February '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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80 || P R I N T W E A R F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 PRINTWEAR SHOP SNAPSHOT continued from page 79 continued from page 67 rank higher in search results, Ackerman notes. "Use your online content as a con- text to show your e-commerce capabili- ties," states Hunt. "Ensure you're speak- ing to people in a human way.'" From there, shops can take the con- versation "offline" once they've built up a rapport with someone who's contacted them with a job that is mutually benefi- cial for both the client and the decorator. KEEPING IT REAL Finding a way to stay genuine and organic can be difficult in the online world, but it is possible. And for decoration business- es, it's just as essential as keeping walk- in customers happy. Sources recommend an approach that's similar to what most good business owners do with their in- person customers: stay human and com- municative, even when it's challenging. "Don't give in to the temptation to gloss over everything that makes you and your shop unique in order to make a uniform and 'professional' site," says Campbell. "There's no one way to communicate. Humanize yourself online, share who you are, what your shop does outside of pro- ducing products, and engage in real con- versation via social media." Both Bowden and Rauen concur, sug- gesting shops maintain as much of a hu- man element as possible in all aspects of an e-commerce business. This includes full names for each department head in emails, and even personal touches like a headshot in the email signature. When an order is finalized and headed out the door, a short, personalized "thank you" note in the shipping carton is a recom- mended finishing touch, and occasion- ally picking up the phone in place of a confirmation email also pads the human element of an online business. By offering clients a positive online ex- perience and bolstering it with excellent backend customer, art, and order fulfill- ment support, decorators can take their services to people beyond their local mar- ket with e-commerce. In 2011, the Clantons decided to sell the business. Finkelman purchased the name, equipment, and production space. Starting with a four-color manual press in a 1,500-square-foot-space, Finkelman began to dive into the production end of apparel decoration. Despite a change in ownership, Finkelman says he paid close attention to the family legacy when start- ing up. "In my beginning years with Fit- ness Wear, I worked closely with Oren's family and learned a lot about the great foundation he built," he adds. "I knew it was a good opportunity for me to take it further." To build up his clientele, Finkelman con- tinued the company's existing strengths with team and spirit-wear clients. After a few years of building business up and up- grading equipment, Fitness Wear literally outgrew its surroundings. Finkelman pur- chased an adjoining space, and the com- pany knocked down the wall to accommo- date for expansion. "I've been confident in the fact that there's always people out there that need T-shirts," says Finkelman. "What really solidified things for me was when I saw customers coming back to place bigger orders." As his repeat customers continued to bring more orders through the door, Fin- kelman says he noticed new faces as well. A steady stream of new clients started show- ing up, all essentially echoing the same sen- timent; "we heard about what great work you've done for our friends." Since starting with school athletics, the company has maintained its collegiate base and diversified into variety of markets. Spe- cializing in services like jacket printing has also helped the company stay ahead of the crowd. Looking ahead, Finkelman says he sees even more growth on the horizon. That projection, he says, has a lot to do with his attitude toward long-time clients. "Make your current customers as happy as you can possibly make them, and that will get you another sale." For more information, visit E-COMMERCE OPTIONS continued from page 21 order the shirts. You follow up with him one time, and he is not yet ready to place the order. You never contact him personal- ly again. Each few weeks that pass without hearing from you, he is validated in not or- dering from you. Your lack of communica- tion with Bob is costing you points. Selling to Bob today requires that you reach out to him personally with a call or a text to see how he is doing and to let him know that you are ready when he is. Your job is to build a relationship with him and educate him. You need to demonstrate that you are a good person and that you have his best interests at heart. If you want to score points for your busi- ness and win new customers and more or- ders, you have to let potential and current customers peek behind the curtain to get to know you better and understand the range of the services that you offer. Share success stories online and include a photo of a well-dressed (by you) happy customer. Shoot a 30 second video of one of the ma- chines in action and post it with a simple, brief description of what is happening in the video. Share a promotion from one of your suppliers that is timely to your cus- tomers. Over time, your potential customers and current customers will become more edu- cated about all that you can do for them. They will feel more connected to you and more confident that ordering from you is a good idea. The fact of the matter is that if they can- not find your business online and on social media, you may as well not exist. They are finding other apparel decoration profes- sionals online. People are more and more comfortable buying online. The need and desire to order "local" is being overwhelmed by people's need for a solution now, so that they can move on to the next thing on their list. The apparel decoration professionals that take the time to have a positive, con- sistent, visible presence online and stay in contact with their customers are winning the sales game. Are you ready to learn the new rules and to play to win? STITCH SOLUTIONS

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