How To Build Your 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.

When it comes to building things, my best skill is finding the right person to do the job. I’m just not mechanically inclined, so don’t even think of the do-it-myself approach. Over the years, I’ve been grateful that I married well. My in-laws are smart, engineer-types . . . with nice stable jobs. I’m the family entrepreneur and I know I made my wife’s parents nervous when I asked to marry her; they wondered how I would support their daughter. Well, it’s been 14 wonderful years now and they don’t worry anymore, but when we’ve needed to build something besides a solid marriage, there’s always been a brother- or sister-in-law to help.

In any case, my entrepreneurial and creative approach to business-building has served me well. Our company took on a business-building marketing/branding position many years ago. We developed the concept of what we call the Marketing Toolbox, showcasing the idea that we have the tools available to help our clients build their businesses. We put together a variety of custom-imprinted items that support this business-building concept.

Whether you just sell promotional apparel, or also sell the range promotional products, you’re offering clients the opportunity to build their businesses by exposing their brand or message on a variety of substrates. My point being that you too can create a Marketing Toolbox filled with tools that will help you build a strong, successful company!

Helping them helps you

Let’s look at some simple ways we can build our businesses. Start by understanding that, if we help our clients achieve their goals, we will achieve ours as well. Effective selling is really about serving. Thus, consider how you can best be of service to your clients.

Take advantage of education opportunities to increase your skills. Don’t be stagnant. Doing an ever-improving job reproducing a client’s brand image or helping create such a brand image will enable your company to be more profitable and become a more valuable vendor. Learn what the current decorating trends are. This will give you a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive market.

What value-added benefits can you offer? Look for additional profit centers to enhance your product offerings. Can you individually package and drop ship the items you sell? Is it worth the time and investment to become more astute in your ability to create high-quality artwork? You can either do this yourself, or find someone that will make you and your clients look great. Again, this will give you an advantage in the marketplace, as well as an additional profit center.

Show your unique value

Why would anyone choose to do business with you instead of your competitor? Look for ways you can present your business differently from the competition. I’ll expand on this a bit. Create a “package” of marketing materials that will enable you to present your company in a way your competition has not considered. Prepare a collection of items that effectively tell your business story. Include a simple brochure or other promotional items that support your company’s message. Here are a few suggestions:

Your printed collateral materials should look great. Have a decent looking business card and letterhead to go with the items you send. The goal is to look professional and, these days, you can get full-color business cards for around $50, so it’s not a big investment.

The best way to tell someone what you do is to show them what you do. As apparel decorators, we have a tremendous opportunity to showcase our businesses. Embellish the best looking apparel you can and give it to as many people as you can. Of course, you’ll be promoting your company brand in the process.

When you meet someone at a business event, let them know you want to send them some information on your company and a nice gift. Ask them what shirt size they wear. Send your “package” and follow up to make sure they received it. This gives you the opportunity to make another connection with the prospect and gets you closer to earning their business. Of course, you would include your great-looking company branded shirt.

Market research has shown that, when imprinted apparel is worn around town, it can be seen by over 300 people. Now that’s some bang for the buck. After being in this industry for over 20 years, there is nothing that blows me away more than when I see one of our T-shirts at Home Depot, or at the mall, and have no idea who the wearer is. Talk about effective low-budget marketing.

Watch for opportunity

Promotional-products suppliers offer low-cost “self-promotion” items you can use to promote your brand. Take advantage of these opportunities. If you don’t sell promotional products, consider adding such items to your product offerings. It’s an easy way to sell additional goods to your existing clients. Consider the fact that, if you don’t sell them, they’re buying the stuff elsewhere. It may only be a matter of time before you lose their apparel business to whoever supplies their logo’d golf balls.

In addition to adding promotional products to your business, consider adding commercial signage or digital garment printing to your product offerings. You are already doing business with the client, why not take the opportunity to sell more and strengthen your value to your clients at the same time?

When you are preparing a quote, don’t just give the prospect a price. If the client is not in a rush, let him know that you will send a written quote along with a sample showing the quality of your work and illustrating why doing business with your company is a good choice. If the client is in a rush for the price, you may have to give it to her, but let her know you will be sending some information on your company along with a sample of your work which illustrates how your company differs from others. Chances are your competition won’t be doing this, giving you a competitive advantage in the “bid” process.

If you are an embroiderer, embroider something that is impressive. Take advantage of this opportunity to illustrate your talents.

Consider e-marketing

It’s a very cost-effective way to reach clients and prospects. Through well-conceived emails, which you can send monthly (or however often you like) we suggest you promote local non-profit events and provide useful business information that people will enjoy receiving. This gives your e-marketing a more personal feel and positions you differently from your competitors. Promoting non-profit organization events also gives you the opportunity to contact the organization and let them know you will be supporting their event with this free exposure. Of course you can then offer to provide merchandise for the event. Chances are they are buying apparel and other imprinted items somewhere. This is an easy way to open the door to new business!

You can also include a business cartoon or memorable quote. Quotes from famous people are readily available on the Internet. Just do a search and you will find them. One good quote site is quoteland.com. Some business cartoons may be copyrighted and need to be purchased, but you can get some of them for free as well. The idea here is not to push selling your stuff, it’s about positioning your company in a unique way through an informative “community focused” email.

The simplest way to build your database is to let your clients and prospects know you would like to send them your community e-newsletter. They won’t generally say no and, while they may not read it all, it gives you the opportunity to touch them each month. The beauty of this is they can contact you easily by clicking an email link. We have found clients will often contact us just because the newsletter came and it reminded them that they need to place an order. For more information on e-marketing, log onto the Business Links page of freepromotips.com.

People like to do business with people they know. So become known. Get involved with your local chamber of commerce and other business groups in your area. Business will not drop from the sky from joining these groups, but the contacts you meet provide opportunities for you to send out your package of marketing materials.

Building a business is not complex, but it’s just as important as learning how to put ink or thread onto a shirt. Consider what tools you can include in your Marketing Toolbox and start building!