around the country quite a bit in the last three months and Obama shirts were noticeable everywhere I went. I don’t know how many shirts they printed, but I do know that a lot of printers took part by printing the official Obama logo and there were tons of other “unofficial” shirts printed as well.

The Obama campaign also took advantage of designer created images ala Threadless.com and Shirt.woot.com. This was especially effective as the images were created by peers in those demographic groups. A perfect match for a perfect delivery.

For the last two days I’ve been listening to the talking heads analyzing the Obama campaign. Everyone, including the Right, has been pretty much in awe of how effective and error free their campaign was. I’ve yet to hear anyone mention the role the “Media of Personal Expression” played. The shirts looked great and they acted as a conversation starter and as a viral word-of-mouth  vehicle. I would love to know exactly how many shirts were printed, but I would bet it was well over a million.Share/Save/Bookmark

Baby Steps Lead to Big Gains

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

With the fear and anxiety swirling around the current economic situation, many decorators are trying to figure out just what to do to jump start their sales. Having talked to dozens of deocrators in the past two weeks, the general concensus is you’re either slammed to the wall busy, or sales are off 30% - 35%. There doesn’t seem to be any real rhyme or reason to this. Very solid companies are off as are marginal ones. It doesn’t seem to be focused on any specific segment(s) either.

With that being said, there are some things you can do right now to get going.

First off is to pull all of your past sales records for the last two years. Look at who you did business with this time last year and the previous year. Are you overlooking anyone?

Second, look at who hasn’t ordered from you in the last three months. These are the people you’ve done business with, but didn’t do business with this year. They may have  been too busy to call, or they may feel like they need to cut back to save money.

Third, list everyone you’ve done business with in the last three months. These are the customers/clients where your services are still fresh in their mind.

Action is what gets people in the door. I’m amazed at how few decorators actually get on the phone and talk to a real person. They seem to be waiting for them to walk through the door with an order. In slow times, this approach leads to only one thing, starvation! Get ready to make some calls.

Rule number one, give them a reason to talk to you. If your base is feeling like everyone else, they’re not going to be in a mood to spend any money with you. You need a compelling reason for them to place an order. There are two main approaches.

The first is some type of sales promotion/money saving offer. This is the most common approach, but not necessarily effective. When you cut your prices and discount, you’re giving up margin overall. If you are still making a profit (eg business hasn’t slowed so much you are in the red,) a special offer or discount may be attractive.

The second is to tie the use of your product to improving THEIR situation. In other words, how can the use of your product create tangible, real sales for your customer? As an example, if your customers are schools and organizations, how can they use your products to increase their fundraising efforts?

The second approach turns the tables from your work being a cost or expense to one of investment with an expected return. To accomplish this, you need to be thinking ahead. Think about what other customers of yours have done with your shirts. How do they use them? Is there anything you can borrow or build upon that will have universal appeal?

When you know who has and hasn’t purchased from you, it’s easy to quickly zero in on known and proven sales producers. Take some time to think beyond just printing or embroidering images on the garments. Think about how you will make the lives of your prospects better through the use of your work and the programs associated with them.Share/Save/Bookmark