Category Archives: General interest

An e-commerce site becomes a necessity in 2020

The thumbnail version:

  • COVID-19 has driven more business online
  • Participate or lose out

The full version:

Further to our October 29th post, here is some reinforcement for the concept of taking your shop online from another source.

Writing for Images Magazine, Eric Campbell argues as follows: “E-commerce may have been a secondary form of sales for many apparel decorators in the past, but in the current climate it has become a critical method for serving your customers.”

COVID-19 has driven a lot of business online where much of it is likely to stay.

By “current climate” we can assume he’s referring to the COVID-19 restrictions under which we are all operating at the moment. And the thing is, COVID has exposed different ways of doing business, some of which are going to stay with us when things return back to “normal.” More online business vis e-commerce sites than before is likely to be one of those things.

Jumping ahead (before we come back in the next post with practical considerations) Campbell makes the point that just showing up online is not good enough, you have to provide a unique value and not be afraid to put forth your shop’s culture and character.

We’ll address some practical aspects of an e-commerce site in the next post.

Dealing with angry customers on the phone

The thumbnail version:

  • Angry customers happen
  • How you handle it is the key to a satisfactory resolution
  • That said, it may sometimes be impossible to resolve

The full version:

Fix. My. Problem!

Sooner or later it’s going to happen. You’re going to have an angry customer at the other end of the phone. Smiledog, a phone-answering service based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, offers some good advice on how to handle such a call . . .

  1. Validate the problem: The customer may not be right but nevertheless acknowledge their feelings and don’t talk down to them.
  2. Keep emotions out of it: This can be difficult, but you must do it.
  3. Practice pleasantries: Smile (it helps to keep you sounding pleasant). It takes some skill and patience to do this when you have an angry person on the other end, but you must do it.
  4. Get to the bottom of the problem: Figure out exactly what the problem is.
  5. Offer solutions: It’s not good enough to just apologize, you must offer solutions as well.
  6. Avoid delays: If at all possible, solve the problem right away. You may have to go find an answer or confer with someone, but explain what you’re doing and ask them to hold.
  7. Be transparent: If you’re wrong, admit it and then find a real solution; don’t BS the customer.
  8. Know when to quit: If in spite of all your efforts the customer remains angry, unreasonable, or abusive, it will be time to politely end the call.

This is good advice that should work in most cases. But, this is the real world, so in some cases it may be impossible to satisfy an angry caller and you may well end up losing a customer. It happens. It’s part of running a business. Don’t sweat it.

The old quality/price/service myth

Remember when customers were told that they had to pick two of quality, price, or service, because all three were not possible? Let’s call BS on this old myth!

Quality, price and service; find a way to deliver the combination.

Some established big businesses have the clout to stick to this two-out-of-three proposition because, well, they’re big and established. Some are virtual monopolies. So, in these cases, the public has few alternatives.

The examples that come to mind tend to satisfy the quality and price elements but really suck at service. Have you ever tried to get decent customer service at Costco or Home Depot lately? These are just two—I’m sure you can come up with your own examples.

You can probably also come up with examples where a different two of the three choices are offered. What about those that have great products and over the top service but expect you to pay through the nose?

Unless your small business is lucky enough to service a non-competitive niche market, in today’s environment small businesses cannot afford to mimic the giants. Their world is not your world. Your shop has to find a way to offer a balance of quality, price, and service or lose out to competitors who do figure it out.

Choose your computer technician carefully

Images magazine published and excerpt from Characters Who Can make Or Break Your Small Business in their November issue. It’s an important topic well worth revisiting.

The thumbnail version:

  • Your shop cannot operate properly without fully-functioning computers
  • You need access to a good technician

The full version:

The excerpt as published in Images Magazine . . .

“We live in an era of inescapable reliance on technology, and it’s hardly necessary to point out that most of what we do to conduct and administer a small business involves a computer. While both hardware and software are much more reliable and user-friendly than they were even just a few years ago, sometimes your shop’s computer network will need attention.

Unlike large companies with a dedicated IT staff, most small shop budgets cannot accommodate a full-time computer technician. Computer failure – hardware or software – will, however, bring with it the prospect of a one-two punch of downtime and a hefty bill. It’s enough to cause a shop owner to descend into a state of despair.

A good computer tech is a critical resource for your shop. Get references.

Choose your computer technician for those inevitable downtime emergencies with care. They come in varying degrees of competence; limit your choices to the upper end of the range. Not only will a competent technician save you when technology emergencies strike, but they will also help you make sense of the alternatives when new technology is being considered. They can help cut through the mind-bogglingly unfathomable techno-talk that often accompanies new technology.

Your shop will generally have access to one of three computer technician resources: sole practitioners, local companies consisting of a staff of technicians, and nationwide franchises.

The advantage of hiring multi-technician computer service companies over sole practitioners is that the former’s technicians have likely been tested for competence during the hiring process. When you engage a sole practitioner, the competence checking falls on your shoulders. In the end, however, it all comes down to whether the individual technician’s competence, regardless of whether they are a sole practitioner or an employee of a service.

My final advice, based on hard-earned experience, is to not engage a computer technician until you have recommendations from their clients with similar requirements to your own.

There are no guarantees that your selection will be perfect, but choose a computer technician with due care and you give yourself the best chance of enjoying a relatively failure-free computer network.”

Sustainability — it keeps advancing!

The thumbnail version:

  • Sustainability is advancing, period!
  • Participate or perish.

The full version:

Okay, so this isn’t your textile screen shop venting, but you get the message . . .

Page through any fashion or garment decorating magazine nowadays and you’re bound to come across at least a couple of articles that make reference to sustainability. This is probably because there’s an increasing sensitivity around the constant references to how the clothing industry is currently one of the world’s great polluters.

For instance, here are two article titles from the November issue of Images Magazine: “Brands must make sustainability efforts clear on clothing labels, says GlobalData” and “Amazon launches Climate Pledge friendly label.”

We don’t have to delve into the details in these two articles here to get the message that sustainability is an advancing phenomenon. And as with any advancing phenomenon in any industry, members can choose to be part of it and keep operating or ignore it and eventually perish.

Where does your shop stand on sustainability awareness?

DTG, Kornit, and Amazon in the news

Thumbnail version:

  • Direct-to-garment development
  • Kornit and Amazon strike a deal

The full version:

This is huge!

Here’s some industry news . . . Images Magazine is reporting that Kornit and Amazon have struck a HUGE deal whereby Amazon has undertaken to spend $400 million on Kornit’s digital technology and services over the next 5 years.

Amazon will be investing $250 million in existing Kornit products, including printers and inks. The remaining part of the $400 million deal, $150 million, is committed to future products.

What does this mean for the textile industry generally and DTG versus screen printing specifically, who knows? But it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on this development.

Quiz — What is being described in this MSDS?

The thumbnail version:

  • You are required to keep a current MSDS for every product in use in your shop
  • Here’s a quiz to make the point (can you guess the product?)

The full version:

Where is your MSDS file?

In most, if not all jurisdictions, you are required to have an MSDS on hand for all the products you use in your shop. Compliance inspectors may ask for them but, more importantly, if you have a medical emergency caused by a product, you need to have the treatment information that’s laid out in the MSDS for that product.

So to make the point, here’s the quiz . . .  What is the product that this excerpt from a MSDS is referring to when it talks about “ingesting” (eating) it? The answer is provided at the end:

“Wash out mouth with water. Remove victim to fresh air and keep at rest in a position comfortable for breathing. If material has been swallowed and the exposed person is conscious, give small quantities of water to drink. Do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Get medical attention if symptoms occur.” 

So what is this “scary” stuff you’re not supposed not eat?

Well, it’s plastisol ink.

By no means should we minimize the importance of a MSDS for every product we use, but really, what a sad day if you actually had to put up a sign in the shop that says:

PLEASE DON’T EAT THE INK!

Anyway, the takeaway here is to get your MSDS binder up to date and complete.

COVID-19 driving your shop online?

The thumbnail version:

  • COVID-19 is forcing businesses online
  • There are 10 tips to keep in mind if your shop is going online

The full version:

Simple, clean website to attract and turn viewers into customers

Perhaps you’ve joined the many small businesses that have adapted to the COVID-19 world by, among other things, taking their business online. Perhaps you’ve diversified in order to go online.

In either of these scenarios, Marshall Atkinson, writing for Images Magazine, has offered 10 tips for maximizing the success of your online venture. Here they are with a little embellishment and additional comments:

  1. Limit the number of items you offer. Don’t clutter the site. Remember the old 80/20 rule that holds that 20% of your offerings yield 80% of your sales. Of course it’s a fairly rough rule, but it’s essentially true in many circumstances; and it probably holds true in your shop too.
  2. You’ve seen those “people also bought” items on Amazon. Atkinson says it accounts for a third of their sales. Consider it for your site.
  3. This is an obvious one that should barely need mentioning . . . use high quality images.
  4. Keep the text uncluttered. Clean and simple is far more appealing to customers.
  5. The old odd-number trick still works. Customers know it’s being used, vendors know that the customers know what it’s all about, but everyone still plays along. So, instead of $20.00 make it $19.99.
  6. Keep the checkout process simple. Like everything else, “simple” should be your design mantra.
  7. People have questions. Make it easy for them to ask and get quick answers. Atkinson recommends a “live chat” facility. This might be a bit ambitious. I don’t know too many Canadian textile screen shops with the time to keep an eye on a live chat app. But you can answer a phone and you can monitor emails regularly.
  8. A “search” feature is also as obvious as high quality images. Even basic website templates include them nowadays.
  9. Offer free shipping. And again, it fools nobody; they all know it’s in the price. But everyone is happy to play along. So make a point of mentioning the free shipping (frequently).
  10. Atkinson recommends an “abandoned cart” facility. Again, like a chat line, this might not be particularly relevant to your shop’s site, but consider it anyway.

That’s it. Ten pretty good tips.

Screen tension revisited

The thumbnail version:

  • Screen tension is essential for good prints
  • Screen tension is often neglected
  • Proper screen tension saves money

The full version:

Wow! Tighter screen tension is giving me much better prints!

Screen tension. This is an aspect of screen printing that seems basic to manage but is often neglected. And screen tension allowed to relax to less than, say, 20 newtons, is going to affect print quality and ink consumption. In fact, screen tension is arguably one of the most critical elements in producing a successful print.

Aside from the end-result benefits, tighter screens allow you to reduce the off-screen distance and squeegee pressure. Reducing the squeegee pressure of course allows the ink to sit on the top of the substrate where you want it, not forced into the garment. The result, for one thing, is a softer hand.

A few bucks spent on good frames and some time spent on paying attention to high tension, will be repaid with better quality, faster production and ink savings.

Can your shop get by with fewer employees? (Get rid of the slackers).

The thumbnail version:

  • Employees are being taken back after COVID.
  • Some employees are not (the slackers)
  • Shops can get by with fewer employees by hiring carefully

The full version:

Various reports and articles are suggesting that as the COVID restrictions on business activity lifts, businesses are not bringing everyone back.

For instance, Marshall Atkinson suggests: “Those staff members that didn’t make the cut were left at home because the owners or managers decided, for one reason or another, that they weren’t going to put up with whatever slacker habits they exhibited previously.”

Slacker!

It seems that COVID has taught shop owners that by hiring more selectively they can get the same work done with fewer (but better) employees. It’s partly the old work-smarter-not-harder thing.

So what does a slacker look like? Well, aside from being obviously low energy, a slacker would lack initiative too. For instance, I knew a shop owner who wanted to prove this point about one of his employees. He placed a 5-gallon container of ink right in the middle of a walkway next to a press where this employee worked. For a week the employee stepped around or over the container many times a day but didn’t move it out of the way. These are the guys you don’t want  back after COVID.

Vegan Tees? Can they get you ahead of the competition?

The thumbnail version:

  • Vegan Tees are part of an ethical sourcing trend
  • There’s an international market for them

The full version:

Getting ahead of the competition

The Images Magazine October edition includes an article about an embroiderer, Mark Ludmon, whose new focus is “vegan Tees.” Now, while this is a story about Tees for embroidery, there’s no reason the principles cannot be as easily be applied to Tees for screen printing.

Ludmon has been a vegan for three years and was looking to apply the plant-derived principle to his business as well. This meant sourcing ethically-produced, organic, and entirely plant-based Tees. He says that it’s part of a broader trend of ethical sourcing in the industry.

These Tees are being labelled “100% vegan” and “Certified organic.” If you have doubts about the viability of such a move, consider this . . . a website set up in advance of production of the first Tees has been taking orders from around the world.

Something to think about when you’re looking for an edge in a competitive market? I’d say so!

Come on! Clean up the place.

The thumbnail version:

  • Many shops are messy
  • Messiness is bad for business

The full version:

An essential element of a well-run shop.

As a result of countless visits to textile screen shops over many years, I had to include a janitor as a character in my book, Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business.

Of course not all textile shops are messy. There are those where, as my grandmother liked to say, you can eat your lunch off the floor. But then there are the others . . .

The ink room of a large shop in Toronto (no longer in business)  in particular comes to mind. It’s hard to know how to describe it other than to say that it always looked like a rainbow had exploded in there. I can see how you’d get ink all over the floor, but the walls? Then there was the shop in Vancouver that had a lint fire that ran through the place like one of those gunpowder trails they lit in old cowboy movies.

My concluding thought from the chapter I mentioned above:

“I can’t think of a single circumstance in which janitor-free premises would boost staff morale or give a small business an edge over the competition. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone else could think of one either, but unfortunately cleanliness and orderliness remain concepts not fully grasped by many small business owners, who may never know the positive effects a janitor can have on their business.”

Over-promise and under-deliver. Don’t do it!

The thumbnail version:

  • Customers take your delivery promises seriously.
  • Late delivery causes disappointment.
  • Disappointment causes problems.

Full version:

Promising a delivery date is a matter to be taken very seriously. Customers usually don’t take well to late deliveries. People are impatient and even a bit childish when it comes to delivery expectations. Tell them that they’re going to receive something on a particular day and they’ll look forward to it and be disappointed if it doesn’t arrive.

Wow! Stuff is here already!

And there can be more to it than just normal disappointment. They could have made promises of their own to others based on your promise to deliver by a certain date. If they have to deal with unfulfilled expectations from whomever they’ve promised, you can be sure you’re going to hear about it. And not only can a rush at the end to meet your customer’s expectations cost overtime, excessive delivery expenses, and stress, but it may cost you repeat business.

No, it’s much better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Adding some zing to your prints with foil.

Thumbnail version:

  • Foil prints are back.
  • Take advantage now, it’s not likely to last indefinitely.

Full version:

Tony Palmer, writing for Images Magazine, re-visits foil for adding zing to your prints. Foil printing is not new by any means but it has fallen in and out of fashion over the years. Apparently it’s back again.

A sheet of foil ready to use.

It’s a simple process that can offer a lot of creative potential for adding eye-catching metallic highlights to a print. It’s applied using a heat press. The foil is adhered to a garment with a clear “adhesive” (Wilflex HD Clear) that anyone at Stanley’s can tell you about. The clear is often difficult to see on the garment but Tony has a great tip for making the task easier—add a little light-coloured pigment (say, yellow) before laying it down.

Don’t miss out making money on this trend while it lasts. Do your research, practice, perfect your foiling technique, and get into production.

 

One-person shop? Doing everything? There’s a better way.

The thumbnail version:

  • Initially, doing it all yourself sounds possible
  • Doing it all yourself is not smart.
  • Freelancers, part-timers, jobbers, and service providers are an alternative.

The full version:

I can’t do this all myself!

It sounds fine when you’re thinking of launching your own business. You’ve read the articles about new business owners having to be a Jack of all trades; the implication is that until you can afford employees, you have to be prepared to do everything from negotiate with customers to sweep the shop floor.

While this might make sense on the face of it, you can’t forget the rest of that expression: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” It’s unlikely that you can be good at (or have the time for) all the elements of running a shop: marketing; selling; accounting; artwork; and production, to name just a few. Attempt them all and you’ll likely make a mess of at least some of them and potentially end up with a nervous breakdown.

So you can’t delegate in the traditional sense, (you can’t afford employees yet, remember), but you can hire help in the shape of freelancers, part-timers, jobbers, and service providers. If you have properly-paying work to do (that is, all costs are factored in and there is still a profit) you should be able to afford the help. If you can’t, there’s a problem with your business model and you probably shouldn’t be running your own shop.

Can a re-think of your marketing strategy get you out of the drudgery of “the Tee as a commodity” business?

 

The thumbnail version:

  • Tees became commoditized a decade or two ago
  • Price cutting leads to commoditizing of a product
  • Commoditizing undermines brand loyalty
  • You can take measures to create brand loyalty

The full version:  

I was re-reading a Harvard Business Review marketing article I’ve had since 2007. I kept it at the time because it was relevant to the printed T-shirt market and the fact that Tees had been allowed to become commoditized through competitive price cutting.

I’d seen textile screen printers struggling because they were under-quoting each other until the price for a print got so low that I wondered if there was any margin in it at all. I remember that it was particularly bad in the GTA and that some significant printers went out of business as a result. To further commoditize the Tee, at about the time of the article screen printer’s began buying garments directly from manufacturers thus cutting out the bit of margin a printer could make by supplying the Tees for a print order.

So what advice did the HBR article offer to a printer not willing to participate in the price race to the bottom where it was no longer worth the risk and effort it took to print Tees?

Here are some quotes from the article to cast light on the topic:

“By focusing consumers’ attention on extrinsic brand cues such as price instead of on intrinsic cues such as quality, promotions make brands appear less differentiated. Consumers, over time, become more price sensitive, and the product becomes commoditized.”

“When one firm increases its discounts, others usually follow suit. As a result, individual promotions increase but overall sales do not, further lowering everyone’s margins.”

The essential message of the article is that fighting a price war should be avoided. It’s more productive to differentiate your brand on quality and service and to market your brand accordingly and repetitively.

The single takeaway line that sums this all up? Price cutting dilutes brand equity thereby giving no reason for brand loyalty.

A money saver – good inventory management

The thumbnail version:

  • Many small businesses manage inventory badly
  • Poorly-managed inventory costs money
  • Your accountant can help set your shop on the right inventory-management track

The full version:

Follow this plan and you’ll save money on your inventory management.

Big businesses pay a lot of attention to Inventory management. There’s a reason for that. It’s a potential cash drain if not managed properly.

Unfortunately, many small businesses (screen shops included) do not manage inventory well. Old never-to-be-used-again ink, dated chemicals, mesh in counts never used, unsold Tees, and a million other things we could name. They all represent cash lying dormant and possibly eventually disappearing.

You accountant can help you set up a system to track your inventory, value it, and give you regular reports. You can supplement a good record system with a simple but effective set of procedures for the physical management of your inventory. And you can establish a mindset that emphasizes effective inventory management in the shop. This will all help make your shop more efficient and cost-effective.

Time to start saving some money?

Nerdy kids and websites . . .

The thumbnail version:

  • We’re in a new COVID-19 and, therefore, online world.
  • A well-designed and informative website is essential
  • Many shops try to do a website on the cheap
  • You get what you pay for

The full version:  

Is this how visitors react to your website?

I came across and article by Marshall Atkinson on the increasing importance of websites in a COVID-19 and increasingly online marketplace.

One passage in particular caught my eye because he articulated succinctly something that has puzzled me too for a long time: “Personally, I find it almost laughable that some shops will drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on production equipment, but skimp and try to find the cheapest nerdy neighbor kid to build out the functionality of their website. Remember this, you get what you pay for.”

The article offers some great priorities such as: better aesthetics; better call to action; more clarity; better tools; more follow up; and the ability to work on a phone.

This website topic might be sounding a bit repetitive to you by now, but that’s because it is a vitally important one.

How’s your shop’s site? Is it built for the online economy?

What’s your strategy for selecting customers?

The thumbnail version:

  • Not every potential customer is a good customer
  • Customers are not created equal
  • Define your ideal customer
  • Only aim for the ideal customers

The full version:

Take your business to my competitor!

The T-shirt printing business is tough. But this doesn’t mean that you embrace every potential new customer that comes through the door.

Customers are not created equal. Some are not worth having. Some are too small for the effort they require. Some are impossibly difficult. Some don’t pay promptly. Some don’t pay at all. And so on, and so on, and so on.

So how to handle this? Well, first of all, define your ideal customer and then do some checking. Which of your products or services do they want? What quantities do they order? Will you be able to delight them? What will the profit margin on their work be? Will they pay promptly? Will they be a repeat customer?

These are some of the attributes you’re looking for. Now, no customer is perfect, but why wouldn’t you turn down up front the ones you’re only going to to end up firing after they’ve caused you headaches and cost you money? Turning down a potential customer is counter-intuitive for sure, but being discerning is smart business.

 

A T-shirt business built on activism

The thumbnail version:

  • Activism spawned a T-shirt retail business
  • Another aspect to the story is the power of niche marketing

The full version: 

I see a niche!

The obvious message in the article on the Shopify feed was meant to be about how one woman’s search for a specific type of Tee launched a successful business. It grew rapidly from the living room of an apartment in Washington DC to two retail stores, one in Washington and the other in Philadelphia.

Here’s how the story of the activist-based T-shirt company, The Outrage, began . . . “Around the same time, she was looking to buy herself a feminist T-shirt, ideally from a company owned by women and with an ethical supply chain and production practices. ‘Once you learn about that,’ she says, ‘you can’t unlearn it.’ But she came up short. So Rebecca spent months in libraries and coffee shops building what would become The Outrage, launching an online store at the height of the 2016 presidential election.” It launched and orders started pouring in.

So this was intended as a story about activism, but for us, it’s interesting for another reason. It demonstrates how business success can flow from spotting an under-serviced niche market. The T-shirt market is very crowded, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still niche markets to be explored. It could pay handsomely for a shop owner willing to do the searching.

Tune up your website

The thumbnail version:

  • Most small businesses neglect their websites
  • Speed of response is critical
  • There are ways to improve speed of response

The full version:

Ensure that your website a joy to visit.

Most small businesses tend to neglect their websites once they’re launched. This may result in your site discouraging rather than encouraging potential customers.

Content, graphics, and overall attractiveness are of course important, but assuming you have those taken care of, speed of response is just is critical. This is not only because of the user experience aspect but also because search engines will rank slow websites lower.

Melinda Emerson, the SmallBizLady, has three good tips:

  1. Enable caching. This allows your website to load faster on follow-up visits.
  2. Remove hog plug-ins and add-ons. You may have too many and some may be real resource hogs. get rid of them if you can
  3. Optimize and reduce the size of your images. large images can affect your website speed. Do a ,little research on how to optimize images.

Your website is a critical part of your business. Keep it up to date and finely tuned.

Let your customers do your marketing

The thumbnail version:

  • Being heard nowadays is difficult among all the advertising noise
  • Customer referrals are effective and cost efficient
  • You have to give customers reason to market for you
  • There are statistics to support this

The full version:

Advertising nowadays, especially through social media is, as Seth Godin has apparently noted, a bit like firing off flares during a hurricane in the Atlantic and expecting to be noticed. In other words, mostly a waste of time and effort.

So don’t neglect an old tried-and-tested method of marketing—customer referrals. It’s cost-free and targeted. It’s much more like shooting fish in a barrel than firing off flares in the Atlantic.

The key is to produce work and service that wows customers, that gets them excited about your shop. Once they have a reason to talk about your shop to other potential customers, there’s no shame in asking them to do just that. You have to ask though because it may not occur to them that your really need them to do that.

Bottom line—give them a reason to tell others and then ask them to do so. It works because it’s human nature to share when you have a positive experience to relate. You remember the old hair cleanser advertisement?: “Two people told two people, who told two people, who told two people, who told two people . . .”

It snowballs.

Here are some recent supporting statistics from spotio.com: 

Salespeople who actively seek out and exploit referrals earn 4 to 5 times more than those who don’t.

– 84% of buyers now kick off their buying process with a referral

– 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know.

– 91% of customers say they’d give referrals. Only 11% of salespeople ask for referrals.

– Companies with formalized referral programs experience 86% more revenue growth over the past two years when compared to the rest.

– The lifetime value of referred customers is on average 16% higher than that of non-referred customers.

Beware! Online fraud rats ramping up.

The thumbnail version:

  • Online fraud is more prolific than ever
  • Becoming a victim can destroy your business
  • The key is vigilance

The full version:

They’re everywhere (this is Richard the rat).

Judging by recent articles and reports, online fraud attempts have become more intense during the pandemic. It’s hard to pin down why this is, but as the currently popular phrase has it, it is what it is. As a business owner or employee, your main concern is not falling for it.

Some attempts are laughably easy to spot, such as this one just received, “Hello, this is richard hurt, I will like to know if you do screen printing and can i know if you are the owner or manager and do you accept credit card payment?” But some are cleverly disguised with proper grammar and spelling, and sometimes legitimately-looking logos and links.

One defense against this kind of thing is vigilance. If your staff are constantly reminded to be wary of unsolicited inquiries and to do extensive legitimacy checks, the chances of being victimized by an online rat will be minimized. Unfortunately, in today’s world we have to constantly be on guard. Trust your instincts; if you smell a rat . . .

Another print shop mistake to avoid—waiting

The thumbnail version:

  • Customers can be unreasonably impatient
  • Catering to their impatience can win return business
  • Waiting can annoy an impatient customer
  • Production planning avoids waiting

The full version:

Besides the fact that an order held up waiting for artwork, one or more essential supplies, or a production bottleneck, is an inefficient way to run a shop, a delayed order is no way to impress a customer or ensure repeat business.

A happy customer is a return customer.

Customers are often unreasonable in their delivery demands, but that’s just a reflection of the type of society we live in nowadays. Remember the one-hour photo printing services? There was hardly ever a good reason for wanting photos printed in an hour when all one was going to do was look through them and then put them in a drawer and forget them. But that’s the kind of unreasonable impatience a lot of customers have.

So, as annoying as it can be, you have no choice but to deliver when (if not sooner) than expected. This is why orders have to be planned to ensure that there are no production and delivery delays. There must be no waiting for any of the elements of production: artwork, screens, shirts, ink, staff, etc.

On or before-time delivery can go a long way to impressing an impatient customer.

The elevator pitch and a silver bullet

The thumbnail version:

  • The Tee business is tough, particularly now
  • You must have an “elevator pitch”
  • You can reduce your elevator pitch to a single sentence (the silver bullet)
  • That single sentence can give a listener the chills

The full version:

We all know about the “elevator pitch” which holds that you should be able to describe your business well enough in the length of an elevator ride to entice someone to want to consider doing business with you.

A lot has been written over the years about how to do this effectively. However, recently Neil Gordon, writing for Entrepreneur.com, introduced the concept of what he calls the silver bullet of an elevator pitch. It’s an article worth the few minutes it takes to read. You can find it here.

When you’re promoting your screen shop to someone who could be a potential customer, what do you tell them? “I print T-shirts”? I hope not because while it may be true, it’s hardly compelling and, besides, so do a whole lot of other shops so why do business with yours?

Gordon’s article will give you some ideas on how to come up with a single sentence designed to give the listener, as he puts it, the “chills.”

You’re in tough against competitors all hurting in this pandemic market. This is just another way to help give you the edge.

 

More on a social media marketing re-think

The thumbnail version:

  • “Followers” can just be a vanity metric
  • “Followers” don’t necessarily mean potential business
  • A current example demonstrates
  • Two quotes to note

The full version:

In the post of the 6th of this month the pros and cons of media marketing were mentioned along with a warning about being misled by vanity metrics such as number of “followers”, “friends”, “connections” etc.

Here is an example of why those metrics are referred to as “vanity metrics” and why they can be misleading for a small business owner hoping to focus a marketing effort on social media (as encouraged by many so-called social media marketing “experts”).

Shortly after the outbreak of the current COVID-19 pandemic, a doctor in Ontario who happens to have a well-followed Instagram channel in which she regularly posts plant-based recipes, decided to compile an e-book of her more popular and exotic recipes. The 50-recipe e-book was priced at $25 with all proceeds going to the Canadian Foodbank to help them with the increased demand resulting from the impact of the pandemic.

The project was co-sponsored by a womens’ health organization that actively promoted the project to its 70,000 Instagram followers. They hoped to raise $30,000. It seemed like a reasonable target for a great recipe book for a great cause. It would mean that all they needed was 1,200 sales or only 1 in 58 (less than 2%) of the 70,000 followers.

In the end they raised $8,500. That’s 340 sales or 1 sale per 205 followers—a far cry from the hoped for 1 sale per 58 followers. The conclusion? The number of followers is a meaningless metric in indicating potential sales. To repeat what BJ Mendelson wrote in his book, Social Media is Bullshit: “The only metric that matters for small businesses, artists and entrepreneurs is sales. If you’re not making money, you can’t keep on doing what you’re doing.”

Let’s have one more comment on this topic of social media marketing from Alex Lieberman, CEO of Morning Brew: “The best marketers don’t just understand Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. The best marketers understand anthropology, sociology, and psychology.”

You have a lot to think about before following the herd into social media marketing and neglecting more traditional marketing methods.

A print shop mistake to avoid—rejects!

The thumbnail version:

  • Rejects cost money
  • There’s a quick calculation to bring the cost of rejects into perspective
  • Everyone in the shop must work to avoid rejects

The full version:

Don’t even tell me there are more rejects!

It should be a mantra: “Rejects are bad!” Any number of mistakes and oversights can result in a reject. It’s important to be reminded of this whether you’re a new sole-operator or an owner of a large shop.

If the reject rate is not watched carefully it can become costly. Do the math . . . what is your margin on an impression on customer-supplied shirts? (Let’s call this A). Now, what is the cost of replacing the customer’s rejected shirt plus the cost of making the impression? (Let’s call this B). Now divide B by A. This tells you how many impressions you have to do just to get back to break-even after incurring a rejection. You can’t make money when you’re working for nothing to pay for rejects.

Even if you can fix a mistake with a spot-remover gun, that’s time and chemical cost incurred.

And that’s just the money side of it. What about the embarrassment of having to admit to a customer that you’ve messed up a bunch of their shirts? What will too much of this do to your shop’s reputation?

Rejects are bad! Instill it in everyone in your shop from the person that takes the order, to the artist, to the screen person, to the printer, to everyone.

CFIB wants you to sign their petition

The thumbnail version:

  • The CFIB says there is growing anger among Canadian small business owners
  • They’re petitioning the government online on behalf of small business owners and want you to participate

The full version:

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business wants all small business owners to log on and sign their petition to the Federal Government asking for what small businesses need to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

The CFIB says that there is growing anger among Canadian small business owners because many are slipping through the cracks between the various assistance programs. They estimate that 158,000 small businesses (1 in 7) will have to close unless something is done to help them.

They’re aiming for 20,000 signatures and currently have just over 7,000. The petition on the CFIB website details what they are asking for.

You can participate at www.cfib.ca/covidpetition

COVID-19 and your mental health

The thumbnail version:

  • The virus is having an impact on mental health
  • We have no idea when society and business will get back to “normal”
  • This can affect you and your staff members
  • Don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare professional

The full version:

Reports are now beginning to appear about the negative impact of the virus on mental health—that of small business owners in particular. These are tough times and we have no idea yet when this may get back to “normal”; consider New Zealand that appeared to have it beaten and then after over 100 days without any cases they had to suddenly shut down  Auckland again. And the worst part is that as of now, they don’t know where the new outbreak came from.

This isn’t a good sign for the rest of us in jurisdictions that still don’t have the original outbreak under control. It turns out that we cannot now assume that once we get this outbreak under control it won’t happen all over again. Also, medical experts are warning that the much-anticipated vaccine may not be the answer we’re hoping for.

As this thing drags on, persistent discouragement and anxiety can evolve into mental health issues—yours and that of your staff members.

I don’t mean to shock anyone, but this is a serious matter so I’m quoting from the Healthcare Professional chapter in my book, Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business, as a means of persuading you to consult with a healthcare professional if you perceive a need (you’ll know if you do): “My own experience with business-related stress, the suicide deaths of three small business associates, and the near suicide death of another all underscored the necessity to include a healthcare professional as a character in this book. In the context of this chapter, ‘healthcare professional’ includes any healthcare professional appropriate to the malady . . .”