Selling Printed Apparel in a Resistent Economy

The numbers are coming in from the retail holiday season and it looks like it’s the worst season in forty years. More bad news today, retailers Eddie Bauer, Talbotts, and Williams and Sonoma look like they may be the latest large chains to join the list of bankruptcies that so far include Linens and Things, Mervyyns, and Circuit City. All of this negative news has put a chilling effect on the market. Small businesses and business in general have pulled back and are holding on to their cash. But does this mean we can’t sell our services? The answer is: Absolutely Not.

When business takes a conservative position, one of the very first areas to go is advertising and promotion. The reason is because it isn’t trackable and the business can’t relate new revenue to their efforts. Do they still need to advertise and promote? Yes! What will it take to get them to let loose of their money?

This is a complex question and there are several directions to consider. The very first is to have some method to measure tangible results. If the use of printed apparel can be directly traced to new business, or returning business, we can do the math and justify the purchase. Long gone are the days of unqualified advertising. Today the emphasis is on direct response marketing. We must be able to show a return on the dollars AND time investing in the promotion.

The second aspect is simple, what’s in it for them? Our efforts must be entirely directed to the benefit of the client. Whatever they receive as a return must be a multiple of what they put in. On the promotions I design, I look for a minimum of five times the return. So put another way, one dollar invested with me on my promotion will generate five dollars of new revenue for my client. That is a 500% return. If I design a promotion as a self-liquidating offer (pays for itself with no out of pocket investment,) even better.

Now this may seem ridiculous when we consider banks today are paying well below 2% on saving accounts and money markets. How is it possible to achieve such high returns? The answer comes from the design of the promotion in the very beginning.

The key to high returns is understanding and targeting. We have to understand the business of our clients so we can design an effective promotion. We have to target the right clients for it to work for both of us. In other words, our promotions need to be tailor made for specific situations and specific clients. This will almost always result in the client coming on board with us and achieving the desired result.

To summarize, in a contracting economy fear drives the purchasing cycle. No one wants to take a chance on a speculative purchase or make a purchase unless it’s absolutely necessary. Our role is to position our offer in such a way that it provides a massive return for the money invested in the promotion. It must be trackable. To achieve this type of promotion means we need to know and understand how our clients market. Our efforts are tailored to specific situations AND to the specific clients who will benefit most from our efforts.


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