Placket Market Tips & Tricks

Promotional-products expert Don Sanders joins us this month and going forward with insightful commentary designed to help apparel decorators bridge the gap between merely embellishing garments and selling promotional apparel.

Q:  I don’t want my sales to suffer, but I don’t want my offerings to get stale either. It seems that, when I begin to feel comfortable selling one style, something new pops up and I don’t feel like I know enough about it to properly represent it. Can you help me develop a plan so I can do a good job selling both new and old styles?

A:  A certain amount of confusion has always existed in the garment industry, so your concerns are well founded. There are many choices but you still need to present products to your customers with knowledge and confidence. Develop a specific sales pitch for a few styles and describe to your customers the benefits of those products in marketing situations germane to them. For example, if you’re selling to construction companies, choose a couple of styles that fit that industry and describe how they can be used as gift items that will improve employee morale. Many companies provide uniform shirts to their workers, but they fall short when it comes to providing them with garments that are more attractive than plain uniforms. Now upgrade your sales with the addition of logo’d hats, bags and drinkware. After all, people use all these things on the job. By providing customers with tangible marketing ideas that include a variety of items, you are providing a service that will show them how to thank employees for jobs well done. Duplicate this solutions-type approach with customers from other industries, using products that are a good fit for them, and you will be furnishing turnkey ideas that will cause them to buy more from you and less from your competitors.

Q:  How do I sell placket shirts as recognition items?

A:  Your question indicates you’re thinking in the direction of a great way to increase profits. By suggesting that shirts can be used as gifts to thank people—as opposed to, say, providing the tired old wall plaque––you are opening many new doors for yourself. Large companies look for different items to use as gifts for officers and board members, and all non-profit organizations need to thank volunteers for their efforts. When you produce orders for any client, ask them what gift items they’re currently buying to express gratitude. Regardless of how they answer, suggest they use nice, tastefully logo'd placket shirts to show appreciation. These items are worn and seen and don’t gather dust hanging on the wall. This approach will greatly increase the chances of expanding your business.

Q:  What’s a creative way to sell shirts that are offered in several colors?

A:  Let colors create sales for you by pitching them to be used for specific purposes. Show clients a style of shirt that’s available in a variety of colors for them to use as a part of a safety program. Here’s an example: We used a placket shirt that was offered in eight colors––with the company logo printed left-chest on some, and embroidered on others––as an incentive item for a client who wanted to lower the workmen’s compensation claims he was facing in his factory. To start the program, all the employees were given a red shirt and the chance to earn five-dollar gift cards to the company gift shop for each week they worked without an accident. When they went two weeks without posting one, they’d receive gift a card valued at ten dollars and a shirt in a different color. Each color corresponded to the number of weeks they worked without an accident. The fact that the gift cards were coupled with the pride of being awarded the coveted green shirt––with elegantly embroidered company logo––that signified four months of being accident free, enabled this client to save $255,000 in the premiums it paid for insurance the first year the program was in place. Another way to increase a client’s visibility with a program such as this is to suggest it purchase imprinted music-download cards instead of the gift cards. Those are hot right now and the profit margins on them are usually listed with a significant discount. Since many of your customers probably have safety programs already in place, use that fact to your advantage and pitch safety programs loaded with corporate-embellished incentives.

Q:  A customer of mine buys a few shirts from me a couple of times a year to use as give-aways during his company picnics. He now wants to buy golf shirts for his employees to wear when they appear in his trade-show booths. He wants to use a low-key approach—“nothing flashy,” he said—so what’s the best garment and decorating technique to use that will meet his desire for a subtle promotional message?

A:  Certain shirt companies—particularly those found in, or that have their roots in, up-scale pro-golf shops––design their products to meet the demand of customers who are looking for subtle advertising, and a number of mainstream industry suppliers have added similar numbers to their lines of blanks. My preference is to use the left sleeve for an embroidered message in a tone-on-tone color scheme. The best thing about being approached about the trade-show shirts is that this request opens up a whole new market to you because you can now talk to your client about all the other things he’ll need to make his trade-show presentation complete. All trade-show booths need imprinted table covers, banners and floor mats. In many instances, these items are hard for people to source and you’ll be a hero for suggesting them. In addition, nearly all companies appearing at shows need items such as bags and pens to give to booth visitors. And now you can start talking to all your customers about the items they might need for shows in which they participate. You’ll be delighted to discover how many will need your services.

Q:  I supply a local company with shirts for its charity golf tournament and I know it buys other imprinted products for the event. Since I would love to sell the other items too, how do I make that happen?

A:  The first thing to do is rev up your imagination and find some new products appropriate for the event. Order some samples and present them to the customer when you show your sew-out for shirt approval. Every golf tournaments needs different ad-specialty items such as towels, bag tags, imprinted balls, hole-flags, tees and the like. By venturing more into the world of promotional products, you’ll find many things for your customers to consider. Apparel decorators have an excellent chance to increase their business substantially by showing alternate promo products to their current customers. Take advantage of that fact when you can.

Q:  One of my clients who sponsors a charity run has placed a T-shirt order with me for years, and it seems to me this approach is becoming a little stale. Should I simply write the order again this year and say nothing, or should I suggest something new?

A:  People who deal in a routine way with stale customers eventually lose those customers. To keep that from happening, order some samples of other styles of shirts––there’s no law stating run shirts must always be short-sleeved white T’s; plus placket shirts for run staff, corporate representatives and VIPs have great wow potential––and show them to your customer several months before he places his annual order. He’ll be impressed that you are thinking about him and, even if he doesn’t bite on the new garments, he’ll appreciate your initiative. He may buy the same product every year because of budget restrictions; if that’s the case, then you’ll at least learn of it and can show him promo items with the same value as the shirts. That will keep him within his budget and allow you the chance to still show him something new. Make sure you always keep alternate promotional items in mind, offering them when you can, because they give you something different to show, plus a nice margin on the sale. Regardless of the outcome, these efforts will keep the customer in your corner instead of going elsewhere to buy.