Selling Service

Selling Service

jennifer cox

Jennifer Cox operated a family embroidery business beginning in 1990. She is one of the founders of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), a national organization that supports embroidery and apparel decoration professionals with programs and services designed to increase profitability and production. Cox is currently the president of NNEP.

For an embroidery business owner, one of the most common frustrations is when a customer walks in with an item for embroidering. This is frustrating because the item may be poorly made or of low quality, making it a less-than-ideal candidate for embroidery, and there’s always a risk that something could go wrong when working on another’s product. Embroidering that existing product also means a loss of profit because there’s no markup.

After having another tough conversation with an embroidery business owner about this issue, I had a rather startling aha moment. We simply present ourselves as embroiderers rather than product suppliers who can also add logos, designs, and monograms. By only positioning ourselves as embroiderers, our customers believe that means they need to find the products and bring them to us for embroidery.


With one simple shift in your mindset and marketing, you can change how your business is perceived by your community. Shape your marketing message around your custom products—your stadium blankets with monograms and mascots and your golf shirts with company logos. Shift the focus to the product, and then add the description of how it can be decorated at the end of the sentence.

For example, you can say, “We do embroidery.” Or you can say, “We offer one-of-a-kind products that are customized with logos, designs, monograms, and more.” The difference may seem like “to-MAY-toes” and “to-MAH-toes” to some, but the difference is significant.

From there, shift the conversation about embroidery even more. When asked what you do, how often do you reply that you simply own an embroidery business? And what happens too many times? Nothing—the conversation stops because the prospect has no idea what owning an embroidery business means, and it’s tough to keep the conversation going.

The secret to successfully talking about your business is presenting it in a way that opens a conversation instead of ending it. The next time someone asks what you do, try saying, “We provide custom products to help you build your business brand, and we make the best one-of-a-kind gifts.” If you’re talking to a fellow business owner, he or she may bite on how you help build a brand while the average consumer is likely to ask about the gifts. After all, who doesn’t love giving awesome gifts?

To keep the conversation flowing, have quick examples of how you’ve helped local businesses, such as the time you provided branded shirts for a local delivery service. When the drivers were on call, customers knew exactly what company arrived. Also, have a great gift idea or story in mind. Make this conversation even more engaging by pulling out your phone and showing the prospect a photo of an awesome job you just finished.

There are times when a customer-provided product is the only option. That’s what the customer wants, and it’s not available through any industry wholesale channel. In some cases, it could be a family heirloom, such as a christening gown. Make the best of it and charge an appropriate amount for the time and expertise you invest in creating the order.

Customers interact with our business based on their perception of how we serve them. By shifting the conversation from embroidery to great gifts and brand building through logoed products and apparel, we begin to change how the public understands our services.

We are responsible for changing the nature of this conversation—with ourselves, our customers, and even within our industry—and it’s challenging. Even now, my default thinking goes something like this, “We put logos, monograms, and designs on shirts, jackets, and gifts.” This puts us right back where we started. Simply change the wording to, “We provide shirts, jackets, and caps, and we put your logo on them.” That can make all the difference in the world.

Give it a try—you have nothing to lose, except the headaches associated with customer-provided products, and potentially significant profits to gain. Let me know how it works for you.