Build Your Business:

Better Business: Create, Show and Sell

I decided to embroider a friend’s granddaughter’s name on a plain bag, which I then displayed in my Dallas showroom. Bag sales took off!

February 27, 2014

How often do you show embroidered samples to prospective customers? Hopefully, the answer is more often than you show blank samples. If you’re frequently showing embroidered samples, you could benefit from increased sales.

Why? Embroidery is a visual medium, which means we can sell more products when we show them with the decoration. Of course, these decorated products are more visually appealing because of the inherent beauty of embroidery, but there are more reasons that embroidered samples are successful with customers.

When showing a blank shirt, prospects likely can visualize a left-chest logo placement. But recommending that a website be embroidered on the back yoke or locker patch has no impact unless you can show a similar sample. A sample shirt that has been fully decked out with a left-chest, right-cuff and back-yoke placement is likely to result in a lucrative order with twice the embroidery revenue compared to a blank sample.

Another benefit of embroidered samples is the chance to showcase unusual embroidery techniques. But be careful; your customers may drool all over your samples. To create a picture of the possibilities, show the same logo or design in three or more styles. For example, stitch a logo with an accent in three-dimensional embroidery foam. Stitch the same logo as a jacket-back placement using appliqué and another with a portion in shiny metallic thread. This presentation shows off your skill as an embroiderer and increases the likelihood of a sale, even if a customer only orders a standard design treatment.

Let’s say your customer wants bags. You could simply show him blank bags, which look the same as the bags he sees at every other store, including WalMart and similar discount stores. What’s unique and upscale about that?

In my Dallas showroom, I had really cute children’s bags and backpacks on display. The bags had specialty trims and bows in polka dots and stripes. They were adorable, but I rarely sold any. I decided to embroider a friend’s granddaughter’s name on one of them with the intention of giving it as a gift for an upcoming birthday. In the meantime, I kept it on display in my showroom. Bag sales exploded.

This gave me the idea to embroider samples of corporate-style bags with logos and personalizations. When taking orders for shirts, caps or jackets, I started showing embroidered bags as well. A small quantity slowly was added to a percentage of orders. Before, there was nothing special about my bag samples. With embroidery, they were colorful, classy and personal. Showing the embroidered bag samples resulted in a dramatic increase in this product category. Because this is a relatively high price-point item, it added significantly to my bottom line.

Regardless of your client profile, select an assortment of samples that are well suited to your prospective clients. Choose unusual locations to add embroidery and personalizations, such as a webbing strap.

Product continuity throughout your samples also creates more sales. Select coordinating garments and accessories for your presentations, decorate them with complementary coordinating embroidery and watch your add-on sales soar.

Work with representatives from your primary suppliers to get recommendations for coordinates. Then, keep your eye open for ads in Impressions and at the Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS) for other pieces that can add to the mix. Retailers do this all the time because customers want a complete “story” when selecting coordinates. Think about it: Retailers dress mannequins in outfits accented with bags, hats, jewelry, scarves and anything else they can imagine. Don’t assume your customers know what they want, what looks best or what goes well together. Show them what looks great together and you will benefit with more profitable orders.

As you know, not all items are well suited to embellishing with embroidery, and there are others that may be awkward when using standard hoops. Keep your options open by using auxiliary decorating methods for those items that can’t be embroidered. Just because an item shouldn’t be embroidered doesn’t mean you should exclude it from your full-line offering. Also, consider using aftermarket holding devices to efficiently embroider difficult-to-hoop accessories, such as bags.

Some embroiderers get creative and conceptualize their own looks for their embroidered products. This is particularly true for those specializing in apparel and accessories for children, spiritwear and special-interest enthusiast groups. These products are certainly offered on the retail level and are frequently featured on dedicated websites.

Blanks are blah and that goes double for online viewing. Showing a blank item and the artwork separately seems disconnected. Humans are visual and it’s much more effective to show the finished appearance of the item, especially if you want to get the sale. There’s no doubt that embroidered samples show better in an online format and help your prospect to pull the trigger on his purchase.

Are you showing summer samples in the winter? If so, you probably could benefit from a marketing calendar. This doesn’t need to be elaborate. Simply plan ahead for the times when dressing styles change and update your samples with the latest colors and fabric weights. Yes, they will need to be embroidered, and this gives you the opportunity to introduce any fresh treatments you have discovered since you last embroidered samples.

If you’re selecting solid staples for your core products and taking good care of your samples, you may be able to use these seasonal samples the following year, too.

When devising your marketing calendar, think about seasonal accessories and products. You may add stadium blankets for fall, but put them on your calendar for July so you can order samples and get them embroidered. Want to sell Christmas stockings? Mark your calendar to get samples and start promoting no later than September.

When you visit a customer for a sales call, the key to success is taking samples that will resonate with him. If possible, find out how the items will be used. For example, will the embroidered shirts for Pillar to Post Home Inspections be used by salesmen or on actual inspections? That knowledge could definitely impact your sample selection for the sales call. And don’t forget to bring the ladies and children’s styles. Showing a child’s shirt embroidered with a company logo frequently results in sales for the business owner’s children, or nieces and nephews.

Take your samples to a sales call inside a garment bag embroidered with your company logo, not on a handful of hangers. Carry your caps in fabric sample bags that are available from your cap supplier. Remember, you want to look like a professional salesperson.

Showing embroidered samples also allows you to give your customer pricing ranges. You can create threshold prices for the samples you’re showing. I like to use a benchmark stitch count for each embellishing technique and tell the customer that a specific item will be, for example, $29.95 with his selected embellishment. I usually include 8,000 stitches as a benchmark for pricing standard left-chest logos. If the logo’s stitch count is greater, it is charged at my price per thousand for stitches greater than 8,000. If the stitch count is less, I’ve made a bit more profit, or I know how much I can improve my price when bidding in a competitive situation.

When you put these practices in place, you come across as a prepared and professional decorator, and you likely will find the selling process much easier and more productive. These practices become habit and soon you’ll wonder why you ever showed blank canvases instead of beautiful finished products that sell themselves.

Deborah Jones is a commercial and home embroiderer with more than 30 years experience in the computerized embroidery field. She runs and regularly speaks at the Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). For more information or to comment on this article, email Deborah at Hear Deborah speak on embroidery topics at the 2014 Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). Individual seminars are just $25 if you pre-register: