September '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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Page 87 of 120

2 0 1 5 S E P T E M B E R P R I N T W E A R || 81 7. Talk to your loyal customers. Find out their true non-price buying mo- tives for dealing with you. 8. Get involved on a deeper level. Get hands-on and make some deliveries or take a few service calls yourself. Work in accounting for a day. Find out what's really happening with and to your customers. 9. Get short meetings with executives. Talk about the issues they value the most––loyalty, productivity, morale, and profit. Maybe ask a question or two about their vision or leadership philosophy, and leave. Do not ask for business. Just make an impression. 10. Start your own value messaging on- line. Post ideas and thoughts on all social media outlets, then email the links to customers and prospects so they can follow you. 11. Post customer testimonials on You- Tube. Email and tweet the links to all your customers and prospects. 11.5 Create a customer "reasons" book. List all the reasons why they buy, say no, stay loyal, or leave you. As you write, answers and actions will be- come evident. The key point to understand with this exercise is that the lessons learned from a history of doing business with customers are very valuable, but not as valuable as your customer's history of doing business with you; a subtle but powerful difference. Both are valuable, but customer input from a buyer's perspective can teach you how to achieve and maintain loyalty. Im- plement these lessons by re-constructing your sales presentation around customer responses and perceived values. These rules will help you to build a stronger business relationship with your existing clients. However, the goal of busi- ness is to always grow and expand. And the best way to find new business is to talk to old business, learn the lessons, and refine practices to be in harmony with client needs and expectations. Those are lessons you can learn from and earn from. Consider discontinuing low margin products and services, and send prospects looking for such products to competitors. This will keep them too busy with low prof- it jobs to pursue your loyal customers. Yes, it risks turning away prospects looking for one-stop shopping, but they may reward you with future business since you were so helpful and resourceful in meeting their im- mediate need. If the experience with a com- petitor is lackluster, they may return willing to pay more for a better alternative. So, identify groups of similar products and apply a profitable gross margin to them, but do not apply the same gross margin for all products. Remember, the gross margin is your business' pulse. Pro- tect, defend, and preserve it as if it is the lifeblood of your company. It is. THE BEST BUILT MOUSETRAP When it comes to selling products that crazed consumers will break down doors to get, even the best built mousetraps may not cause customers to stampede if im- properly priced. Price makes a statement about the qual- ity and integrity of every product. Your pricing should selectively attract custom- ers who appreciate the combination of quality, service, delivery, and convenience that is built into the products. If the item is priced high enough, the price should also discourage bargain-hunting price buyers and those who will not appreciate all that the product brings. COMPETITION AS A NON-ENTITY In the case of becoming aware of compet- itive prices, some entrepreneurs obtain the "going price" for most consumer products by surveying current customers and sup- pliers or by obtaining published price lists. Still, just knowing the competitive price and diving under it will only initiate a price war that no one will win. Be aware of the various anti-trust acts that govern business practices in regard to pricing. The Sherman Act warns against virtually any collusion between competi- tors such as price-fixing, dividing up geo- graphic territories, and calling to confirm prices or share price lists. The Clayton Act prohibits the formation of monopolies to restrict competition. The Robinson-Patman Act makes it unlawful to sell products at discriminatory prices. The Federal Trade Commission Act protects the buying public from unfair or deceptive practices, such as false or misleading claims. When a business owner is found guilty of these Acts, penalties usually involve heavy fines and/or prison sentences. For these reasons, the approach of pric- ing products based on the competition should be set aside or considered only as a last resort. CHECK YOUR GUT FEELING AT THE DOOR After considering all these theories, you have a nearly limitless number of pricing combinations from which to choose. Your pricing strategy may consist of boldly, confidently, and credibly publishing high prices on "top shelf " products and services that yield healthy gross margins. In this ex- ample, you would need to market to an af- fluent clientele and guard against runaway overhead costs. Notice there is essentially no mention of competition. Highly visi- ble and successful mall and specialty stores employ this strategy. Or, you could opt for keeping a careful watch on the prices in the marketplace and work diligently at becoming the low cost producer in order to preserve gross margin. With this course you will need to accurately define your target market and reach them with effective eye-catch- ing promotions attractive to a wide range of prospects. Competition could be fierce and prospecting very time-consuming. Carefully choose a pricing strategy that complements your company's image. Give this some serious thought before preparing your next proposal: the investment of time will pay dividends with your first profit- able business transaction. Good luck and good selling! continued from page 20 continued from page 12 SELLING SMART YOUR PERSONAL BUSINESS TRAINER

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