Create Embroidery That Sells Itself

How to present your work and get the order at your price.

By Deborah Jones, Contributing Writer

If you are an embroiderer and you want to get small orders from bigger companies in your area, try stitching showpiece embroidery on a piece of felt or velvet, mount it on a photo card and address it to “Marketing Director,” with a personal note.

January 10, 2013

It’s one thing to be a great embroiderer, but you also must have strong sales to keep your business alive. But what if you could create embroidery that sells itself? Does it sound too good to be true? Accomplishing this goal may involve changing some of your embroidery and selling habits, but this is a tried-and-true formula.

The foundation of this idea is the embroidery itself. It’s important that your embroidery quality has identifiable differences that you can point out to the customer. This may mean changing not only your work habits, but perhaps even your basic philosophy about embroidery production.

For example, a common practice that increases efficiency is “closest-point lettering.” In this type of digitizing, small letter sizes (less than ½-inch) connect at the closest point between any two characters. This 

is a very good practice for extremely small 
lettering, where the lockdown stitches required for trimming would create clarity and quality issues.

But as lettering gets closer to the ½-inch threshold, I think embroidery lettering looks demonstrably cleaner and easier to read when each letter is trimmed. You can use this visible difference in your sales presentation by showing two stitched samples that are identical, except that one has trimmed letters and one uses the closest-point lettering technique (Figure 1).

Tell your prospect something like this: “Unlike most embroiderers, we don’t use the closest-point lettering technique. We trim each letter, which makes it much cleaner in appearance and easier to read.”

Your prospect will have to agree with the proof right before his eyes. In fact, if he has used embroidery before, it’s likely that he will inspect his own logos for the “inferior” closest-point lettering. Good work — you have planted the first seed.

Of course, this approach only works with small lettering. On the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say you are selling towel monograms. This is another instance when you can use stitched samples to demonstrate your point. I think towel monograms should last as long as the towel, without pile peeking through the embroidery thread.

Unfortunately, the convenient water-soluble topping that we all love to use is no longer present under your embroidery stitches after the towel’s first washing. Don’t get me wrong — I am a huge fan of water-soluble topping and I use it on many things, including piqué golf shirts. However, for towels, you might want to consider permanent topping and additional underlay to create longer-lasting embroidery with a visible difference and more lifespan.

For topping, I suggest that you use dry-cleaners’ bags, tearing the excess away after the underlay has stitched (Figure 2), but before applying the top layer of stitches (Figure 3). Increase your underlay to a double zigzag style, using more density than usual. Add density to the top layer of stitches as well, and your “preferred”
sample should display more height, loft and richness than a stitched sample embroidered with standard zigzag underlay and density settings (Figure 4). Of course, explain the reasons for the visible difference in the two samples and your prospect will appreciate the extra time and stitches that you put into your embroidery.

In both instances described above, you have shown the prospect that your techniques require more time, but that you are committed to creating only embroidery of the highest quality. You can reinforce your point by explaining other techniques or products that you use in your production process, and your prospect will take your points seriously because you just showed visible proof that your techniques create the very best quality embroidery.

Here are some other production-
related selling points that you can touch on quickly when showing embroidered logo shirts. In my sample bag, I take an embroidered shirt that still has the stabilizer attached and bits of water-soluble topping between the letters. I explain that the topping is removed before garments are delivered, but that its purpose is to provide a smooth stitching surface and keep the stitches above the garment’s surface during embroidery process.

If you use no-show polymesh stabilizer for embroidering knit shirts, which I recommend, you can turn the shirt inside-out to reveal this soft, touchable stabilizer to create a real “warm, fuzzy” moment. Tell your prospect, “We use this stabilizer and topping because we believe it creates the very best results. It costs us more, but we think it’s worth it.”

When you include your customer by explaining your techniques, you are acting as his embroidery consultant rather than a salesperson. The embroidery sells itself — you just write the order. You are likely to become his embroiderer of choice for demonstrable reasons of quality while subtly presenting reasons why he would pay more to buy your embroidery.

There probably are some large companies in your area that you would love to have as customers. If you are a small- to medium-sized embroiderer, you may think there is no chance of getting an order from the big guys.

It’s actually easier than you may think
to get small orders from this type of customer. Send a sample of your embroidery addressed to “Marketing Manager” (Figure 5). If you do a bit of research online or on the phone, you can get the name of the marketing contact within the company. Along with your stitched sample, include your business card and a note that simply states, “We specialize in quick turnaround and small runs.”

It may not happen immediately, but sooner or later, some of the people to whom you send these samples will give you a call. I have successfully used this approach to get orders from Boeing, IBM, Nortel, American Airlines and others. These orders weren’t for their large quantities of promotional shirts and caps. They were for small groups or events hosted by the company. For example, I did an order for a company picnic, shirts for a product launch, trade show apparel, company bowling and golf teams, and lots more.

Remember to set yourself and your embroidery apart. Service is certainly an important component, but for me, showcasing my quality always comes first. Then, the embroidery sells itself.

Deborah Jones is a commercial and home embroiderer with more than 30 years experience in the computerized embroidery field. She runs MyEmbroideryMentor.com and regularly speaks at the Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). For more information or to comment on this article, email Deborah at djones@myembroiderymentor.com. Hear Deborah speak on embroidery topics at the 2013 Imprinted Sportswear Shows (ISS). Individual seminars are just $25 if you pre-register: isshows.com