This article was originally published in Graphics Pro Magazine, June 2020 Edition, pg 58-61. Graphics Pro owns the rights to the content and images, with permission to republish on Stitchitintl.com. The original article can be accessed here: Move Beyond the Basics to Grow Your Business: 5 Strategies to Move Customers to Purchase More.
By Jennifer Cox, NNEP President
If your customers think of you as the T-shirt shop or the “place we get hats,” it is time to change that. Somehow, you are creating that impression. It could be because of how you talk about your business, how it looks when your customers walk in, or even the impression you create with your business cards or signage. I do not think of the grocery store as the milk-and-eggs place. Do you? I bet not.
The retail food industry has spent boatloads of money researching grocery store buyer behavior. They know where we go when we enter the store, what we typically need, and then how to entice us to put other products into that shopping buggy as we wander the aisles. The industry of decorated apparel does not have that kind of research about how to influence buyer behavior, but that does not mean we should ignore the strategies and not apply them in our business as apparel decoration professionals.
Strategy No. 1
Stop “selling” T-shirts and caps. In our industry, there are products that our customers order without us having to do much to sell them. These products are the equivalent of milk and eggs for the grocery store owner. They do not work hard to sell us the milk and eggs. There are no splashy signs about milk or eggs. There are no sales on milk or eggs. They just sit there in the refrigerated displays, confident that they will be purchased.
In fact, in most stores, the milk and the eggs are not even near each other. They are on opposite ends of the refrigerated sections, making us take a longer path through the store. We have to go all the way to the back of the store to get these staples for a reason, crossing the entire store to get there. The grocery store owners have a high level of certainty that milk and eggs will end up in our shopping carts.
If we never mention hats again to our customers, we will still sell hats because our customers will ask us about them. The same thing applies to T-shirts. These products sell themselves. They will always be in demand. They will always be a product that our customers need. Begin your sales conversations with other products that might be of interest, such as golf shirts, sweatshirts, and outerwear.
Strategy No. 2
Design your space to influence your customers. Customers are more likely to buy what they see. If you have a retail location, make colorful displays that feature apparel that is timely. Display some performance fabric golf shirts and a dress shirt with a logo on it (even if it is your own logo) in the warmer months. Put a hoodie in the local school colors on display in the fall. Present a nice-looking sweater or jacket next to it, again with either a customer’s logo or your logo.
If you do not have a retail space, create a sample kit to accomplish the same thing. Add your logo to a good-looking garment bag. Carry some appealing products in it that are appropriate for the season. Use a nice duffel bag with a logo and keep your neatly folded samples in it.
Show your customers the possibilities that you offer. Expand their awareness of the depth of your product mix by including samples beyond the basic golf shirts and sweatshirts. Include a corporate-ready dress shirt. Pull out a comfy-looking sweater. Show a high-end fleece product. Have several styles of samples so that you give your customers good, better, and best options and price points.
Strategy No. 3
It is our job to make our customers aware of all that we can do for them. The grocery store offers a half a million kinds of spaghetti sauce, not just one brand in one flavor. You are the grocery store of a customer’s logo apparel and products.
Our customers have no idea of all the different kinds of products to which we have access. They know they have a need for some logo apparel or products for a specific situation, event, or business. It is not their job to be a product specialist. Before you talk with a customer, spend time looking through the current catalogs from your favorite suppliers. You just might be surprised at how diverse the product selection is now.
You could win an extra order from a customer simply because you suggest an unexpected product when you meet with them. If you are comfortable talking about and selling only one brand or one style of shirt, you are leaving all sorts of potential business on the table.
Pati Robben of Robben’s Nest Stitchery has expanded beyond left chest logos and other basic work to also create custom wool felt pennants. The pennants are ordered by a local school to commemorate some of the colleges that accepted their students. Robben also started making products to sell online through Amazon Handmade. All her products incorporate positive messages and include patches, dolls, pillows, stickers, and even DIY kits.
Strategy No. 4
This strategy also applies to the apparel decoration methods that you offer. If you only offer direct embroidery, you are leaving yourself wide open to lose the customer to another apparel decoration professional. One way to do this is to find someone that can heat press, appliqué, screen print, or do digital print products for you. You keep your customer and outsource the work that you do not create yourself.
If a customer is buying embroidered apparel or products from you, it is highly likely that they have a need for other decorated products at lower price points. Become their one-stop shop, even if you do not do the other forms of apparel decoration. Usually the customer does not care in the least where or who did the work, they just need and want their stuff, as ordered and on time.
Strategy No. 5
Get them to mentally walk through the entire store to find what they need. We tend to default to immediate customer service mode, getting right to the point by showing the customer just what we think they want. I discovered that taking a visual stroll through a catalog in a sales meeting can sometimes bring in additional (and highly profitable) orders.
Page through the catalogs with your customers (you do not have to flip to every single page). I move through the book in chunks – golf shirts, fleece, athletics, outerwear, headwear. They often see something that catches their eye. It might meet a need they have immediately, or it might plant a seed for a future order. It is surprising how often they say, “Oh wait, go back, what was that?” That is the sound of opportunity knocking.
The next time you find yourself in the grocery store, take a look around. What are they working hard to sell you? It is the high-profit, upsell products. They know you will buy meat. They know you will get milk. They have eggs in the far corner because they know you will pass through all sorts of other things to get there.
Notice what is on sale. There are savings to be found on things like pop, ice cream, and snacks. These non-essential, but highly profitable, products are important sales for the grocery store, as they bring up the profits and help level out their losses on the perishables. Apply some of their effective and time-tested strategies to your business to increase your sales and/or increase your profits.
Jennifer Cox is one of the founders and serves as president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), an organization that supports embroidery and apparel decoration professionals with programs and services designed to increase profitability and production. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org