Bag Some Business!

Jeff Solomon is president of Calif.-based Promotion Solutions, an award-winning apparel-decorating and marketing company. He is the creator of FreePromoTips.com, an industry resource website that was developed to assist those who are serious about building their business. You can receive FreePromoTips emails by clicking on the FreePromoTips page of the website and entering your email address.  Jeff can be contacted at jeff@freepromotips.com.

I’m not a big auto-racing fan, but when some friends asked if I wanted to go to the races, I figured it would be fun. As the sun went down, we looked forward to an evening of racing action. I didn’t know what to expect, but the track even made the pre-race activities enjoyable. A glamorous model circulated through the stands with prizes as trivia questions were asked and answered. The excitement really began to build when the speedway “gorilla” came out with a cannon, shooting T-shirts into the crowd. You would have thought they were shooting money into this throng of race fans! The masses flocked towards the flying shirts as if they were gold.

It’s just a T-shirt, I thought. As an apparel decorator, I certainly love shirts of all kinds, but as I live with them everyday T-shirts are no big deal to me.

But what was happening that night was not really about the T-shirts. It was about the way the T-shirts were being delivered. Having a gorilla shooting them in the air was novel and entertaining. It took the commodity of the T-shirt and turned distributing it into an event.

Being a marketing madman of sorts, watching this unfold stimulated some thought on how we in the custom imprinted-apparel industry present our products. What we sell is simply ink or thread on an item manufactured by somebody else. But these unique embellished items have great value. Whether it is to support a brand or commemorate an event, custom-decorated apparel is a powerful communication tool. So I pondered the question of how we can better communicate the worth of the products we sell. One simple way is to consider how we deliver our finished goods. Shooting shirts out of a gun is not the only way to create a memorable presentation for imprinted apparel (and of course it’s not always the most practical means of delivery). . . .

Minimal investment, great reward

In some cases, the classic “screeners fold” is acceptable for delivering shirts. In case you don’t know, this is where the shirts are grouped by size and folded in dozens. However, enabling your client to deliver a shirt to his customer in a poly-bag allows him to make an excellent impression. Individual poly-bagging also keeps each shirt cleaner and easier to inventory. Corporate customers appreciate the ease of handling when apparel is so packaged, as it makes it easier to distribute to their clients or employees.

And providing this service is easy. The bags can be purchased for around five cents each and, after a moment of labor, you’re able to sell the service for between 30 and 75 cents. It may seem like it’s too much work, just to earn a bit of pocket change, but it’s not. You can hire a student to do it after school, or use a community job shop. Such job shops are traditionally grant-funded organizations that employ special-needs adults to do packaging and other projects such as this.

Contracting with one, you will simultaneously support a good cause and cost-effectively get your shirts bagged. While at first this might not appear to be a huge money-maker, the profit adds up. It’s also worth noting that offering this service is not just about slightly increasing the dollar amount of a sale; it’s about providing an additional service your competitor may not offer.

In today’s competitive marketplace, providing additional, unique services gives you a distinct advantage. If your company is able to offer a value-added benefit that will make your client’s life easier, why not do it? Keep in mind that your clients may not even know they have this need. It’s up to you to educate them. Once they experience the ease of handling bagged apparel, they will appreciate that you suggested it. Want to test my theory? Consider individually bagging some shirts for your better clients to accompany a standard bulk-packaged order. Ask how they like it. The investment is minimal and the reward may be great.

Bagging some business

Another presentation option is the application of hang tags. These work well in retail environments, which may include schools and organizations as well as traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. The beauty of a hang tag is that it provides an opportunity to tell a marketing story. Often buying apparel is more of an emotional experience than simply purchasing a garment, and a little greater depth of information can be quite helpful.

An example of this would be the fact that high-end retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is able to sell a T-shirt with a worn out imprinted look for $30. They dub the line “casual luxury,” suggesting that it’s not about the product, it’s about the experience and how wearing that brand makes you feel . . . a story detailed on a hang tag.

Okay, I don’t own any Abercrombie & Fitch clothing, but I do confess to spending $20 for a T-shirt in Hawaii that had a “lava washed” story presented on its hang tag. It explained that the garment’s unique texture was created by washing it with chunks of volcanic lava. Wow!

Being the garment expert I am, I figured it was really a stone-washed garment, but the hang tag told a nice story. (Who knows, the stones they used really could be lava, but I doubt it.) In any case, I liked the way it looked and wanted a commemorative souvenir of the trip, so I spent the money.

There are many ways a hang tag can be used to enhance the presentation of apparel. A school is able to feature a spirit message, an organization can talk about the work it does and a business is able to use the hang tag to support its company branding. Offering hang tags is another way to bring something positive to your clients.

Another creative packaging option is compressing T-shirts into novel, but subject-, event- or company-appropriate shapes. There are hundreds of shapes available and they normally include a full-color insert card to illustrate the shape. Dollar signs, houses, cars, trucks, food products, sports balls, on and on; there is a shape to complement nearly every need. We’ve used compressed shirts in the shape of a hammer to support our company’s business-building brand, and they have proven very effective.

Packaging apparel goes beyond novel ways your clients can distribute their goods. You have the opportunity to present samples in a way that is appealing as well. When we ordered sample shirts recently from a national wholesaler, I was made aware that they would send samples in gift boxes with tissue-wrap lining. This makes for a very nice presentation and has been instrumental in helping us close several deals. I’m sure other suppliers offer such enhanced packaging options. Take advantage of this service.

Instead of offering pricing information over the phone, consider sending prospects a sample shirt along with your marketing materials with their quote. How you package your company presentation will enable you to distinguish your business from others.

Sending your information in a unique way is very effective. It gives you the opportunity to creatively showcase your company enabling you to earn business on more than just price. Use bright-colored envelopes, shiny padded “bubblelopes” or tubes, all available from mainstream packaging suppliers. Image is everything and you have the opportunity to make a good impression by taking advantage of unique packaging options. Pricing is not the only deciding factor in buying decisions. Chances are your competitors are not thinking along these lines, and being different may just give you the edge you need.

We are in business to be profitable and, if we create profit centers by providing packaging services to our clients, it’s a win for everyone. And there is more than the additional profit at stake. The bigger picture is about offering something of value for your clients which will enhance your business relationship. Think outside the box, and bag some business for your company!