We may be a 300+ employee strong business now, but we started this business with only three people, a manual screen printing press, and a garage way back in 2002. We know what it takes to build a strong custom apparel business from the ground up, and we want to help beginners in the industry find their way.
You get a lot of advice when you start a business, but it’s rare to find help from industry experts. Instead of hearing from people that don’t understand the industry, taking some advice from us. We’re going to tell you the four things every budding custom apparel entrepreneur should know.
Ask For The Business
Want to know about one of the most powerful marketing tools new business owners have? Social media profiles, websites, billboards, and traditional ads are helpful, but there’s something even more helpful business owners can use: their voices.
Think about how many people you know that could use well-made custom apparel. Your friend’s uncle may own a landscaping business and need some tees for his work crew. Your nephew’s Boy Scout troop may need tees for their next fundraiser. There are business opportunities everywhere, all you need to do is ask for them.
You don’t need to come up with a long-winded pitch. Treat it as a friendly conversation (because it is), and just say that you’d love to print their next batch of tees.
There’s never any harm in asking. Plus, could you imagine someone not being willing to take you up on the offer? Remember, you’re not just doing business, you’re also doing them a favor.
Know Your Process And Products
Screen printing t-shirts (and making any kind of custom apparel) is a process. If you want to succeed in this business, you need to understand what it truly takes to fulfill an order from start to finish.
Knowing your process means that you’ll be able to better meet customer expectations. You’ll know exactly how much it costs to make apparel, how long it’ll take to make an order, and be aware of anything that could trip you up in the process.
Do you know how long it’ll take to screen print 30 shirts? Would you be able to point out which shirts in your product catalog are the best for screen printing? Can you identify a low-quality print or shirt by just glancing on it?
If you can’t answer those questions with a confident “yes”, you need to take time to learn more about what you do.
Knowing your process inside and out personally can also help you grow your business. You may be a lean operation now, but eventually, you’ll need to train other employees if you want to grow.
Do What You Say
If a customer needs 45 orange shirts by the 15th, you can’t send them 41 red-orange tees that arrive on the 19th.
Every time a customer makes an order, you’re making a promise to give them the apparel they requested. Your word means everything in the business world, and you shouldn’t make promises to your customers that you can’t keep.
Some people take on orders they know they can’t fulfill because they don’t want to miss out on getting a sale. They don’t see that getting that one sale in the short term could lock them out of countless bigger and better sales in the future.
Think about it as a ripple effect.
Your customer is unhappy with their order and they refuse to order from you again. They decide to post a negative review about your business on public pages like Yelp and Facebook. Once that review is posted, they tell their friends, family, and coworkers about the bad service they received and convince them not to use your services.
Essentially, one unhappy customer just caused you to lose business with dozens of other people. Don’t make the mistake of over-promising and under-delivering. When you accept an order, know that it’s now your duty to fulfill it.
Keep In Touch With Customers
Keeping in touch with customers gives you two main benefits:
- You establish strong relationships with customers
- You gain important insight into your business
You’d like to think that you produce stellar apparel and have happy customers, but how would you know that?
Let’s rethink the unhappy customer scenario from before. What do you think would have happened if you reached out to the customer to see how they liked their order?
It can be tough to hear criticism about your business, but reaching out to customers gives you the chance to turn their negative experience into a positive one.
After listening to their complaints, you can apologize and see what you can do to make it up to them. You may offer a discount on their next order, or offer to do a reprint. The money you bring in from repeat sales from a now-happy customer will far exceed the small amount of money you spent on a reprint or one-time discount.
The conversation you have can also help you improve the way you operate. After learning that the customer was unhappy with the color of their tees, you may learn that you need to use better color matching software when you print. You could find ways to improve your inventory process and fulfillment process to ensure that customers always get the right amount of apparel.