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 46 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 to talk about why you’re communicating wrong, and how to fix it.
Mark S: I love that. You know, we carefully craft our headlines, to make you at least give a little bit of a listen to the podcast. That’s kind of the most offensive way we could phrase that.
Marc V: Yeah. Just a way for you to say “Wait. No, I’m not!”
Mark S: I guarantee you are. The idea for this podcast came out of some thoughts that we had about communication styles. That’s what we’re going to talk about today, is your communication style; your preferences in communicating with your customers and with the people around you, your vendors, etc., and what their preferences might be, and how to handle that.
Marc V: So, communication styles, like accents?
Mark S: Yes. That’s exactly it. No. I’ll give you an example. What really started me thinking about this is we have a vendor that does things for ColDesi, that really only likes to talk on the phone. And I am notorious for not wanting to talk on the phone. So, what would happen was, for the first two years that we tried to do business together, we just didn’t connect. We didn’t hook up at all, and this is a valuable vendor for ColDesi.
Because he would call, and I would respond with an email, because I don’t pick up the phone. We lost business between each other, because of that. What I found was, as a matter of fact, after one phone call that we actually did connect with, I sent him an email, and I said “Listen, I never answer my phone. If you would just send me an email, that would be great.”
I got an email later that day, saying “Hey, this is – I’m just going to use John – this is John. Can we talk on the phone today at 2:30?” That drove me nuts. That was both my loss and his.
Marc V: That’s what happens in business. You have a method that you prefer to communicate, whether that would be – some people love to text message. If we talk about just inter-personal relationships, because that’s really what it comes down to. Inter-personally, you have a preference of how you like to communicate with other people.
You might, as I mentioned, you might be into text messaging. Other folks will say “I hate to text.” Some folks really love to talk on the phone, and they could sit and talk on the phone for an hour. Others, it’s very uncomfortable for them. Emailing, direct messaging through social media, writing letters. I suppose there might still be a couple people.
Mark S: I haven’t gotten one, so I can’t say, but I’d be open to that. I would be open to that.
Marc V: There’s all these different methods that you prefer to communicate, inter-personally, for whatever it might be for you. Maybe you’re the type of person that prefers to think something out, write it out, read it, and then send the communication through, which is why you may prefer text messaging or emails. And other folks stumble upon that. That find that to be work. They just want to let the thoughts flow easily. The want to hear the inflection of voice, that you gain from the verbal communication.
Mark S: Or maybe they just don’t see themselves as effective written communicators. Maybe you’re a little embarrassed by the fact that you cannot spell, or your vocabulary isn’t the best. And that kind of communication sometimes, that written communication can intimidate people.
Marc V: Absolutely. There’s emotional things that come along with it, too. The warmth and the connection of meeting people in person, or on the phone, and hearing their voice. There’s all of these things that come into play.
What happens in business, and in your personal life, as well, – but we’re here to talk about it in business – is that if you try to force too much, your communication style upon people who don’t enjoy that or don’t prefer that, then you will lose business to somebody who will accept their communication style.
Mark S: That’s absolutely right. Just one quick example is we’ve got the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, 5,500 members. And a certain percentage of those really prefer – they’re on Facebook, anyway – they really genuinely prefer to get their information on Facebook.
They would rather chat with me on Facebook about an issue or a problem, or a tech support question, or things like that. They find it a burden to phone call or email or, for example, go to the support site and fill out a request. Where just going to Facebook and chatting is easy for them, and immediate.
Marc V: We’re in a day and age where we have this convenience of communication. Communication has never been more convenient ever, throughout history. And we’re spoiled, a little bit by it. But if you’re spoiling your customers a little bit, by giving them excellent service and communication, then you will win customers because of that.
People like to be spoiled, with communication.
Mark S: And let’s kind of call it like it is. If you’re on Facebook, do you keep in touch with many friends that are not on Facebook? There are people that I haven’t seen in years, that I occasionally communicate with in Facebook, who I would never email, I would never write, and it’s because the communication is simple, and it’s readily available.
Marc V: Absolutely. So, what do we have to do, then? What do we do when you’re a small business owner, and you really prefer to have all of your communications via email, but you run into customers that would like to do something differently than that? But this is the way you run your business. So, how do you manage that, without disrupting your own personal flow?
Mark S: From my perspective, your personal flow is – good phrase, by the way! I feel like that’s a title of a self-help book. “My Personal Flow.”
Marc V: I’m actually writing it. I just started.
Mark S: Okay. Me, I err on the side of the customers. It’s important that you do as much as you can, as efficiently as you can, as a small business owner. But also, to some extent, that really doesn’t matter. Unless your business model is built around – like let’s say you have an online store. We’re jumping around here a little bit, on our agenda.
But let’s say that you have a custom apparel shop online, and you take orders online. And that’s successful and working for you. So, if someone wants to call and talk to you on the phone about an order, if your whole business is made up of online orders, and you’re geared toward people just logging in and creating their own shirt, and getting it printed, and you ship it. Then, it may actually cost you money to do it the other way.
Marc V: Exactly. It can actually be to the detriment.
Mark S: It’s a big investment.
Marc V: Yeah. It’s a big investment of your time. If you’re working eight or ten hour days, 30 minutes is a chunk of that time. If you get three phone calls that are 30 minutes plus apiece, that can eat up that time.
So, I think that you have to choose when the time is right and wrong. But when we talk about most of our customers that are out there, we’re in the custom apparel business. We’re dealing a lot with folks who are making custom jobs across the board. They’re doing things for sports teams, they’re doing things for schools, they’re doing things for business owners, for corporations, and things like that.
Having proper communication on the style and the color and the size, and all of these things, is great. So, we have to make sure that we do that efficiently. But also, you’re also a salesperson.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: You’re a salesperson, and you’re trying to sell to these customers. Which means that you need to embrace what they want. Like a dog, you feed them a treat. “Come over here and let me pet you,” and things like that.
Mark S: Hey! That might work, too, as a sales tactic. I’m not sure.
Marc V: That is a sales tactic.
Mark S: It’s not legal in Florida, though.
I don’t want to make it sound like that is an excuse, that “I only really want to do online sales, so I only have to take emails, so I don’t have to talk to people on the phone and things like that.” Because you’re right, Marc. The vast majority of our customers do a local business.
One of the things that we talk about in all of our podcasts is that personal connection, and getting out and meeting your customers and your potential customers. Just like people are more likely to do business with somebody that they’ve met, they’re more likely to do business with somebody that they’ve talked on the phone to, for the most part, versus just received an email.
And they’re more likely to do business with people that they got an email from, than that they’ve never heard from. It’s kind of like this scale of interaction. The more personal you can be, the more likely you are to earn repeat business, in the vast majority of the cases.
If you’re out there in the world, and you’re meeting people in person, that’s great. If you don’t like to meet people, if that is not your preferred style of communication, then we’ve already said that you’ve got to get over that, if you want a local business, to a certain extent.
The same goes with phone calls. You just have to engineer your business to say “Okay. I know that Mark Stephenson hates to talk on the phone. So, if I want his business, and I want to communicate with him properly, I’m either going to have to text message him or I’m going to have to send him an email.”
You may keep a list like that, or you may go through those optional methods of contact. Just try to figure out ways to fit those into your style, rather than ignore them.
Marc V: What you’ll notice, and you’ve noticed this before, if you haven’t made the connection yet, when you deal with a large business, they often will ask you what you prefer, if you’ve noticed that. You will get those “How would you prefer us to contact you? Phone, text, email?” They ask this.
You have to take this lesson from people who have learned this before you. Businesses have learned that when you ask a customer how they prefer to be communicated with, and then you follow along that trend, they like you better. They want to do business with you more.
Mark S: That’s just the way it works.
Marc V: That’s why when you go to certain businesses and you have some of these standard forms, you see they ask you “How do you want to communicate?” Check “email,” and you write it out, and then you’re waiting to get an email from them. If you would have checked “phone,” and put your phone number, you’d be waiting for the phone call. So, you should do that with your customers.
But also, you want to make sure that you stay within the facets and rules and efficiency of your business. What does that mean? If you might have somebody who really loves to talk on the phone, or maybe in-person meetings. “Just come by my shop and let’s talk about it. Just come by. Just bring it by.” That’s what they like. They want to shake your hand and be your friend, and see you in person. That’s really what they like.
People will tell you what they like, if you ask them. You don’t even have to necessarily ask them. Just pay attention. They will tell you.
However, you might have some efficiency that you need within that. For example, they like to talk on the phone, and they want a quote for some t-shirts. They need 100 t-shirts and 100 caps. They want a quote. However, you know, especially if you’ve listened to this podcast, we’ve talked about don’t just tell somebody a number on the phone, and hang up, and assume that they understand.
Mark S: Absolutely not!
Marc V: However, if that’s how they prefer to communicate, then you need to explain to them your rules and methods, and merge and meet. If you explain to people why, they’ll understand. What I mean by that is you’re on the phone, and you say “Okay. 100 shirts, that’s going to cost you this amount of money. And 100 caps is going to cost you this much. Your total is going to be this. If you want me to deliver them by mail, it’s going to be an extra $30 surcharge,” whatever this might be.
“What I need to do next, just to make sure that everything is perfectly clear, is I need to email you a quote. I want you to review that, and then I can call you back on the phone. Or if you’d like, you can respond to the email and say that you agree to the terms. But either way, I can call you back in a couple hours. Is that fine by you?”
This way, what you’re doing is you’re communicating to them “My style is writing things down and making it very, very clear, and putting it in an email with a timestamp and everything. Your style is talking on the phone. So, I’m going to talk to you, and then I’m going to ask you, as the compromise, to go with my style. And then, we’ll come back and talk again.”
Mark S: You may even do this, which I really like. If you get somebody that likes to talk on the phone, then you can get them on the phone, or send them the quote that they need. Then, get them on the phone and say “Are you in front of your computer? I just sent you an email with the quote. I’d like to go over it with you, to make sure that I was clear.”
Then, just go through the quote while you have them on the line. “Great! All of that sounds good? Go ahead and just click the Accept button or write “accept” in a reply, and send it back to me, and I can get started.” That will turn into a great closing tool, too.
Marc V: Absolutely. There’s a thing that we will run into here, and you may run into it in your business, as well. People will say to Mark and I, when we have to communicate everything to all of our customers, “Why don’t you just send an email to everybody?”
Mark S: And we do.
Marc V: I’m like “Of course we’re going to do that.” However, that’s going to hit about 30% or 40% of the people, if we’re lucky. Then, we’ll send a second email, and that will hit another 5%. So, I said “We can send the email 12 times, and we’ll still have 15%, 20%, 30% of the people who won’t get that communication. So, sometimes we have to mail something. Sometimes, we have to pick up the phone and call people. We’ve got to do all of it.
Mark S: Let me tell my story.
Marc V: Alright, I’m ready.
Mark S: ColDesi and Colman and Company, we go out of our way to provide all kinds of information to our customers. Not just sales stuff. We send people information about the podcast, and everything like that. But twice a week, we have free one-hour Tech Talks for our machine owners, with our best technicians, on software and hardware. That’s twice a week.
We send out emails to all of our owners, suggesting that they sign up. We put all of that stuff on the support site, so they can see it. If they ever have a problem, they can sign up, too. Also, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel, and when we put up a new video about how to do something or about a new product or something like that, if you’re subscribed, you’ll get that.
We also put Facebook ads and information out there, with new resources and all of the free stuff that we do. So, one of our best customers, that’s been a customer for about a decade, came in a few weeks ago. They have multiple machines. We were talking about this communication thing, and I asked her “Let me ask your advice. We have these great resources for people, these Tech Talks, and we average about 15 people.”
We sell probably 50 or 60 machines every month, so that’s about 1,000 people a year, between Colman and Company and the cutters and things like that, and we get about 15 people that come to the Tech Talks.
She says “Well, first of all, I don’t read your emails,” which was like a dagger to my heart. “Secondly, they’re during the day. I tried to sign up for one, but I had a customer come in, so I just didn’t do it.” Her suggestion was “I call Colman and company for supplies all the time. If somebody could talk to me then, then I would learn a lot more stuff about what you guys are doing.”
Marc V: Yeah. And this is a constant challenge in business, because our supply calls can’t be “Oh, you’re calling to order some thread. Let me tell you about these are the four webinars we’ve got going on. These are the four new products that we’ve got.” We have to pick and choose what we can communicate on the phone. We can’t spend ten minutes every phone call, explaining everything that’s going on.
So, spreading all of your communication becomes this thin line and balancing of what to communicate on what days. We can pick up the phone. We have a new product that we have coming out on the website right now, and I gave one of the guys in there a list. I said “Call all of these people and email all of them, to let them know we have this product, and see if they want a sample of it.”
We go through the whole list. We made contact with about 30% of the people. And we’ve called and emailed them. In 30 days, we will talk to somebody, inevitably, that will say “I didn’t even know that you had that.”
Mark S: “Why don’t you guys tell me about that stuff?”
Marc V: “Why didn’t you tell me?” This is a challenge in business, and you’re going to run into it, too, where you’re going to email a customer a follow-up or a quote, and they’re going to say “I didn’t get that. What do you mean? I didn’t see that. I didn’t notice it.” Because people are terribly distracted and busy, just like you are.
Mark S: Or you’re going to leave them two messages about a deal, and they say “I saw that you called me, but I never listen to voicemail.”
Marc V: Yeah. “I don’t listen to voicemail. I really don’t like them.” Because they’re mainly like three minutes of rattling on about why I might need to call you back. It doesn’t actually even say what the reason is, and then leave the phone number.
Mark S: What we’re saying here is, you’ve heard some great examples just from me alone, and not really wanting to talk on the phone. I know a lot of people are going to be calling me after this podcast.
Marc V: I’m going to call you.
Mark S: I know you are.
Marc V: You don’t even answer my phone calls.
Mark S: No, I don’t.
Marc V: I dial your extension, and then I have to walk down here, and you’re sitting there.
Mark S: But if you texted me! That’s a couple of good examples of one customer just doesn’t read emails. So, what if that was one of your biggest customers, and you’ve been sending “Hey, I’ve got a great deal on this overstock shirt that I’ve got in stock.” Or “Since you ordered these things, I’m going to give you this for free, if you order a little bit more.”
What if it’s those promotions, because you’re sending emails, that your best customers never get?
Marc V: I have maybe a solution.
Mark S: Okay.
Marc V: We’ve talked about, in previous podcasts, about using a CRM, a customer relationship management software.
Mark S: That’s a good one. I don’t know what the podcast number is, but you should definitely look for that.
Marc V: Yes. So, you can use a CRM. Basically, what that is, if you haven’t listened to that and you don’t know what it is, and this is the first time you’re hearing about it, it’s some software that you can get, that allows you to build a database of your customers. You can put in a whole bunch of notes and documents and information just pertaining to this one customer.
This way, when you go to review that customer’s information in the future, you’ve got everything in there.
Mark S: It’s really easy.
Marc V: Yeah, really easy. Previous work history, just little notes. “They have the same favorite band as me.” You can put whatever you want in there.
Mark S: “Hates to talk on the phone.”
Marc V: That’s exactly it. In your CRM, you can maybe put preferred communication style there. You can write in “phone,” “phone and email,” “text only.”
Mark S: “Twitter.”
Marc V: “In person,” “Twitter,” “Facebook message.” If you want to do this, it doesn’t have to be terribly complicated. But what that means is whether it’s yourself or salespeople you have in the future, or with you now, if you’ve got all of this information, you start doing it now. In the future, a year from now, if you’ve listened to another podcast, you know that you should follow up with your old customers by contacting them.
You can go through your CRM and you can pull all of your customers from first quarter of 2016 and this first quarter of 2017. You can pull all of them up, and you can go through and say “Okay, I’ve got 40 people to call.”
Mark S: “And I’ve 150 people to email, and three guys to text.”
Marc V: Yeah. You go through the list, and you say “Joe likes an email. I’m going to shoot him a quick email, ‘Hey, following up with you.’ Mary likes to get a phone call. Bob likes someone to visit his shop. I’m going to be in the area on Tuesday, so I’m going to make a note to go visit Bob.”
Basically, you’ve become like this chameleon of communication for your customers, and people are going to notice it, and you are going to make more money.
Mark S: You’re going to make more money. We should go back and put this as one of the How to Make More Money Next Month. You’ll do it, because I guarantee that because ColDesi is limited in the ways that it communicates with its customer and potential customers, I guarantee that there’s machines we’re not selling, because there are people out there that really only respond to text, and we don’t do that. We do everything else.
That’s going to be the same for your business. You may even look through your database, and you identify a customer that you’ve done nothing but email. You’ll pick up the phone one day, and they’ll answer, and you’ll spend 20 minutes. Then, they’ll read every email that you ever send again, and they’ll place a big order.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: That’s the kind of thing that actually happens, when you vary your communication style, regardless of the way that you like to do it.
Marc V: Just make sure that within all of this, you follow whatever the basic tenets of your business are. If you make sure that you email people and they sign off on quotes, if you take physical signatures on quotes to get jobs done, whatever it might be. You just make sure that you balance it all around the tenets of your business.
The bottom line in that is also make sure that it’s not so inconvenient that nobody likes it but you.
Mark S: Right. That’s a good point.
Marc V: Sometimes, you can just change or adjust what you do, if you’re getting feedback from your customers, how it was. “I hated how every time I go to order shirts from you, which is every three weeks, I have to print something out. I don’t have a printer in my office. I have to sign it.”
Mark S: Sign it and fax it back in.
Marc V: “I have to do this every three weeks.” If you’re hearing things like that, that’s terribly inconvenient for a lot of people. If it’s one order a year, that’s a different thing. But when it’s consistent orders and consistent across the board, you should try to fix that. It’s not always easy to fix, but do it.
Mark S: It could be something as simple as maybe that’s an office that you stop by every two weeks, to see “If you have an order for me.” Or maybe you start to research investing in just a straight online ordering system, so they never have to do that.
Marc V: Exactly.
Mark S: It was a good short one. First of all, you have to admit you have a problem. I guarantee you’re communicating wrong in some way. You’re not excited about getting a phone call from a customer. You’re not responding to emails quickly, or emailing very well. You’re not emailing to your customers any promotions or sales information.
You’re not stopping by. You’re not texting. You’re not on Facebook, accepting chats. You’re not on Twitter. You’ve really got to embrace all of it, and find ways to maybe transition those other communication styles into something that’s actually going to work for your business.
Marc V: Yes. And if there is something that you really don’t like doing, then find a way to improve that. You can. If you really don’t like email, because you have Outlook on your computer and it’s really cumbersome to you and confusing, and you don’t like it, there are other email clients you can use besides Outlook. Or maybe you just do all of your emails from your mobile device or a tablet.
Mark S: That happens.
Marc V: All of that’s fine. Adapt and change. If you really don’t like taking phone calls, “Listen. I’m busy during the day. I have machines running. I can’t hear it. I don’t want to leave my embroidery shop when I’ve got four heads going, and it’s too loud in there to talk on the phone.” Well then, maybe you just take a certain time of the day that you do phone calls, and you even include that in your voicemail.
Mark S: “I’m on the shop floor until 4:00 PM every day. I’m happy to return your call then.”
Marc V: Yes. “If you want to communicate faster, you can email me where I can easily communicate via email, even with all of the loud machines running.”
Mark S: Or text, or whatever it is.
Marc V: You’ll find that when you communicate honestly like that, you’re going to have people that even though they wanted to talk, they are perfectly fine with sending you that email, and then maybe in the end saying “Hey, can you call me after 4:00?” Or you’ll find that people will just straight up adapt. They’ll just start texting you, and you like texting, and they’ll just stick with it, and they’ll be happy. They’ll give you their money, and be happy to go with that.
Mark S: God love them.
Marc V: The same thing if you hate emails, period. Then, in your email, when you’re checking your emails, check them during one time of the day. Check them in the morning at 9:00 AM, and then check them in the evening at 4:00 PM. That’s when you respond to emails.
You can even put a little footer in your email, if you want. Don’t make footers huge. I mention that in every podcast, probably. You can have a little one that says “I respond to emails at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM every day.” You can just put that in your footer.
People will see it, and then they’ll realize that if they email you at noon, they should not expect a response until 5:00. And if they need an answer from you now, they know to call you.
Mark S: Or “Fastest service can be found on Twitter at #BuyAnotherShirt.com,” whatever it is.
Alright, I think that is great! I think you guys have all learned all of the wrong things that you’re doing, and how to fix them. I think that you’ll have a better business if you, along with me, because I am going to try to get better at talking at the phone, along with me, that you’ll make more money.
Marc V: Absolutely. You will win more customers. You’ll have happier customers. We have a podcast on customer experience. You’ll give them a better experience, and you will have a more successful business than the man or the woman a few shops down from you.
Mark S: Who doesn’t use “that damn internet!”
Marc V: Yeah. “I don’t use email.” You will earn more business than that person. What I would have to say is everything that we talk about in all of these podcasts, I don’t know if there’s one thing that is magical, that will make you ten times more money this year. In business and in sales, it’s all about “How can I get one or two more?”
If you do this, you will get a few more. And if you do the “how to make more money next month” stuff, each of those things will get you a few more. Everything that we do, the customer experience, will get you a few more. You will slowly start winning. And sometimes, quickly. You’ll have surges sometimes.
You could start doing this and all of a sudden get 10 more customers or 10% more customers than you got last month. You might get 1% more, but over time, all of these little things add up to a lot. It adds up to a lot.
So, start practicing some of these things, and you’ll notice a difference next month.
Mark S: I like that. Alright, guys. This has been episode 46 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.
Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.
Mark S: Have a good business!