Episode 38 – All About Blanks (part 2) with Mark Bailey from Sanmar

Aug 12, 2016

This Episode

Mark Stephenson, Marc Vila and Mark Bailey from Sanmar

You Will Learn

  • Tips and tricks to bring more success to your business.
  • How to make more money by choosing the right blank-shirts, caps, shorts, bags and more.

Resources & Links

Episode 38 – All About Blanks (part 2) with Mark Bailey from Sanmar

Show Notes

Mark, Marc & Mark? Yes, we did it. Listen to us talk all about blank apparel and tips and tricks to bring more success to your business. Ultimately make more money by choosing the right blank t shirts, caps, shorts, bags and more.


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 38 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. We’re here with a very special guest today.

Mark S: Very special!

Marc V: Very special! His name is Mark Bailey. Mark is in charge of Decorator Relations at SanMar, and the High Counselor of it.

Mark S: I think it’s the Papal Plenipotentiary of Decorator Relations.

Marc V: It’s very high.

Mark S: It’s a big company, so they have a lot of gradations.

Marc V: Levels, lots of levels.

Mark S: Mark is near the top, though.

Marc V: Okay.

Mark S: That’s why we had him on. It’s not just because the next five podcasts, we will actually talk to anyone named Mark.

Marc V: If you’re listening right now, and your name is Mark, if you call in, the chances of you getting on are actually really high.

Mark S: They’re very high.

Marc V: I’m good for that. Today, we’re going to talk about what Decorator Relations means. Mark, why don’t you say hi, and maybe tell us a little bit about what you do over there?

Mark Bailey: Hello, people! We do a lot here at SanMar, kind of anything that no one wants to touch, we get involved in, so to speak. Which is a good thing. It keeps us busy. But basically, the core intent of our department is to help any customer who owns equipment, that’s looking for education or solutions on how to effectively decorate our products.

Mark S: By the way, the reason that we’ve got you on today, and that we had Holly on for another episode, is because there are a few questions that we get all the time, on our Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, and from our customers. When we sell a machine through ColDesi, or I know when Colman and Company talks to people, it’s always “Where can I find X?”

They have either a picture in their minds, or an old shirt that a customer brought in, and is trying to match, saying “I want this. What do I do?” That’s kind of why we’ve gone out of our way to set up a relationship with SanMar, is because they’re awesome people to answer those questions.

Marc V: I feel that decorators probably spend 30% of their time decorating, and about 30% of their time posting on forums, looking for shirts.

Mark S: Looking for shirts or shorts or shoes, or whatever it’s going to be.

Marc V: Or jackets, or this hat with like a flip top and a spinner. I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s all day every day. What I like about having SanMar on with us, and having Mark here with us, is to talk about how they can better use that time, rather than searching around for these products that maybe is just a never-ending search.

Mark S: What do you think, Mark? What is the best way for decorators to relate to you guys?

Mark Bailey: On that specific topic, in sourcing the product that they’re really looking for, it doesn’t necessarily mean that product is perfect for the type of embellishment that they want to put on it. Anyone in our company and our call center can find a specific product, if you tell us kind of the styling and the fabric content. We’ll tell you what’s in our line, that’s comparable.

However, my department can tell you the best product in our line, for any specific type of embellishment process. Then, we just kind of go down the line from there, to find the thing that’s closest to what you’re looking for, that can also be effectively printed with that type of decoration.

Mark S: By the way, I had the best experience yesterday. We ordered a bunch of samples from you guys. We were working on collections of our own. We’re going to get in a suite of products, and decorate them in different ways, and display them as examples for our customers, so they’ll be able to see what to do.

I didn’t have my online account yet, so I called up. I had a list of part numbers, and I’ve spoken to very few more professional people on the phone. They were out of stock on one. She recommended another. I told her that we were going to be using DTG printing for some of the shirts, so she kind of walked me through what shirts were going to be best for that.

Especially for the new people, that’s incredibly valuable. If you can call SanMar and say “Listen. I’m looking for polos that I can decorate for a plumbing company, and I don’t do embroidery. I do DTG. What can I do?” These are the guys that can tell you “Well, you can use these couple of cotton pique polo shirts.”

Is that pretty accurate, Mark?

Mark Bailey: That’s correct, yeah. We look for the products that have the best finish face, if you will, for that particular process. Here in mind, what we’re talking about is DTG, so typically you want something that’s got a tighter knit, it’s going to have a better print lay-down, less pixelating of the design, because of the peaks and the valleys in the fabric.

So yeah, we’re trying hard that way. We’re moving toward more customer-facing stuff, over the next year to two years, on SanMar University. So, this will eventually be at peoples’ fingertips, versus having to call in and ask.

Mark S: That’s really a powerful thing to be able to offer.

Marc V: Yeah. I think an issue in apparel decorating, that happens often, is somebody gets into the business, and they start their business with one method of decorating. So, they can embroider or they can DTG, or they’re doing vinyl transfers, or whatever it might be. They start off with this one.

Then, their customer has an idea, or they have an idea of a garment, and they try to force it into this type of apparel decorating they do. You can’t do it that way. You have to start with “This is the way that I can decorate. These are all of the things I can do and can’t do.”

And then, figure out solutions for your customers, when they ask for something that doesn’t fit into that box. You have to be able to use salesmanship and customer service. They might come to you asking for a very specific garment, and you could search all over the world for it. Like Mark said, it might not even provide the best look, feel and finish, so the finished garment looks its best.

They just assume that that’s all they want. However, if you go to somewhere like SanMar, or you build up the knowledge yourself, from talking to them and studying and learning and such, then you can come back to your customer and offer an alternative that honestly, they might be just as happy with or happier. Honestly, they might even like it better.

So, you have to use salesmanship, with the type of apparel decorating that you do, and at least offer that to the customer.

Mark S: I think we talked about, in one of our previous podcasts, kind of like going through your available catalog, and making your own catalog of the clothing that you can offer, the items that you can offer, that match your decorating technique. Right?

If somebody comes in – Mark, correct me if I’m wrong – that you can go to SanMar, and you can actually go “I am in sublimation,” or “I’m in DTG,” or “I’ve got heat transfer vinyl. These are the kinds of things that I can decorate.” And you can put together your own catalog, that you can offer to people. Is that right?

Mark Bailey: Yeah. Pretty much, you can create your own small mini-catalog, if you want. We can provide you with Excel spreadsheets of the products, with all of the features and benefits, and everything else like that, that work best.

A lot of our affiliates will take our lists for the equipment that they’re manufacturing or the materials they’re selling, and they’ll populate that to their website, so that their customers know quickly where to go for a resource for apparel that supports that type of equipment that they’re purchasing.

Mark S: That’s great. So you can basically, if someone brings in something that’s just ridiculously difficult to embroider, you can say “You know what? I’ve got a great alternative to that, and here you go, and here’s something that I’ve embroidered on it,” And you see how good it looks, because the threads don’t loop. It’s thick enough to hold the stitching the right way, or it’s heavy enough that it will handle a heavy applique, or whatever you want to say about it.

Marc V: “And besides the embroidery, this particular garment has particularly good wash fastness, so the color stays nice and bright. It’s got the colors that don’t fold in.” So, you also have to sell the other benefits of that garment, besides the fact that it’s not just for you and your equipment, and what you can sell. But also, there are more than likely other benefits to that garment, and you have to let the customer know what they are.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: Because they might not care as much about how hard it is for you to embroider it, but they really will care about whether it be the cost or the comfort or the washability, or the longevity of the garment.

Mark S: I like that a lot. Are those all things that you guys can advise on, Mark?

Mark Bailey: Yeah. Those are all things we can advise on. And if the customer is really set on trying to accomplish, say that embroidery on that particular product, that’s the great thing about our network at SanMar. We have national experts everywhere, that can tell us exactly how to do it; right needle, thread, backing, machine speed, all of that stuff.

It’s just a matter of is the decorator willing to do that extra work, in order to accomplish it? Because time is money, so a lot of times, they don’t want to change needles and slow production, and do other things, and that’s typically where people start to [inaudible 11:08] products.

We have found very few things in our line that can’t be decorated the way a person wants, if they’re willing to learn.

Mark S: That’s awesome. The good thing about that is you only have to learn once. You know what I mean? If you’ve just got three items that you normally decorate, three or four different brands or types of shirts or whatever, you can use a customer request or recommendation from SanMar, to test and expand your range.

Marc V: And it’s also touching on something, being willing to learn, as well. If you’re listening to this, stubbornness is -.

Mark S: This is one of Marc Vila’s pet peeves. I like it!

Marc V: How did you know that I was going to talk about pet peeves? But stubbornness is not going to get you anywhere, in trying to improve what you do. So, being a steadfast and strong and forward-pushing business owner is going to be great for you.

But just because you’ve been doing something for some years, or you’ve done it a certain way for a period of time, does not mean that you’ve been doing it right the whole time. Just because you go on a forum, and somebody else tells you to do it that way, does not mean they are doing it right.

When you have the opportunity to talk to an expert, whether it’s at your supply company or your equipment company, or your apparel supplier, take that opportunity. Because you’ve got people with a lot of knowledge, who spend a lot of time learning and perfecting this, so they can sell more of their product. Take that knowledge and learn it and accept it. The folks that do the best really do that.

Whether it comes down to maintaining their machine, following the manufacturer’s instructions, or just buying the right garment, rather than trying to fight the garment all day, and spending five times as long to print something, than it would have taken if you had gotten a better garment, like a tighter weave shirt for a DTG, or something like that.

Mark S: I like that. Mark, what else? I just flipped over to the Decorator Relations page on the SanMar website. Is there any other services, like what else do you wish that our customers would call you for, or use you for?

Mark Bailey: Along the same lines as what you guys were just discussing, a lot of decorators are regionalized, and they don’t allow themselves the opportunity to get out nationally, and meet people and go to certain shows where they can educate and learn kind of what’s new, and where things are trending. That’s a great thing about our department.

We are national in scale, and we have a lot of affiliations across the country, as well as internationally. We can plug people into what they don’t know they don’t know, so to speak. We can help on a lot of different fronts.

If you look at our landing page on SanMar.com, we offer a lot of consulting to the trade channel, whether it’s software, it’s equipment, it’s decorating techniques, whatever it may be, including how to sell goods, and how to position them in other things. All of the services that we offer, kind of the promotional product distributor, a broker, if you will, to how to [inaudible 14:35] goods and market our  stuff, and free websites, and all of that.

You know, decorators, having that knowledge of all of the things and tools that we have available to help shared customers sell more, is important for them to understand, so that they can educate those who may not have touched base with a supplier like SanMar before, Because all of those tools are going to help them move more product.

And when they move more product, they’re going to get more deco work. Right? So, they all go kind of hand in hand. It’s one channel. We’re working hard with all of our equipment affiliates, to try to plug in our decorators and plug in our customers, to all of the resources in the channel, to help them drive business.

Mark S: I think that’s something that the three companies here on the podcast today have in common, and that’s trying to find ways to be useful to your customers, and to add value to those transactions. I know that most apparel decorators out there, basically, when they pick a blank, they’re buying it from wherever they can find it, or wherever the last person recommended, that’s the closest and has the best shipping deal.

And that’s all they’re doing, is they’re just ordering a blank garment. When people mostly deal with most equipment sellers, distributors and manufacturers, they’re just buying a box. When they look for supplies, they’re just ordering thread or ordering vinyl, and things like that.

I think what SanMar and ColDesi and Colman and Company have in common is that, kind of like a lust for usefulness to our customer base. That’s why we do the podcast. That’s why we have the Facebook group, the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group. That’s why we do tons of webinars and educational videos, and I think why SanMar does.

I’m looking at their product testing, and listing of new embellishment techniques, and printing techniques, and invoice services, and industry consulting, and shipping solutions. So, you can wrap it up with those three [inaudible 16:59].

Marc V: The education, it’s being a resource for the customer, and not just being a place to click and buy, but being a resource. What Mark was saying before, and I’m referring to MB right now -.

Mark S: That’s Mark Bailey.

Marc V: Yeah. MB, I’m curious on your thought. What do you think are maybe one or two or whatever specific things that our mutual customers can do to help drive sales, to help get repeat customers, to help increase their ticket size? In regards to what you offer, what do you think are some specific things, that if somebody is listening right now, they can maybe start doing tomorrow, to help make more money next month?

Mark Bailey: Are we talking about customers that own equipment and are direct selling in the market, or are we talking about service providers, like contract decorators? Or both?

Mark S: Both, in the end, but I’d say probably 85-90% of our customers are direct sellers.

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark Bailey: If you’re a direct seller, some of the easiest things that you can do to position product out in the marketplace is to reach out to our tech service team, which will help educate them on all of the free marketing services we provide. So, custom websites in less than 48 hours, we can have up and running for any one of their end users, or themselves, if they want.

We do free custom-printed catalogs, so that you can provide us artwork, and we’ll print the covers at no charge. You’re just paying the freight for the catalogs, so you have stuff that you can hand out. We do electronic flyers.

All of these little things that really help position products, and make it easy for the end consumer to order from them. There’s lots of great things that we can offer them immediately. Then, of course, you add Holly on, who is just the best.

She’s just an incredible trainer on industry and trade channels, and all of the different ways you can position our products, and what are the best sellers for those industry trade channels, so that you’re going armed with products that are relevant, with the right form of decoration, that’s relevant for that trade channel.

There’s endless things that we can do together. They just need to start by calling someone at SanMar or emailing Decorator Relations, and we can get them going.

Mark S: That’s awesome. I just flicked over. I’m not sure if we’re going to show a screen recording of what we’re doing here today, but I just flicked over to the custom website screen on the SanMar site, because that’s another thing that is in constant conversation on our Facebook group, is “What do I need to do to create a website?”

Marc V: “Do I need one? What kind do I need? I got some quotes. Some of them are $5,000. Should I do that? I was thinking about starting one of these plug and play drag and drop type of sites. Should I do that?”

I think that you can often get trapped in that, or you end up making a decision that now you own, and you regret later, and you spent a bunch of money on and a lot of time on. I think the short answer is yes, you definitely should have a website. Everyone just should.

There’s a lot of benefits to having a website, even if you mainly sell in person. You can just be on your phone at a baseball game, and you’re talking to somebody, and you can have your catalog on your smart phone, because you can bring up your website. So, yes.

And then the further answer from that is if you have an apparel company that is going to a supplier that is going to provide you with a free site, with all of the apparel that you can buy from them and all of the accessories you can buy from them, -.

Mark S: That works with your decorating technique.

Marc V: Yes, that works with your decorating technique, then do it, especially if it’s free. All you need to do is spend an afternoon, a morning, spend a Saturday morning working on it. I don’t doubt you could be done before noon, especially if you’ve already made the phone call and determined what products work for your technique.

Mark S: We’re going to do that, you and I.

Marc V: We’re going to do it?

Mark S: We’re going to contact SanMar, and we are going to do a website for Florida Beach High School.

Marc V: Wow!

Mark Bailey: In addition, gentlemen, you can use your own domain name that you choose. We can create one for you, if it’s not taken already. But you can also populate 25% of the site with non-SanMar products. You just have to pull the imagery from your other suppliers. Because we know we’re not going to be the be-all.

You can have up to three points of pricing, and you can have up to eight different logos. So, if it’s like a school website, and you want to capture all the different teams, you can. You can have those, so when people go on the site, and they want to see the volleyball logo versus the football logo, they just click on it, and it automatically populates and positions it on the products, so you get a visual.

Mark S: That’s great!

Marc V: That’s exciting, because not everyone, like I said, is going to know where to go with their website. So, you could do that. And maybe this is or isn’t the website you want to have forever, but it’s done for you, in a way. It comes with all these cool features, and maybe it just is all you ever need. That’s fantastic, compared to you can honestly spend $1,000 a year on maintaining something that really doesn’t deserve it.

Mark S: [inaudible 22:55] the extra money.

Marc V: Yeah. You can always justify it every year, because you look and you figure all the sales you made, because you had the site, even if it’s just at baseball games, with people bringing it up on their iPads and stuff like that. But furthermore from that, when you can have something that’s created for it, it’s probably automatically updated, it’s got different things, I love it!

I think that it’s an instant yes to do, unless you’ve already got something already built.

Mark S: I agree.

Marc V: Or how about this? I don’t doubt that there’s strong percentages of websites that probably should just shut down what they have, and redirect.

Mark S: Yeah. There are a lot of ugly websites out there, so that would be good.

Marc V: If your website is more than, say four years old, you might want to take a look at this version, versus what you have, and it might actually be better.

Mark S: Yeah, that’s great. I’m looking at the map here, for the Decorator Relations team, Mark. That’s an excellent picture of you, by the way, on the website. I’m giving you a look.

Mark Bailey: Thank you!

Mark S: Tell me how this works. We’re in Tampa, Florida. Am I going to have a Decorator Relations person in Jacksonville? Is that meaningful? Or am I calling in to corporate, and talking to whoever is available?

Mark Bailey: We have a whole team internally, so by reaching out to Decorator Relations at SanMar.com, is probably the best way. But I have two field guys; Monty Mims, who runs the eastern seaboard, and Rich Jacobs, the west coast. They’re constantly in the field. Their job is solely to call on decorators, to help them grow their business.

Most of these contract decorators, as you know, don’t buy from us, because they’re a service provider. So, it’s a very unique department, where we’re going out and trying to help these decorators be healthy, have good margins, so that there’s lots of options for our broker customers who need their services. No one is really doing that, and that’s our primary focus.

From there, we also help a lot of customers who do their own decoration. And of course, we have over 70 salespeople in the field that will do site visits, and come to their place of business, and show them the new product lines, and talk to them about the best products that support their equipment, and all of the other tools that we have available, to market and position their business and our products.

Mark S: That’s awesome.

Mark Bailey: Lots of resources, on many different levels.

Marc V: I just always get excited to hear things like that, because so many apparel decorators feel lost, when they’re new. We do our best to help them out with supplies, equipment and software, and all these things. But then, sometimes they come to us with these complex apparel and accessory questions that we can’t answer.

So, we send them out into the field, and say “Here’s all the places you can look at.” More often than not, there is no service provided with your blank, across the board. So, if you’re ordering from a particular supplier, it’s more in the lines of “It’s a privilege to buy from us. This is how we sell to you. You can buy this quantity at this amount. This is how we’ll ship it to you. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry.”

To me, as I listen to this and I listen to Holly, SanMar is the opposite of that. It’s as if they are excited to have their customers buying from them.

Mark S: Yeah, which is weird. How do you explain that, Mark?

Mark Bailey: Well, it’s the [inaudible 27:00]. We invest in people. We don’t sell t-shirts. We employ over 70,000 businesses, to help them make an income and support their families. We come at it at a completely different holistic view, than most businesses in the market and the trade channel.

That’s what we do best, is invest in people. Not only our own, but our customers, who mean so much to us. Last week, we were at our sales meeting, and we had a call from a customer that had been wanting to call Marty Lott for a long time. And Marty wanted to share the call with us. So, we called him live, and we told him that there were 100 people in the room, and just wanted to hear what he had to say.

Basically, what he said was “I just want to thank you for investing in me. 12 years ago, when Katrina hit, you were the only company that called me. Marty, you called me personally, to see how I was and how my family was, and what you could do to help. Then, you chose to help me to get my business back on track. And ever since, you’ve done nothing but reach out constantly, your teams and your employees, and ‘What can we do?’ and ‘How can we do it better?’ And I just wanted to take the time to say thank you.”

Mark S: Awesome.

Mark Bailey: That was just incredible. That’s what we’re all about. It starts from the top, and comes down.

Marc V: That’s the only companies I want to do business with, and it’s the only companies I want to work for.

Mark S: Agreed.

Marc V: That’s kind of a stance that I took years ago, when I was first getting what I was going to do with my career and my business. You work for these companies where the customer really does not matter. They are purely commoditized.

So, I get particularly excited any time, even outside of our industry, just period, whether it’s the place where I buy my car or whatever it might be, when it’s like “No, we’re investing in ourselves, which is investing in our customer,” the whole full circle, the whole karma-esque type of philosophy.

There’s a trick behind it, though. There’s a problem behind it. You can’t do that, and be the absolutely bare bones lowest price possible.

Mark S: That’s true.

Marc V: Because you have people to help you. It’s important to see the value in that, because your business can truly succeed, it really can, when you actually have got all these open resources, and you’re not out in the woods alone.

Mark S: True. Having said that, I did get a smoking deal yesterday. They’ve got free freight, over $200.

Marc V: Did you have to add some extra things into your cart, to get that?

Mark S: No, no. I had to cut back, just to keep it in the budget. I’m anxious to get our first shipment of stuff.

Okay, Mark. I think people have a better picture of SanMar, and of Decorator Relations in particular. We’re going to spend the next few months trying to encourage our customers to take you guys to task, and see what you can do for them.

Mark Bailey: Absolutely. For anyone going to the [inaudible 30:41] show, which is the last big equipment show of the year, we’ll be there in full force. Any of the shows where there’s equipment selling, we’re typically educating or jointly educating with our affiliates, not only on the floor, but in the education suites. So, please spread the word and seek us out, and we’ll try to help you any way we can.

Mark S: Awesome! Thanks, Mark. We appreciate your time today.

This has Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. And a great thanks to MB, Mark Bailey, the highest on high of Decorator Relations over there at SanMar. We appreciate the time here, and I’m sure a lot of people listening appreciate hearing some of this stuff, and kind of getting a good feel for, hopefully your company, and you’ve done a service for them. But also, just being encouraged to make some more money!

Mark S: I agree. Alright, everybody. Have a good business!

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