Episode 91 – Steps to Getting More Customers by Networking

Mar 20, 2019

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • How to network with people
  • How to get more customers
  • How to build business relationships

Resources & Links

Episode 91 – Steps to Getting More Customers by Networking

Show Notes

In this episode we have put together a formula to follow step-by-step that WILL get you more customers through the power of networking. This formula combines working hard, being personable and a little touch of psychology to give you that extra edge.

Here are the steps to making money with networking:

Attend Social Events

  • Meetup.com
  • Local Business & Commerce Groups
  • Events for kids where parents socialize (Kids B-day parties)
  • Church events

Go with intent to meet people (not to sell)

  • In discussion ask what someone else does first
  • Show interest in them. The more likely they are a prospect, the more you talk about them. You can pitch your ideas or business later.
  • Mention what you do, and see how they react. (they may ask you to talk about it)

Having cards is important, GETTING cards is more important.

  • You have control of making contact, rather than waiting.
  • You can archive people into your contacts
  • Write notes on cards whenever possible
  • No card is even a great excuse to contact people (actually I don’t have any cards with me, but I’ll email you and you can add me to your contacts… I can even mail you a few with more info about my company)

Contact them ASAP.

  • If they discussed business or a referral, you are in. Contact them and discuss the business or proposal
  • Otherwise next steps are…..
  • Drop a quick email or social media contention
  • Let them know it was a pleasure to meet them
  • Be POSITIVE about something
  • View their website, store or social account and genuinely compliment something
  • “I just went to your Instagram feed and love your pictures, so creative”
  • “I ended up checking out your website, wow love the design”
  • “I googled your company and saw 100 5 start reviews on google WOW”
    or….Compliment something about your conversation
  • I love your idea about…..
  • It was really interesting discussing…
  • I didn’t know ….. could be so interesting.

Follow up with a “by the way” email

  • Wait a handful of days and follow up again. This time ask for something
  • “Hi…. i was thinking about our convo at…… have you considered getting custom apparel for your business.
  • “Hi….. you mentioned you know a lot of small business owners… is there anyone you can introduce me to that might need my services”
  • “Hey i was wondering. I am trying to grow my business. could i make you a custom shirt for your business and you tell me what you think? If you love them… you could buy more…. or refer me to some other people”
  • ” I am trying to meet more business owners to help grow my business, (since i make t-shirts) are there any other groups or people you can intro me to. I am trying to build my network”

Keep engaged with them

  • Don’t let your relationship end there. Keep on the edge of their minds so when they need apparel or can refer someone you know them.


  • Follow them on social… like, comment, share
  • Refer them business. If you know someone who needs their product or service…… send them their way and make sure they know who sent them.
  • Leave them a review online.. “just met ……. these are the type of people you want to do business with 5 stars”
  • Return to those social events and be sure to say hi to them. Even if you are mingling with others.

Using the above formula will help you build a large network of people who are business associates. Never forget to keep in contact, even if just every few months. Always remember to refer business whenever possible.

TIP: If you are looking to build a network of associates, be sure to have a good way to keep track of them. Using a CRM is a good idea, can add notes, and access mobile.


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, and welcome to episode 91 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast! My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc, from Colman and Company. We are on episode 91, and it’s about the steps to getting more business, making more money, getting more customers, by networking.

Mark S: Right. So, don’t hang up the phone. Don’t turn off the podcast now, because networking is often associated with like car sales. It’s that kind of cheesy “Hey, I sell copiers. What do you sell? Let’s exchange cards.” But that’s really not what we’re talking about.

Marc V: Yeah. We’re talking about specific steps that you can take, that involve being personable with people, knowing where to connect with people, a little bit of psychology in there, kind of how to get people to like you a little bit bitter, or react to you a little bit better.

Mark S: Especially some of you!

Marc V: Yeah! And really, this is a formula that is not necessarily something we just made up. It’s a series of things that we’ve learned over the years, both of us. And we’ve combined it into something that we find is going to be really relevant to our industry, and the custom apparel industry.

Mark S: We’ve both been, I don’t want to say “power networkers” in previous careers, but you know, it’s been to both of our advantages to network with people, and really, you can just think of it as being friendly and nice, in a structured way. Right? It’s kind of kind of like “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It wasn’t a set of tricks, so you could get more sales. It’s really just lessons on having a great interpersonal relationship with the people that you meet, and they’ll end up buying from you.

Marc V: And either you might be this person already – if not, someone in your family or friends is this person. If you say “I’m thinking about getting new floors in my house,” somebody might actually say “Oh, I know somebody,” that they can refer you to. That person is a master networker, whether they do it on purpose or not.

You know, Malcolm Gladwell has a term for that person. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Mark S: I do. It’s going to drive me crazy.

Marc V: Maybe while you’re talking, and I’m not paying attention, I’ll look it up.

Mark S: If you’re watching the video, don’t mind us. We ignore you occasionally, so we can look stuff up.

Marc V: So, if you are already that master networker, listen to this and enjoy it. Maybe you’ll even get another tip to how to do some things on purpose, better. But if not, if you feel that you are a little bit timid, or you’re terrible at it, or you’re not good, then these are some tips you can do, so in the future, you can be that person, and say “Oh, you want custom upholstery? I know somebody who does that.”

Mark S: I do know somebody who does that!

Marc V: Do you? Sounds great!

Mark S: Think about it like this. Like we’ve said tons of times, and we’ve done surveys on the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group and other places, the vast majority of you that are listening to the podcast, get their business by word of mouth.

We’ve got some big companies that listen, and still, a bunch of their best customers came from a referral. So, let’s kind of get into the steps that you’ve outlined; how to make the most of a social occasion on purpose.

Marc V: Okay. Well, first of all, I looked it up. It’s Malcolm Gladwell talks about three people. He has a bunch of great books.

Mark S: I remember the maven.

Marc V: Yeah. The maven is the person who always tells you about something that’s on sale, or where to buy something. The connector, that’s the networker. And then, there’s the salesperson, who is the person that is just naturally “You should do this. You should buy this.”

Mark S: What’s the name of that book? We’ll put a link to it in the show notes.

Marc V: The Tipping Point. It’s probably the first book I’ve read of his. Anyway, it’s a little plug for him.

Mark S: We’ll put a link to it in the show notes.

Marc V: Can we just get one of those Amazon links, so that when they buy it, we make like a penny off of each one?

Mark S: I like that! Is it a penny? I would have been doing it for years!

Marc V: I don’t know. It’s almost nothing. Alright, so let’s get to it, folks. Here are the steps. Write these down, make mental notes, or go back and listen to this again. They’ll be in the show notes, so you can go to YouTube or CustomApparelStartups.com, and you can see these. But if you follow these steps, 100%, you are going to make money from doing this, even if you just do it in the simplest fashion.

For one, attend social events. As simple as it sounds, it’s the most important step.

Mark S: You’re already doing this, but if you’re a shut-in, if you’re lonely, if you don’t get out of the house much, it’s also a great excuse to make sure that you go out and do something.

And I love that you put a bullet point here for Meetup.com, because I hadn’t even thought about Meetup, for a decade. If you don’t know, Meetup.com was like one of the first local social sites. All over the country, there’s Meetups from everything like 22-year-olds who like warm beer, to marketing networking, to insurance and investment clubs.

Marc V: There’s religious ones. There’s astronomy. I’m pretty sure that a while back, I saw one that was just for redheads.

Mark S: There’s a Meetup for everything.

Marc V: There’s a Meetup for everything.

Mark S: There’s one that fits you, I guarantee it.

Marc V: Yeah. There’s one that fits something you’re interested in. So a great way is if you’re into anything; cooking, photography, astronomy, real estate on the side. If you just want to go to one that’s for like couples who talk about relationship-building. Whatever you’re into, find a Meetup, and you just go to one of the meetings, and you just show up.

Mark S: I’ve got a great example of that. Because I was at a Meetup last night.

Marc V: Really?

Mark S: Yeah. There’s a podcast Meetup group here in Tampa. It’s at IHOP, on Pancake Day. So, free pancakes, that was a bonus. But it’s a room full of people that either already have a podcast, and they’re talking about that business, or they want to, or related. Somebody at my table stood up and introduced himself, and he is a trademark and patent attorney. He has no interest in podcasting, but he’s new – just moved down from New Jersey, and wanted to connect with the community.

And I literally watched, after he introduced himself, several people just leaned over, and made sure that they were going to connect with him. So that’s it. He happens to be in a room full of people that might want to trademark something. He’s an attorney that does trademarks. He could have been home watching Netflix. But you know, 7:00 at night on a Tuesday, he’s at IHOP. There’s 50 people in the room, and he probably got half a dozen prospects.

Marc V: And that’s what most of these are going to be like, oftentimes. They are designed, whoever puts them together, it facilitates that type of environment. So generally speaking, you’re not going to walk into a party where you know nobody, and then kind of feel awkward and have to leave.

Most of these events, whether they are Chamber of Commerce events, local associations, church group events, prayer groups, no matter what you think of. There’s one that I’ve been looking at, I haven’t gone to yet, but I learned about an astronomy one I want to go to, to tell us some stuff. I read about how they do a meeting.

Most of them start with just like “Hey, everyone. Just say who you are, and kind of what you do.” And this way, you just get to say “I do embroidery and make t-shirts,” whatever you do.

Mark S: Let me tell you, if you’re in a roomful of people, and you mention “I make custom t-shirts,” people will come to you, 100% of the time.

Marc V: They will. And this isn’t necessarily a tip, but this goes back to other podcasts, where we kind of talk about an elevator pitch. So, you want to have like one or two sentences that nail down what you do, and make sure that they know that what you do is not – you don’t have a Cricut, and you make shirts you buy at Walmart.

You say like “I’ve got a -,” and go onto our website, and read how we describe the machines. Use those words. “I’ve got an LED digital transfer printing system, state of the art, and I do custom t-shirts.”

Mark S: Or we’ve done tons of examples. “Hi. My name’s Bob. I run Bob’s Custom T-shirts. I do custom t-shirts for small businesses. By the way, what business are you in? You’re a plumber? I do it for plumbers.”

I agree with that observation.

Marc V: I also put some notes in here; local business or commerce groups, Chamber of Commerce, small business associations. There’s BNI, might be one.

Mark S: Yeah. You can join paid-for networking groups.

Marc V: Yeah. Whatever you want to do. You find the right one. Find a free one, a paid one. Typically, the ones that require a little bit of money, you get a little bit more regulars, and people who are invested. The free ones, you’ll still meet people there.

Mark S: I will say, just another example from a recent event that you and I both attended, is we were at a trade show this past weekend, and I’m sitting and having a cup of coffee. A couple of other guys from the trade show sit down. We start talking, and they ask me, naturally, “What do you do?”

“Well, I do this podcast for custom apparel startups and t-shirt business and equipment, and things like that.” Literally, he pulled his card out. He handed it to me and said “My wife has been talking about starting a custom t-shirt business. We’ve been looking at printers. Will you call me?”

Marc V: Great!

Mark S: It was coffee. That was it.

Marc V: That’s going to happen. Now, I know you’re too busy. You’ve got three kids, and there’s two in dance, and one is in baseball. And they’re also in the play, and one of them takes piano lessons. I understand that. So, that’s the next one on the list.

Any events where you’re with your children, and parents have the ability to socialize. So, that’s going to be at dance practice, because the kids are in the room, and you’re behind the glass.

Mark S: Sitting in those chairs.

Marc V: You’re sitting in the chairs with six people.

Mark S: For 90 minutes.

Marc V: Yeah. That’s true of baseball games and soccer games.

Mark S: Music lessons.

Marc V: Any events where the child is doing something on their own, and you’re just hanging out watching, because it’s fun, or they’re too young to be there alone. Those are all perfect events. You do the same thing, there. “What do you do?”

Mark S: You start with questions. You don’t go “Hi. My name’s Bob, and this is what I do.”

Marc V: Yeah. That’s true. So, let’s start with the next one. I also put church events. These are typically fantastic community-building, too. These are generally always just free, and they want you to come, because churches are about community building. They want you to come, they want you to know.

Then, when you get there, they want to introduce you to new people.

Mark S: And really, I think what you were talking about before the recording, is you’ve got to approach it with that genuineness. Like, you’re not just there to get somebody to buy a t-shirt. You’re really there to meet people. Find out what they do. Be curious, and see if you can help them.

Marc V: And that’s step one, to attend the events. Then, step two is go with intent to meet people, not to sell. You are not going there at all, to make a sale. You kind of are, but really, get that out of your head. You want to have the focus to say “I’m in here to meet people,” because you might meet five people that night, and none of those will buy. However, because you connect with them, they 100% know somebody that could buy from you.

So, let’s get into this step. In a discussion, you ask the questions first. That is the easiest way to start a conversation, is to ask an open-ended question.

Mark S: People love to talk about themselves. And you know this probably from yourself, being a person, is really, when you meet somebody, you’re almost just looking for an opportunity to tell your story.

You meet somebody, and say “Tell me what you do. Do you live close by?” I guarantee, they will tell you the 15-minute version of “Yeah, I’ve been here for two years. I moved down from Massachusetts. I’ve got two kids. My favorite color is blue.”

If you ask about somebody else, and just be quiet for a few minutes, they’ll fill in the gaps.

Marc V: Yes. And the second kind of part of this step is really show that interest in them. This is how you get to meet people easily, and network, even if you’re more timid, and you get tongue-tied. Ask a question. Just practice like eight questions in your head, six questions. “These are things I can ask people.”

Then, if they stop talking, and you’re tongue-tied, just go to the next questions, and be interested. They will love you. They will be like “I just met somebody, and they were so nice.” And you literally asked three questions.

Mark S: Yeah, and you listened to them talk. Here’s another thing that I will do myself, in those situations. If they are wearing a piece of decorated apparel -.

Marc V: Like touch it?

Mark S: No, no! I will not touch it. That’s Michael Jordan. What I’ll do is, for example, at the conference we were at, I saw somebody who had a great hat, and it was embroidered on the hat. I said “Do you mind if I take a closer look at that?” “This is really good work!” It was. I wanted to see it, because it was really good.

It was puff and not puff, and the design was great. “That’s really cool! I’m in the business, so I’m telling you, you got a great deal on that hat.” Watch that conversation go, and it will. If you see somebody with an embroidered polo or a blinged out jacket, “I love that! I do that. Can you tell me how you like it?” Just start the conversation.

Marc V: Yeah. Ask about it. Show interest in the apparel, or show interest in anything they say. You mentioned plumbing. “My husband and I, we own a plumbing company.” “Oh, are you a plumber? Do you get dirty?” “No, I don’t like to get dirty. That’s him. I stopped doing that ten years ago. I hurt my back. I work the phones, now.”

“Oh, okay. How long have you guys been around? What’s the name of it? I wonder if I’ve heard of you.” Just talk. They’ll love it. “What’s the story? How did you guys do that? Did you meet as plumbers?” Just ask. They will talk to you.

Then, wait until you get to a comfortable point, either where they ask you, or there’s a nice pause, to kind of do the same. “Oh, I actually own my own business, too. I have an embroidery business. I have a commercial embroidery machine and a t-shirt printer.” Then, pause. At this point in time, my tip is you pause for a second, and see how they react, because in my experience, as soon as I pause, and I say “I sell equipment that makes custom t-shirts.”

Then, I just stop. At that point in time, you can gauge how they are going to get into the question mode. If they’re going to be interested, they’re going to start asking you. If they don’t say anything just yet, then you can add a little bit more. “I’m in the custom t-shirt and embroidery business.” And you pause for a second.

You can see them thinking, and say “I’ve been open for about six months. I do it home-based. I’m really hoping to open up a storefront,” or whatever your dream is.

Mark S: Tell them your story.

Marc V: “In your plumbing, have you guys ever ordered custom shirts?” Maybe you can ask them about their experiences. Learn. Use this as an experience to learn about what they’ve done before. “Oh, yeah. I work with a great company,” or “Oh, we tried it a couple times. Nightmare!” “What went wrong? I’m going to take notes, so I can never do that!”

Mark S: You’re still not selling, right? You could also just bring your whole question, if you find out somebody has got a business, or a small business, especially if you’re new, say “You know what? I run a small business, too. Tell me how you got started.” That way, you’ve already let them know that you are another small business owner.

Then, if they’re polite, after they’re done talking, they will ask you about your business, and that gives you the opening.

Marc V: Yeah. And this is kind of a side tip, not one of the steps, but a side tip. I didn’t write this one down, but I was just thinking about it. If you’re running into a dead end, like you’re talking to this person and they don’t really want to talk to you, they’re rude, they seem like they’re going to go nowhere for you.

Mark S: You realize at some point that they’re from Jersey.

Marc V: “I don’t work. That’s my mom over there. I just live in the basement. I don’t really do anything. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’ve got this like DJ music thing I’ve been working on, on my laptop.”

Mark S: Stop it!

Marc V: If they just go into that, like this person, they don’t seem like they’re going to be somebody, of course, be nice to them, because you never know.

Mark S: And if you’re interested in the Lithuanian [inaudible 17:56] that this guy is mentioning on his laptop, then it’s hard to find something that wouldn’t offend anybody.

Marc V: Then, maybe you get up and excuse yourself. “I’m going to use the restroom.” Find a reason to get up, so you don’t seem rude. Then, you get up, and you pass by the mom. Maybe you pause for a second there, after you come out of the bathroom. You just walked in there and stood there for a minute, and then left, so you didn’t have to feel awkward.

Mark S: You could introduce yourself. “I just met your son. I’m so sorry! Really!”

Marc V: No. “Nice guy!” You just say “I just met your son over there. Is that his daughter or your daughter?” “Oh, it’s mine. It’s his brother.” “Oh, okay. I thought maybe you guys were brother and sister.”

Mark S: Then, you realize that you just met the guy who did [inaudible 18:49], a bajillionaire.

Marc V: Yeah. But now, you’ve got a new conversation started. “Okay, yeah, my daughter’s in there.” Just start again, ask some questions. “How long has your daughter been doing this?” Get into it, and then try to get, whenever you can, back into that business angle. “What do you do?”

Mark S: One thing I want to point out is all of the things that we’re talking about, and by the way, if you’re not watching this on video, you should, because for some reason, the Italian in both Marc and I are coming out, and we’re both talking with our hands.

Marc V: And I’ve touched your apparel a lot.

Mark S: You have. It’s uncomfortable. So, what we’re doing is we’re really just having a conversation. There’s nothing like advanced or – really, you’re meeting people, you’re being genuinely interested. And if you have an opportunity, you’re letting them know what you do. That’s really it.

Marc V: That’s it. It takes a little practice. The more you do it, the better you get. I was terrified, especially as a teenager. If I had to go into a room where I didn’t know somebody, terrified. I would literally just walk in, and just “Where’s something that can occupy me? Where’s something I can read or drink or eat?”

Mark S: That’s actually how I still am. When I go to an event, I much prefer the ones where I have the chance to introduce myself. Because once I stand up and talk, I’m fine.

Marc V: You break through the wall.

Mark S: If it’s just me and 60 people I’ve never met, I basically start on the left, and try to work up.

Marc V: I’m typically one where if I see something comedic, that’s where the wall just shatters. If that’s your personality, where you love to make jokes, just wait for the joke. Just wait for the joke, and then you see something funny happen, and then just say it out loud, and people will laugh.

Or you’ll make a fool of yourself, and you say “I’ll never do that again.” But you get to go to a different event! But that pretty much never happens.

Now, this is the next step. Having cards is important, but getting cards is more important. Oftentimes, what can happen is you have cards with you, business cards. Not thank you cards or anything like that, or birthday cards. Business cards. Having some, I think it’s still relevant.

Mark S: I’m sorry. I just have to say it. Now, I want to print out tiny happy birthday cards, and hand those out. People will be delighted. “I don’t know when your birthday is, but happy birthday!”

Marc V: They should be belated cards, because of the chances of it being belated -.

Mark S: You’re right, for once!

Marc V: It’s magical! So, have some cards. And you want to hand those cards out, but really, the intent is to get cards. This is how I would do it. I’m going to tell why, actually, first.

Why is because then you are in control of making the next contact, when you have the business card. When you give somebody your card, it goes into no-man’s-land. That might mean they may call you, they may email you. They may throw it in the trash. They may put it on their dresser, and then spill water on it. Who knows where it’s going to go?

It’s important to do that, especially if they’re genuinely “Oh, can I have your card?” “Yes, but can I have yours, too? Because you mentioned you’re a plumber, and I just have a network of people, and I don’t really know anyone who is a plumber. That’s kind of what I like to do.” You can just be straight-up honest about it, and people will love it.

Just say “What I really like to do is I like to know people that kind of do everything. And this way, when one of my customers comes, and they’re making shirts, and they mention something about plumbing, I get to say I know somebody! It’s a great way for me to make friends.”

Mark S: When you read Tipping Point, you will recognize you are becoming a connector, when you do that. “I really like to connect people.” I don’t want to make it seem like all I do is go to meetings and conferences, but I was at one.

Marc V: You do, a lot.

Mark S: I was at one, and I did it wrong. And it bothers me, still. I was at a conference for marketing, and I met one of the head marketing professors from the University of Tampa, who happens to be in charge of their – what’s the program where you have college kid slaves that come in? – Interns! That’s it.

He was the head of the intern program, and I was so excited, because occasionally, we look for interns. We’ve got one here that we hired, that’s great.

Marc V: We do?

Mark S: Yeah, Greg. He came in and did like a little internship. So, I was excited. He didn’t have any cards. I gave him mine, and I didn’t collect his information. And of course, he’s a busy guy. He never got back to me. Now, when I’m online and I’m trying to find his contact information, it’s not nearly as comfortable a transaction as “I’m looking at your business card. I had an idea.” And calling him.

Marc V: I want to be really clear about this, because I said getting the card is important. How you do, in step two, which is go with intent of meeting people, how you do in step two is going to be as tantamount to how well you get step three. Because if you are in step two, and you seem awkward, uncomfortable, like you’re a sales pitch type of person, if they think that the next thing you’re going to do is pitch them on Avon, or selling some sort of -.

Mark S: You’re out.

Marc V: “This person is one of those network marketers. I don’t want to do it.” So, you have to really genuinely just want to talk with them. And then, this way, when you go to ask for the card, and “Oh, no. I don’t have any cards.” “Okay, do you mind if I shoot you an email? Do you have a website? I want to check it out.”

Just show genuine interest. If you’ve done a good job, then they will be happy to do this. If you get resistance there, then you know that you went in too hard or too – you sounded like you were trying to sell. Just really be genuinely interested in meeting them. And only grab information from them if you feel that they are going to be of value to you.

Business owners, of course, are fantastic. Anybody who is within a large social circle, like if they’re a teacher, if they work for a large company, even if they just say like ‘Oh, I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I’m always doing stuff,” they might be a connector, because they’re always doing stuff.

They mention “Oh, I’ve got six kids,” and they list off 15 things, they’re connected with a lot of people. So, you would want to meet them. They won’t have a card, but you can say “I’d love to connect some time, share some pictures of the kids, stuff like that. Are you on Instagram?” Find a place that’s comfortable for you.

Mark S: That’s it. “You know what? That sounds really interesting. I would love to connect with you. What’s the best way for me to do that?” “I have a website,” “Here’s my card,” “I’m on Instagram, Twitter.”

Marc V: And if it is somebody who doesn’t have a business, or it’s not anything that you’re going to get a card from them, like “I move the papers from room A to room B in the Bank of America building.” There’s no reason for you to ask. That’s kind of weird. But you could just say “Our kids are in the same thing. I don’t know if a practice day would be good together, or anything like that, but I just like to connect with the parents here. Do you do Instagram or Twitter? Is that cool?”

And most people are going to be cool with it. And only if you feel like you have a genuine connection with them. If you don’t, don’t force it. When you go to the business ones, Meetup.com and local business ones like that, those are going to be much more open to everyone is ready to give a card, and take information. Those are going to be a little easier.

If you’re only going to the parent events, you really kind of need to be friends with them first, in a way.

Mark S: I do have something to say about business cards. I know that a lot of our customers are in the transition stage. They’ve got a side hustle. They’ve got the day job, and they do the custom apparel thing at night and weekends, and things like that.

You may not have a business card for that. Get one, and do not give them your day job business card. That’s just really confusing. It actually happened to me, again, because we don’t have a card for the Custom Apparel Startups podcast.

Marc V: Yeah. We’ve never really needed one.

Mark S: So, every time I meet somebody as a podcaster, I hand them my ColDesi Director of Marketing card, and it’s just like this disconnect. You can see it in their face. So, I ordered us business cards, with ColDesi on the front, and Custom Apparel Startups on the back.

Marc V: Wow! Now, one thing that’s interesting about cards, which we haven’t done in the past, but I’ve always been a fan of – this is just a card tip, nothing to do with this, but kind of – people like to write things on cards. So, one of my next notes is “Write a note on the card, whenever possible.”

So, you should write something to remember them by, something that they might have said to you. You know, like “nephew has screen printing equipment,” whatever they say.

Mark S: “Quilting lady.”

Marc V: Yeah. “Really nice glasses.” You could write anything that can help you remember them or the event, or anything like that. “Says the best time to reach them is Wednesdays.” Just write anything you think. And when you get cards, what I used to always make sure that I do is, the side that is the pretty side is glossy, so it’s protected, if something spills on it.

The back side is matte, not glossy finish, so you can write on it. The glossy finishes, depending on the pen you have, you might not be able to write on. So, if you have a matte side, also, that side that’s matte, even though a black card is cool, unless you have a white pen, you can’t write on it. So, have some white space, even if you just have a little line on the bottom, that is nothing but empty white space, that is literally just for putting a note.

Mark S: That’s a good tip.

Marc V: And if you want to even be a little more creative and fun, in that white space, you could write the word “note:”. This way, when you hand it to them, there’s a spot where they can write the note. They’ll love it, because a lot of these connector people who go to these events are going to write notes, too, on the cards. If you give them a space, they’re going to love it. They’re going to be like “I should have done this!”

Mark S: But if you don’t do that, or you don’t have a business card, that makes the next one especially important.

Marc V: Yeah. The end of it is if you don’t have cards, sometimes that’s even better. So fine, if you don’t even want to have them. Because then, “Oh, do you have a card?” “Actually, I don’t have any cards with me, oddly enough. How about I’ll email you right now?”

Mark S: “But I do have a cellphone. What’s your email address?”

Marc V: Then, you can take down their email address or text them, or whatever they’re good with. “You know what I could even do? You have a website, right? Your address is on there? I’ll mail you a few cards and a couple sample things.” Even if you want to send them like a little welcome kit, that’s got like a brochure and a card and a sample, whatever you want.

So now, it’s an excuse to say “I don’t have a card, but I’m going to send you one.”

The next step is contact them asap.

Mark S: Right away.

Marc V: Which means like that night is fine. By the way, this isn’t dating, or like that movie “Swingers.” Did you ever see that? You get a girl’s phone number…

Mark S: I would never watch a movie with that title.

Marc V: It has nothing to do with what you think. It’s these guys, they go to Vegas, and they meet some women. They are trying to decide how long – at a casino, actually – they’re trying to decide how long do you have to wait, until I can call her? “I’d like to call her tonight.” “You can’t do that.”

“Why not? I like her. I want to talk to her again. She likes me.” “No. If you do that, you’re going to ruin it. You have to wait three days,” all of this stuff. That’s a joke. Some of you might get it.

If you don’t, think about the person who called you the day you gave them your phone number, when you were a teenager, and you ignored them forever, and you don’t even know why. That’s why.

But no, you want to contact these people basically right away. That night, the next day. While they still remember you.

Mark S: While they remember you, they remember the event.

Marc V: Yeah. They remember the event. It’s fresh. They remember your face, your outfit, all of these things.

For one, in the previous steps, if they said “I’m going to need some shirts soon,” you know how the conversation goes. You email them and just say “Hey. You said you were going to need shirts soon. I’m reaching out.” The next step would be whatever it might be.

Otherwise, if it didn’t end like that, if they were like “Oh, yeah. I might need shirts one day,” or ‘No, I don’t really do shirts,” whatever it is. However it ends, even if it’s not a business prospect, or not at the selling phase at all, yet, just drop them a quick note, either an email or on social media, or whatever it is, and let them know you liked meeting them.

“Hey, it was a pleasure to meet you at this event.”

Mark S: “This event.” That’s the important thing.

Marc V: “It was great to meet you at the astronomy event on Tuesday night, at this coffee shop.”

Mark S: “Just to remind you, I’m the guy with the amazing beard.” That’s what you would say.

Marc V: I actually have said that before.

Mark S: I believe it. [inaudible 32:36] But really, mention something like “I met you at this event. I’m the lady with 11 cats. I’m the one that was wearing the hat with feathers. I’m the one that spilled a bottle of water on the floor, during the event.” Or “I’m the t-shirt person.”

Marc V: “I’m the one that had the word ‘Note’ with a blank spot, on the card.”

Mark S: Yeah, that’s good. Anything to remember you.

Marc V: Try to say things memorable. That’s a harder and much deeper level thing, but as you meet more people, you’ll realize like in the event, “I’m the one that spilled the coffee.” Remember things that stick out for you, they stick out for other people.

Mark S: At the event that we went to together last weekend, there was a guy who was wearing a yellow outfit, from head to toe – sneakers to hat. I didn’t want to talk to him, but if he sent me an email and said “I was the guy that was there dressed in yellow,” I’m like “I know who that was.”

Marc V: Yeah. “Junk mail.”

Mark S: It’s a good example of standing out.

Marc V: He might be listening. [inaudible 33:42]. Now, be positive about something in that connection. “It was a pleasure to meet you,” and then say something nice about them, their business, whatever it can be. Say “I went to your Instagram account. I love it! It’s great, artistic! Look, it’s so creative.”

Mark S: “I read a couple of the reviews on your website. Congratulations, man! It sounds like you’re doing great business.”

Marc V: “I just went on Google. You have 50 five-star reviews! That’s awesome! Congrats! I checked out your website, because I was curious about it. Wow! I might have to ask who your designer is, when I go to do mine.”

Just compliment them on whatever it can be, whatever you can do. They’re going to like that. This is kind of the psychology part of it. The key with this is, it has to be genuine.

Mark S: Yeah. Don’t make something up.

Marc V: Find something. If you can’t find one thing you like about this person or what they do, then I don’t know why you’re connecting.

Mark S: If they have an ugly baby, then compliment their puppy, or vice versa.

Marc V: Also, you can compliment something about the conversation. You could say “I love this idea that you had mentioned to me. It was really interesting,” if you discussed something interesting about the event that you went to. Say you’re doing a hiking thing. “It was really interesting, that story you told me about the time that you hiked on this trail. I’m craving to go there now!”

Or maybe they started telling you about how they’re an investment banker, and you’re like “Oh, now I’m going to have to hear about this, boring conversation.” Then, they start actually telling you some stories about these interesting people they work with. You can say “I never thought that investment banking could be so interesting!”

You say these nice, genuine compliments. They are going to like you more, for this. They like you because you’re friendly. They like you because you were genuinely interested in them. You helped to make the connection. They’re going to like that. You complimented them. You said hello, and thanked them for meeting.

At this point in time, if they don’t really like you, and think “This is a nice, good person. This is somebody I would like to refer to or know,” then you’re just not doing it right. I mean, all of these steps, though, will lead you right there.

Now, you’re not selling, still, unless they’ve asked for it. The only time it’s okay to sell is if they mentioned “I might want to buy some hats.”

Mark S: Now, I don’t want to say that you’re not selling anything at all, because what you’re doing is, if you handed them a card, it’s your business card, where they can get in touch. When you send them an email, hopefully in your email signature, you have something about your business, that you make t-shirts.

It might be “Hey, hit me on Instagram. Embroidery hat guy.” Whatever it is, so they have the opportunity to become aware of who you are and what you do.

Marc V: Yes. You’re kind of like in the pre-marketing stage of your business here. You’re letting them know what you do. You’re letting them know that you’re nice.

Mark S: The very top of the [inaudible 37:01].

Marc V: Yeah. The very top of this. This is, they are not ready to be sold yet. The next step, now, is where you are just starting to get into that. You have to follow up with a “By the way” email. So, you were just thinking of something, or you forgot to send it in the first email. This is a few days later, a week, however long.

Mark S: Not an hour.

Marc V: Not an hour. It’s got to be days. If this were Thursday night, you could do this like Monday. Wait a handful of days, and now it’s time to ask for something. I wrote a few things down.

“Hey, I was thinking about our convo at ___. Have you considered getting some custom apparel for your business, before?” Now, you’re opening up that conversation.

“Hey, when we spoke at the hockey club that we’re in, we talked about our businesses, and that you own an AC company. Do you guys get custom apparel?” Just kind of open up that conversation, so they could say.

“If you have, I’d love to ask you some questions.”

Mark S: Yeah. Or as one small business owner to another, “I’m trying to grow my business, obviously.” You could take it one more step and say “Do you know anyone that buys embroidered uniforms, Mr. Plumber? Or any kind of custom t-shirts for events? If you do, then send them my way. I’m trying to grow.”

Marc V: Yeah. Just ask for the connection. “Can you introduce me to anybody that might need my services?”

Mark S: And you know that they buy this stuff, but you’re not going “Do you need any?” You’re saying “Do you know anybody that needs any, that happens to need any?” I like that.

Marc V: “I was wondering, I’m trying to grow my small business. Could I make you a custom shirt for your business, and you tell me what you think? If you love them, maybe you’ll buy some? Or at least you can refer me to other people.”

This is especially easy if you have a system that’s designed to easily make something quickly. Then, it’s like “Here’s a freebie. Tell me what you think about it.”

Mark S: I’ll do “This episode is brought to you buy the Digital HeatFX t-shirt transfer printers and ColDesi’s direct-to-garment printers,” because with both of those, if you wanted to do a sample, like the next time we do a video, we’ll probably have Custom Apparel Startup shirts. You can make them a shirt, and it will take you five minutes.

How impressive is that?

Marc V: Absolutely. I went in there and there was a piece of art on our website that I liked. So, I showed my daughter. She was like “I want that in a shirt!” We were at the store, and she found this glittery blank shirt, and she was like “Can I get it on this shirt?” I said “You know, before I left the other day, I literally just went in there, printed it, slapped it on the shirt, and left. It was five minutes.”

You’re doing the same thing for folks. Many years ago, I had done that with a friend of mine who was kind of, he had opened up a few small businesses, and he had one. I said “Why don’t you come in and let me print you a shirt real quick, for your XYZ business? Then, you can consider if this is maybe another adventure you want to do.” “Okay, cool!”

He came in here, and he was in and out in like 20 minutes, on his lunch break. We made like three shirts, and he was like “Wow! How much does this machine cost?” The next thing you know, he’s getting into it.

Mark S: That’s great.

Marc V: The last one, “I’m trying to meet more business owners, to help grow my business. Are there any groups of people you can introduce me to? Are there any other groups that you attend? Like we met at this business group. Are there any other places you go, to network?”

Mark S: Here is what I love about that. That gives you the opportunity to go back up to step number one, with another group of people. Because if someone goes to one networking or Meetup group, it’s likely that they go to two or three.

Marc V: So, you can ask them what other ones they go to, and continue to look for new ones. When you follow up with them in that email, it’s okay to softly ask for something. “Have you ever considered making custom t-shirts? Can I make you one? Can you refer me to somebody? I’m trying to grow my business.”

At this point in time, they should feel that “Alright, this person is genuine. They’re being honest with me. They are trying to make more money, like I am.” And they’ll be cool with that.

Mark S: “I want to grow my business. Do you have any ideas?”

Marc V: That’s actually a great one, too. “By the way, I saw you have 100 Google reviews. You must do great. Could we chat one day on the phone or over lunch, and just tell me what are some tips?”

Because at this point in time, it’s not necessarily that they’re going to buy something from you. It’s they become a part of your network.

Mark S: Yeah. That’s the theme, and Marc, you’ve said it in a bunch of different ways. You’re there to meet those people. The business will happen. The more people you know, and the more people that know what you do, the more your business will grow. So, this is just another way to do that.

Marc V: And it’s a great way for the people who don’t like to sell, because some folks are just like “I don’t care.” We’ve talked about it. You get in the car with same samples and some cards, and you drive around. Right?

But that is uncomfortable for more people than less. This is a way to do it where you’re almost never selling. You’re just systematically meeting people, following up with them, being nice to them, asking them for something back. That last step there, you should be asking for something back, whether it’s advice, tips, referrals, or maybe some business.

The next is to keep engaging with them.

Mark S: I like this. Now, you say keep engaging, and that’s a very sales and marketing thing to say. Stay friends. Stay connected with these people. If you did this for a month, it’s really possible you would end up with 20 to 50 connections that you did not have before. If you do that for two months, you’ve got 40 to 100 new connections.

If you make this a habit in part of your life, you’re going to make a lot of new friends. You’re going to be a happier person.

You’ve just got to stay in touch with all of these people. Put them in your calendar, whatever you need to do, but stay engaged. Keep in touch.

Marc V: One way to stay – it’s going to be different, depending on who they are and what they do. If you met a stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad, and they don’t really have a business, but they’re big into social stuff, and they love doing that, and they’re into photography, and have an Instagram account. Like their stuff. Follow it and like it. They’ll remember you.

Most people see, unless you’re really, really big, and you have thousands and thousands of likes, most people, they’ll see “I’ve got six likes! Who liked me? Mary again? What a nice lady!”

Mark S: The way you said that makes me -.

Marc V: No, it was very nice. All in all, you don’t want to be weird about it, but if you actually like a piece of photography that they put on Instagram, say it. If they’re a business owner, refer them business whenever you can, and make sure the referral comes from you, that they know it’s from you.

You can do the direct connection thing, email them, cc: someone else, and say “Hey, I was just talking to so-and-so. They said that they needed some new work done on their house, and I recommended them to you. I just wanted to open up the conversation. So-and-so, meet so-and-so.”

And whether it goes there or not. I just did this very recently. A good friend of mine, a neighbor of mine, he does freelance handyman stuff. He does everything, top to bottom, in businesses and houses. So, I saw someone post on Facebook, “Hey, does anyone know? I need to get this fixed.” I tagged him in the post, and said “Hey, you guys should connect.”

Then, I get a message from her, a direct message from her, “Hey, he’s coming over tomorrow to check it out. Thanks!” So, she’s happy, because now she has a trusted person to take care of it. He’s happy, because he’s going to make some money.

Mark S: You did something nice for both of them. And I did that with a text, a few weeks ago. One of my neighbors needed an AC guy. I know a great AC guy that I text with. So, I just replied. I texted them both, and I made the connection that way. It’s a great idea, because you are forming your own little business community, and they’re definitely going to recommend you, if they have the opportunity.

Marc V: Yeah. They’re going to love it. And of course, make sure these things make sense. If she would have said “I just need a ceiling fan put in,” he doesn’t do that small of stuff. He does things that are a little more involved. He doesn’t want to go there for $20. He’s going to do a job that’s hundreds or thousands of dollars. So, make sure it’s right.

If somebody is a commercial real estate broker, don’t refer them to somebody who might be looking for an apartment.

Mark S: That makes sense. It’s got to be a real referral.

Marc V: Everything here needs to be genuine. Even though it’s planned out, it still needs to follow that genuineness. So, refer them business.

Leave them a review online, is a thing to do. You can go to Google. You don’t necessarily have to buy something from them, to leave a review, especially on Google or something like that. “Hey, I just met so-and-so, the owner of this company. Definitely somebody I would do business with.”

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: Just like that. You are reviewing the relationship of you with the business. “The people in this business were so nice. I can’t wait for a pipe to explode, so I get to use this plumbing service!”

Mark S: “Which is weird, because he’s a dentist!”

Marc V: Oh, yes! Go back to these social events, and definitely say hi to them.

Mark S: Yeah. Or, I was looking at this one, and I think it’s such a good idea. Make sure you take the opportunity to be the connector in those circumstances, too. If you are already having a conversation with somebody, and you see that other person, bring them over and introduce them.

Marc V: That’s great.

Mark S: Now, you’ve got some immediate joy that you’ve inspired, because they’re probably feeling like you normally do, when you go into these things. “I don’t know anybody. I’ve got to meet people.” When you see that connection, they’re going to be happy that you’re there, especially if you bring them over and introduce them. They’ll probably do the same for you.

Marc V: Yeah. I love that. You say hi to them, and you introduce them. If you’re in a conversation and they walk by, “Hey, good to see you again! I’m talking with so-and-so. Do you guys know?” Now you’ve made the connection.

In an interesting way, if you start doing this enough, it’s not like you’re a leader of a group, formally, like with BNI or one of those, where it’s physically a person that you’re paying, and they’re in charge of it. But you become this leader in this group, in a way, where you’ll have people come to you and say “Hey, by the way, do you know?”

And when that starts to happen, over time, that’s where you’re truly a connector, then.

Mark S: Here’s what happens with a master connector. There was a speaker at that recent conference, that I happened to be associated with, personally. He’s been in the area for decades. Nobody knows what he does. But he’s in the middle of everything! He’s in the middle of everything!

He’ll show up speaking in one place, and he’ll have a book, all of a sudden. You’ll see him leading a meeting. If he sees you, then he’ll bring you over, and the next thing you know, you have new business.

What does he do for a living? I’m not sure. But 1,000 people are associated with this person, so making those connections pays off.

Marc V: And this stuff really, though, even though it can be very grandiose like that, it also can just be literally just you know 10 people, you know 20 people, you live in a small town. “But you know what? I know somebody to refer for this and this.”

Also, if it’s industry-specific, even better. So, if they make signs, if they make awards, if they make patches, embroidery. If they do things you don’t do, then you want to definitely be in connection with them. You want to have a good relationship with them. You want to be able to refer business back and forth, and maybe further develop, “Hey, do you want to partner on this project together? They need this. You do this work, and I’ll pay you for it.”

Also, it’s important to, as a tip, have a place to keep and organize all of this information. You could use like a CRM, a customer relationship management software, where you put in all of your associates. If not, whether you do it in Outlook or you do on your phone, if you use your phone to categorize contacts, because usually you can tag or categorize contacts. Do something, so you’re not 100% relying on your memory.

Mark S: I’m going to say that you should have a CRM.

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: I don’t want to beat around the bush for you guys. If you’re going to do this, and you’re going to know an extra 100 people in 90 days, you’re going to drive yourself nuts, trying to remember their name as you search through Gmail. That’s what you’re going to – you’re going to be going “Lady who designs draperies.” I know somebody who does that! I just can’t remember them.

And in my phone, everybody’s last name is what they do, so Nolan Plumber.

Marc V: I do that.

Mark S: But that only works for a limited number of people. CRMs are free. If you don’t know anything about that, I’m sure we’ve done an episode. Go to CASPodcasts.com, and just search for CRM, and see what comes up.

We use one. It’s a great place. It’s just a place to keep all of your contacts and make notes. Do it.

Marc V: Yeah, it’s great. Then, you could take those notes from the business card. You can even oftentimes attach files. You can take a picture of the business card, and attach it.

Mark S: And you can schedule. Like Marc said, you want to stay in touch with these people. Well, maybe you want to stay in touch every 60 days. You can set a reminder in there to send them an email, or give them a call or text or something in 60 days. That way, the last email you sent was “I met you at this thing.” Maybe the email two months later is “I’m sorry we haven’t connected more. We should do this.”

Marc V: Yeah, that’s great. There are so many more things to do with this. But if people open up the window, and they say “Hey, you know what? I don’t need shirts now, for my business actually, but I’d love to keep you in mind. Maybe if you hit me up in the summer, I might need some.”

June 1st, calendar event. That moment, don’t forget. Don’t let it pass. Event, June 1st, call so-and-so. They said they might need shirts for the summer. Then, on June 1st, you shoot them a quick email or call them, and say “Summer is kind of showing up. You said you might need shirts, I remembered. Do you, or not? It’s cool.”

Mark S: “Remember me? We met at this.” I just want to show you, it all starts with point number one. I just want to show you we’re not really – we are scribbling notes on actual notes. It starts with number one, and I think that’s a great way to close up.

After you have done all of these things, every time, you’re going back up to number one. Every time you find a new group or attend a new event, or have an opportunity to meet more than one person, then you’re going back up to number one, attend social events. Go with the intent of meeting people. Have your cards. Contact them asap.

Go through these steps, and I promise you’ll be more successful. I promise.

Marc V: This, although easy, requires work and effort. That’s the hardest part.

Mark S: Especially, again, if this is a side hustle.

Marc V: Yeah. It requires work. The more you do, the more you will benefit from this.

Mark S: You have to be willing to go to IHOP at 7:00 on a Tuesday.

Marc V: I was not willing last night. I’ll be honest. The room was a bit too small for the amount of people. Usually, if I come to work early and go to the gym, and then stay late, and then have to go to a crowded room, that is not -.

Mark S: And you missed it, because it was just me and trademark attorney.

Marc V: Yeah. That is not the good networking me. That’s the networking me that’s hot, annoyed. So, you need to consider yourself, too. But that will allow you to make excuses.

Mark S: My side hustle people, especially.

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: I know that if you had the chance to sign up the kids for extra music lessons on Thursday night, I know you would carve out an hour for them. Carve out some time for yourself.

Marc V: And it’s for them, too.

Mark S: It is. You can tell yourself that. You can.

Marc V: If you make more money, what? You probably would have bought them the nicer dance dress, if you had the extra money.

Mark S: No, no. This is the way you justify it. If you decide to, like many people do, to donate part of your income to a charity, you could say “I need to go to this event for leukemia, or for cancer, or for the church, or for this mission thing.” That way, you’ve got that little extra motivation that will propel you out the door.

Marc V: Yeah, because what you are doing is for good. And while you’re there, you’re meeting people. That’s not negative or bad, because you’re not going with the intent to make money from these people. You’re going with the intent to genuinely make good connections, which is going to, in turn, earn you money. But it’s also going to give you a more fulfilling life. You’ll save money, when you need to do things. You’re going to find those connections.

Mark S: Even if what you really want is to be rich one day, you can still do it. You can still do it. It’s okay.

Marc V: So, I think that this is one of those like this. I know that if I went to the gym six hours a day, that I could be a world’s strongest man. Right? I’m not willing to do that. I don’t want to do that. I want to go enough so I’m healthy.

So, with this, if you want to make a million bucks, you’re going to have to put a million bucks worth of work. You’re going to have to go to events every single time you can. You’re going to have to be staying up late, following up with people, waking up early, following up with people, studying them, remembering them. You’re going to have to put a million bucks worth of work.

Mark S: Parking outside of their house.

Marc V: Parking outside of their house with binoculars, to see what they like for breakfast.

Mark S: I know where you’re going. I just want to mention one more thing. You mentioned the gym, when you talked about sales. I read a book. Or I was given a book. I didn’t think I would like it. I read it. It’s that guy, he’s a real estate agent names Serhant, I think. He was part of this New York real estate show, Selling New York or something like that.

The book was about his start in real estate, and sales techniques. Before he had clients, what he would do is he actually went to three different gyms a day, in different neighborhoods that he wanted to sell in, with a stack of business cards. And he just got to know people in each gym.

So, he was in amazing shape, and he had a bunch of customers, because he would meet people at the gym, and it would come up, “Oh, I’m in real estate.” “I’m looking for an apartment.”

Marc V: This is one of these things that the more you do, the more you’ll benefit from it.

Mark S: And it’s fun.

Marc V: And it’s fun. It’s a lot more fun than going out and driving and selling. You’re beat up. This is like “I’m just going to go to this event. I’m not there to sell or anything. I’m just there to try to meet people. I really hope tonight, I can connect with two nice, cool, funny, interesting people that will help me in my business.”

Then, that’s it. The more you do it, the more you’ll get from it. There’s no way that this doesn’t work. Period. There’s no way it doesn’t. There’s no excuse to say it doesn’t work.

Mark S: Write this down somewhere. Episode 91. Write “episode 91,” and let that be your motivation, when you go out. Before you go out, write down “episode 91” somewhere, and maybe that will encourage you.

Marc V: Listen to it before you go. Why not?

Mark S: We’ve done some great scripting here. Okay! Everybody, thanks very much for listening. We’ve had a great time. This has been episode 91 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. This has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark S: You guys have a great social business!

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