Build Your Business:

Standing Out In The Crowd of Apparel

August 4, 2016

How would I find your business if I were looking for it? Do you advertise on the radio? Would I see a billboard? Maybe I would see your vehicle wrapped with a custom message promoting your company and what it can do for me.

Though each of these advertising methods can help me find your business, there are two questions you should attempt to answer before spending money on marketing or advertising: “Can you help me?” and “What is it about you and your business that will make me choose it over a similar business?”


Even great advertising and marketing will eventually be ineffective if you can’t quickly answer the question, “Why should I buy from you?” As a business owner, the onus is on you to find and define those compelling reasons, and provide evidence that will help you answer that question.

As you review this list, consider the suggestions and how you would tweak them to make them your own. Define the key ingredients that you can uniquely pull together to make your business irresistible, either in your local area or to your target audience.

Customers need to know what you offer and don’t offer. This list not only helps you set proper expectations, but also helps educate and inform future buyers about why they should pick your 
company for business.

1. Do you have a unique selling proposition (USP)? What part of your apparel decoration business makes your shop unique or rare? Defining your USP may require reflection and creativity. Be honest and careful. For example, offering screen-printing or embroidery services doesn’t make your company special. However, explaining to customers that you own a 12-station automatic screen-printing press with a patented screen-registration system that is linked directly to the consistent quality of their printed apparel may be part of your USP. The following questions should help you define your USP.

2. What’s the primary focus of your business?
What are you known for? Do you specialize in a primary market? Do you focus on a specific business type or buyer? The goal of these questions is to help you find a target so that you can say, “I’m the best in this space. I own it.”

3. What’s your advantage? Try to frame the way you operate your business and the methods you use as an advantage for potential clients. They want to know which of their problems you can help solve and how you will do so.
There also are other advantages you can highlight. You may be a women- or 
minority-owned business, or have 25 years of experience or state-of-the-art decorating equipment. The key is that you must word your advantage statement in a way that customers can identify a benefit.4.

4. Can you show your advantage? Be clear; don’t just say, “We offer great quality.” What does that mean? Can you show customers? How would they know what is or isn’t quality? Teach them; illustrate and share examples of how your experience and your business will help provide great quality. As you educate and teach future customers, your credibility rises, as does their trust in you and your business.

5. Are your expectations of customer 
service aligned? I often hear, “We pride our business on great customer service.” How far will you go to illustrate how your business offers great customer service? If a potential client asked you to individually wrap, tag and deliver his garments to an event on Saturday, would you do it? Make sure your vision of your customer service and your clients’ expectations are aligned before you start a new job.

6. What is your preferred communication method? It’s a given that communication in business is critical. The goal should be to make it as easy as possible for buyers to reach you. The key is to remember that your clients also may have a preferred communication method. It’s important to let your customers know how to best reach you and your key staff members. Are you the primary contact? Do you have an office manager or lead customer service rep? Spell it out — don’t make buyers guess.

7. Do you have set pricing and how can a buyer get a quote?
There are many important points to consider regarding pricing and quotes. There are even industry-specific software tools available to help you with bids and estimates. Evaluate each one and find the best fit for your business. Most buyers are comfortable seeing a current pricing guide and real numbers in a written format. Calling it a “pricing guide” also enables you to include an oral and written assertion that it is not a final or binding quote — just a guide.
You need all of the facts before you can provide an accurate estimate. Customers rarely understand all of the parameters involved and the custom nature of embroidery, screen printing, and all of the other possible combinations of embellishment and decorating techniques. The profitability of every job hinges on accurate quotes.

8. What is your new-customer/new-
order payment policy?
This is an issue centered on building trust and preventing situations where you don’t get paid or maintain positive cash flow. Will you require prepayment from new customers with new orders or will you ask for a deposit of 50% of the total order? Anything less becomes risky or will affect cash flow. Can you afford to offer net-30 terms? What if your customer pays in 30 days but with a credit card? That means you just lost another 2%-4% to the credit-card processing company. Do you want that type of business?

9. What is your repeat-order policy? Do you include a setup charge for a repeat order? If so, make customers aware before they reorder and educate them regarding why you include the charge.

10. What are your business’ decoration capabilities? This is an important area to highlight and should be an ongoing focal point of your marketing. This could even be a part of your USP or what makes you special in your local area. Your customers don’t know each of the unique decorating methods of our industry. That’s your job.

Memorize three to five of the best reasons why a customer should buy from your business. Also, create a professional onboarding process for new clients. Use the aforementioned and any others you can think of that are specific to your workflow to create a “New Client Intake” form.

Creating this form or outline can serve as the foundation for two strategic outcomes for your business. First, you will better define what makes it unique in your local area or marketplace, which will answer why a buyer should pick you instead of a competitor. You also will have an organized method for covering critical details with new clients that will help you avoid misprints and mistakes.

Both outcomes will lead to long-term business relationships.

Jay Busselle has been in the decorated apparel industry for more than 30 years. He is an industry speaker, has written for trade publications and is an accomplished trainer and presenter. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jay at