Episode 117 – Prioritizing Your Marketing Dollars

Feb 7, 2020

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • How to prioritize marketing dollars

Resources & Links

Episode 117 – Prioritizing Your Marketing Dollars

Show Notes

1. Perfect basic online presence
– Google my business, bing, facebook (technical set up)

2. Perfect your ecom or online showroom (if have one)
– Images
– Nothing broken
– Technically correct and optimized (https, ssl, etc)
– Emails / auto responders set up
– Google analytics
– HIRE SOMEONE (that you aren’t related to)

3. Physical Marketing Collateral
– Business cards
– Brochures
– Samples! – if you don’t have some, get some
this means, have sample shirts or hats or something you are willing to give away and a show of what you can do and a freebie.
– Signage if you to shows
– “Uniform” yourself and any staff (upgrade them if they stink)

4. Prepare to test ad strategies (2020 might be all testing for you)
– Divide up cash
– Facebook / google local
– New show / bigger booth
– Local ads (schools, youth sports, sponsorship, chamber of commerce, meet up) (which one of these would work best for me)
– Pick at least 3 different things to test

5. Invest in new products
– Try new products to introduce. (this isn’t just a new shirt style)
– Get a cutter / vinyl
– Contract out t-shirt printing – DTG printing, wholesale toner transfers
– Caps (if you don’t do them – get a press)
– Embroidery or t-shirt printing (if you don’t do them wholesale or invest in equipment)

6. Make your delivery as best it can be
– Branded boxes
– Tags
– Hang tags
– Packing slips
– Freebees


Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 117 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, aka the CAS podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson.

Marc V: And my name is Marc Vila. Today, we’re here to talk about prioritizing some marketing dollars.

Mark S: Yeah. The idea is that you find yourself with money. Maybe it’s an income tax refund. Maybe you broke up with your girlfriend before the holidays, and you have like two grand laying around that you were going to spend. You had to cancel that vacation.

Whatever it is, we want to help you prioritize six things that we think you should do with available money for marketing.

Marc V: What actually happened was you had gone back, and you had been listening to the Custom Apparel Startups for some time, and you had read the episode about Profit First. And last year, maybe you had a pretty good year, whether it was a breakout year for you, because you’re a small business that’s just getting started. Or maybe it was your third or fourth year, and you’re finally starting to see a real dream coming true, after putting in the hours for some time.

Whatever it might be, you’re in a position where you say “I want to market. I want to spend some money. I’ve been doing some things here or there. How am I going to prioritize my marketing budget?”

Mark S: That’s really a great way to look at it, because we always draw parallels to our own businesses. ColDesi had, I think, one of its best years ever last year.

Marc V: It was a good year.

Mark S: It was a significantly great year. Digital HeatFX, we hit it out of the park. The new G4, the new Avance, everything is going swimmingly for ColDesi. So, we also have the opportunity to re-invest, and that’s what we’re looking at. We figured we’d clue you in on it, too.

Marc V: What we do here is what we talk about all the time on the Custom Apparel Startups podcast; everything from paying attention to sales to coming up with marketing plans, to looking at it as a business and not looking at it with feelings, as people who are doing things for our personal relationship and business.

With that, you have a marketing budget, hopefully already. If not, you’re getting ready to start one, and this is the podcast that is going to launch you on that. So, here is how we’ve agreed we would prioritize money, starting from dollar one.

I said “How much money are we talking about here?” And you kind of said “Start at one, and go until you run out!” Then, after you’ve gone through here, at this point, you could spend your budget here. This is realistic, no matter what your size budget is, you could spend it all doing this.

Mark S: Yeah. And after you’re done with these six, then you can go off on tangents, or you can re-invest in the ones that worked the best for you.

Marc V: Sounds great! Start us off with number one.

Mark S: Number one is perfecting your online presence. Now, whether you are an ecommerce, or whether you have an information site and you don’t sell things online, there are some basics to your online presence that kind of supersede your website. That is making sure that your listing on Google My Business is amazing.

I read a great stat the other day. I heard that 68% of all searches are local, and the most selected thing in a local search is the Google Business listing on Google Maps. So, that’s a huge priority. Not everybody uses Google, believe it or not. Some people use Bing, so you need to make sure that Bing Places is up to speed, too.

Marc V: This is going to be true of anything else where you put yourself online to be found. This is going to be Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or LinkedIn, anything that you do that is outside of your website, that are the core things that you need to have for your business. You need to have a business listing. Like you said, someone is going to go on their phone and go to Google or Bing, or talk to their phone, and ask for a local embroidery shop or t-shirt shop, or whatever it might be, and you need to be found.

It would be a shame if somebody searched for you, and they’re a mile away from you, and didn’t find you. Because they would have called you.

Mark S: Yeah. Don’t look at these as just kind of this printing up a flyer kind of marketing. What you’re doing is – there are things that need to be technically correct in all of these. You have to use the keywords that describe your business, in your Google listing, so people can find you. You have to do the same thing, when you’re setting up your Facebook profile.

We’ve done podcasts on these, which you should definitely pay attention to. But if you feel like you’re at your technical limits, you can also use that budget to hire someone to help.

Marc V: Yeah, and I think that’s really where the budget comes in mind. One example that just pops into my head, because I looked down and I saw the Google My Business thing, is Google gives you, the business owner, an opportunity to upload pictures of your business. This can be free, where you take your phone and you upload it directly into your Google profile.

But you can also hire a photographer to come out and take amazing pictures of your product, your equipment, your store. If you don’t have a store, just a bunch of finished products. Or have photographers come out and take pictures of, maybe if you do youth sports, go out to the game and see if you can’t get some pictures of the team taken.

Whatever it might be, that’s some money that you can put into this.

Mark S: I’m going to go off script for a second.

Marc V: Go for it!

Mark S: “Custom t-shirt shops near me.”

Marc V: He’s picking up his mobile phone, android device, talking to Google.

Mark S: Yep. Probably, as soon as I get past the three ads, I’m at the maps, and there’s an ad. Digital HeatFX shows up, which is great. My Shirt Fund shows up. It’s 1.3 miles away. There is a decent picture of the shirt that they might print, and then there’s a picture of their office.

Marc V: It’s a picture of the building, from Google.

Mark S: From Google, right. So, they haven’t put anything into it. Imagine if I had just seen this picture, I would not have clicked on it.

Marc V: Do they have hours? They have hours and a phone number.

Mark S: They close at 5:00. It’s unclaimed, because it says “Claim it now,” even though it does have some reviews. It’s got 57 reviews.

So, here’s a great opportunity. This company, they’ve got 57 reviews. They’re at 4.8 stars.

Marc V: They’re not managing it themselves. Google has done this, and this could be you. Google may find that your business exists, you’re crowdsourcing people, users. You can have an unclaimed business on Google, meaning that it’s your shop, but you’re not involved in it at all. Everything is pictures that Google took from their car, or a customer of yours might have taken.

Mark S: Right. The next profile down, Tampa T-Shirts, does have some beautiful pictures of their place, of their equipment, of some of the shirts that they’ve done. They do screen printing. They’ve got some screenshots for the website. Their profile is fully developed, and it looks terrific.

If I was just searching for a custom t-shirt, that’s the company I would do business with.

Marc V: Yeah, and that’s who you want to be. The same is going to be for Facebook. If you have a Facebook profile, you should do the same thing there. You have an opportunity for your image and your banner image on Facebook to look really well. You could have a photographer or somebody good at Photoshop, you could pay for that, if that’s not your forte.

Just because you’re really good at designing t-shirts doesn’t mean you’re necessarily great at designing a Facebook banner, or you’re a great photographer. So, this is an opportunity to take some money and spend it on that, and anything else where you’ve taken the time to put yourself.

If you’ve put yourself on Waze or Yelp or Twitter, or any of these places, you need to go ahead and technically get these things looking great – or looking great, and technically written well. There are companies out there that you can hire, that can do this stuff. Read their reviews.

Mark S: Yeah, you can definitely do that. You can hit our podcasts, and maybe you’ll be a little bit more prepared to talk to the people that you hire. Right?

Marc V: Yeah, that sounds great. Now that you’ve done that, hopefully you say “I’m good there. I’m done. I’ve already done that.”

Mark S: I do want to reinforce that this is worth money. This is worth hiring a pro, if you are not super comfortable in doing it yourself. I just want to point that out.

Marc V: And you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get somebody to do some of this stuff.

Mark S: I feel like you’re not going to spend much on that. The next one, you might spend a little bit more.

Marc V: Yes.

Mark S: That is your approach.

Marc V: Sure. Perfect your ecommerce store or your online showroom, as we call it, which is just your website, where you can’t buy stuff.

Mark S: It doesn’t sound as fancy as “online showroom.”

Marc V: Yeah. If you have a website, and all it is it talks about your business and who you are, how to contact you, maybe it has some pictures or videos of things you’ve done. That’s great, and it’s great to have those. If that website, or your ecommerce store is, for one, technically not right, meaning it’s got errors in it, you can visibly see a part of the page is broken.

Mark S: You’re missing pictures, they don’t always show up. If you can make your store show up in search, and the description under the listing doesn’t really speak to you, if it isn’t really about your business. Because if you don’t fill certain things in, then Google will randomly pull them from your website and display them.

So, you may have the name of your business listed, and your shipping policy is next, which you don’t want.

Marc V: That’s true. This is when you Google search. It will say the name of the website, and then underneath it, there’s a good 150 characters or something like that. Depending on what device you’re on, it’s going to show it a little differently. Anyway, technically make sure it’s right.

Also, when you go to your website, if you’re going in Chrome or Firefox or one of those, you look in the top left corner, next to where it says your website URL, and there’s usually some sort of a lock. It should be locked and gray or black, or something like that.

If it’s red or unlocked, or it’s got a big exclamation point, that means that technically something is broken. Google and the browsers deem your website is not fully secured, and that’s going to go ahead and just bring down, for one, the likelihood of you being found, and two, the likelihood of somebody trusting your business, if they get there and they see a big exclamation point in the top left.

Mark S: Yeah, and you can tell sometimes, too, if you look at the address of your website. If it’s got “https” in front of it, you can say that the “s” stands for secure. If Google has the opportunity to show two results, and one of them has been secured and one hasn’t, they will show the secured one first.

Also, it’s dirt simple to do. You call your host, and you give them a few dollars, and they will do that for you. It’s not trouble.

Marc V: Yeah, like GoDaddy or something like that.

Mark S: Yes.

Marc V: These are all technical things you want to make sure. Make sure nothing is broken, your site is secure, everything works right. You should go through and do a test of these things, too. If you have forms that say “contact me,” fill them out real quick. Test them out, because they can break over time. Just because they worked last year doesn’t mean that they’re going to work today.

Mark S: As we well know. You should also look at your websites on different browsers and different phones. Most search now is done on the phone, like I just did. You may sit at your desktop, and everything looks fine on your website. But it may look funky on an iPhone or on an android phone. Or if someone is using Firefox as a browser, or Safari, then your website is displayed slightly differently.

It’s gotten to, lately, when we do a new page for the ColDesi sites, we do two or three different versions for different devices.

Marc V: And you can go online and search for “view my website in different browsers.” There’s a bunch of tools out there that are free, where you put in your website name, and it will just mimic all the different browsers. You can click in mobile devices, and see that. That’s a good technical thing to check.

There was something else. Oh! One of the things I want you to think about with that is, oftentimes, we look in the mirror or we look at our business, or we look at our relationships, and we don’t see them from the outside. Meaning that there’s something wrong, that we can’t see, because we look at it all of the time.

So, when you’re looking at your website, and even going above to number one, your Google My Business and such, when you’re looking at this stuff, really dive in and think to yourself – compare yourself to another brand or another company.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: Just really say “Is there something I wish I would do differently? Does it look really, really good?”

Mark S: I’m going to give you the much more basic version. If you did your website yourself, and you’re not a website developer, then there’s an 85% chance that your website is not attractive. You know what I mean? Because you’re going to take a picture that you spent a long time working on. So, it’s the best picture you took in that four hour period you were working on it.

Someone else is going to look at that, and not have that emotional connection to the picture, or the font that you picked. You’re going to see it, and like “I can’t even read the text on that shirt.” So, you really need to get an outside opinion on the look and the feel and the images, and the copy for your website, to make sure it’s up to snuff.

Marc V: Yeah. This is something, talking about spending some of your marketing budget. Some of it is just going to be fixing some technical things. like getting your site secure, by paying for the security through your host provider, or whatever that might be.

Other things are code and things like that, might be broken. Or you got something through a GoDaddy theme or through WordPress or Shopify, or one of these pre-built systems, Wix, where you don’t necessarily need any technical ability to build it. But something in there is still broken. It doesn’t work.

You can pay, usually the company like GoDaddy has a service, I’m sure, and Wix and all of these. Or you might pay somebody who is a contractor.

Mark S: No one you’re related to.

Marc V: No one you’re related to, that’s the rule.

Mark S: Think of this as – I’m going to have to go back to using the house analogy. Don’t paint, if your foundation is cracked. Right? Fix your foundation first, which is what we’re talking about. Then, work on the pretty stuff.

Marc V: Next, in regards to your website still, if you’ve got a website, the next step up that you’re going to want to take is to make sure you’ve got the ability to do some email marketing to everybody who comes to your website.

Mark S: If you’ve got on ecommerce site, you may have this capability already built in. What we’re talking about first is auto-responders. What you want is for your website to make people feel welcome and communicated with, even if you don’t pick up the phone and call them immediately.

Marc V: Yeah. The first step is your website needs to have the ability to have a place where your customers can easily sign up to receive more information from you, if they would like to.

That’s something technically, that you may have to hire somebody to help you get set up.

Mark S: Or it’s built into tons of websites.

Marc V: Yeah, or it’s built in. Or you might not have an email software that you use, like MailChimp or Constant Contact or one of these. If that’s the case, then you might want to look into doing that.

Give your customers the opportunity to sign up and get information from you. I think that’s the first step, to have that. Then, take that to the next level, and build out some emails. So, if a customer fills out the form, you can have an automatic reply to that email, “Thanks for signing up. Here’s some great information about me.”

Mark S: In both areas, in both of our brochure sites and our ecommerce sites, we spend an unending amount of time and money on making sure that we give you guys the opportunity, an attractive opportunity to give us your information, if you’re interested. And we’re constantly working on the emails that we use to follow up, and what we’re going to say in them, to make sure that they are actually getting out and effective.

It’s incredibly valuable. If someone comes to your website, whether or not they came through an ad or not, you paid for them to be there. I want you to think about that. If you had to hand somebody $20 to walk into your store, would you just let them wander around, and then leave, without wanting to talk to them? Without getting their information? No. “Here’s $20. Have a nice day.”

Marc V: That’s true. All the time you spent to get people to show up to the website, however that was, even if it’s just in person, handing out some business cards and flyers, you got people there with your time or your money. So, part of number two, in kind of perfecting your online store, is going ahead and getting some email marketing set up, and also making sure that there is an easy way for people to contact you.

Mark S: Yeah. Didn’t you do a mini-cast on email marketing?

Marc V: I did, on just basically like sending an email through MailChimp. It’s pretty easy to do. It’s a really popular software that’s out there. There’s a bunch of other ones that are just as easy and great to work with.

Mark S: I don’t know about just as easy. MailChimp is pretty easy. They’ll let you do – your first 2,000 customers are free.

Marc V: Yeah, but they don’t pay us.

Mark S: That’s a good point. We should find somebody to pay us.

Marc V: There’s a bunch out there. Check them out. Really, what you want to do is you want to easily get it integrated into your website. If you have to pay somebody to do this -.

Mark S: Please do!

Marc V: Yeah. If you have a website builder, like Wix or Shopify or GoDaddy, where you just did it on your own or somebody helped you do it, then you’re going to want to go ahead and contact them and say “I want to be able to connect email marketing.” They’ll tell you some options that you can have.

Mark S: I know that we have – I think the nature of most of our customers, they’re kind of do-it-yourselfers. Right? So, don’t do this yourself. That’s what I’m saying. You’re setting aside dollars, specifically for marketing, and this is one of the things that you could probably figure out. But what I want you to do is I want you to recognize it as being a valuable investment of your cash.

Marc V: That’s why we’re talking about this being on the paid marketing side. If you can get somebody to help you get this integrated, get set up in MailChimp or Constant Contact, or one of these, and get some emails created for you, that it was your idea.

You said “Alright. I’m envisioning how I want my customer’s kind of journey to be. They come to my website. I say ‘Hey, sign up to keep in touch, or I’ll give you a coupon,’ or whatever it might be.” First, they get an email that thanks them, and provides them the coupon. Then, a week later, I want to send them to my Facebook page, to follow me there, and my other social media accounts.”

“Then, a few days after that, I want to tell them to go check out my YouTube channel, because I’ve got videos on there, or where to see pictures of my work, how to contact me, let them know an event that I’m at. Every Sunday, I do this market.”

Mark S: Those are all great automated emails that you should send.

Marc V: And there’s tons of people out there that you can hire to create this for you in MailChimp or something like that, and then just hand you the keys. Then, you can go in there and edit it, if you still want to DIY. There’s tons of people out there. It’s a great investment of those marketing dollars, going online.

Mark S: That’s the approach I actually take in consulting and things like that. I usually find somebody to figure things out and do it. Then, I pay them, and then I’ll go in and edit it. I like that pattern a lot.

The next one that you put down here, I thought was great for you to remember, thank you. It’s to make sure that you’re tracking your site, and that you have the technical backend done for Google Analytics and your Facebook pixel.

Google Analytics is a dashboard that Google provides, that will tell you the number of people that have been to your site over time. They’ll tell you what regions they’re from, their age group. They’ll tell you how many people came to your site and left immediately, how many people stayed around, how many people purchased something online, if you do that.

It is the dashboard for your online business life, really.

Marc V: Yeah. The example we gave before, when we were talking about this, was in your storefront, you can physically see people walking in and out. You can see the area of the store people gravitate to. Your staff, if you have an employee, can tell you “Oh, yeah. People really like this shirt. People talk about this.”

You can see the flow. You might even have cameras, that you can watch it on fast forward, and watch people move through the store. That’s what retailers do.

But in an online store, you can’t see that. It’s really a mystery, unless you turn on some software that will help you track all of that. Then, you can see what’s the most popular area of your online store. If you have an area that says “Custom fashion,” and a lot of people are going there, you know that the people that are attracted to your website think that area is interesting, and you should do something in that area more.

Mark S: I was doing this just over the weekend. I was looking at advertising results. We do Google ads. What I would do is I would see the keywords that people walked into our digital store for. Then, I looked at the bounce rate, which is the ones who kind of poked their head in the door, and left.

Marc V: Yeah. Wrong store.

Mark S: Right. Wrong store. The lesson in that, for example, would be that I put something in my store window that attracted peoples’ attention to come in. But they took one look at everything that was inside, and it did not match their expectations. That’s a bounce rate, and that’s something that Google will teach you over time, so it’s really valuable.

And on the Facebook pixel side, it’s the other way around. That’s so you can track things that happen on Facebook, with Facebook ads and Facebook business.

Marc V: Then, you’re going to be able to go in and see what’s happening, in regards to Facebook ads and things like that. You’ll be able to see what’s happening on your website, in conjunction with Facebook, how many people are coming. Facebook will also go ahead and provide you some information, like Google will, on stats, on users, and back and forth.

Connecting all of that stuff together is really important. It is not very complicated. Usually, you can get it done for pretty cheap. Or if you call up, say GoDaddy or whoever you work with, they probably can tell you the spot where you can do it yourself.

Mark S: Yes. All of it is worthy of spending money on.

Marc V: It’s worthy of spending money on. Do not spend hours fumbling on this, to give it up.

Mark S: You go sell some t-shirts, so you can pay somebody to do this.

Marc V: There’s plenty of contractors out there that you can find, that can get you set up on Google Analytics, for very inexpensive. You’re not looking to create a crazy custom-made dashboard that’s going to cost you $4,000. You’re looking to get some code put on, and somebody to show you where to get it.

Mark S: Yep.

Marc V: Number three, now you’re online. It’s healthy. Another thing here about skipping some of that. If you don’t have a website or it’s not a very complicated website, it’s very simple, or you don’t have an ecommerce store, you might skip over this. Right?

Mark S: Yeah, you could have, but it’s too late now. You already listened to it, so you may as well get a website, to do all of that.

Marc V: Number three is almost 2A or 2A and B. But number three is your physical marketing collateral stuff.

Mark S: Yeah. What is everything about your business? If you do, like most of our customers do, the vast majority of your business is local, what are the pieces of that image that you present to the community and your potential customers? Go through them one by one, and see what needs to get better.

Marc V: Like your business cards, any flyers or brochures or pamphlets that you’ve created, to pass out. If you go to shows or events, any signage that you have. If you have a tablecloth, does it have your logo on it? Do you have a nice sign? Are you still using things that you’ve drawn by hand, or is it time to get something printed up nicely?

You can spend some money on this stuff, and eat up some good marketing money with this.

Mark S: And I would, too. I mean, if you have a printed brochure or you have your business cards, and you have to draw a line through anything, get new stuff printed. If you have stuff that’s not accurate, because it’s old, but you still have 500 of them in your garage, recycle them and get something new.

Marc V: I know!

Mark S: It is so hard to do this, too.

Marc V: I get it, too.

Mark S: How many years of catalogs did we throw away?

Marc V: So many! It’s unfortunate. The thing is, I know everybody listening to this is trying to figure out how to save every scrap of everything they’ve done.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: It’s really hard. I don’t think this person listens to this podcast, because it was in a different group, but I saw somebody this weekend ask “What should I do with the little bit of thread from when I do color changes on my embroidery machine?” Like where you feed the thread through, and then cut it, and you’ve got these one or two-foot long strips of thread.

It’s like “Nothing!” Even that little bit of thread was painful for this person to get rid of.

Mark S: To waste.

Marc V: It’s going to be painful to throw away those business cards or recycle them, or whatever you want to do.

Mark S: But seriously, it’s not that expensive. And once you get rid of all of the old stuff, you have to let go of the emotional connection, the hours you spent designing things like that, you can get a new brochure and new business cards done very inexpensively. They’ll look terrific, and you can be really proud that everything is accurate on them.

Marc V: And it looks fresh and new. I’ll tell you this. Once you’ve done it a bunch of times, you don’t have the same emotional connection to all of that stuff, and you can go ahead and let it go. Then, when you get something new and fresh, it feels great. You’re proud to hand it out.

Definitely, if you have to white out something or scratch or mark through it, you want to get rid of that. This is money well worth spending. You’re not going to see that in – that’s when you go to a restaurant that doesn’t manage themselves well, and they have things on the menu that they don’t serve anymore. They have their old prices, where they added more money on top, with marker.

Mark S: Yeah, it’s awful!

Marc V: You’re not going to go to a professional, like an Outback type of brand – all of their menus are going to be perfect. They’re going to serve everything that’s on there. It’s going to look great. Eventually, they know those menus are going to be recycled, and new ones are going to come into play. You’ve got to do the same thing for your business.

Mark S: Imagine you’re attending like a local market, and there’s a couple of competitive vendors there. You hand them the trifold from 2017, the little brochure that you did in Word and had printed, and the next person down the road leaves them with an up-to-date price list and a beautiful brand new brochure.

They’re going to get back at the end of the day, and look at the two, and they’re going to make their choice.

Marc V: I would say, generally speaking, don’t use your home inkjet printer to print these things. Some folks will still do this, even when their business has gotten to a pretty big size. They’ll still go home and they’ll hit Print, and print 50 things on their HP little printer at home. It costs you so much more money than getting awesome stuff made.

Mark S: Don’t do that. There is a FedEx Kinkos or a UPS Store or whatever they are, everywhere.

Marc V: And there’s places like GotPrint and VistaPrint, and some of these places online, where you can get this stuff done. So, invest in that. That’s the next thing to do.

And then, the one that you had mentioned was samples.

Mark S: Yeah. I like this, especially if your business is local. You’re talking to people all the time. Then, you should have great samples that you can show, of everything that you do, and everything that you want to do.

If you did a jacket back once with your embroidery, and it was on a high end Nike warmup jacket, then do another one, and have it as a sample, so you might sell something for $110. Do a bunch of caps with your logo on it, and give it away.

Marc V: This is not only money, but some time investment, too. I went to a store this weekend, and they were giving away promo hats. The embroidery was sharp. It was a small little logo in the corner, so I know it couldn’t have been more than 1,200 stitches, maybe. It was a little tiny logo, and it was embroidered on the cap.

It was on a nice cap, and they were giving them away. I took one and wore it all weekend, and I can have any hat I want. People will like that stuff.

Mark S: And for you, that’s a win, because you’re going to sell more hats that way. That company is not going to sell more hats. That wasn’t the goal.

Marc V: Exactly. I think you take an opportunity to create some freebies to give away. Show off what you can do. Show off your best work. Spend a little bit of money on samples that are for giveaway. Spend a little bit of money on samples that are in your showroom, or that you can bring on a mobile showroom, if you don’t have a physical place where you bring customers, but you go out to see them.

Mark S: Yeah, and I would say that it’s much less painful to spend this money, and to give samples away. Right now, many people that are doing samples, they’re taking shirts out of their stock. It’s like they’re giving away their money, out of the stock in their garage. Once you’ve already spent the money on garments and supplies, and allocated it specifically to samples, then you’re looking at it differently.

It’s a different perspective. You won’t feel bad about it. You’ll be more likely to engage somebody with those samples, than one that you found in your drawer, because you couldn’t use it.

Marc V: Anything that looks bad, has been damaged, stained, ripped, torn or just hasn’t been replaced in years, it’s probably time to let some of that go, and replace it with some fresh stuff, some fresh styles.

I think, also, this is an opportunity for you to level up on what you sell. In the custom apparel business, the most popular stuff, the most purchased stuff, is the cheapest, in quantity. It’s easy to find the cheapest shirt, put a logo on it for a low price, and then sell it and make a profit that way.

You can typically, you always will make a larger profit if you’re selling a more high-end item. The value is perceived better. This is an opportunity to go wherever you get your apparel from, and buy some of their really nice stuff.

Mark S: Like Colman and Company.

Marc V: Yeah, like Colman and Company. We have this backpack that’s like a $50 or $60 wholesale backpack. It’s awesome! That’s something that you would spend $100 for at Target or Staples, or one of those. Get one of those, put a logo on it, and display that thing.

Mark S: I know many of you are going “I could never sell a $100 backpack.” Well, you’ve never shown anybody a $100 backpack, so you don’t know. I’ll tell you that this is exactly the approach that ColDesi takes. If you’ve ever gotten a sample from us for Digital HeatFX or our DTG printers, we use the DT-104 100% cotton black shirt.

We use that shirt, because it is the best shirt that we’ve been able to find for that technology. It looks amazing! I just did 20 washes on a DTG shirt, and both the shirt and the print look terrific. I think wholesale on it is $4.78. That is not an inexpensive blank shirt.

But I’ll tell you what. If you get one of the samples, you’ll be really impressed.

Marc V: Yes. I was just at Disney this weekend, just at a store, shopping in one of the stores, looking at a shirt. The guy that works there was like “I love this shirt, actually! It’s so cool!” He’s like “You’ve got to feel this one, too!” It’s just a t-shirt. He’s like “The quality of the shirts here are really nice.” It’s like a $50 t-shirt, but you pick it up and you feel it, and you’re like “It is a nice shirt!”

People will appreciate that all the time. People just don’t like t-shirts that don’t feel good. They’ll buy them, but they don’t like them.

Mark S: Yeah.

Marc V: So, this is an opportunity for you to step up your game, I guess is the point of that whole conversation. Invest in some good samples, stuff that you want to sell people, that you know that they’ll be excited to buy, and they’ll be proud to wear, and will tell other people “Go to this shop. They have this great t-shirt, this great hat. The quality was amazing! It’s a few bucks more, but it’s worth it.”

Mark S: I think that this is the time to talk about doing the same for yourself.

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: If it’s just you, if you’ve got a small staff, then you should 100% of your life, wear what you sell. Wear what you do. You’re in the unique position that you are in the apparel business. You should be wearing custom apparel with your logo on it. You should wear a custom cap with your logo on it, pants, carry a bag.

If you do promotional products, all of the pens that you use or keychains, you should really just be a very high quality walking advertisement for your work, and so should your staff. This is a marketing investment.

Don’t think about it like you’re buying t-shirts at a store, to wear. Think about it like “I’m investing in my business, because wherever I go, I wear ColDesi apparel.”

Marc V: Yes. You should get the highest end best shirt that you like, that’s comfortable for you, that you’re going to be proud to wear, that when you’re talking to a potential customer, you get to show them this shirt. “I can make you one like this. This is my favorite one.”

Make sure that the print or the embroidery or the vinyl or whatever, looks amazing, looks perfect, because what you would like to do in that scenario is sell them the shirt that you’re wearing, or that your staff is wearing, that same one. That’s the one that you should wear. Don’t wear the cheap one.

Mark S: It’s going to have a story, too, because you’re going to be able to say “You know what the best part is? I’ve had this for six months. I wear it twice a week. It still looks amazing!”

Especially if you sell bling. If you sell bling, and you’re not wearing amazing bling shirts whenever you go out, you are missing thousands of dollars of opportunity. Women will stop you in the grocery line, because I’ve heard this from more than one ProSpangle owner in particular, and they get stopped all the time. “Where did you get that shirt?”

“Funny you should mention that. I just printed my new business card. Here you go!”

Marc V: That’s a fact, right there. Anyway, get your physical stuff down. Anything that’s printed, any signage, uniforms for yourself, and samples. Invest your money in that. These are all things, in this order, that are going to make you money.

Mark S: And we picked these things specifically in this order. If you don’t have an online presence at all, that’s the only time you get to skip ahead to number three, because I want you to do these things, before you get to number four.

Marc V: So, number four, tell us about it.

Mark S: It’s get ready to test ad strategies. You’re going to set aside some money, to test different ways to advertise your business. Now, when you think about testing advertising, it’s never “send out one postcard.”

Marc V: And see if people call.

Mark S: And see if people call. It’s never “place one ad in a community newspaper, and see if you sell anything.” Advertising is a strategy. It’s not an event. What I want you to do is kind of take this lump of cash, and choose the advertising methods you’d like to try. Divide it into equal portions, and then invest.

Marc V: Yes. 2020 for you, might only be testing. It might just actually only be testing stuff. The reason is some of this stuff is going to take some commitment from you. If you’re going to test out going to like market shows or live events or trade shows, where you’re going to have a booth, you’re probably going to have to – if there’s an event in September, you’re probably booking it now.

Mark S: Even if you’re testing out different local markets, it’s not like you do one Saturday show in St. Pete, one Saturday show in Tampa, and then pick. Because the first Saturday, it rained. The second Saturday, there was a football game in Tampa, so nobody came to the market. You’ve got to strategize your tests.

Marc V: Folks who go to these markets and events and trades shows will tell you, some of them are just champion winners, and others are a bust, and it’s hard to say why. Everyone will speculate why. “Oh, it was Saturday before Superbowl Sunday.”

Mark S: But they don’t know.

Marc V: They don’t know, so you’ve got to commit to some of these things. A few things we wrote are Facebook or -.

Mark S: Google ads. What I like about these, though, is that within 45 days, you have a good indication of whether or not they’re going to work.

Marc V: Yeah. This is a good opportunity to test. Again, it’s not putting $100 in for a week, and seeing if anybody buys something. You’ve got to commit to this stuff.

If you’re going to do Facebook or Google ads, you’re talking – I would say two months. Two months is the time. 45 days is probably a bare minimum for you to try different things out, get it rolling.

Mark S: And since people are always going to ask 100% of the time, I would say for each one of these strategies that you’re going to test, you should be able to invest $1,000 to $1,500, at least. Does that makes sense?

Marc V: Just in general, for any of these.

Mark S: Yeah, for Facebook or Google. If you’re going to test Facebook ads, plan on over a couple of months, spending $1,000 to $1,500, to see what’s going to work. If you are doing local ads, like in a school newsletter or on a menu in a diner that nobody goes to.

Marc V: Or your local Chamber of Commerce will allow sponsorship of emails or newsletters, or on their website or something like that. All of these things are typically going to be some sort of a package deal. It doesn’t matter what it is, for local advertising; a park bench, a billboard, a menu, a school sign, whatever it is. They typically are going to want you to purchase it in some sort of a bundle, or for some sort of a period of time.

You should be doing that, because it’s going to take some time for people to do it. The last podcast, we mentioned how some schools will have like banners of sponsors, like on the gate in the part of the school where you drop kids off or pick them up. Somebody might drive by that 14 times, 28 times, before it’s the day when they needed custom apparel.

Mark S: Yeah. That’s not the kind of thing where they’re going to put up the banner on the fence, and then you’re going to get like 11 phone calls that night.

Marc V: No. It’s over time. The same with everything else. If you sponsor youth sports and you sponsor one of the teams, and you have signage up at the this sporting event and things like that, it might take you half of a season before some people start to respond to that.

Mark S: Maybe you’re going to test getting your car wrapped with the name of your business or something like that, too. I’ve got a note here – as long as you test three things. What I don’t want is for you to pick one of these things, and then it does not work. I was about to say “and it failed,” but that’s not true. It doesn’t work for your business.

This is what you’re trying to find out. You’re trying to find out which one of these works for your business. So, if you have $3,000, I want you to divide that into three, and figure out a way to try three different things. If you have $1,500, I want you to work on $500 worth of stuff. Just test three things, to figure out what works.

Then, you can circle around, and continue to do that.

Marc V: And you know what? You had mentioned the car wrap thing, which we haven’t really spoken about that. I think that there’s opportunity there, for the right business, for the right custom apparel business.

Mark S: I’ve seen a lot of very successful customers, when they come in for demonstrations on their next piece of equipment. I’m thinking about One Stop, Lori Consoli’s shop. Their vehicle is wrapped beautifully, even with rhinestones on the glass and everything. I know that gets them business.

Marc V: Yeah, and it’s frequent. When you see somebody coming in here who owns a shop that is successful for a time, if they don’t have a wrap, they at least have large magnets or large stickers on it. That’s free for you to do.

Well, not completely free, because you probably have to pay to get something and put it on.

Mark S: Yeah. You have to pay to do it.

Marc V: But not compared to advertising, it’s free. If you were to pay somebody else to do that, so I would recommend that. You can invest in that. I’m not sure of a full car wrap these days, what that costs.

Mark S: Me, neither. If you know, then send us a message. I’m really kind of curious. Because you know what I want to get? I want to get the matte wrap that looks really cool.

Marc V: Yeah, that does look really cool. You should do that.

Mark S: Okay, so the next thing, we’re up to number five. And remember, we’re kind of going in our order of preference, which is counterintuitive, because you’d think that all we really want to do is sell equipment, you know. But this is number five.

We want you to invest in new products. This is, maybe you’re not buying a new piece of equipment to test. Maybe you’re buying transfers to test, or maybe you’re buying products from somebody else, to two-step test.

Marc V: We have a lot of folks that come in here to purchase an embroidery machine, that will say “I have a sign shop, and I started doing vinyl t-shirts. Then, I had some embroidery requests, and I’ve been outsourcing it for the past year. I’m ready to bring it on board.”

That’s a path you can take, too, where maybe you do one thing, and then you “I’ll invest in a cutter and some vinyl, because it’s a modest investment, so I can do t-shirts.” Maybe that’s where you are right now. Then, if you consider embroidery, you can outsource for a while, until it’s the right time for you to pick up the equipment.

Mark S: And because this is really what to do with marketing dollars, what we want you to do with this is think about how you can expand your business or expand your offering, by testing out new things. For example, if you are a screen print shop and you’ve been turning away small orders, maybe you want to get a vinyl cutter or a get a white toner printer, like Digital HeatFX, or just order the transfers, and offer this to customers for a couple of months, to see if it’s something you want to bring inhouse.

Or maybe you never do hats, and you decide to do hats for a short period of time, or UV, or really anything.

Marc V: Buying a cap press, I wouldn’t necessarily put that under marketing dollars spent. However, you’re talking about this isn’t just marketing that we’re talking about here. Because marketing dips into every portion of your business. If you see the opportunity to make money selling hats, that investment on the cap press is similar to the investment in the samples that we talked about earlier.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: Where it’s like you see this as an opportunity, you purchase this, you use it to create things. Those things you create are used to get new customers. So, there’s a lot of opportunity. This step here, I think it is important to understand that you are doing other things first, to get successful, because what you don’t want to run into is a situation where you’re not making any money, and you can’t do well, and you can’t sell anything, so you think “Oh, the solution is buy a vinyl cutter.” That might not be the solution yet.

Mark S: I agree. You want to make sure, too, that you’re able to focus on whatever it is you’re doing, trying to be successful.

So, at this point, you’ve already made sure that you are easy to find online, and that all of that is technically right. You’ve perfected your website and your ecommerce site. You’ve done all of your physical marketing collateral.

You’ve picked your test ad strategies, and now you’re looking at the product expansion part of what you might do with your marketing dollars.

Marc V: Then, there’s the last one here, number six, which I kind of like this one. This one is always one of my favorite things.

Mark S: Me, too. I think this is more number six because it definitely has an impact on your business, but it doesn’t have the first impact on your business. Like these other marketing things, it’s kind of like branding for me.

Like ColDesi only recently started doing ads, just so you would remember the name ColDesi, which is branding ads, because we didn’t care. We want you to buy embroidery machines and DTG printers. Now, we’re at a point where we care. That’s kind of where this is.

Marc V: Yeah; making your delivery as best as it can be. You may already have a nice delivery, meaning that this is how you produce the shirts, this is how you get them to the customer. But you can further invest in this by stepping up that game.

Mark S: Yeah. We actually talk about packaging and delivery materials. We’ve both brought in items that we’ve gotten, because they were beautifully and nicely packaged. I think I mentioned it in an episode, when I got my Ring doorbell, it was one of the most pleasant experiences. I felt really good about spending the money, just because of the way they packaged it, and made it easy to set up.

Think about that from your perspective, from whatever you’re selling. You want somebody to get it and say “Wow! This is better than I expected!”

Marc V: This is getting branded boxes, tagging your shirts, putting hang tags on your shirts, the little plastic bags. Sometimes, I’m a little malleable on where I can drop this in. The reason is because depending on how poorly you’re doing it now.

Mark S: You could be killing your business.

Marc V: You just shoot it all the way to the top.

Mark S: Plus, let me ask you something. About how many packages does Colman and Company ship every month?

Marc V: 1,500 to 2,000.

Mark S: When you ship a couple of thousand packages a month, you’re very focused on the packages. So, I would agree. I think if you’re doing a bad job, you know it. You’re putting stuff in a blue generic grocery bag, and you’re dropping it off to customers. Then you need to prioritize this pretty quickly.

Marc V: And it doesn’t need to be crazy. Ours is simple. We use boxes, Colman and Company tape, and we have the packing slip in there. Our shipping philosophy is get it there fast, not broken. This way, because you have to be able to get that stuff, so you the listener can make money.

Mark S: One of my favorite things about ColDesi is that if you buy a $20,000 piece of equipment, we do put microwave popcorn in the box. No, we do. When you get a piece of equipment, generally you get a box that’s branded ColDesi or Digital HeatFX. You get a webcam inside the box, for service. You get instructions. It’s a nice presentation.

Marc V: I would say you can jump number six to the top, if when you deliver your shirts, you make all the shirts, you pile them on a table, and then you reach your arm underneath, to kind of fold them all in half, and put them back into the box that you got, the company box, and fold it up with not even tape, but do that fold thing.

Mark S: Stop that!

Marc V: Then, you put that in the car, and that’s how you bring it to your customer. Although they may have never complained that they got that, they might not know to complain, really. Because the experience of digging through those shirts, “Where are the smalls?” That’s the most annoying thing.

And you know it is, because you decorate apparel, and having a pile of shirts and figuring out “Do I have any mediums?”, and “There’s one!”, and you pull it out.

Mark S: It’s like looking for something at TJ Maxx.

Marc V: If you’re delivering it like that, I would prioritize this a little bit more, and step up and say “Okay, what can I do a little bit better than this?”

Mark S: It’s just like if your website is already broken, then you prioritize that.

Marc V: Yes.

Mark S: I like that approach. I would say that we’ve got some examples here. Branded boxes, tags, custom tags for the back of the shirts, hang tags, making sure there’s a packing slip that itemizes everything. Then, maybe you put a thank you card in there.

Marc V: A freebie, like a hat or a koozie.

Mark S: A coupon for your next order, something. You want them to be comfortable opening up the order. Make it obvious that they got what they ordered. Make sure that everything is clean, and they just have a good impression of you and your company.

Marc V: If you do deliver, because plenty of folks out there say “I got a box in the mail from when I ordered my apparel. I got a company box, and it’s still in good condition. I don’t want to throw that away. It feels wasteful.” I understand that. There’s something about being conscious about wasting and not wasting things.

But stickers are really inexpensive. You can really do some nice stuff with it. You can get a pretty big sticker printed. For every order, it will cost you a buck. Then, you can put that on the box, on the top of the box, or buy the custom tape, and tape it up. You can do some things where you can still be conscious about not being wasteful, but step up the way it looks.

Mark S: I do want to caution you guys, though, if you are using, which is really common, the box your shirts came in, that has SanMar or TSC Apparel, or one of the others wholesalers on it. If you’re using that box, then their name is on it. Your customers are going to Google it, and they’re going to find “Oh, look. I can find that same shirt in 57 other places.”

Marc V: That’s a good point. I’ll tell you, I would never, ever deliver it in that box. You know that. I’m not afraid of throwing things out and recycling things, and getting rid of things that don’t look good. So, I would never do that.

Mark S: I get it. I probably would, but I’d wrap it in the brown paper. I’d get rolls of brown paper. That’s classy. Use a Sharpie on the outside.

Marc V: Cool! Well, we’ve got a bunch of things on how you can prioritize some of your marketing dollars, in this episode. Hopefully, you’ve left this with seeing some new opportunities.

Mark S: And if you have some money to spend that’s earmarked for marketing, then I just want to say congratulations! I think it’s amazing! 100% or 90% of the businesses that fail don’t consider marketing, so I think that the fact that you’ve got some cash and you’re listening to this episode, is a testament to your business so far.

Marc V: It’s going to be scary to go out there and say “Gosh, I’m going to spend $2,500 in advertising in this local XYZ.”

Mark S: And maybe not make any money.

Marc V: It’s scary, but if you’ve been listening to this and you’ve been thinking really smart about your business, then over all of this content, you should realize what niche you’re in, where those people are, how to reach them, what message might resonate with them.

If you’re doing all of that, and you’re not just throwing a dart and hoping there’s a dartboard somewhere in front of you, then you’re going to get some customers.

Mark S: Alright, you guys. Thanks very much for listening! This has been episode 117 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. Please, if this is your first episode, go listen to all of them in order. Start with number two.

And if you have the opportunity to recommend the podcast -.

Marc V: That would be great!

Mark S: Or ColDesi and Colman and Company to others in the business, we’d appreciate it.

Marc V: You can check out ColDesi.com and you can see all types of awesome equipment that we’ve got available. And ColmanAndCompany.com – just Google search Colman and Company. You’ll find it.

Mark S: No “e” in Colman.

Marc V: That’s where we have our supplies and vinyl, and lots of things; heat transfer papers and embroidery supplies, thread. I can’t think of everything we sell, right now.

Mark S: Keep saying stuff. We have like 4,000 products!

Alright guys, thanks for listening. You all have a good business!

Marc V: Thank you!


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