Small Business Marketing Tips – Second Edition

SellingLemonadeStand

Here are a few more tips for marketing on a shoe-string budget.

Word of Mouth
One of the most effective tools for a small garment decorating company is to create word of mouth referrals. As a supply company I have many friends in the industry that I have meet along the way, and I understand that they are an invaluable resource for me. But despite all of our best efforts to help out friends, all of our daily lives make it hard to go out of your way for others all the time. To help eliminate this problem I have determined what my true profit margin is and have made a plan for rewarding my friends’ efforts at sending me business. Just set up an easy-to-track and clear plan. For ever customer one of my “friends” sends to me, I give them a certain small percentage commission. It is small and is not enough for someone to make a living off of, but it rewards them for their efforts and makes it easy for them to recommend me in the future. Also remember to refer customers to them in return (even if they don’t have a reciprocal system). It will all come back in the end!

Donate to Good Causes
We all have causes that are near and dear to us. We will most likely donate to those causes on a personal level anyway, so why not step it up a bit and make it a company donation and also take advantage of the potential advertising. As a garment decorator, donating shirts for an event is an ideal advertising method. The cost of producing the shirts is nominal and completely tax deductable. Make sure that your logo/brand is prominently displaced and make sure that you have some sort of contact info. All too often I see people making the mistake of not putting a phone number or website in their logo and people normally will not take the time to go hunting.

Also take the opportunity to create a press release and interview the event coordinator. Local news outlets love those kinds of things. If the event is large enough in your area, why not invite people from the event and media to come watch you create the shirts and maybe have a little open house. All pretty much free advertising for donating a couple hundred shirts.

Give out Some Extra Items 
Many times on orders customer get what they think they need, but might also not realize that the same image on the T-Shirt might be great on a sweatshirt, hats, towel etc. Especially if you have a direct to garment printer as well, these things can be invaluable. Make sure to find out what size the buyer is and then print a few extra items. Package these items separately, and include a nice note of thanks for the order and then a small sales pitch (one small paragraph tops) about your ability to also print these other items. You might even include a small discount on the other items if the customer orders in a certain amount of time after receiving this order.

Always Have Samples
Where ever you go, as a garment decorator, you will always run into a potential customer. Local restaurant, sporting event, school function etc. It is very important to be prepared for this impromptu sales call, so having plenty of good samples is a must. Make sure that when you are printing a piece that you are especially proud of you print plenty of extras to display in your shop and also keep with you. It is a good idea to check with the customer first, but more often than not the customer will be proud to have their piece as a “show off”.

The other thing to remember is to include your logo/brand with contact details on the samples. Maybe someone likes the sample and you give it to them to win their business, well then you have more free advertising. Along with the samples, always have some promotional literature and a business card with you at all times…you never know when you might need them.

Act Big (even if you’re a one-man-show)
People want to buy from someone they trust and feel is professional. This means that it is important to act big but still give your customers the feel of caring. The nice part is that with today’s technology, it is easy to act big without having to spend big. To me, the three most important things in making your company appear solid and professional are your voice mail message, your email address and your business card.

  • Voice Mail/Phone -Most of us are not professional voice talents and our voice mail message might be a little awkward. Today you can find pools of professional voice talent online that that will record a short message for you for $15 to $30. You can then upload these digital voices to your answering service. For example I use my cell phone for most of my business and I have a FREE service called youmail.com for my voice mail. This service allows me to have different greetings for different phone numbers and even block unwanted calls. This way my family and friends get my normal message and all other numbers get my professionally recorded greeting.

    The same goes for answering your phone. Many times I have called some of my customers on numbers they have listed online as their business number and get a simple “Hello”? If I was calling to buy a shirt, I would think twice. It is not hard to answer your phone “Hello, thank you for calling XYZ Company, how many I assist you?”

  • Email Address – As I scan through the list of customer emails that I have gathered over the years, I am shocked to see that 75% of them are a Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, (and the worst) AOL email address etc. Even worse than that is that many of them don’t even have anything to do with the company and are just a personal email. In today’s world with Blackberry’s and IPhones and constantly being on the web, email is a great communication tool. It allows you to contact someone without interrupting them with a phone call and give people the opportunity to exchange information after having some time to research their needs as opposed to having to shoot from the hip.

    And today, you can have a professional email address (i.e. yourname@youcompanyname.com) for pennies a day (See GoDaddy for example) and you can easily set-it up to route directly to your Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail etc. account. No need to change your pattern, just look more professional. Also, make sure that when writing an email, have a professional signature. Make sure your name, and contact details are on every email and that you email with a greeting and closing. You are not sending a note to your kids to clean the house; you are trying to win someone’s business.

  • Business Cards – The fastest way for me to discount the professionalism of a company is to get one of those business cards that are printed out on a laser printer or inkjet that are flimsy with perforated edges. I typically throw those away and look to the next company to make my buying decision. Today you can get 250 business cards printed for less than $20 or even free if you are willing to let the company print their logo on the back. I suggest investing the $20 for a professional looking card without the logo but at the very minimum get the logo on the back. Go to places like iprint.com or vistaprint.com and see how easy it is to get REAL business cards.
Again, I love reading your ideas and feedback on these things. Working together as small businesses to achieve success, even it means sharing with your competitor, will always outweigh the feeling that we need to hoard our ideas. There is plenty to go around and we should be confident in our ability to service our customers and provide enough value that we don’t have to worry about sharing ideas. I can’t wait to read your ‘marketing on a shoe-string budget’ ideas.
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I have been in the garment decorating industry for over 10 years, and have worked with many small businesses to help them make money and improve their marketing. I love helping small businesses as I have been involved with or had my own small business since I was a teenager. In my free time, I enjoy volleyball, bowling and spending time with my 11 year old son. I have recently moved to St. Louis by way of Boston, Colorado Springs and most major cities in Arizona.

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