Episode 88 – Relationship Building With The Ambassador to The Printerverse

Feb 8, 2019

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

Deborah Corn

You Will Learn

  • How Deborah started the worlds largest LinkedIn printing group.
  • How to network with people.
  • How to sell custom t-shirts

Resources & Links

Episode 88 – Relationship Building With The Ambassador to The Printerverse

Show Notes

We first heard Deborah on her own podcast featuring Ford Bowers, President of SGIA – and both she and Ford provided tons of value to their listeners.
So, of course we wanted to share that with YOU.
Deborah runs the largest social group of Printers in the Universe (#Printerverse), hosted on LinkedIn, and has been a print customer for years. So during this episode she’s going to bring us a view from both OUTSIDE the custom apparel niche market and inside it as a consumer.
This is another episode you don’t want to miss!
We discuss how social relationships are one of the keys to success in the t-shirt business today and one of Deborah’s other passions Girls Who Print.
Mentioned Equipment:


Here are ALL the places where you can find Deborah online:
Print Long and Prosper
Deborah Corn
Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse
Have You Been PEACOCKED? #ProjectPeacock
Listen Long and Prosper! #PMCpodcasts
Podcasts from the Printerverse have landed!
Chat Long and Prosper! #PrintChat
Join us Wednesday’s at 4PM ET for #PrintChat
Network Long and Prosper!
Girls Who Print #GirlsWhoPrint



Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 88 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, with Colman and Company. I’m very excited today, to have new energy in the room!

Mark S: There’s a lot of it! There’s a lot of energy!

Deborah: I take up a lot of energy! I’m like a black hole, sucking you guys in.

Marc V: We’ve got Deborah Corn. She is the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse, which is a fun name, a funny name. It gets attention. So, we’re just going to dive right in to what that means, and who you are. So, Mark, tell us how it started.

Mark S: We got together with Deborah, because I heard her on a podcast that had the [inaudible 00:00:52], that had the Emperor of SGIA on it. It was great, and they sounded great, so I invited her on. The name of this episode, by the way, is Women in Print – Intro to Girls Who Print.

There was kind of a convergence here. I heard the podcast. You are a woman that is in the printing world, and we’ve just had this whole series of customers recently, doing success stories. Like we just finished with Leanne from Sweet Tees.

Marc V: That was great!

Mark S: We’ve got [inaudible 00:01:28], that’s going to be doing a success story for us. The women who print now, in our customer base, are growing. I think it’s actually kind of a social movement in our industry, that the demographic is changing. I wanted to talk about that.

And then, you’ve got all kinds of fun stuff going on. So, why don’t you introduce yourself to our group here, and tell us about Girls Who Print.

Deborah: Thank you so much for having me, guys, Mark and Marc. It’s easy for me to remember your names! As that Marc said, I am the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse. There’s an extra syllable in that one.

The Printerverse is a collection of really community-based initiatives. The first one is my website, which is PrintMediaCenter.com. Through that channel, I provide information and resources to print marketing professionals. I always like to caveat, “with a little fun in the mix,” because we like to keep it real.

There’s a collection of writers who contribute to my site, and they are all currently working in roles in the printing industry. So, we really are in the trenches with everybody else. Me, not so much, because I’m not a printer, and I don’t work in a print shop. But my audience gives me access to places like this, and I get to see what’s going on.

I kind of can give people a 30,000-foot view of it, as far as new opportunities. That’s kind of what I really like to focus on, which is why I love the concept of your podcast. Because you guys are helping people succeed with your equipment, and helping your customers’ customers is the only way that this is all going to work, from now on.

Mark S: What’s really cool is that when you say “printers,” you’re not just talking about apparel printers.

Deborah: Correct. I mean all of the print service providers out there, regardless of if it’s ink or something on something, and you’re selling it to – that’s what I mean by that. But you’re right.

That’s such an important point that you just brought up, because as the Intergalactic Ambassador, which is what I call myself, because I sit in the middle of about 150,000 people in the printing industry, between my site and my social channels, and my LinkedIn group, Print Production Professionals, which is the number one group in the world.

Mark S: There will be links in the show notes.

Deborah: But it gives me a unique perspective, to see that people have the same goals, but it doesn’t really seem like they’re communicating with each other as effectively and efficiently as they can. For example, just assuming anybody in my world knows what DTG is, is a hugely bad assumption. Because even today, when I walked in here, and you said “Here’s our DTG thing,” I said “Hold on!”

Mark S: What is that?

Deborah: You were talking about direct-to-garment, because I need to make sure. And to your point; to me, customers are the end users who will be buying the apparel. And to you, customers are the people buying your equipment.

So, this is a perfect example of why these types of conversations are so important, because we can get everybody on the same page, to let them know we all are trying to achieve the same thing. You’re trying to help your customers, and I’m trying to help your customers help their customers.

As well as you are, too, because I took a picture of your little mantra on the wall, that your success is measured by your customers’ success.

Marc V: It’s so important, which is why we do this podcast, and we have blogs all over the place and articles written every day and all of these things, because ColDesi sells equipment and supplies. If a printer is not making noise and printing, they’re not using any supplies, and our customers don’t come back.

If our customers are not profitable, then they go out of business. So, it’s really important that everyone listening to this, it’s important. Our success is their success. It’s full circle. The better they do, the better we do. The better we help, the better chance that they can succeed.

So, when somebody buys a DTG printer or a transfer printer, or an embroidery machine, if we can help provide the tools to you, then you are more likely to succeed than if you bought one off of eBay and knew nothing, got no education. The next thing you know, three months later, it’s collecting dust.

Mark S: It’s incredibly rewarding, too, by the way. You start somebody in business. They’ve got a side hustle. They’ve got an Etsy store, or something like that, and they want to take it to the next level. We get to help with that.

Deborah: Yeah. This is like the perfect – I want to be a maker, okay? Make! Look how simple this is! And I’m not trying to really read it down to this is printing for dummies. It’s not. There’s certainly technology behind it.

I toured your warehouse, I toured your technicians, tooling with stuff back there. This is technology. But I can do it, which is a good measurement of how simple it is. Because I’m not really a printer. I’m a print customer, so I sit back and like “I don’t care how you do it! Just give it to me when I need it, for what you said you were going to charge me.”

Mark S: That’s a good point. You started your journey here in the Printerverse, as a customer.

Deborah: Correct.

Mark S: Talk to us a little bit about that transition.

Deborah: Thank you for asking! It’s kind of an interesting story. I had worked in advertising agencies and inhouse marketing departments of brands and corporations for over 25 years, in New York City. Without bringing this down, after September 11, there was a lot of consolidation in the advertising industry.

It was very difficult for people in production, especially, because there’s usually like 40 people in production, in the big agencies, and they’re scattered around. They can really consolidate that, when they want to, and they did.

I was a Director of Production, so there’s not many of those running around. So, I took a job in Florida. This is not a sad story. It has a happy ending, I promise you. I took a job in Florida. I worked there for a couple of years, and then the recession hit in 2008, and I lost my job.

I was networking with people I knew, to find work, and did pretty [inaudible 00:08:28] six months, before I heard back from everybody. I was like “Alright, I need to think of something new to do here.” LinkedIn had just opened up groups, so I said “Alright, let me start a group, and I’ll invite people who I think could help me get a job.”

Other print customers, creative people, – Creative Managers, they called them, in advertising agencies – printers, traditional commercial printers – because they love getting people in advertising agencies jobs, so we can be friends. Not that there’s anything illegal or inappropriate going on, but it’s still loyalty.

Mark S: Networking.

Deborah: “I can’t print with you, but I’m sending everybody I know your way.” Whatever it might be, everybody is fond of people who help them find work. As an aside, I just threw in – oh, and headhunters can come, too.

The group actually took on its own life, because there were humans in it, with free will, who were making decisions. Like “I don’t know that Deborah Corn started this group to find a job. All I know is that there are people in here who can actually help me.”

They started asking each other questions. “Does anybody know what this type of binding is called? Does anybody know where I can find someone who can print on Styrofoam? Does anybody know why this is not coming out the way I want it to come out?” Questions like that.

They just started interacting with each other. It really took on a life of its own, until one of the members who was from an advertising agency referred her friend to come to ask a question, by saying “You need to join this group. It’s like having 500 expert colleagues down the hall.”

That was kind of my Aha! moment, that “I know I started this group with a different intention. But something is happening here. I’m in the middle of it, and I’m just going to go with it.” So, for like three years, I described myself as a professional networker.

Mark S: I like it.

Deborah: This was not something that was a job, you know. I’m making it up as I go along. Social media had just started to kick off in a way that it was becoming a viable marketing channel for businesses, and I was sort of in the ground floor of that, too. I just kept saying “I’m not really sure what this is, but I’m going to keep going with it, and see what happens.”

What happened was that it turned into the world’s number one group for print. There’s over 95,000 people in it. I have personally approved or thrown out every single member in that group. I have approved or deleted every single conversation. There’s no other managers. It’s me. It’s what I say, goes.

Mark S: That is a full-time gig, right there.

Deborah: No solicitations, but that’s why. It’s not a place to go for “Look at me!” It’s a place to go with “You asked a question, and here is how I can contribute to that answer.” Yes, of course I also do it, but I don’t need to lead with that.

So really, that is how I came to be. Sitting in the middle of all of these people – oh! I do need to say that after about 5,000 people jumped in there, what I refer to as the customers, obviously, the printers were telling the manufacturers “Oh, I’m in this group.” They were like “What?” And they all jumped in.

As soon as they jumped in and told all of their salespeople to get in there, the paper companies came, and the project management software, and the workflow. So, I have everybody from literally janitorial supplies for a print shop, to the highest-end 3D printer in the world is in this group.

That’s why I called it the Printerverse, because it encompassed everybody. I specifically did not call myself the Supreme Leader of the Printerverse. I didn’t want to be the Intergalactic Empress of the Printerverse. I am the Ambassador, because what do I know? I’m a print customer.

I just know there are things that I now have access to, that really, the end users don’t know anything about. And if we need to move this needle on how do we keep print relevant in peoples’ marketing and branding worlds – I’m not saying in the world in general, because I don’t subscribe to that conversation, nor will I have it.

Because if anyone says “Is print relevant? Is print dead?” I’m like “No, you’re dead, having that conversation.” If you’re asking that question, it’s actually more about you than it is about the medium, because the medium is not going anywhere. If you have an effective and efficient way to communicate a message, that message can be anywhere, and it will work.

The difference between junk mail and marketing mail is the message to the person who receives it. So, don’t blame the transfer device.

Mark S: Yeah. The medium is not the issue.

Deborah: Blame the author. Let’s get a grip on this thing. So, that’s kind of how I came to be.

Sitting in this spot did give me a unique perspective to see that there’s a lot of disconnects between what print service providers actually cared about today, versus what manufacturers were trying to get them to care about, to sell equipment. As they should.

If you want somebody to buy something, you have to make a case for it. But that case might be a little too far forward for them.

So, I kind of also am able to help these people get information, by going back to the manufacturers now, because I have access to them. On any day, my LinkedIn inbox is really an adventure. When I click into it, I never know what I’m going to find.

Sometimes, there’s just requests like “I need to find printers in Belarus.” I’m like “Oh! Good one! Here’s our challenge today!” There are major global brands, who I will not mention, that contact me to help them find printers, because they don’t want to reach out to them, because they don’t want to get into, like – this is not them, but let’s just say it’s Microsoft.

It is not Microsoft, but let’s just pretend it is. That will give you a perspective. Microsoft doesn’t want to call a printer. Is Microsoft ever getting off of that printer’s call list? “What have you got, Microsoft? What can I print for you? What have you got today?” So, they don’t do it.

I don’t make money from it. I don’t take a commission. I don’t work with these printers, and I always preface it by saying “You asked me for specific capabilities, and I’m telling you that these printers have them. You have to make your own decisions about this. I’m not involved. Don’t come back and talk to me about it.”

I’m not a print broker. I don’t take money for any of that. People offer it to me all of the time, by the way, and I’m like “Hell, no! I’m not your print broker.”

Mark S: Alright. I’ll keep my wallet in my pocket.

Deborah: It’s a long answer to your question.

Mark S: For the people that are listening to the CAS podcast, what you just said in there is great. Because what you’re doing is you’re bridging the gap between the language that the customer speaks and the message that the manufacturers want to deliver.

Deborah: Also, what they think they care about. Maybe there is kind of a little misguided belief that, for example, with digital printing. “Okay, I have a digital press, and now I can print 5,000 versions, all unique.” Great! Find a print customer who wants to print 5,000 unique versions of anything, and manage that, and deal with the data.

The big brands might. The funny thing is that most of the time, when that is actually happening, the consumers don’t know. They just get a thing in the mail, that happens to be very relevant to them, but they don’t understand how that’s happening.

I’m not saying that they do, but there’s still a disconnect.

Mark S: I get it.

Deborah: So, what I go back to the manufacturers or the printers who have invested in this equipment is “Don’t lead with this variable data conversation.” Lead with versioning. Lead with quicker, faster, more time for you to do your work. Slowly introduce “Hey, did you know we could have done four different versions?”

Don’t try to do five. Don’t try to get them on 5,000. Start off with two. Nobody wants to do that.

Mark S: That’s really a message for our customers, too, because what I see when I look at some of their customer brochures and some of their websites is the first thing they talk about – we get customers that will buy a piece of equipment. One of the first things they ask for is “Can you provide us with a clipart piece of the equipment? Can we put your logo on our site? Can we do things like that?”

The answer is “Yeah, sure! You’re welcome to do that.” Is it going to help them sell anything?

Deborah: No! Show me the hat.

Marc V: We say it all of the time. If this is your first episode, one of the best pieces of advice is, as you start your printing business, is we say wear what you do. So, embroider a shirt. Print a shirt. I’ve got print, you’ve got embroidery. Print a shirt. Go out and show some people some samples. Go talk to them. Meet people.

Then, when they ask you the simple things, “Yeah, I can print shirts. Yeah, I can do all different types of material, sure.” You get into the conversation. You were mentioning the variable data. Then, you can get into “You know, would you like the employee’s name on every shirt?”

Deborah: That’s how you do it.

Marc V: If you lead with “How about this? We’ll put the name here. We’ll put a tag on the inside.” Which are all great ideas.

Deborah: Correct.

Marc V: “Alright, each shirt like this, a button-up, is going to be $65.” They’re like “Ugh! The last guy, the last lady only charged us $20!”

Deborah: 100%.

Marc V: When you come out with “I can do this for $20. By the way, if we put the name on, that’s another $5. I can custom tag them. That’s another few bucks.” Now all of a sudden, they’re getting excited. “Hey, instead of doing the cheaper one, let’s make it the wrinkle-free.” That’s another $8. Now all of a sudden, they’re at $65, and they are stoked!

Mark S: Yeah, they’re happy.

Deborah: 100%. That is such a great point. Salespeople are really bad at that. They smell an upsell, and they just go for it. The advertising agencies and movie theaters have a really good strategy about this. If you notice the next time you go to a movie theater and look at the prices of popcorn – I’m just making up prices.

A small popcorn is $6. A large popcorn is $8. But a medium popcorn is $6.50. Now, I’m thinking to myself “Why would I get a small for 50% less? But I don’t want to pay the $2 for popcorn that I’ll be eating for six weeks” Have you ever seen [inaudible 00:20:17]?

“But how can I possibly turn away all of that extra popcorn, for 50 cents?” You cannot wrap your mind around it.

Mark S: We’ve got a link right here, to the Good-Better-Best podcast that we did just recently.

Deborah: Yes. Then, the advertising agencies have a great strategy, where you show the client exactly what they ask for, just so you get that out of the way. You show them something they will never do, under any circumstances, so they can say no to something. Then, you put the one that you really want them to do.

Using your example, which was really cool, and if it’s cost-effective, I would literally show the customer the three versions that you just said. “Here’s exactly what you asked, with just your logo over it. Here it is with the logo and the name. And here it is in 17 colors.” You know they’re going to say no to that!

Chances are they’re going to go for the medium popcorn.

Mark S: This is the conversation that we have about screen printing all of the time. Screen printers are always asking “How do you get $25 for a shirt?” I print one. That’s what I’m going to do, right now. I’m going to print one in full color. I don’t care how many colors they have.

“Here it is. This one’s $25. I can also put your name on the back, for an extra $5.” I can also, whatever you want to do.

Marc V: I was in the mall, actually. We didn’t even talk about this. I was in the mall maybe two weeks ago, and I was looking at the t-shirt stand that’s in the mall. He’s got the heat press, and all of that stuff. So, I’m just looking. I’m laughing at a couple. He had some funny shirts.

He and his wife – I think it was his wife, they looked like they were married.

Mark S: Because they looked unhappy?

Marc V: Yeah, they looked unhappy.

Deborah: The guy was holding her purse, and looked like he had been beaten to death.

Marc V: They were just like “Oh! Can we help you out with a shirt?” They were really friendly. I was like “No. Great job, that you came up and introduced me. I’m just in the industry. I’m not going to buy anything. I make my own.” But it reminded me. I just said “How much is a shirt?”

He said “The one you’re looking at is $25.” I was like “Oh. Do you do like names, if I wanted?” “Yep, that’s like $10,” and he was naming some different things. I did some math in my head, and I’m like “A couple of these shirts are like $40!”

I’m looking at it. It’s a cheap shirt. It’s not like the quality of the garment is remarkable. It’s just a run of the mill shirt. But the thing is that you can get one, exactly how you want. And they were printing shirts, while this was happening. So, they were busy.

So, you can get the money for the shirt, if it’s worth it.

Mark S: And that goes back to the language about, I may want to talk about the low cost per print, and how big the prints are on my direct-to-garment printer, but what a customer needs to hear is “Look at the size of this print, and how beautiful this is! And we can also do this.”

Marc V: Yeah. “Do you want a huge -?” That’s actually great, because the direct-to-garment printer, what’s the size? 16 by 20?

Mark S: 16 and a half by 24.

Marc V: Yeah, it’s huge. So, you can “Here is the t-shirt that you asked for.” Like a logo your size. A regular-size logo. “Here’s one I could do that’s a little bigger, and that I could do on the back, too. Here’s the giant one.” There’s no way you’re going to pay for it to be this wide and this big.

So then, you kind of upsell. We talked to Mark – we had another Mark on here, recently.

Mark S: [inaudible 00:23:59]

Deborah: I guess I’ve got to change my name! Deborah Mark Corn.

Marc V: He was mentioning how when he charges, he has a standard size. When he goes bigger, because he does direct-to-garment, the cost is a lot more, when you go bigger. Not a lot more, but for his customers, a lot more. That’s an upsell for him, is selling the larger print.

It should be the same way. If you want a DTG printer or a transfer printer, especially, or an embroidery machine, as it gets bigger, it costs you a lot more, compared to maybe screen printing. It might not be that big of a difference. So, you charge that upsell to them.

Deborah: 100%. The only other thing I would say about that is that it’s imperative that you show people samples of their own stuff. Don’t show them samples of your stuff or my stuff, because they don’t get emotionally attached to that.

I’m not emotionally attached to your name or your logo on a shirt that you’re showing me. But put my logo with my name, and all of a sudden, I’m like “Oh! Wow! I could have my name on my shirt! I’m somebody!”

Mark S: And the takeaway; “Did you want to buy this, or did you want me to throw it away?”

Marc V: Actually, I have a great question about that. It’s something that I struggle with, even in my own head, to answer this. Maybe you have a thought on it.

Deborah: Okay, no pressure.

Marc V: If I own a print business, a t-shirt print business, and my thought is what you just said. If I can get people emotionally attached to the sample, then that will get them excited. They will be happy to see it. So now, I’ve got my keys and my coffee. I’m getting in my car, and I’m like “Wait a minute. I should bring some samples.”

So, what’s the amount of work and effort and cost, do you think, putting into – when should you make that custom sample? Because right now, I’m on a cold call. I’m just going to walk in. A brand new donut shop just opened up. You walk in, and you see they’re all wearing just golf shirts. “I can make you a shirt.”

When do you think is that point? Should I talk to them first? Should I wow them right away? Should I put a bunch of money into just getting all samples for the big companies around? Or should I pre-qualify them first?

I don’t know. How would you do it?

Mark S: Let’s ask the Printerverse.

Marc V: Yeah.

Deborah: It’s going to be a long tale answer, unfortunately. I would say that your first mistake is getting into that car, without understanding completely who your person is, that you’re going to talk to. This somebody, how old are they? I’m sorry, but that matters.

If they are what we would like to call millennials, and you don’t have a sample, why are you even going to see them? If they are a business owner who more than likely is, let’s say they’re 60 or older, and they’re going to care about a sample? Not as much as they’re going to care about the cost of that machine.

But who else works in that company, that you can give a sample to, that you could use as your influencer? With that, I would also say that there are ways that you can honestly create commodity samples that are still relevant to customers, that can get them emotionally attached.

For example, “We’re coming over to visit you. Can you fill out this short survey?” “Do you like dogs? Do you like cats? Do you like blue? Do you like red? What’s your favorite candy?”

Mark S: Interesting.

Deborah: Then, pull a dog off of a blue thing, and bring them a cute puppy.

Mark S: Okay.

Deborah: It’s not their puppy, but it could be, if you say “Send me a picture.” Which is such a better way of doing it. Say to them “Look. This is going to sound crazy, but send me a picture of your -.” Look. I don’t know of anybody who won’t pay money for something with their kid’s face on it or their pet’s face on it. Who won’t?

So, if you even just “Hey, thanks for meeting with me. Here’s your dog on a shirt,” or your cat on a shirt, or your iguana, whatever it may be.

Mark S: You could stalk them on social, and pull a picture and print it. That would be a little creepy, though.

Deborah: I don’t necessarily think that that’s creepy, but again, you have to know your audience. A non-millennial might be like “What?” It might be a little creepy, especially if it’s someone’s child. I’m just saying.

Marc V: But if it’s a public Instagram picture, and they’re a millennial, they might be excited. “Wait! You found me on Instagram, and saw that picture!”

Deborah: To even drill down more into this, what are they interested in? Maybe you just see that they go fishing every weekend. So, you put a prize fish on there. That’s what you give them.

It’s not about what you’re selling, anymore. It’s not about what you can do. It’s about that you just made a human connection with somebody, and now it opens up the door to a conversation, in my opinion, on a completely different level.

It has to be authentic, though. I can’t just be “I stalked you and pulled a picture off of Instagram.” What are they doing in all of those pictures? Then, drill into that, and let them see that. What that says to me as a customer is “Wow! They understand me.”

Marc V: So, with your answer, the first step would be – cold calling wouldn’t be your style of doing it. Your style would be find a way to build some relationships, and then -.

Deborah: I’m saying that even if I’m cold calling, I’m not just dialing a number and saying “Acme Print Company! Hi! I’m Mike. May I speak to Peter, please?”

Marc V: Do the research ahead of time.

Deborah: I’m not a salesperson. I learn all of this stuff from people like Kelly Mallozzi and [inaudible 00:30:05] and all of the sales coaches out there. I know nothing about sales. I consider myself a relationship facilitator. It’s tied into sales, but it’s the approach.

Mark S: I like it, and now that you lay it out, I’ve done it. I’ve done it! We had a big vendor that we were kind of courting at ColDesi, come down a couple of years ago. I looked him up everywhere, and I found out he was very much into bowling. So, I made sure that the bowling shirt sample embroidery that we have was out front and center, on the front of the rack, so we could start a conversation about bowling.

Deborah: I would have put his team.

Mark S: I’m a little lazier than you.

Deborah: Okay. I’m just saying.

Marc V: We had somebody who was in the music industry, and they were coming in for a sample. So, I pulled up some art and I got the music-related art. I had it ready to go. Then, when they walked in, “Hey, how are you doing? I was just printing this shirt.” Then, all of a sudden, they’re like “Oh!” They’re laughing, and I’m like “Well, I knew you were coming, and I thought this would be fun.”

Mark S: You’ve got to be careful though, because we had a big trap artist that outfitted their whole merch department. And not all of the lyrics are appropriate.

Deborah: That’s funny. Another thing that’s kind of a great way to get a foot in the door is there are constantly – not constantly, unless you’re in a thriving city – but there are new businesses open. If you’re the t-shirt person, “Welcome to the neighborhood! Here’s a t-shirt with your logo on it.”

Mark S: I love that.

Deborah: That’s it! Just a welcome. Not “And I can print 100 for you.” Not “And we could also do aprons.” Just let it be a gift, and then God forbid, become a customer. Why should everybody be your customer? There’s reciprocation here, you know?

I’m trying to do this thing called “print rescue,” where I go into like a retail space and say “Okay, I can rescue this business with print.” They just don’t really know it. I can print the floor, I can print the wall, I can print the menus, I can print retail stuff, I can print new uniforms. They just don’t know that I can do that.

Can I just walk in there and say “I want to make over your shop, with print!” They’re going to look at me and say “No thank you.”

But if I’m a customer of theirs, and I’m “Hey, how are you doing?” There’s actually a place that I’ve been working on, a place that sells gyros in my neighborhood. I go in there. Every once in a while, I go in there to have a sandwich, and I talk to them.

Am I being fake? No, because they don’t have to talk to me back. I’m talking about things, but I’m working up the time to say -.

Mark S: “By the way.”

Deborah: They actually print signs off of their desktop printer, and then highlight.

Marc V: Oh, yeah. I’ve been in stores that do that.

Deborah: And that’s their signage. I’ve spoken to the guy a few times about it. Now, he actually got a new sign, which I’m very excited about.

Mark S: That’s great!

Deborah: But I put in the time to be willing to understand. Does this guy really care about this sign, at the end of the day? He sees a line out the door, and he’s like “What do I need a sign for? They’re all in here, buying my sandwiches.” Until the first person came up to him and said “We like your new sign.”

Then, he was hooked on it! Because he was like, it shows that he cares.

Marc V: That’s actually a great point. Just kind of getting some takeaways I’m thinking of here, in listening to you, and maybe some things some people listening here can take away.

There’s a theme here, in a lot of the things you’re saying, about everything is the relationship building.

Deborah: To me.

Marc V: You started your community that way. The people within the community love being there, because of that. So, something that I would say if I’m starting a new t-shirt business or an embroidery business, one of the first things – and we’ve recommended this before – is start to get yourself out there, to build some relationships.

We talk all the time, right? Join the Chamber of Commerce, the PTA, the PTO.

Deborah: Totally.

Marc V: If there’s an event you can go to, like that Meetup.com. If you like telescopes, go to the local astronomy club meeting.

Deborah: 100%.

Marc V: Go anywhere. Meet people. Say hi. Then, “Can I follow you on social media? Do you do Instagram?” Build a little bit of a relationship, and then boom! One day, you’re going to see that it’s this couple that they’re just announcing that they’re opening up a new little coffee shop. And you do that. You say “Hey!”

You already follow them on Instagram. You’ve been talking with them for a while. You know that they love to go hiking. So, you make them two hiking t-shirts that say -.

Deborah: With a note, “Congratulations on your new adventure!” Totally! I’m loving this! Even though I’m not really sure what you’re adding to this.

Mark S: He’s the smart one, that’s for sure.

Marc V: That’s the key. There’s plenty of approaches. We’ve talked about the really cold call approach, before. The one of “Listen, get in the car, and just meet people.” That is a way to do business, if you can. But the relationship one is you might not get business tomorrow from it, but as you do it over time.

Deborah: 1,000%. Yes.

Marc V: The cold calling way, you can get a t-shirt order tomorrow, but it’s much harder and it’s more abrasive, and it requires a lot of personality. It’s hard.

Deborah: Is it fair to say that it will also most likely be a one-off, unless you develop a relationship?

Marc V: It could be.

Mark S: Yeah, yeah.

Marc V: Absolutely. The relationship building is so key to longevity, and it makes business easy for you six months, a year later.

Deborah: I always define a sale, when I speak at events or meetings and stuff, as when a need and a relationship meet.

Mark S: That’s good.

Deborah: And to your point, you should 100%, Chamber of Commerce is genius. Everybody should be doing that. But you can also do it from your home, by following the people on social media, that you want to do business with, just sharing their stuff and commenting on it.

Not “Great outfits, but I could do a better job!” Nobody cares about that. Just “Congratulations on your new business! Wow! I’m down the block. I’ll be over tomorrow to have a coffee,” or send them something.

I always tell the wide format printers, this new business, send them a banner, a “We’re Open” banner. Put your little logo on the corner, but don’t make a big deal about it, or try to upsell. Just give a gift. People remember these things.

Mark S: Absolutely. It fits, because we did a poll in the CAS Facebook group, on where do most people get their business. And it’s all through personal connections. It’s all local business.

Deborah: Word of mouth, referrals and social media. I just did a presentation for [inaudible 00:37:39], and HubSpot put out some amazing stats about sales for 2018. I don’t remember them off the top of my head. Actually, I think I have them in my phone. I could pull them up later, maybe, or you could post them.

But like 84% of purchasing decisions are now through a referral, and something like 50% or 60% of those were because of content on social media that they see. So, if you think about it, there’s a more than 80% chance that people are learning about your business, without you even being there.

The other end of this is to make sure your house is in order, when people are going to come investigate you. Like if your site is not mobile-friendly, if you’re not on social media and active on it. Just being on it, and then spewing stuff about yourself is not really cool

People also, by the way, if you’re a printer, and you’re doing business for a restaurant, why aren’t you sharing everything they have, and saying “Great customers have a special today!” Or “We love printing” whatever. “We love this best barbecue in the world, and we’re happy, because they always need new t-shirts!”

Whatever it is, there can be cool ways of doing it.

Marc V: I like that. My favorite part about this barbecue customer, or two favorite parts is one, their pork is amazing. Two, they destroy their t-shirts, so they always need them.

Deborah: Thank you! Or show them, like print barbecue stains on t-shirts and say “Pre-approved by the barbecue restaurant.” You know?

Mark S: That’s great! I like that!

Marc V: I actually like that a lot, of sharing your customers’ social content. Just share, and give it away. They’re not get anything for it, you’re not asking it. You just do it.

Deborah: Once they connect back with you, the handshake is complete. You reach out your hand, by sharing all of this stuff. They don’t have to connect back with you, just like they don’t have to pick up the phone, when they see a number, and just like they can spam your email, because they have no idea who you are.

But if you’re following them on social media for a couple of months, and they recognize the company name, and then you send them an email, “Oh! I know something about that. I’ve heard that before.” Click! You win on that click, whether or not they do anything else with that after, is of course, the ultimate point.

Mark S: But that’s not the point.

Deborah: Not really. Because I delete, I can tell you – I’m not exaggerating – I would say up to 200 things a day, I delete or spam, mark as spam.

Marc V: Now, we’re in a world where we’re bombarded with so much, that the social proof is important. So, being on social media, sharing with people, shaking the hand like that.

Mark S: I like the sharing customers thing. This is really important for our listeners to think about, because there’s a whole camp of people that have either been in business for a while, or maybe they’re just not so current on social media – I ran into it the other day, during one of the success stories – “I don’t want to show who my customers are, because somebody is going to take them away. Someone is going to see that.”

That’s the point of building the relationship. Someone will always be able to sell something cheaper than you, 100% of the time. Somebody can buy any of the equipment that you can see in this room, for $1 less, somewhere.

But it’s the relationship that is proof against that. It’s your shield against those competitors trying to come in. So, the more you share, the more confident that you are, the more you get reach-back from your customers, and the better off you’re going to be.

Deborah: I have been known to say that if your competition doesn’t know everything about you, everybody who works with you, and all of your customers, they’re not your competition. So, what do you care?

All of the people that you are afraid of, they already know everything about you. Or they’re not relevant. If they are, to your point, I’m not leaving this person for $1 less, if I’m not familiar with the process.

As a print customer, my sanity is dependent upon the dependability of the vendors that I choose for the agency or the brand or the corporation. And everybody is watching me, to make sure my vendors deliver, because believe me, they blame me for every single person.

And they constantly like to say “You’re protecting the printers, and you’re not protecting us,” because they don’t understand that there’s actually two sides to every story. Like “Okay, it’s late. But don’t forget that we changed the file 16 times.”

They don’t want to know that. They don’t want to know that part. They just say we missed the deadline. It’s like “Well, you’ve been signing off on it for the past week, knowing that this is going to affect the delivery date.”

But it’s all about having those people on the other side, that are there for you. You can’t understand that, just through a cold call. There has to be more to it.

But that doesn’t mean, like I talked about my LinkedIn inbox. Just because I’m connected with you does not mean I’m your friend. It does not mean I’m going to do things. It does not mean that you can sell me something.

The amount of irrelevant information I get -. I work from my home. I don’t need a server form. Why are people? Or an MIS system, or a printing press, for that matter. I’m not a printer. But I have Print Media Center as my name, and I’m connected to people on LinkedIn, and they just feel that’s an open invitation to send irrelevant information.

Which ruins it for the people that actually have relevant information. Those people usually start off by “I really appreciate your contributions. I just read this article. I thought it was really great. We come across this a lot of times in our business.” Then, they tell me their story.

But they’ve tied it back to me, and I’m a human, so that matters to me.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: I think the message of relevant information is really important. We talk about that when we talk about our customers starting their business, and having a personality, your brand, or whatever is their business.

If they are selling to cheer, as an example we use a lot, because that’s a big industry. If you’re selling to the cheer and cheerleading business -.

Deborah: I was like “Cheer, like the laundry detergent?” You did it again! You thought I knew what you were talking about!

Marc V: That’s why I switched the word a few times. It’s like that spirit-wear and cheer, and cheerleading. If you’re selling to that community, it’s important that for one, all of your logos and branding and look and samples are for that.

Then, a new attorney opens up, and you go there and you ask them if they want you to make some sort of custom apparel for them, and you’re showing up with all of this. It doesn’t matter. They’re going to look at you and just say “I don’t know why you’re here.”

Deborah: Right. And most likely “Please get that teenager’s skirt out of my office!”

Mark S: That’s true! So, as your brand grows and your business grows, if your business has multiple personalities, like we serve different niches, then make sure that the way you speak, or the samples that you deliver, and the way you build the relationship, even.

So, the intangible building of the relationship is if you’re trying to deal with dentists and doctors, maybe you are a little bit more professional. Because they are used to receiving things that are very just white and corporate.

Deborah: 100%. Yeah.

Marc V: But then, if you’re also selling to local bars and restaurants, and things like that, they’re typically an atmosphere of fun. If their restaurant is boring, then like you said, just the sign.

Deborah: But they also have different ultimate needs, right? A restaurant or a bar is going to want to know about how many times you can wash the t-shirt, because it’s more dirty. Or what sort of treatments can be put on it, to be antibacterial, or whatever else another person’s problem might be.

To not specifically only speak to them about exactly what only they care about, is a huge mistake. “Oh, we can do all of this stuff!” “But I only care about that much of it. Why are you wasting my time for 40 minutes, about a cheerleading outfit?”

Marc V: A mortgage broker wants to know “Can I dry clean this shirt?”

Deborah: Thank you. And “How many times is it going to last?”

Marc V: And the bar is going to say “I know this is crazy, but we wear white shirts here. I know, don’t tell me. But it’s a brand thing. Can I bleach it?”

Deborah: “Can I bleach it?” Yes! I can almost guarantee these are questions people ask over and over and over again.

Now, this kind of really plays into generational marketing, right? So, there are people of a demographic, I’m going to just say the Gen-Xers, which I’m one of them. I like to touch stuff. I like to see it. It’s also my print buyer thing. Unless it’s in front of me, I don’t believe anybody. I need to see it myself.

But the millennials, and below them, the Gen-Zers, they kind of live their life platform-based. So, to all of your customers out there, your website is the number one educational resource. All of the answers to the questions that these guys just talked about, the Marks just talked about, “Can this be bleached?”

“Here’s an FAQ about our t-shirts for restaurants. Everything you ever want to know about a t-shirt for a restaurant is right here. Click in there.”

Now, as a customer, I think “Wow! These people know a lot of stuff. I’m going to print with the experts.”

Marc V: And they’re talking to me.

Mark S: Yeah. They know I’m a restaurant.

Deborah: I’m a restaurant. Look! They have a restaurant section. They must do a lot of that. Then, show examples of the different styles. “Here’s our small popcorn, our medium, and our large. Here’s three examples of them. Here’s a range.”

The millennials – I’m sorry, millennials. I know you don’t like being called millennials, and lumped into a group, because you’re special.

Mark S: It’s like 30 minutes in. None of the millennials are listening.

Deborah: Sorry, millennials. But they don’t like to be locked into things. They don’t like to be told what to do. That thrills me to death, quite frankly. What they like is give them the ingredients and step away, and let them come up with stuff. Then, guide them, as an expert.

But if some baby boomer is telling some 25-year-old -.

[Sound issue 00:48:56-00:52:08]

Deborah: Everybody in this business should have that capability, because within five minutes, she – it was a she. This was actually a human. It wasn’t a bot. Sometimes I test the bots, by saying something stupid, and just seeing what they say.

A lot of times, they come back like “Excuse me?” I’m like “I’m just making sure you were human. I wasn’t really criticizing that this is the Terminator time to take over, or anything.”

But she talked me through. I went to embroider something, and I put it over the other side. I didn’t realize it was supposed to go over the pocket. Then, I was somewhere, and I saw it and I was like “Oh, that’s not good.” So, I flipped it to the other side.

But I guess the way I said it, I confused them. But in this live chat, in three minutes, all of the problems were solved. They helped me with another question that I had, and I got a new proof, while I was on live chat. Approved it in live chat, and my job is on its way.

Mark S: That’s great.

Marc V: You know what this makes me think of with all of this, because I really try to put my mind in the shoes of our customer; the first thing I think of, not knowing what I know, is I can’t afford to do either of those two things, because that sounds very sophisticated, and I’m not Domino’s. Right? And you’re not.

But two things on how you can do that now, with the money you have right now. One, you said is about the steps. Right? We received your art, you approved your art, all of these things.

Go back to episodes, listen to our CRM episode. We talk about CRMs.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: Customer Relationship Management software. Every CRM, the stuff that you can get for $19.99 a month, includes some level of these mini-automations, where you can go into a customer’s account, and you can click Automation, and click Art Approved.

Then, that will just send an email to the customer, “Your art’s been approved.” Even with their first name in it, automatically. That stuff is free now, basically, with a simple CRM.

The second, with the live chat, the same thing. If you’ve got a website, a simple one, you’re talking like a GoDaddy $9.99 a month almost free one, there are chat modules that are free, if you let that company stick their logo on the bottom of your chat.

The chat in these automations can be free. You just need to take some time to one, actually do some of these things, like make a website and make sure, like you said, it looks good on mobile. And then after that, say “How do I get chat on this?”

“Alright, who’s my website through? GoDaddy? I’ll bet they might know.” They have a phone number. Call them up. If you’re too scared to call, live chat with them.

Deborah: If you can’t order pizza, they’re not going to go through [inaudible 00:55:06]. That will put them in like a mental institution! “I talked to a live chat person about technology! I just wanted a pizza!”

Marc V: What’s great about it is all of this stuff, you can be like Domino’s, with whatever budget you have nowadays. Because everything is so inexpensive. You’ve just got to do a little bit of research, and have some patience.

If you’re bad with that stuff, then ask somebody to help you, or pay somebody a little bit to help you.

Deborah: Yeah. Many times, I open the live chat, or there’s an option, and it says “We’re not here right now, but leave us a message, and we’ll get back to you as soon as -.” And I will do that. I will not pick up the phone.

Mark S: I’m the same way.

Deborah: I’m like, I don’t want to get in some voicemail system from hell. Don’t even start me with Comcast. Have you tried to call the cable companies?

Mark S: Oh, forget it.

Deborah: But I would rather leave a message in the live chat, and they’ll always return the call. It’s a simple process.

Mark S: I like what you said about Domino’s, too. And then, I do want to talk about Girls Who Print.

Deborah: Yes! The reason we were here!

Mark S: The last thing on the Domino’s thing is that [inaudible 00:56:20] had a great idea on the Facebook group. We were talking about apps or something on the group, and she uses an app that is normally used to schedule appointments for hair salons.

She adapted it, and it says like “Oh! Your shirt is almost ready. Here’s a reminder that your artwork is done and your shirt is due, and it’s time for your pickup,” and all these different things. They just rearranged it for the t-shirt business, and it’s great.

Deborah: Half the time, the reason why I was loyal to my vendors is because they removed the uncertainty and the fear from my life. There is no worse purgatory than “I sent the file in, and I don’t know if it’s okay.”

Because if it’s not okay, and by the way, they never are, but no one ever tells you. If they’re not okay, and it can’t move further down the chain, that’s it. Everyone’s stuck. It’s a big problem.

So, just that understanding, and saying “We got you. It’s cool. Go on with your day. And you know what? If you want to check on the status, we have our own app, for people who are more along this.”

I don’t have my own app, but I want one. So, I get it. It’s not an easy thing. But then, I can check my own status. And that’s kind of like really what Vista did. They made it that print is such a scary thing, and you have to talk to people, and you can only talk to them between 9:00 and 5:00, because that’s when they work.

But no, not with Vista! You don’t have to talk to anyone who is going to be condescending to you. You don’t have to understand what it is. You can pick whatever you want, make your own little template. And guess what? You can do it whenever you want.

Marc V: And their terms for what the art needs to look like isn’t, I’m holding my foot up, like two feet long. Where you go to some of these printers, and their email signature is that long. The person who owns a coffee shop has no idea what any of those words mean.

Deborah:: Correct! Now I’m a little upset because my email signature is [inaudible 00:58:31]. But it’s different things you can do in the Printerverse, like Girls Who Print. See how I tied that back around?

Mark S: Yeah. We should go there. What is Girls Who Print?

Deborah: Girls Who Print is an organization that was actually founded by Mary Beth Smith – shout out to Mary Beth Smith. She again, started a LinkedIn group, just looking for other women out there in the industry, to kind of discuss our experience, which is different than the experience of men.

Like I can’t really understand your experience, fully. I see it, but I don’t live it. But of course, she’s from Texas, so she’s folksy, so she let everybody in the group. But it was about girls who print.

It grew, and I ended up working with her behind the scenes. Together, we created Girls Who Print Day, which is celebrated in my booth, which is called the Printerverse, at the print shows in Chicago.

That turned into an annual leadership panel that we bring industry leaders together, to talk about issues and things that are relevant, mostly attracting and maintaining women in the industry. A lot of them, I mean, I have the privilege of speaking at graphic communication programs in the colleges, and what I see is that they are filled with women, with girls, with ladies, whatever you want to call them.

But they don’t all make it over to print. The ones that do, don’t all stay there. So, there is more to it than just – people have to start talking more about the contributions that women actually make to the printing industry, which are pretty significant.

I always like to point out that a woman runs the largest trade show in the world, [inaudible 01:00:42]. It’s a woman doing it. That’s the top of the food chain, right there. So, let’s stop with this kind of second class citizen stuff, and let’s really start celebrating what everyone is doing.

Girls Who Print has grown to about 8,000 people in the group. Sorry, there’s a little over 6,000 people in the group, but with the other ancillary social channels, it’s about 8,000 to 10,000, global community.

Girls Who Print Day is now international, and this March, as a matter of fact, I’m starting a new initiative. Mary Beth Smith actually retired last year, so I’ve taken over. I’m officially Girl Number One. I like to call myself the HGIC, the Head Girl In Charge.

Kelly Mallozzi, who I mentioned before, she has a company called Success In Print. She is a sales coach, and she is also a recent author. Yay, Kelly! And Bill [inaudible 01:01:38]. She is Girl Number Two.

We are going to, this March, to coincide with Women’s History Month, we’re launching Women’s Print Herstory Month. Like “her story.”

Mark S: That’s great!

Deborah: We’re going to use the hashtag #PrintHerStory, with the hashtag. We’re encouraging all of you out there to share your stories. Tell us your stories. Get in touch with me. We kind of alluded to the fact that you heard me on a podcast, but it’s actually my own podcast.

It’s called Podcasts from the Printerverse, and it is currently listened to in 111 countries, so you’ll get some nice global exposure. We want to share the stories of what I call the fierce, fabulous females in the industry.

Not just a bunch of people in a corner, like “Oh, how am I supposed to navigate this?” No. We’re all about empowerment. We are partnering with Printing Industries of America on a formal mentorship program and platform, to match new people in the industry with seasoned pros, to help them, no matter what stage of their career they’re in.

I’ve been doing this for eight years, and I still go to people, and I’m like “I have no idea how to navigate this.”

Gender pay inequality has become a big topic, but to me, women just leaving it for men to pay them equally is not really the way I would approach it. So, we want to teach – teach is a bad word. We want to open up a conversation, where we can say to people -.

[Sound ends at 01:03:24]


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