Build Your Business:

The Power of Planning

Image courtesy of Stahls’, St. Clair Shores, Mich.

December 5, 2016

When selling athletic uniforms to schools, organizations and actual teams, it’s important to know when the best time of year to reach out is, to give the decision makers enough time decide what they need, and for a decorator to have enough time to get the job done. Impressions reached out to Paul Sabatini, marketing sports coordinator at Stahls’, to ask and answer some of the most common questions about setting up a schedule for sports selling.

What sports need numbered uniforms?
Football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, hockey, lacrosse and soccer all have numbered uniforms.

What are the approximate dates that seasons start and stop?
Many sports are played year-round both indoors and outdoors, especially travel and club teams. At the high school level, the following sports are typically in play during these months:
Football: September – November
Boys’ Soccer: September – November
Volleyball: September – November
Boys’ Basketball: November – January
Hockey: November – March
Girls’ Basketball: January – March
Baseball: March – May
Softball: March – May
Lacrosse: March – May
Girls’ Soccer: March – May

When will the teams need their uniforms?

The optimal time would be two or three weeks before a team has its first game, in case any adjustments need to be made.

When will the decorator need the team’s order to have the uniforms done on time?
This is the ultimate question, and varies greatly from shop to shop. It would be nice to have a few weeks to complete uniforms, but often this is not the case.

When should a decorator start marketing (eblast, phone call, mail flier, social media, etc.) to get customers thinking about submitting their order?
Contacting your customer a couple of months in advance or shortly after the previous season generally is advised, depending on the scale of the team or club order. When contacting your customer, entice him with something new that you can provide, or indicate that you wish to show him some new decorating options for his uniforms.

How many marketing pushes should be made, and how closely should they be spaced?
Seven marketing pushes is ideal. Try having three preseason pushes where you remind customers that it’s time to stock up and get ready for the latest trends. Contact customers twice in a season to see if they’re doing okay; they might have a new player and need another uniform. Finally, follow up with two post-season pushes to get them thinking about the following year.

Is there a specific day that’s best for the initial marketing push, the second, and the third (if recommended)?
Tuesdays are the best day for online marketing pushes, so start there. Follow up with the next push in a week or two, at most.

Create a calendar for each sport, starting with a deadline for the initial marketing push, and on through delivering the order to the customer.

Begin two months before your decorating season begins; normally three months before teams start practicing.

What kind of photos and information should be included in marketing messages?
Target messages to customers based on what sport you are bidding for, and include images and number styles that reference the same. If you have an image of a sport uniform, it should show all of the possible areas on the garment that you provide decoration for.

What are the best ways to let your customers know what numbering services and products you offer?
One of the most important ways is to set up your team room with various garment samples that showcase the decorating services you provide. When meeting with teams and customers outside of your establishment, decorate garment samples with various number options, and keep a display book on hand that demonstrates the same for each sport.

Can you suggest any marketing materials you are able to get from your supplier that can help you promote your numbering services?
Printing out number styles directly from the website to create your own sales pieces can be an easy, cost-effective starting point. These suppliers also may offer selling tips and tools on their sites, demonstrating all options for sports uniform decoration. Some suppliers also will have number style display posters and books available. These can be a great investment for your sales staff, or simply to have on-hand in your team room.

What are some ways you can make the process of getting team uniforms easier for the customer?
It’s helpful to provide what information you require to the customer upfront. A detailed list of your uniform decoration process that includes the date you need the information from the team manager or coach by can help determine a solid deadline. This will provide the customer with a solid window for delivery of his order, and what he can expect in the meantime.

How should I approach a previous customer about his continued business? Should I send a proof of his last order along with suggestions for new styles? What should this message be?
First, thank customers for their previous business and tell them you’re looking forward to working with them again. Don’t suggest new looks or styles right out of the gate, as some teams may be attached to a certain look. If the conversation lends itself, you can inquire as to whether or not they’re looking to freshen up their look and try something new. If they’re looking for a new team identity or simply to broaden their choices, you can then begin to let them know about all of the uniform decoration upgrades you can offer them.

What are some ways you can upsell your services to team customers?
The most natural way might be upon completion of a team order. Adding in small sample items that showcase the services you offer can spur on extra sales from team managers, coaches, even parents. Make an extra shirt for the coach or team manager, decorated as you would for the team’s spirit wear. This will lead to decorating fan wear for parents and family members.

With 21 years of sports industry experience Paul Sabatini is the marketing sports coordinator and product line champion for letters and numbers for Stahls’, St. Clair Shores, Mich. Sabatini is the go-to guy for all things sportswear and uniforms.