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The Problem With Taking Anything

One of the most incredible aspects of the screen-printing industry is the incredible diverse spectrum of customers that we can appeal to for our services. We literally can do anything for anybody. This is such a powerful fact that I think a lot of shops get lost when trying to determine who they should be marketing to for their business.

When asked who you sell to have you ever responded with, “Oh, we’ll take anything! We sell to everyone!”

For shops with the “We’ll take anything” business plan, often that wrong job can become a big burden and problem. It’s directionless. Not having a market to appeal to means you have to deal with these yahoos:

Tommy is that guy that slinks into your shop with the “greatest idea ever” for a new t-shirt line. Unfortunately, it’s main theme is ripping off another person’s idea. He just needs some help with the art and the production. If you can knock out some super cheap samples you’ll be his “printer for life” and he “won’t forget you” when his apparel line explodes.

No problem right?

Then there is Robert. He’s the owner of a local small business. He wants you to print him two sample shirts with his art on it to prove to him that you know what you are doing. Don’t you just love auditioning for work? He needs to see your quality before placing his big order. When he sends you the art, it was generated from one of those online t-shirt websites. He wants to keep things local, but he’s already been shopping around online.

Can you prove you can do the work for Robert? Do you want to?

Let’s not forget about Sally. She’s the head of the PTO at the school. She blasts into the shop on a late Wednesday afternoon with a baby in one hand and a coffee in another. We recorded her quote request, but I’m sure you heard this before too. “Hey! We need to get some spirit wear for the team’s parents in the stands, and if you could maybe even a cute onsie for Carol who just had her fourth baby with her second husband. They were married just last year you know. The season starts next Monday by the way, and I’ve been meaning to come in, but with book club, shopping, and my tennis lessons I just haven’t had the time. How big of a discount can I get if my husband promises to do his golf outing trip shirts with you next month? And, I hate to tell you this, but that new shop across town offered me a big discount if they put their logo on the sleeve. I’d like a big discount from you too, but I think printing a logo on the sleeve is tacky…do you have to do that? Ok, so whoever has the best price is getting the order, so sharpen your pencil! Can I just bring in checks from everyone getting shirts? Do you mind? I don’t want to have to pay for everything myself. Oooooh, I just had an idea! What if you created an order form for me? Could you do that? What about a website? That’s even better! There’s some good news on the art, did I tell you? My oldest daughter created it in PowerPoint last night after dinner! She’s taking a class. She printed it out and use a gluestick to add some glitter where we want the paint to go. Isn’t she talented?”

You might have to take something for that migraine or go lay down in a dark room.

Rush Order Randy just left. He needs fifty packable jackets embroidered by Friday for a big annual event. The entire time he’s in your office he’s been on his cell phone typing, so you had to repeat yourself a few times to get the order placed. Your art team stayed a little late to get the file created and sent out, but you had to follow up with Randy twice to get him to approve it. The jackets come in, but not all at once as the distributor is out of mediums. They don’t show up until Thursday afternoon. Your printer stays late into the night to finish the job, so they are ready for pick-up on Friday. (Can you see the punchline coming?) Friday rolls around, but Randy never shows. In fact, despite numerous attempts at trying to reach him you can’t get him to respond at all. Weeks later those jackets are still sitting in your pick-up area. The order is unpaid because he wanted to see the jackets before charging them to his card. When you contact the group that sponsored the event to track down Randy, you find out that not only is Randy not in charge of the event, but another vendor supplied all the merchandise.

Ut oh.

Golden Egg Orders

I’m sure every shop has similar horror stories. Some may be incredibly worse. I just made these up to illustrate a point. When you appeal to everyone, that just might work.

Instead, let’s tinker with the notion of building your business with your favorite types of orders, with your favorite types of clients. You know, the ones you love running, make good money on, has a certain client profile, or just makes you feel good when you produce the job. It’s the best order that is a perfect fit for your shop.

Think about it. What’s yours?

Let’s call that type of order a “Golden Egg”. In Aesop’s fables, the goose that lays the golden egg was a prized commodity in the tale. For our shops, this type of order is a prized commodity too. Golden Egg orders are the ones we want to capture more of in our attempt to grow our business.

In our tales of misery outlined above, you don’t have to take those types of orders if you don’t want to. You can simply post policies or procedures in place to minimize the disruption they cause, or make that type of customer take their problem order somewhere else.

Target Your Effort

So instead of trying to appeal to everyone, what if you focused your effort into one type of Golden Egg order. For illustration purposes, let’s say your Golden Egg order is a 500 piece run that repeats at least twice a year.

So who typically orders those? Look up your past order history to determine the who, why and when for those types of orders in your shop. Take that information and branch out with other similar customers. Where are they? Don’t just think local. Go out one or two business days shipping from you. It could be a big area.

The great thing about defining the Golden Egg order is that this is going to give you direction and purpose in your social media marketing and sales efforts. Stop trying to appeal to everyone, and start building your strategies to appeal to the customers that you want in the future!

Replace Robert, Sally and Randy with customers that make sense.

Thanks for reading!

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