S•T•I•T•C•H•E•S Small Business
www.stitches.com Volume 41 / January 19, 2010

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Podcast | Create a Uniform That Says, "I’m With the Brand"
Recognize Fear of Rejection, Then Crush It | Your Suppliers Should Do This …
Cotton Prices Rising Sharply | Quick Hit: Q&A With Embroidery Wear House
News Briefs | Site Seeing

Stitches Staff Writer Matt George talks with Rachel Holman of CherryPlanet.com to address how to attract your prospects' attention, snag new customers and maintain their loyalty with a limited advertising and marketing budget. Click here to listen.

What did you think of this podcast? Send your feedback to nrollender@asicentral.com.


Register for a Free Stitches Webinar
Track: Marketing

How Top Decorators Connect With Clients Through Social Networking
January 21, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. EST
Nicole Rollender and Panel
If your business doesn't have an online presence beyond a company Web site, you're already losing potential customers. In this fast-paced Webinar, we'll tell you how smart decorators are leveraging easy-to-learn Web technology, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more, to reach customers and build relationships with them online. Moderated by Stitches Editor Nicole Rollender, you'll leave this session knowing three easy-to-implement ways to start reaching new clients online today. Register now!


Create a Uniform That Says, "I’m With the Brand"

Go All Out When Outfitting Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors' outfits need to draw more attention than the typical staff member's uniform. It's the perfect opportunity for you to upsell your client with these creative ideas:

  • Go custom. In Your Face Apparel (asi/62494), for one, offers one-of-a-kind garments, dyed to a PMS color or even knit to a specific weight – and they're sewn in the U.S.A.
  • Include pants. Allowing the team to wear their own pants takes away from the unified, stand-out look your client wants to project.
  • Consider cold weather. On top of a basic uniform, outdoor workers in cooler climates need cold-weather items like vests, jackets, knit caps and gloves.
  • Add accessories. Equip the team with all the bells and whistles – not to mention belts, badges, caps and maybe even shoes.
  • Don't forget hand-outs. Coupons help, but not everyone gets excited about a piece of paper. Suggest a promotional product to add more punch. Beads, buttons, light-up jewelry, caps and T-shirts are just a few crowd-pleasers to suggest.

Outfitting brand ambassadors in simple imprinted T-shirts is so 1990s. And when they're working in a high-traffic environment like a large sports arena, they really need a uniform that will make them stand out. That's why a food vendor at an arena in Dallas turned to Pony Xpress Printing (PXP, asi/297068), a company whose niche is speed-to-market printing. The eatery was planning to hand out a promotion during a game and knew they needed their brand ambassadors to really pop.

"They were trying to figure out a way to get noticed in the crowd among everybody walking around the stadium," says Jeff Henderson, vice president of PXP. Thanks to having state-of-the-art equipment and abilities, his company is among only a couple dozen in the world that can carry out belt printing, foil, embellishments and other highly specialized techniques.

After brainstorming with the client, the team came up the idea of dressing up the brand ambassadors to look like referees. PXP supplied a black Cobra cap (available from Staton Corporate & Casual, asi/89380), black pants from Bella-Alo (asi/39590) for the women (men's pants weren't provided), and a yellow handkerchief that the ambassadors tucked in their back pockets to look like a referee's flag.

But the ultimate touch was the custom T-shirt PXP created. "We did the logo of the company, and we screen printed the stripes and did a big all-over print of the ref jersey," Henderson says. "Since we can do the all-over and print all the way up to the neck and the seams, we even screen printed the whistle on the shirt."

Even in the chaos at the arena, the brand ambassadors had no trouble drawing the attention of spectators. "It's pretty creative and clever and eye-opening when they see somebody in a promo staff uniform like that," Henderson says.


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Recognize Fear of Rejection, Then Crush It

Five Ways To Reduce Rejection

1. Be prepared before calling on a new contact. Read up on the prospect's business and industry. Write a script for yourself. Practice your presentation.

2. Get referrals. Ask clients who love you to invite other buyers in their company to meetings and to recommend you to other connections. Talk to other local business owners to drum up business from them and to trade client referrals.

3. Attend networking events. You'll get a warm reception from prospects in settings where networking is encouraged, such as trade shows, fairs, chamber of commerce meetings, etc.

4. Learn from rejections. Ask why you were rejected and look for ways to sidestep the objections that come up.

5. Give up on bad prospects. If it's clear they don't have a promotional budget, don't have purchasing authority or have a severe personality problem, let them go.

"I don't think anyone is immune to the fear of rejection," says business coach Fabienne Fredrickson of Client Attraction LLC (www.clientattractioninnercircle.com), "and sometimes it shows up in other fears, as well." You may perceive it as a fear of failure or even a fear of success and the extra work and attention that entails.

"It also shows up as excuses," Fredrickson adds. "'I can't do this, because I don't have enough money.' Or, 'I can't do this, because I don't have enough time.' Or, 'I'm not going to take advantage of that opportunity, because I'll have to get on a plane.'"

At one of her workshops, Fredrickson asks everyone to get up and go to one side of the room. She then calls out a type of fear – say, fear of being overwhelmed – and asks anyone who's ever experienced it to walk to the other side of the room. Then she calls out another one – maybe fear of what people will think – and asks anyone who's felt that to walk across again.

"Each time I've given this workshop, there are hundreds of people walking and walking and walking," she says, "because as people in business, we all have so many fears."

So it's normal to feel fear, but when fear is causing you to sabotage your own success, you need to fight it. "A client of mine was not taking advantage of these big opportunities that were coming her way," Fredrickson says. "She wasn't responding to a phone call or an e-mail until a few days later. And she knew deep inside that she was sabotaging. She just didn't know why."

Once the woman figured out that she was afraid of not being good enough, she was able to face that fear and work through it. Fredrickson suggests a number of ways to pin down exactly what type of fear is limiting you: "Perhaps attend a seminar, or work with a therapist to find where the root of it is," she says. "A lot of people use EFT, which is the Emotional Freedom Technique (a type of alternative psychotherapy that uses acupuncture points). Journaling, hypnosis – there are all sorts of things that you can do."

Regardless of where the fear originates, the important thing is to act in spite of it. What Fredrickson tells herself and her clients is that when you feel the urge to panic, remember that what you really want in life is just beyond that fear. Otherwise, you wouldn't feel so strongly about it. "The only time that you can play really big is if you reach that panic point, and you walk right through it, no matter how uncomfortable it is," she says. "If you can just get through it, then what you really want is waiting for you."


See You at the Stitches Roadshows!

Visiting three key markets this year – Atlanta (January 27), St. Louis (March 5) and Denver (May 12) – the Stitches Roadshow is geared to help decorators become more successful, find new suppliers and grow your businesses. The Stitches Roadshow brings Stitches magazine to life for our readers by giving you the opportunity to meet equipment, software, supply and service providers face-to-face, see new wearables vendors, enjoy valuable education and network with other decorators. Visit www.stitchesroadshow.com for more information.


Your Suppliers Should Do This …

Do your suppliers stack up? Chris Piper, former promotional product sales rep and current owner of distributor-consulting firm Breakout Strategic Merchandising, says your supplier partners should:

1. Be part of your team. "Your supplier representative needs to be seen as a partner, not a vendor," Piper says. "A partner gains the trust and loyalty of the distributor and decorator and provides the confidence that he or she is available to support the needs of both."

2. Provide personal service. "The supplier representative is usually seen and heard two to three times per year and at times is difficult to reach," Piper says. "The supplier should always have an assigned inside representative that is knowledgeable about the representative's territory and distributors and decorators within it, creating ease of process for both parties."

3. Provide the answers. "Suppliers need to present their product as a solution to the distributor's and decorator's clients, helping the distributor and decorator separate himself or herself not as a vendor but as a partner with their client," Piper says. "Many suppliers present the product, not the solution their product can provide."

4. Make success stories available. "Suppliers can help by providing case studies that speak to the successes their products have had," Piper says. "These case studies would be available via Word documents so the distributor and decorator can customize with his or her logo and contact information, which they could then include in their regular client contact materials and presentations."

5. Give you free e-proofs. "Provide e-proofs at no charge or tie in an incentive for the distributor and decorator if the supplier wants to charge for an e-proof," Piper says. "The supplier should provide a random sample at no charge with the e-proof, which then creates a terrific presentation and sales tool for the distributor and decorator."

6. Offer proactive selling exercises. "Suppliers should set up private Webinars that help the distributor and decorator sell the product," Piper says. They should create a self-promotion program, which engages the distributor and decorator quarterly with their company, and they should put in place measurable help to track the ROI of their programs.


Cotton Prices Rising Sharply

Higher demand and recent poor weather in Asia have driven up the price of cotton, an increase that will likely be passed to consumers within three to four months. Additionally, world cotton production is now expected to fall short of demand in the current crop year, which runs through July 31. "It's not something anyone can run from and there's no place to hide," says Rainer Friedrich, vice president of production at Charles River Apparel (asi/44620). "There won't be a price change until there's a leveling off and the demand evens out. That could be six to eight months from now."

According to Friedrich, in just the last two months the price of cotton produced in Pakistan has jumped by 40%. Overall, the cost of cotton has increased roughly 15% globally. "In general, consumers will pay more at some point," says Friedrich. "By March or April, the effect will be there. Manufacturers will try to spread out the increase, so there may not be a large difference at first. Distributors will probably have to charge more."

With a larger number of apparel items, like polos, now commonly offered in synthetic fabrics, the greatest price volatility is likely to occur among suppliers that produce T-shirts. "In our industry, it probably affects the wholesalers more," said Chris Clark, vice president of sales at Ash City (asi/37127). "When we use cotton, our pricing stays fairly consistent since we buy on the futures market." Despite the surge in the cost of cotton, Friedrich believes there is a twist of good news to consider. "It means the economy is coming back," he says. "Demand for product is going up and you have to stock the shelves."


Quick Hit: Q&A With Embroidery Wear House

Stitches: How was Embroidery Wear House founded?
Barbara O'Neil: We established the company in January 1999 as a part-time venture to see if it could turn into a business in the long run. Once I received a lot of orders, I realized it could be. My customers gave me the confidence to purchase a commercial building and quality equipment and software. We're still located in Michigan and love the direction the company is going.

Stitches: What types of services do you supply?
BN: We provide quality embroidery, screen printing and promotional products. We also have access to more than 20,000 quality stock designs. We'll decorate any type of apparel or accessories: towels, hats, T-shirts, jackets and more. Right now, we're doing contract work for a large mining company, a construction company and a dairy company.

Stitches: What's the hardest apparel item to decorate?
BN: I'm sure you've heard this before, but it's definitely a jacket sleeve. We try to get the decoration up toward the shoulder. Recently, we had to do a spandex sleeve for a dance team. I actually pinned down the sleeve and had someone even hold it in place, trying not to stretch it. Spandex always needs more care. But whatever fabric you're working on, the sleeve is always the most difficult spot – at least for me it is.

Stitches: What has been the most challenging part about being in business?
BN: Believe it or not, it isn't the state of the economy. Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country, but you wouldn't notice with our business. And I think that has to do with the way we diversified ourselves. We're always looking for new ideas and products to offer. Recently, we just added bags to our apparel category and they have done fairly well with our customers.

Stitches: Where do you see your business five years down the road?
BN: I would love to expand and maybe move to a different location. I want to take it slow, though. I think this company has only hit the tip of the iceberg and it has a lot of potential. Business is great, our customers are fantastic and we never slow down. We're always busy. Hopefully, that leads us to a bigger storefront.


News Briefs

Imprintables Warehouse is offering a free in-shop training class that teaches users how to maximize the productivity and profitability of a digital cutter. The class is scheduled for March 26-27.

Heritage Sportswear Inc. (asi/60582) has introduced Kariban, adding seven Kariban jackets and coats ranging from a heavyweight parka (K6777) to a windbreaker (K647) to its inventory.

Hirsch International has introduced Pulse's new Color Change Sequence feature that makes it easy to program multiple sizes and colors of sequins in a single design.

Stahls' ID Direct offers the new Hotronix MAXX heat press. The press, ideal for a small shop, has a large platen that can handle a wide range of jobs.

Wilcom's new DecoNetwork provides a technology platform for printers and embroiderers to offer clients the ability to design and order a unique bag or T-shirt online.



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