Direct messages are not subject to interference from some Silicon Valley company’s algorithm-of-the-week. Compared to a regular post on Instagram, you can be sure your direct message will be seen by the people you want. That single insight—direct messages aren’t subject to the algorithm—should be enough to interest anyone!
Direct messages (DMs) are a hugely influential and underutilized tool. As the tireless Gary Vee says, “It goes down in the DMs.” It’s true! They're simple, and you don’t need hashtags. You don’t need a witty caption that everyone will love. You don’t need to tag a dozen other businesses just to be seen. You don’t even need to “figure out the algorithm.” You send the message you want to send, and that's it.
With that, here are three powerful ways we’ve seen print shops use DMs.
1. For personal video messaging
Terminus Tees uses Instagram direct messaging like a video phone to send short, cute, funny, and exciting videos to its customers. “A lot of what our account managers and sales reps do revolves around communicating directly with customers through DMs,” says Terminus’ Jon Ladd. That doesn’t mean it has to be complicated or stressful. A lot of the time, what really needs to happen, Ladd says, is just “a simple video to say, ‘Hey, we just finished printing your order!’ It goes a long way toward getting a good review.”
2. To qualify customers
Want to cut down on bad referrals, requests for a single shirt, or wasted time on quotes that will never turn into orders? Use DMs to qualify potential customers. We’ve seen shops leave a message like “DM us for a quote!” in their profile, then set up a series of questions to qualify people before going through the entire quoting process. You’ll need to dial in your exact parameters for the customers that are worth pursuing (and have clear reasoning for rejecting any customers, too).
3. To approach customers you want
See a customer you want to work with? DMs are a perfect way to begin a relationship. Start small and think long-term. Follow your target on social media, engage with what they do, make a thoughtful post about them (after you’re familiar with their social presence), and follow it up with a DM sharing the post. Similarly, send care packages with your products to local celebrities or influencers and follow-up via DM.
Pro tip: Be fast and have a plan
The first key to direct messaging: it’s all about speed. Create a playbook for the dozen most common questions you get through direct messages. Having a quick answer for questions about prices, minimum order quantities, the garments you sell, turnaround time, and order process makes direct messaging easier and effective.
The second key to direct messaging: present the next step. You’ve found the right customer, qualified them, and wooed their interest. Now what? Sending your customers a calendar invite via Calendly (calendly.com) can firm up plans without the terrible “What time works for you?” back-and-forth. Instead, customers choose a date and time that works, and you finish the sale during the meeting.
Finally, consider connecting with companies you wouldn’t usually think to communicate with via social media, even if they’re not your customer. Many industry wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors are active on social media. Those relationships and connections often yield long-term benefits that aren’t immediately apparent—you never know when an opportunity can arise.