Episode 120 – 5 Ways to Inject LIFE into a Stagnant Business

Mar 4, 2020

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • How to grow a business

Resources & Links

Episode 120 – 5 Ways to Inject LIFE into a Stagnant Business

Show Notes

5 ways to inject life into a stagnant business:

1. Get some bling transfers
2. Opposite Marketing Month – Methods
3. Opposite Marketing Month – Markets
4. Call 10 Customers and Ask what you’re missing out on
5. Back to Business Basics

What are the basics?

Put your selling shoes back on – chances are if a business is stagnant you might not be hitting the pavement and selling.

Call old leads and lost deals.

Take a hard look inside – face some hard truths on what you do wrong.
– How is your processes?
– Is your business space a mess?
– How is your art? final products?

Re-look at your pricing model – are you too low? do you make a profit so you have money to re-invest?

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 120 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila. Today we’re here to talk about the five ways to inject life into a stagnant business.

Mark S: Yeah. We hear about this occasionally. Not everybody is growing at 2X every month, and not everybody is going broke, because they’re not doing stuff right. There’s a lot of people out there – maybe it’s you – you’re a solopreneur. That means it’s just you, or you’ve got a small family business.

If you look back over the last 12 or 18 months, nothing is changing. Right? And you may be okay with that. But if you’re not, and you’re looking for ways to break out of the rut, then we’ve got some help for you.

Marc V: I think that if you are in one of those other two scenarios you mentioned, or two or three scenarios – if you’re growing really well, you’re shrinking, or you kind of feel like everything is fine, these are just good things to know in general. It’s good to help you be prepared.

I think that this is a really important episode for everybody.

Mark S: You may want to rotate through some, but I do have to bring something up before we get started. That’s we got some negative feedback from the podcast.

Marc V: Oh, really?

Mark S: Yeah. It wasn’t that negative. They just said “those two boring guys.”

Marc V: Really?

Mark S: They really did!

Marc V: Who said this?

Mark S: I never heard that! I don’t know. I’ve deleted them from the universe. So, if you’re still listening out there, thank you for the feedback.

Marc V: Yes, thank you! There’s other podcasts out there. Go to the app, search. No. Actually, I have a retraction to make.

Mark S: Okay.

Marc V: By the way, this is going to be really boring, so you can just hit fast forward, if you want. I said “letterism” last week. I meant “initialism.”

Mark S: Okay.

Marc V: Do you know what I’m talking about?

Mark S: Yes, I do. Neither one of those are words!

Marc V: It is, yes, because I Googled it to make sure.

Mark S: Did you really? That’s so disappointing!

Marc V: Or I didn’t Google it, and I’m making that up. That’s up to you, pointing that out.

Mark S: That’s so disappointing. I’m going to do that, before the end of the episode.

Okay, episode 120: Five Ways to Inject Life Into a Stagnant Business.

The approach that I was thinking, for doing this, was to kind of do things that are radically different from the norm, and see what works. ColDesi will do that, occasionally. We’ll try something brand new, like we’ll try Facebook Lives or webinars, or we’ll try not sending emails, or sending twice as many. Not that radical, but you know, there are some things that you can do, that just may be different enough to inspire your current market, or break you into a new one.

Marc V: This is one of those things, some signs of your business kind of being stagnant. There’s no particular vision for the future, of what’ going to change. Your sales seem to be staying the same, or not really going anywhere, within a range. A little up, a little down, but you’re never really moving anywhere.

And overall, you have a desire for something different or better to be happening. Here are some things you can do that are, honestly, not that hard. You could do them immediately. They pretty much don’t cost any money, so it’s great.

Let’s start with the first one.

Mark S: I said get some bling transfers. Really, if you’re doing embroidery, then you should get some bling transfers, or maybe some Digital HeatFX transfers. If you are doing DTG, it’s the same. Screen printing, the same thing.

This is kind of an example of – it’s a product that’s really different and unique, versus what you’re probably already doing. Bling transfers are pretty inexpensive. You can put it on a shirt, and you can show it to your existing customers, or show it to the people that you’ve visited before.

It always inspires comments. I’ve never shown a spangle shirt to somebody, and not had them reach out and touch it, say “Wow!” They’re really impressed. If you’re a member of the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, you’re probably already jealous of all the Spangle shirts that people post.

Take this opportunity to see if you can break into something new.

Marc V: Yeah. With bling, specifically referring to Spangles as the number one, but you could also do rhinestones or glitter, heat transfer vinyl. However, those have most likely been seen before. Chances are, if you’re showing somebody a Spangle transfer, because it is a smaller growing market, a lot of your customers may have not seen that.

Or if they have, they’ve seen it a handful of times, and didn’t know what it was. And now, they’re finally being told what it was. “I’ve seen that before. I saw a friend of mine,” or “My friend’s cousin at a birthday party was wearing a shirt,” which actually just happened to me recently. I was at a birthday party.

Mark S: Did it? A friend’s cousin’s birthday party?

Marc V: Kind of. It wasn’t that exactly, but I was at a birthday party, and I didn’t know this person, and they were wearing a Spangled shirt.

Mark S: Sweet!

Marc V: Yeah. I talked to them, and they said somebody at the school sells them, and they sell a lot of different things.

Mark S: You know what I love about that? There is a 110% chance that that was made with one of our pieces of equipment.

Marc V: Yeah, so it’s really cool. What I would say is I would agree 100% with this one. If you’re a member of the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, or not, join. Then, if you only do embroidery or only do t-shirt printing, or only do traditional vinyl, and you’re trying to figure out a way to kind of inspire customers, break through to something knew, break that stagnant life, then go ahead and go on there. Find somebody who makes some Spangles, and see.

What I would probably do, if it were me, is I would invest a little bit of money to pick a few of my customers that I feel would be most likely to buy, whether it’s a business or a school or whatever it might be.

Mark S: Get transfers made for them.

Marc V: Get some transfers made with their logo. You don’t have to do a ton. You can reach out to most of these people who have Spangle machines and say “Hey, can you produce me five samples?” They’ll produce five for you. They’ll send you the instructions.

Put them on a shirt that you know they already like, and just give it to them.

Mark S: I’ll tell you, that’s a great idea. We did a survey in the Avance Facebook group. “What is most of your business?” That’s what we asked. Not surprisingly, most people in the embroidery business are making money on spirit wear.

So, if you are doing embroidery, if you’re doing lettermen’s jackets, caps for schools, if you’re doing anything school related, and you are not doing bling transfers, this is a 100% success. I really can’t see you failing.

And just think about what that’s going to do for your business. People don’t stop buying printed shirts, because they’re buying Spangle shirts. They get both. Right?

Marc V: Yeah. It’s just a completely different product line that you’re selling to somebody, and it is worth more money. Even if you’re outsourcing, your cost is going to be twice as much as making a regular. But the retail value is significantly higher, too.

Mark S: Yeah. I would that say it’s also a nice little jump-off, just to do a commercial for the SpanglElite. What are those, now? They’re under $6,000? Under $6,000 for the equipment. I mean super, super great ROI, if it gets there.

Marc V: Yeah. I think that this is great, if you’re stagnant. It’s an easy thing to do and try. You don’t have to come out and buy equipment right away. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, and try something.

Mark S: You buy the transfers.

Marc V: $50, $80, $100 on some transfers and some t-shirts. You get them done, and you start conversations with people. It’s one of the cheapest ways to go out there and try something new.

Mark S: I think we should just do a whole episode on this.

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: I think that’s a good one. That is buy some bling transfers, show it to people. The second one is to kind of do opposite marketing. Actually, the next two.

Maybe take next month and do an opposite marketing month. If you normally do like Facebook ads, then get in your car and take samples to local people. If you’re normally dealing with schools, embroider a left chest logo and go see a plumber.

Look for a marketing method that you’re not using, and do that.

Marc V: This could be if you’ve always done kind of the local based print ads, which a lot of our customers do and a lot of small businesses do -.

Mark S: Especially the placemats!

Marc V: The placemats are big. They’re huge!

Mark S: They’re not, they’re not!

Marc V: If you do something like that, if you advertise in local print and schools and different things like that, and newsletters, maybe what you do is you try to move to an online version of those. You can contact those same organizations, if you do that now. You say “Hey, I currently send some stuff in your print. Do you do online? Do you do emails that you send out, where you can send an email out with my information?”

A lot of these organizations will do something like that. You could also kind of switch the method, like if you are networking often at the Chamber of Commerce, which I hope some of you are doing, then talk to whoever is in charge of advertising through the Chamber of Commerce.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: Sponsoring a lunch or their online ads, or whatever they have. They’re going to have 40 options for you to choose from, to give them some money. So, do something like that.

Mark S: This is the opportunity here. If you are not doing mostly online advertising, then you look for opportunities to do that. If you’re doing mostly online advertising, then maybe you decide that you are going to take your cheer bow business and just do a local event. Go and try to meet somebody at a local school, or join the Chamber of Commerce.

ColDesi is an international company. We sell all over the country. We still occasionally do open houses, just in Tampa. It’s not always big stuff. We’re famous for not doing trade shows, and yet we did a trade show in January.

So, whatever you don’t do, because you don’t like it or you don’t think it will work, then do that for a month. You never know. Something may take off. That’s kind of the idea. Because you’re used to doing these things all the time, and you get these predictable results, you need to do something the opposite, and shake things up.

Marc V: Yeah. You mentioned in here about a month, which is great. But if you’re really trying to make some headway in a new direction, some of these things are going to be multi-month commitments.

Mark S: I know, but the alliteration really works. When you say “opposite marketing month and methods,” it’s very catchy.

Marc V: It sounds good.

Mark S: Sometimes we make business decisions just because of how the marketing words sound.

Marc V: That’s true. I would say this, though, because this is something that we’ve talked about a lot here. We will run a promotion, and we’ll send out a bunch of emails. We’ll sell some machines, and then we’ll do the promotion again, and then nobody will buy a machine from that promotion. Then, we might give up on that promotion, where we said “You know what? We should have let this test go longer. We should have rode it out,” or something like that.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: So, I would say if you decide to switch methods, and put a little bit of money into Facebook or an online ad, or a print ad, or door to door knocking, do it for a month, and start to get the feel of what’s happening. Then, decide if this is something to continue with. Don’t give up, just because you didn’t get a sale right away.

Mark S: Use some strategy.

Marc V: Yeah. Use all of the things you’ve learned in the past 119 episodes, to make that decision, because you’ve got the power to do that now.

Mark S: Agreed.

Marc V: What’s next?

Mark S: Next is kind of doing the same thing, but with the markets you go after, as opposed to the methods. In other words, if you are a local marketer, which I know most of you are, maybe the market that you typically call on are high schools. Find a market that is definitely not high schools. Go after something out of your comfort zone.

Maybe it is corporate. Maybe you approach a big company in your area, the electric company, or here we’ve got big farming enterprises. There’s a huge number of businesses in the Tampa Bay area that are 100, 200, 500, 1,000 employees. If you’ve got that where you are, go make contact with a purchasing agent. Introduce yourself, and try to find business there, in a market that’s opposite from what you’re comfortable with.

Marc V: I think that this is a really good one. Another thing that you might run into, which I find to be a sticky situation when talking to some customers, is that they don’t know if they have a market yet.

Mark S: Oh, yeah.

Marc V: They’ve got one sports, they’ve got one corporate, and there’s not really any focus. It’s just kind of happening through accident and happenstance. You’re meeting somebody and they refer you, and now you’re like “What do I do? I do everything. I make these spirit shirts. I make these corporate shirts.”

If that’s the case, and you feel like you’re kind of stuck, because the referrals are slowing down, or it was easy to grow from one customer to ten, and maybe a little less easy to go from 10 to 100. Once you’re beyond that, you’re finding it harder to maintain. The arc doesn’t go as high, it doesn’t go as fast, it doesn’t go as high.

What you can do is, if you feel that you’re one of these people that doesn’t have a market, then pick one of those, and dive into it.

Mark S: Go deeper into individual markets.

Marc V: Yeah. If you have a couple corporate, a couple schools, and you’re kind of mixed, and you’re like “I don’t have one market. I just customize for these sets of customers that I’ve gotten through referrals and networking,” pick one of those and say “Okay. This corporate one, I feel that I can go deeper into that market.”

Then, take a look at those customers. Study what they bought, how they did it, what they liked, any objections they had. Then, figure out a way to market to more of those people, to people like that.

Mark S: I like that. I’m going to offer an alternative. What you describe is someone that is enmeshed in their local market.

Marc V: Yeah, there you go.

Mark S: You don’t have a niche, as far as a business or an industry, but you do, as far as a geographic area. Normally, that’s within like 15 miles of where you are, because you don’t meet people from other towns that often.

I would say, for an opposite, not only go deeper into those markets, but do what you’re doing, the next community over. For example, if you’re in Minneapolis and you’re getting some great business out of Minneapolis, but it’s stagnant, then go to some Chamber of Commerce meetings in St. Paul.

If you’re in St. Petersburg, Florida, go into Tampa or Sarasota, and try to duplicate that local success, but in an opposite market area, a different local market.

Marc V: I think that that’s great, all of that stuff. What I like about both of these two methods is it’s really achievable. The hardest part of it all is picking the idea and executing it, because some of them are going to be particularly frightening. But you have to do it, if you want to break out of this.

Mark S: Yeah, and don’t wait, by the way. We’re not giving you things that you’ve got to do a master marketing plan, and go to a bank and get a loan, and hire three people, or learn too many new skills. We’re talking about order some bling transfers. That is a seven-day process max, before you get them.

Do the different methods. If you’re already online, just call the Chamber of Commerce and ask when the next breakfast meeting is for new members, and go. If you are in the local market, if you’re stuck in the local market, either sit down with a purchasing manager that you’re used to dealing with, and ask them what else you can do, or drive across the bridge or to the next city over, and start attending some meetings. You can do that next week.

Marc V: Yeah. Events, too.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: We talk all the time about those marketplaces and farmer’s markets and things like that, where you can set up a booth. Go 50 miles away, and do one over there, and see if you can’t meet some people in that community. Then, you say “Yeah, I’m just in the next town over. I do great work. I can deliver out here,” or whatever it might be.

Mark S: I love that. The next thing to inject some life into a stagnant business is one of my favorites. I love this. That’s pick up the phone, call your ten best customers, and ask them what you’re missing. If we do that, our ten biggest customers are going to tell us. You know?

Honestly, that’s how we end up with some of the products that we do. The owner is talking to one of our biggest customers who says “You know what we really want? We really need a way to do much higher volume in t-shirts. We don’t want to spend $500,000 on a big Kornit DTG printer. We’re not equipped to do screen printing, because we need smaller volumes than that.”

So, we went out and found the Bihong Daily-Jet, which kind of fits in the middle. That was a big customer, giving us feedback. We’ve done that again and again and again. The way that you can use that is you go to your biggest school customer and say, “I do lettermen jackets for you. I do the caps. What else are you buying, that I’m not providing you? Or do you have a wish list? What else can I do?”

Marc V: The wish list is one that I like a lot. One of the challenges you’re going to run into, especially a lot of our customers who are kind of small town type of folks, they’re not doing business in New York City. They’re doing business in the suburbs, and things like that.

You go to a school, and you’re the embroiderer, and they also do t-shirts, and there’s a screen printer. You guys might even be friendly. You might help each other together.

Mark S: Maybe.

Marc V: If you’re in that scenario, it’s going to be hard to say “How do I take the business away from somebody that I’m kind of partnered with? I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to rip that relationship. What do I do?”

The school also is going to say “Listen. I’m friends with both of you guys. I’ve known you both 15 years. I’m not going to give you that business.”

Those are situations that you run into. The wish list is where you come up, “We’d love to be able to do – we have this idea of putting the pictures of the kids on shirts, and the screen print shop doesn’t do that.” You say “I’ve got a way we can do that,” because you’re either making your own transfers or you’re going to order transfers out.

Mark S: I was just thinking, we’ve got tons and tons of Digital HeatFX customers that listen to the podcast, and most of you guys are doing 99% t-shirts. If you go to that school, if they can’t think of their own wish list, then bring one with you. “Have you thought about doing koozies? Have you thought about doing pictures on book bags? Have you thought about doing any one of these things?”

So, when you do those ten customer phone calls, if you’re not getting that wish list coming right at you, think of a few things that you can suggest, that maybe they might be interested in.

Marc V: I’m thinking about this, this and this. Would you be interested in any of those things?”

Mark S: I love that.

Marc V: If you hear them perk up at one of the ideas, then take the steps to create a sample, or whatever it might, so you can actually get some real feedback from them in person, when you bring them. “Here’s that koozie I talked about, that I can make. These would be X amount of dollars apiece,” etc.

Mark S: Let me tell you, even if it’s a small thing, even if it adds 10% to all of your orders. If you are a $40,000 or $50,000 a year business right now, that’s an extra four or five grand. That’s money. A lot of times, it just comes from doing these phone interviews with current customers. Your customers will get re-interested in what you can do, and you will become revitalized to what you can accomplish. Both of those things together will add up to a less stagnant business.

Marc V: Yeah. I would say on these phone calls, especially if they’re good customers of yours, I’m always just a fan of being really honest. Just straight up say “I’m calling you because I listened to a podcast.”

Mark S: “A great podcast!” Not a boring podcast.

Marc V: “I’m trying to figure out ways to kind of step up my business game and get better. They suggested I interview some of my favorite customers. You are one. Can you ask you a few questions?” Then, ask this, and you’ll be extremely surprised how many people are just going to be really happy.

Mark S: They love to help.

Marc V: They’re like “You’re asking me? Wow!” And they’re really going to help you out. They will. If you find some that don’t, then you just continue moving down the line, until you can find that list of ten people, and you get a few Aha! ideas.

Mark S: I love that. So far, we’ve talked about getting some bling transfers, doing some opposite marketing methods, doing some opposite marketing to different markets. We talked about calling ten customers.

This last one is not radical and fun, but it is something that can make a super difference in jumpstarting your business again. And that’s kind of running through the business basics.

Marc V: I think this is the one that is the most likely to have an impact on your business. I would say this one will 100% have an impact on your business, no matter what.

Mark S: I would say it will have a long-term impact on your business.

Marc V: Long-term, yeah. I think it’s good to not mention this first, because first of all, you should be doing this stuff anyway.

Mark S: Yes.

Marc V: It’s also important to re-look at these things, but I like all of the other things first, because the other stuff is getting out of your comfort zone, which is great for your business. This stuff is kind of re-focusing in on your comfort zone.

Mark S: Absolutely. You mentioned put your selling shoes back on, and that if you’re stagnant, you’re probably not hitting the pavement. Here’s what I imagine happens, because it’s happened to me in other businesses.

You go out and do sales, and you get some regular customers, and they’re great. That’s it. You get your regular customers, and okay, great!

Marc V: And they refer people to you sometimes, and you lose a regular customer, but you gained a referral. You have this pool that you’re swimming in, that’s pretty nice. So, there’s no reason to get out there and put your selling shoes back on, and try to get new customers aggressively, outwardly.

Mark S: Yeah. If you think about it, whether you had a customer in mind when you got into the business, or you started getting customers in that first 90 days, like most of our customers do, then that first push when you’re getting a new customer every other day, or every week. You’re getting a new customer. It’s great, it’s exciting, you’re ramping up your business.

Then, you find yourself just fulfilling orders. So, it’s really important that you get back to how you got where you are, and run through it. We’ve talked about it a bunch, doing a marketing calendar and all that. If it’s every Tuesday, you spend three hours before you open up the doors on your office, hitting the pavement to local businesses, then do that again.

Marc V: I know that this is the thing that – everybody might do all of these other things, but this one, because it’s the most frightening, if you’re a certain type of person. Some people will just “I don’t care. I’ll just go out and talk to anybody of those.”

Mark S: Not many, though.

Marc V: Yeah. A lot of people, this gets your heart pumping, you’re nervous. “It says no soliciting. They’re going to kick me out.” All we’re saying – we’ve gone back and talked about this before – is you get some business cards. You get some brochures or flyers. You get some samples.

You have a little kit of stuff you do. You walk into places and say “I’m a local embroiderer, just letting you know who I am. I’m a local t-shirt shop. If I can make anything custom for your business, let me know.”

That’s step one. We’ve had whole podcasts talking about all of the steps to it, but if you’re doing that – I’ve done it so many times in my life, with all different jobs. Some days you just go out there and you do it for three hours, and nothing happens.

The next thing you know, you’re like “I got like ten customers!” I got somebody to buy $100,000 worth of printers and copy machines, because one day I just went in there and handed a card to somebody, and my phone rang.

Mark S: Nice!

Marc V: That stuff just happens.

Mark S: That was worth it. I would say, though, that it’s not just getting in your car and going out and pounding the pavement. The same applies to, if you got that first boost of customers from doing a show or doing ten networking groups in a week, or whatever you did. Maybe it’s just on the phone. You’re calling all of these people, to try to look for new business.

Maybe you get a list of the top ten businesses in your county, and you call the purchasing agent for each one of those. Whatever it is, the idea behind putting your selling shoes back on is just treating it like you have no business at all, and go get some!

Marc V: That’s great, no matter what that might be. The next one you had written down, I like this one, to call old leads and lost deals.

Mark S: Man, that is a favorite for me, from a sales perspective. If you’ve got a system right now, hopefully a CRM, if you’ve listened to that episode recently. But if not, at least a customer list. If you’ve been open for a couple of years, look at your leads, the people that have called in and talked to you that you did quotes for, that never purchased anything. Give them a call.

We all know that very few customers will order from you every year, just as a matter of course. They take a look at the competition every year. If you’re in that situation, then so is your competitor. Call deals that you’ve lost. Call those people and ask them if you have another opportunity to quote, or how that went, and if there’s something that you can provide them now, and if you can send them a bling transfer.

Marc V: Yeah. Is there anything that they wish that they did better? You’re going to get the people who say “No, I’m happy,” and they don’t want to hear it. You just say “Just remember me, if anything happens. I’ll be here. Is it okay if I send you an email once every six months, to say hello and remind you that I exist?” Or whatever it is.

You’re going to find, and I’ve done this plenty of times, where you call back those lost deals, where somebody said “No, I’m going with the competition.” You’re like “Dang!” Then, six months later or three months later, you call them up. “Hey, I’m just following up with you to see how that went.”

“Actually, I never bought. We were going to do this event. Something got postponed.” That could be one, and then now “You know what? I remember you. I’ve got an order. Let’s just go take care of it.” That will happen, and it will be crazy when it does.

Mark S: This happens so often with ColDesi. We do analysis of you guys, and the people that have bought equipment from us. We’ll look at when was the first time these folks came into the ColDesi universe. Oftentimes, it’s like four years ago. They spent $49 on a patch kit.

The folks that sell the equipment here, our account managers, it will be somebody called about a Viper DTG printer four years ago or three years ago. We just follow up, and they buy a printer within a week.

These things happen all the time. Give yourself the opportunity to be inspired by something like this. Imagine you’re calling somebody. You already spent money to get their name and phone number and email address. You lost a quote last year. Imagine how it’s going to feel when you call them this year, and they go “Oh, yeah. I’m glad you called. I need 100 of these.”

Marc V: Yeah. “I’m glad you called, because I went with that last company.”

Mark S: And they sucked.

Marc V: “The designs were crooked and the shirts shrunk right away. I asked them for some replacements, and the guy told me to buzz off, unless I want to spend $20 apiece for them,” or whatever it was. You get to say “I’m sorry you had to deal with that.”

“Yeah. I should have just gone with you. You were a little more money, and I thought it would be worth saving the money.” Then, you can go into “Yeah, I typically do charge more, because when you need that replacement,” or whatever the reasons are, or “Because I use a better quality shirt, because I’ve used those shirts and I know they shrink, and nobody really likes them.”

Mark S: You could also say “Just because you didn’t go with us last time, I’m only going to charge you 10% more than I would have otherwise!”

Marc V: Yeah, okay!

Mark S: I love that idea. This is yours, and that is this kind of introspection on taking a look. Remember, these are back to business basics. If you’re stagnant, maybe it’s time to look inside your business and figure out what you’re doing right, and what you’re not doing right.

Marc V: This is the type of stuff that it should hurt, to say it to yourself. That’s what I think about this stuff. If it doesn’t hurt a little bit to say it out loud, then you haven’t found something deep enough, that you can fix.

It’s the same thing that we do in our own personal lives. You’re eating unhealthy, and every once in a while you say to yourself “Gosh, I should stop doing that.”

Mark S: “Why am I eating pizza every day?”

Marc V: Yeah, stuff like that. It’s everything in your life, all the little things. “I should do this more. I should do this less. I don’t call my mom enough.” Whatever they are, when you say those to yourself, it kind of stings. Sometimes you act on it, and sometimes you don’t.

I think you should do this with your business. Look at your shop. Is it a mess? Is it really a mess? Go to other stores and compare.

Mark S: We’re not just talking about a retail space. You’d be surprised, if you have a home-based business, or you’re in an industrial spot and you just do fulfillment, if you look around and your place is nothing but shirt boxes and spilled screen printer ink, then you’ll be amazed what will happen to your business if you just clean that mess up.

Marc V: Yeah. It’s so many interesting things. For one, you’ll probably get some jobs done faster, because it’s laid out really nice.

Mark S: You absolutely will, yeah.

Marc V: You’re going to find some old shirts that you never used, like you’ve got 40 shirts that have been sitting in the corner for a year, and they’re all different mixed sizes. You’re like “Gosh, I could sell this stuff. It’s been sitting there. I could sell this to somebody who wants some shirts, and I don’t have to order some.”

Mark S: “Or I could just print some and give them away as samples.”

Marc V: Yeah, exactly. It’s stuff that’s been sitting there forever, perfect for sampling. “I’m going to print logos, and go ahead and get in that car, and drop them off.”

Mark S: Yeah. Do you do a good enough job on your artwork? We know, like if you use Digital HeatFX or if you use our DTG printers, or even a UV printer, the quality of your artwork is almost 100% responsible for the quality of the end product.

I mean, you’re going to pick a good shirt. You’re using Digital HeatFX or DTG, so you’re going to get a great quality, great looking print. But is the graphic up to what your customer expects? And is there a way to deliver past peoples’ expectation?

Marc V: This is how you do this, because also, at the same time, it’s like everybody looks at their kids, and their kids are beautiful.

Mark S: Right, which is not true!

Marc V: But that’s how it is. You feel good about things that you did yourself. What you do is you take – if you embroider hats, you go to the mall or to Dick’s Sporting Goods or Lids, or whatever you have.

Mark S: I like this idea.

Marc V: Look at your hat, and then start picking hats up. Some things, you know you can’t do. Like they embroider on the bill, and this factory stuff. But just look at the core embroidery, and say “How close am I?”

Mark S: I did this. I can’t remember whether it was a Nike. It was a name brand, and they did some 3-D embroidery, and it was freaking beautiful! I was jealous, it was so good.

That’s a great way to measure the quality of your work, is to look at retail graphics and compare.

Marc V: Then, you find a level on this stuff. You can’t beat yourself up too much, because it’s also Nike. But if you’re like “You know what? This is pretty darn close,” feel good about it.

If you’re like “I could barely read my lettering here. This one looks great. This is all sunken in. The colors pop on here. My colors kind of fade into the hat, because I should have chosen different colors.” Look at that, and then go revamp stuff, especially if it’s for a current customer that buys. You re-do their logo and show them the new one, and they’re in love with it.

You can “Hey, I did this for you for free. I just wanted to do a re-vamp, if you can refer me to anybody else.”

Mark S: You can decide at that point whether or not you want to improve your skills in that area. Because maybe it’s just that extra 10% that you’re just not going to devote the time to get.

Digitizing embroidery is not hard, but it’s hard. Maybe it’s something that you want to look at ColDesiGraphics.com, and get a sample done and compare. You may decide that that’s a great way to up the quality of what you’re doing, without spending the time yourself.

It’s the same with print graphics. Go to another custom t-shirt shop or order one online, and see what your customers are buying, and compare it to what you’re providing. See how you can make it better.

Marc V: Absolutely. That’s another thing you could do, is you can go into those same stores I mentioned before, and look at the Nike quality and these other brands. Look at what they’re producing, what their artwork looks like, compared to yours.

I like that one, because it’s a really high standard that you know, more than likely, they’re going to have done better than you, in some way.

I like the ordering online and checking out competition. I don’t want that to give you a false sense of security, because you will order some stuff online that makes you feel amazing. Which is good, but the goal is to improve.

Mark S: That’s right, to improve what you’re doing.

Marc V: Yeah. Don’t get caught in the trap to say “Look at all of this stuff,” and you’re kind of self-fulfilling yourself that “Look at all this stuff I’m better at.” Find stuff that’s better than you.

Mark S: You’ve got “how is your process” down here. What did you have in mind for that?

Marc V: When you’ve got your vinyl cutter, your embroidery machine and your heat press, and this is your shop. How do you produce things? Is there a flow to your business? Not just production flow, like “I cut here, I weed here, I press here.”

It’s “When I’m embroidering, I am printing t-shirts on my DTG printer, while the embroidery is happening.” Are there times when equipment is not running, because you’re not doing something efficiently? One part of the process is can you make your flow faster? Which means you’ll produce faster, deliver faster, have time to get more customers.

Mark S: Or watch Netflix, which could be good.

Marc V: You could do that, maybe.

Mark S: A lot of you guys are just working a full-time day job, and then you’re coming and putting in four hours that night. If you could reduce that down to two and a half or three, because of shop efficiency, then you’re going to kickstart your business.

Marc V: That extra couple hours a week you saved is the difference between going to your kid’s baseball game or not.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: And there’s really some health in your business for that, too. Also about your process is, how are you greeting customers? How are you quoting customers? How are you delivering the product, and how are you following up? That whole process, too.

All of us have had a really good shopping experience, whether it’s buying a car or a phone or whatever it is. If you’ve had a really good experience, look at what they did.

Mark S: Yeah. I have been doing consulting for a company that sells stuff for about $25,000 each. When you look at the process that they were doing, they were doing these – they were going out to peoples’ homes. They were doing kind of like a site analysis.

They would go back to their office, and write them a quote. And they would never talk to that customer again. They would never follow up. They would never! It’s like “Okay, here’s what we can do. Here’s the price. Call me if you want to order.”

That’s terrible! If you’re doing that, it’s terrible. Stop it! This is part of the sale process, like Marc said. It’s how you answer the phone, how you reply to an email, how you do a proposal. What happens, after you do a quote? Did you get it? Did you not? Were they happy with it? Are there changes that need to be made?

Are you just typing stuff into an email, and sending it to them? Or are you giving them some kind of a document with photos of the shirts and the work? How is that customer experience?

Marc V: Yeah. If you want to get some first-hand experience on this stuff, I would say this is something you can do. There’s going to be a mild annoyance to this, but you can get it. What I want you to do is, especially if you own a home, think of something you could do to your home, that’s going to cost a little bit of money.

Solar panels, a fence, re-landscaping, new windows, a roof. Find the company who spends the most amount of money in advertising, that has the most – find a big company, the one that’s killing it. Call them. Get them to come and deliver a quote.

You’ll see those big companies, they’re going to be on time. They’re going to have beautiful quotes. They’re going to have custom apparel. They’re going to call you six times, afterwards. You can learn a lesson from them. They got that big, for a reason.

Mark S: We went through that with a roofing company. A lady came out. She was great. She did the measurements. She had a book of different shingles. She had different deals that she could offer, different timelines for getting it done. We signed on the spot.

It’s a great way to look at other peoples’ sales processes that work.

Marc V: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be in your industry, because you get to do the same thing. You could have a book where you’ve got swatches of the t-shirt material, maybe. There are so many things you can learn.

That’s a really good exercise to do. Do a few. Like you said, call for new windows, call for a new roof, call for a fence. Pick the companies that seem like they’re the biggest, baddest and best. Get them to quote you, and you’ll learn some lessons. Take some notes, and then see what you can do in your sales process, to be more like theirs.

Mark S: Just be prepared. It is super annoying.

Marc V: Yeah. It’s going to be super annoying, but you will learn something.

Mark S: I also like the idea of shaking up your business by looking at your pricing model, and how you price your products. I don’t know how you chose your prices, so far. We’ve got some pricing podcasts and some great articles.

Maybe it’s keystoning, where you double the cost of the blank, and then you add a certain amount per hour or for materials, etc. Maybe it’s the market approach that I usually suggest, where you go out and look at what everybody else charges, and you charge that. Or maybe you just ask customers what they want to pay, and you charge that.

Whatever it is, whatever your model is, shake things up by taking a look at the alternatives. If you are a value high-end player, maybe you experiment with a lower cost option. If you are a middle of the road, kind of whatever the people want, try a premium price model. You could end up doing the same amount of work, and making 10% or 15% more, just because you asked.

Marc V: Yeah. That is a way that – you’ve been wanting to get a DTG printer, but you’ve never quite had the profits to justify making that leap. Or you’ve wanted to upgrade your cutter, because you’re still cutting with a Cricut.

Mark S: Stop that!

Marc V: You’ve got an awesome embroidery machine, and you’ve got a transfer printer, but you’re still cutting with a Cricut.

Mark S: You don’t have that kind of time.

Marc V: Yeah, but you haven’t justified. You’re just waiting for that couple thousand bucks, so you can buy that nice cutter. Doing this can give you the opportunity to boost up those profits. You replace a piece of old equipment with a piece of new equipment, and now all of this other awesome stuff happens.

Mark S: From my experience, and I think Marc Vila would say the same, 90% of the people that we talk to are not charging enough.

Marc V: Yes.

Mark S: Literally, most people don’t. You probably are not charging enough for your work. You know my philosophy, and that’s to continually raise prices on a regular basis, until people stop buying stuff from you. So, try that, or try the opposite.

See if you can pick up a 1,000-piece order by charging a little bit less.

Marc V: The good thing is that it’s good for you guys out there, that Mark Stephenson is not in charge of pricing equipment!

Mark S: That’s right!

Marc V: We’ve got other people in charge of that.

Mark S: That’s why the DTG-M2 has been the same price for like five years!

Marc V: But it is a good point that you make there, that it is hard to raise prices, and it’s hard to find what the proper market value is for what you sell. It’s not just about charging more for the same thing. It’s also having those higher end, more expensive products that you push and you advertise, that nobody else does.

Everyone else is going to talk about their $10 shirt, but are you out there talking about the $20 shirt that actually is just a nicer shirt? You put more work into it. It’s a better product, and a lot of people aren’t going to be talking about that.

Mark S: I wish I had the number for the podcast where we talked about good, better, best. Because we did that for a pricing model, and it was really valuable. So, you should definitely try that. Maybe it’s not just raising a price.

Marc V: There we go! We found it. Episode 84.

Mark S: Episode 84. Look at that! All he did was Google it. We’re on Google!

Episode 84 was great, better, best. It’s kind of a sales technique where you offer people three different price levels. Maybe in your case, it’s different qualities of blank garment. Maybe it’s a bundle of different products, like a cap and a shirt, versus just a shirt.

Maybe it’s multiple decoration methods, like you upgrade by offering vinyl lettering and an embroidered logo, or something like that. Whatever it is, shake up your pricing model. That might inject some new life into your stagnant business.

Marc V: There we go! I think this is a wrap for today.

Mark S: It says “five ways.” I think there were about 37 ways that we really went over.

Marc V: We managed to categorize it in a way where it sounded like five.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: I think this is great. I always like to tell folks to go and do something. This is the end of it right here. If you don’t actually go and do one of these things, you’re going to stay stagnant. Honestly, all of these things, we could have just changed this to “five ways to grow your business.”

Mark S: Yeah, we could have.

Marc V: If you’re trying to grow, and you’re not at a pace that you’re happy with, most all of these things would work for you, too.

Mark S: I love that. Thanks for listening, everybody! We really appreciate it. Share the podcast with a friend, and don’t forget to visit ColDesi.com. This has been Mark Stephenson.

Marc V: And Marc Vila.

Mark S: You guys have an amazing business!

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