Recycling has become a common-place practice in America for a wide variety of materials. The reuse of items (aluminum cans, plastic containers, etc.) can provide a benefit if the process is efficient and results in savings of energy, resources and costs. Screen printers are often very familiar with different forms of recycling, whether it involves screens, inks or even printed shirts sometimes (if the decorations can be removed successfully). But what about the art department and its materials?
Certainly, screen printers are known to reuse graphic films on occasion and tape or cover sheets, but what about digital files? There seems to be a block to many companies in reusing graphics they create for designs. Some of this probably relates to a fear that clients will see this as a betrayal if their graphics end up looking similar to a competitor’s. But what about graphics that a company has already done for a client if resold directly back to the same client? There is far less chance of any issues with this scenario and an even higher rate of successful sales due to the existing relationship.
Some customers will welcome the new idea and really appreciate the effort; others may become offended that you altered their original logo. The simplest solution is to ask. (All images courtesy the author)
Permission and forgiveness
The real issue breaks down to how a client’s expectations collide with the procedures and internal structure that has been presented to them during the sales process. A simple example is how the client is approached during a sale and then how they solve the art/design issue to create the graphics for their garment. Of course, a decorator shouldn’t ever use a client’s art that is provided by the client for a different purpose without permission. The main barrier is proper communication and perspective. Simply make sure the client knows it is an effort to benefit them with savings.
This process can still be a touchy subject and will depend upon the inpidual client to a large degree and whether or not they will be receptive to alteration. Some customers will welcome the new idea and really appreciate the effort; others may become offended that you altered their original logo. The simplest solution is to ask.
Once the client has given the idea a green light, you have a very warm lead to follow up with a new design mockup. The most economical way to work this kind of process is to develop a couple of modern, popular designs, and choose a couple clients’ logos into which to drop them for a test. This will also provide a gauge to know whether or not to roll it out to a larger audience. It is always a good idea to be more selective and avoid two competitors in the same area if possible (or make sure they have completely different design mockups).
If possible, the method can become a mass production item that is handled in the art department similar to a mail merge, except done with graphic files. The process can be broken down into four simple steps:
• Identify existing prospect clients whose artwork/logos are on file and develop several exciting modern design looks on new style garments;
• Contact these clients for permission and produce a set of designs for each that agreed;
• Send them an email example;
• Call or email the customer or email to close the sale (unless they call you first).
First, find what people like in the client’s or a parallel market and collect some source materials (photos, copies, etc.). Then, find an artist who can create the style you’re looking for.
Identifying existing upgradeable clients
In some ways this can be the most challenging part of the concept because the clients will have to conform to some degree of similarity for their logos to work with an embellished, trendy look. Clients should be those who are typically receptive to logo adaptations, likely those who have businesses that are promoted using decorated apparel more than once a year.
Frequency is important in a judgment for two reasons. One is that this overture is far more likely to be successful with a client able to move apparel inventory (who will likely have channels to do so—retail store, members who collect, very loyal patrons, etc.). The second is that it is simply a better investment with less risk on the decorated-apparel business’s part to spend speculative art time on clients that order more frequently.
A simple way to approach the sorting of existing clients for this process could be to review what art files in each category you already have, and then work backwards from clients that already have logos in stock with several variations. This way, you don’t pick a bunch of clients that look great on paper, but then have to develop their logos before you can try the process (a big cost if you can’t find them or they’re not updated).
Develop several exciting modern looks
This part of the process is where most printers get stumped… with no good reason! If you are not an artist or feel that the current art staff isn’t generating trendy work, go with a simple three-step process.
First, find what people like in the client’s or a parallel market and collect some source materials (photos, copies, etc.). Then, find an artist who can create the style you’re looking for. There are many industry sites and a wide variety of sources to find talent. Some important criteria to remember is that it helps to find an artist that has experience designing for garments and make sure they have examples they created that fit the look you want.
Negotiate a fair price for the artwork and get a collection of designs that will work to use as templates for logo drops. Make sure you have a relationship with an artist that can edit the designs as you go along and you are ready for the final stages.
Approach an existing client through a channel (phone, email, snail mail, etc.) and ask permission to show them what their design would look like on some new, trendy items. Always treat these calls as an opportunity for clients to buy so as not to come off like you are pressuring. It should be a sincere effort to give a customer something that will have high value.
An additional bonus to this process is that, even if the client doesn’t wish to buy what you have presented, often times a customer will come back with an order for something else or will create their own “spin” on what you’ve presented. Some clients may act irritated when being approached but, as long one has genuine intentions to offer a value, it is unlikely to cause any real concerns. More often than not, customers appreciate the contact and effort.
Creating lead sheets can be automated in some programs like CorelDRAW, where logos can be quickly popped into a standard background with garments on it and a customer’s logo can be added into it by adjusting the colors. It is also useful to keep the logos on a separate layer so they can be edited or removed all at once.
The faster this process can be streamlined, the more companies can be reached out to at once. A good rule is to make an effort for several dozen customers at a time so results can be reviewed and the process can be refined later.
Follow up and close
Closing a sale can be pretty easy if the customer is excited about the products and they have already purchased from you before. It is equally important to try to get as much information from the contact as possible. If the client doesn’t like the examples, ask them why. Sometimes, an informative reject is of much more value than a small order, as it can create a design or ordering change that will cause other companies to decide to buy.
Clients like to buy products when they feel in control. Thus, it is important to be flexible with the process. There will occasionally be an unreasonable request for a design edit that won’t work or a price that you won’t want to match, but this also shows the true colors of the client, indicating what future orders may look like.
Offering existing clients proactive services can not only create sales where there were few, but also allow for more orders just from the contact and reminder that it creates. Other benefits are increased customer appreciation for the variety of services and products that you can offer, as well as distancing your company from the competition who are only taking the orders that walk in their doors.