Direct-to-garment printers in sampling programs and in the promotional-product market

Digital Direct for Sampling Programs

Paul Green has been in product development for direct-to-garment printers for almost two decades. After hours, he is a fine artist. His artwork can be seen in group art shows around Southern California.

Over the last few years, the industry has seen a major growth in the use of direct-to-garment printers in sampling programs and in the promotional-product market. Along with the ability to run small jobs, the direct-to-substrate printer can also fill this need for a single sample item.

Sample opportunities

Many large-run print jobs for screen printers can be created easily before the large-scale setup of a multi-color print job. The initial garment can be printed and turned around very quickly for review before mass production. Though the final feel of the print may be different, the look is almost identical. The time and risk of setting up a multi-color job to produce one sample can be an instant decision to just pass on the job for some screen printers.

The use of digital garment printers for promotional-product businesses is something that is finally starting to make an impact in the industry. This direct-to-garment printer is something that has not been introduced as a profit-making tool until recently. When it comes to most of the production in promotional items the jobs are subbed out to printers, which, in the big picture, creates less profit due to the use of a middleman.

Josep Domingot and John Williams of business development for AnaJet have found that their promotional-product customers have at first been apprehensive about the leap into decorating garments in-house. The ease of owning and operating a direct-to-garment/substrate printer is now starting to add much higher profit margins to print jobs that were previously subbed out. The profit you can make by printing 100 T-shirts in-house can be more than 2,000 shirts that have been sourced out to another printer.

Other benefits of implementing digital direct printing capabilities for the promotional product business is that it expands the potential product offering. In most cases, light and dark garments can be printed in just minutes. Many promotional items also involve the use of photographic images that, in most cases, cannot be done by a screen printer. There are no limits to the type of image being printed onto a shirt with digital printing. Some printers also offer the ability to print on more than just garments, but also on bags, coolies, wood, glass, golf balls and even create canvas prints of art.

The ability to create a fast and inexpensive sample is something that so many current owners of direct-to-garment printers have never thought about, especially in terms of how it can work for promoting your own business. Think about handing out a T-shirt like a business card. Potential customers will have a product in-hand with all your information and, when it comes time to get some shirts printed, that’s going to leave an impression.

Case in point

Digital direct printing offers endless possibilities and, day by day, people are becoming more and more inventive. Take a look at some of the ways I have seen a sample print used to successfully create a high turnaround....

It was one month before St. Patrick’s Day and a printer decided to create a simple clover leaf graphic. They then did a Google search for pubs in a 30 mile radius. They added the name of the business to the logo and then printed a sample for each of them onto a white T-shirt. The sample shirt was then mailed out or personally dropped off to each business along with pricing. The result of this was an 80 percent turnaround. The sample print was in the potential customers’ hands, they needed shirts, the printer got the business and a new customer from using the direct-to-garment printer as a tool to create samples and as a sales tool.

Print a sample T-shirt with an animal on it and take it to a pet store or veterinarian to pitch the idea for personalized pet T-shirts. Teach them how to offer the service to their customers and name your price. People will pay high-dollar amounts for items that play into what they are passionate about. Animals, cars, motorcycles, boats… the list is almost endless. Make a sample, mail it, drop it off in person and see what it can do for you. The cost of this on a white shirt with ink is around $3 and could be well worth the investment.

Chuck Northcutt of The Digi Guy uses a D2 printer as a sales and production tool every day. Each day he pounds the pavement, opens the phone book and starts with a different business type. He makes the initial sales call and, if he feels any possibility of a future sale, he sends a sample with his pricing. He has a related graphic for each business and adds the business name. In his own words, this shows a potential customer “this is not what I can do for you, but what I have done for you.” On the weekends he now takes orders while he is out on his boat.

Creating a sample print can be that one important factor for you making that sale. All garment decoration businesses can benefit from the ease of creating a sample print with a direct-to-substrate printer.