Selling strategies for . . .

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.

The local garden center is facing stiff competition from a big-box retailer. We print its shirts and hats and I want to be a hero by showing the owner an idea that will increase his repeat business. What is something that can make this happen?

Something that many large retailers don’t offer is superior service, so your customer will get a leg up by employing that practice. Another thing to do is give customers a small gift when they check out. An appropriate item in this case would be seedless paper cards that can be imprinted with your client’s message. After the customer plants it in soil at home, in a few weeks time they will be rewarded with a new plant. When they look at it, they will certainly think nice thoughts about the garden center. Take the gift idea further by suggesting that your client sponsor a contest to see which of these customers are able to grow the best plants. Every month they could bring photos of them and the winners would receive a nice-quality eco-friendly woven shirt. Showing appreciation to customers constantly is something that small-business owners are able to do and larger operations aren’t usually capable of duplicating. Employing this practice is the best way to keep large competition in check.

One of our customers placed an order for camp shirts that are to be worn by her sales people during a corporate retreat. She wants to buy other items that the group can take home that will reinforce the intent of the meeting. Any ideas for me?

The best use of promotional products comes when they are provided for direct needs. Since most events like this take place over several days, the customer will have several chances to present items to her sales force that offer long shelf lives. The first thing to suggest is a nice leather portfolio embossed with the company logo and personalized with the attendee’s name. Most retreats kick off during an evening reception, so that will give your customer the chance to let the hotel staff place the portfolios in the sales people’s rooms while they are out. That will be provide a nice surprise when they return to their rooms, and they will then have a useful gift to bring to the next day’s meeting. Besides being something useful, this product will be taken home and used for many years. As for the garments themselves, the sales people can’t wear only one shirt during a multi-day retreat, so offer your client additional sets of camp shirts in different colors. These will be presented to attendees at the end of the first day’s activities so they can wear them going forward. And show them a good quality barrel bag embroidered with the customer’s logo. These will be given out at the final night’s gathering and, since most people take home more things then they come with, they’ll provide a convenient carry-back item. There are many other products and apparel options that you can show your customers that will reinforce their message and be remembered for years to come.

Several of my clients want to know how they can solve the dressing-down problem that has developed during the last few years. The majority of questions come from customers who exhibit at trade shows and want to make sure their booth personnel look their best, but don’t want to go back to formal attire.

The first thing to suggest is that they don’t buy the cheapest shirts around. Low-quality shirts don’t launder well and, because so, quickly end up looking shabby. After making sure you sell them nice shirts, show them imprinted ties to go with them. The key to selling neckties is that they need to be ones that people want to wear and not versions made in funny colors or that are imprinted with garish images. Ties have come a long way in the promotional-products marketplace and can now be imprinted in a shadow print or tone-on-tone. Those methods make it possible for the ties to yield a soft touch of advertising. Sell your customer more than one style of shirts in different colors and match them with ties that coordinate their appearance appropriately. If you have clients concerned about the appearance of personnel, you also have the chance to sell them other items that are needed to spice up their exhibit space—such as floor mats, banners, table covers and the like. These products, coupled with the shirts and ties, will add a professional appearance to the booth.

We have customers that buy ladies cotton twill shirts for employees who work their kiosk at fairs and festivals. Is there something I can show them that will add more flair to the shirts besides the fact that their logo is sewn on the garments?

An item that would add pizzazz would be a screen printed lapel pin that can be pinned on the shirts. Most companies that demonstrate products or services at events, feature special offers such as discounts or early sign-up bonuses. Those specials could be imprinted on the pins and would bring attention to the offers. By suggesting removable pins that can be placed on the shirts, you are providing another means of exposure for your clients. That also means the shirts can be decorated the same and the pins will be used to highlight that day’s special offer. To spice up the shirts more, show your customers ones that come in bright colors. That will make the presenters stand out even more. Companies that buy imprinted caps for events can also be excellent prospects for this product because they can be attached to them, too. You also might suggest badge holders that are worn on lanyards around the neck. There are several styles that are imprinted on the top portion of the holder and/or on the lanyard. The advertising message is printed there and the name of the employee would be printed on the insert. By adding these items to your shirt orders you are helping your clients market themselves more effectively.

A client is about to place an order for denim shirts that will be given to realtors who attend an annual western-style theme party. Since I’ve got some time on this order, are there things I can sell this customer that will increase
attendance at the event?

Some customers who use garments as marketing tools fail to take advantage of all the potential they offer. Use the denim shirts as the first step to increase attendance at the event by suggesting that people who RSVP early will have their monograms sewn into the shirts. By offering that option, more people will commit to attend beforehand. This suggestion also gives you an additional decorating option that will increase your revenue. Since you have lead time, suggest they buy a couple of things to mail in advance of the party that can increase exposure. Show them items keeping with the western theme; two possibilities could be sheriff’s badges and bolo ties. The sheriff’s badges would be mailed three weeks before the event and the bolo ties the week after that. Cards would be attached to both items stating that attendees who brings both items with them to the party will be entered into the night’s drawing for a nice cash prize. This effort adds excitement to the event and will definitely pick up the response rate. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they stage events is they don’t send out enough impressions to their audience. Coupling the extra mailings with the option of personalizing the shirts will cause the event to have higher attendance than usual.

I have what must be a very unique account: a drive-in movie theater. For the last 10 years, its business has been great, but when last summer’s high gas prices showed up, business fell off. The owners want to have a great season this year and want to know if I can help make that happen.

Drive-in movies are like any other industry that depends on repeat business to be successful. One idea would be to show them how a loyalty program would bring in customers more often. Since people usually sit in their cars during the movies with the air conditioning off, they would certainly appreciate something that makes their experience more pleasurable. A hand fan imprinted with the drive-in’s logo would fit that bill. Patrons would receive them at the ticket booth on the season’s first visit and would be told that when they return with the fan that a sticker would be placed on the reverse side. Pitching this idea gives you the chance to sell the stickers, too. Each time the person returns with the fan another sticker will be placed on the fan and on the third visit they will be given a free carload pass to be used for their next visit. To increase business even more, the drive-in could provide another gift level such as an embroidered shirt to patrons who come to the theatre even more often. This item could also be sold in the concession stand and that gives you the chance to create business on a continuous basis because of re-orders. Since there are thousands of entities that depend on repeat business just like your drive-in does, you could pitch loyalty programs to them, too. Many retail venues give away paper cards that are either punched or stamped on return visits. Since these cards are flimsy, more times than not, they are misplaced or never used. Giving people something that is more substantial than a paper card, then making wearable’s part of the effort, will make loyalty programs really work.