Stitch Solutions: It’s Time to Tilt

You need to set yourself apart from your competitors

In today’s world of information overload, it is challenging to make yourself stand out. It’s time to tilt. Let’s face it, embroidered and decorated apparel is no less of a commodity than promotional products. In fact, promotional products distributors are out there talking to the same people that you are, hoping to land that next order, whether it is for magnets, pens, coffee mugs, or logoed apparel.

Image courtesy of Desiree DelMonte, Desi’s Threads.

You will struggle to succeed against them or any other competitors if your only edge is the fact that you are willing to give up a few more pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, or dollars than the next guy. When the way to win a job is a race to the lowest price, the only person who comes out ahead is the customer. Even more concerning to me is that we are teaching these probably new customers that we will cut prices to win business. They are learning that our custom logoed products are only worth what they are willing to pay for them.

When our only tactic is to engage in price wars, we have no cause to lament about the state of the industry, how hard it is to win business, how tough the market is, how low the profit margins are, and how rough we have it banging on doors as we struggle to find the next customer and close the next sale.

There is good news – there is a way to change the environment in which you are competing. There is a way to set yourself apart, to make doing business with you different from doing business with the other apparel decoration professionals and promotional products distributors in your area. What if you had an advantage?

The tilt advantage

I’m calling this advantage your tilt. This is not my term; it comes from the marketing realm. I contend that by tweaking your approach to sales, you can create a compelling tilt that makes you and your apparel solutions unique and better.

When you offer something unique or better, it propels you far beyond the reach of your competition. Every embroidery shop can drop a logo on a shirt – that is an everyday, run-of-the-mill order.

An embroiderer that is tilting their business may offer multimedia applications, such as sublimating images on top of the embroidery threads, to create an entirely new look for the customer’s staff at their upcoming tradeshow. They may recommend new color combinations that look fresh and in line with today’s fashion palette. They may have a suggestion about how incorporating an appliqué into a logo could reduce the stitch count and cost while creating a new, modern look for the client.

By our very nature, embroidery professionals tend to be creative people. We purchase the equipment to make stuff as the base of our business model. This differentiates you from promotional products distributors. They jumped in the sales side of the business because they are comfortable with the people and sales side of the equation.

And yet… You sell a basic logo on a basic shirt, and your customer needs it yesterday, for a dollar less than they paid last time. See the problem here? This is a slippery slope to closing down your business due to lack of profits. When our only advantage is engaging in price cutting, we look and sound the same as our competition.

For your customers to see your solutions as unique, better, different, and worth the prices you quote, it has to start with you and the conversations you are willing to have with your customers. Take the time to talk with them and find out what they are trying to accomplish with the products they are considering ordering. Are they building brand awareness? Are they making it easy for customers to identify sales staff? Are they distinguishing different roles within the company – sales, manufacturing, or maintenance, for example – with different kinds of apparel? There are an endless variety of reasons why a company decides to purchase logoed apparel.

When you understand a customer’s why, recommending a mix of products that help them meet their objectives becomes much easier. Once you have a more robust idea of what they hope to accomplish, you can position yourself as their hero when it comes to their decorated apparel needs simply by offering the most on-point solutions.

If you suggest an appliqué, or a trendy color combination, or a new style of shirt with a fresh design placement, you will not be lost in the pile of possibilities presented by the competition.

When you offer suggestions that are specifically designed to accomplish their why, you become different than competitors that are simply selling shirts. The customer is more likely to remember you and the entire conversation, even if the customer opts to go with a more traditional design, placement, or garment color.

The fact that you had unique, interesting suggestions based on your understanding of your customer’s why is enough to make you more valuable as their decorated apparel supplier. You’ve shifted your role from that of being a shirt source to that of a being branding partner.

I invite you to take the time to talk with your customers. Let them know that you are interested in developing a better understanding of their various needs for decorated apparel. Get yourself up to speed with your most important customers, and then apply this same strategy with the next tier of customers, and the next tier after that. That becomes a tilt for you; a way to offer more and become different and more valuable to your customers.

When your customers know they can come to you for the best product recommendations to accomplish their objectives with fresh looks in quality decorated apparel, the competition fades away. This is when your customer realizes that just about anything is possible, and they will become your customer for life.

jennifer cox

Jennifer Cox

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.

View all articles by Jennifer Cox  

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