Customizing Your Embroidery

Five ways to personalize with embroidery and become your customer's BFF.

By Alice Wolf, Contributing Writer

August 9, 2016

One of the greatest benefits of using embroidery on garments, totes, caps or home décor is the phrase, “No minimums.” In the trade, we are accustomed to seeing that, knowing it will affect price, delivery and even the final decision whether to move forward with a project.

That ability to produce one completely unique, customized item that is specifically stitched for someone is why embroidery — the warmth, tactile quality and three-dimensional aspect of it — is so ideal for personalization. Whether you are running a singlehead or 16-head embroidery machine, the individualization you offer to customers is a key to your success.

Here are five ways to offer personalization, either through upsell or by example.

The oldest — and probably most popular — way to personalize with embroidery is through monogramming. Names, initials, monograms that combine his and hers … we all have seen the high-end effect of this type of personalization. Placement can be as subtle as on the cuffs or pocket of a dress shirt, or as bold as initials on a backpack or tote. Many retailers will use monogramming as an upsell (or build the cost into the price of items, assuming most customers will opt for personalization).

Monogramming consists of two or three initials, representing a person’s first and middle names, and surname. In the case of a married couple, the surname (if the wife changes her maiden name) would appear larger in the middle, while the initials of his and her first names appear on either side. Fonts play a large part in a monogram’s style and design, ranging from simple, stately block letters to swirly, script letters that can be intertwined and very intricate.

Commemorative Occasions
Another popular form of embroidery personalization entails commemorating an important occasion. Embroidering the name, birth date — even adding weight, time of day or a personal message — of a newborn creates a gift that always will be treasured.

Choosing a solid-colored blanket (or subtle allover pattern) will highlight your embroidery. If the blanket material has loft, using a topping will ensure the letters and numbers are easily readable, appearing above the blanket’s nap.

Weddings are another obvious event to commemorate with long-lasting embroidery stitches. Retirements, birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, graduations — the versatility of embroidery and its longevity make for a meaningful keepsake that can be kept by family members for a long time.

Don’t skimp on materials, but choose top-quality threads and backing. If you are embroidering on unique items that may be limited in quantity, change needles to ensure the cleanest run possible.

Personal Branding
There are many ways to personally brand monogrammed items, so you may want to do some of the thinking for your customer. Find stock designs for items that come to mind and create an inspiration board, showing how initials can be combined with the personal preferences that automatically brand an individual. Your customer may even choose a design instead of initials to proclaim personalization. The suggestions will make customers aware of so much more that embroidery can do to brand an item as their own.

Sports & Teams
With the sports apparel and fitness clothing industry in the United States expected to reach $196.2 billion by 2020, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc., and the obvious desire of sports enthusiasts to support their teams, the notion of personalizing orders in this niche seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, the idea comes with a caveat — a huge one, in fact.

Unless you are licensed to sell items with the logos, names, numbers and colors of trademarked teams, don’t do it. From professional sports teams to those of colleges and universities, if you copy and profit from the sale of an item that has been customized with a trademarked logo, you are endangering yourself and your business.

Since major sports teams, and private and public universities derive a substantial profit from the sale of licensed products, you can’t embroider a team’s logo, name or color on anything if you don’t have the license to do so. However, in this large and lucrative sector of sports apparel, don’t overlook local high schools and corporate teams that are looking for customized logos, choosing their own colors and perhaps a mascot. Summer camps with teams also present an opportunity to embroider multiple pieces with a sports logo that you may be involved in creating.

Stock design houses offer a wealth of ideas, including many sports design motifs and fonts. Customizing sports logos can be very lucrative, since it represents multiple pieces and almost always guarantees repeat business since members come and go. 

Be creative with encouraging customers to personalize items with their favorite sport — just don’t step on any professional toes in the process.

Corporate Affiliation
Embroidered items that proclaim a corporate affiliation probably represent the most ubiquitous form of personalization or customization, particularly in the United States. Wearing clothing or using an item that shows one’s corporate affiliation is a way of showing appreciation and loyalty. Sometimes an event, like a company picnic, anniversary or one commemorating corporate growth, will trigger the opportunity to embroider a logo, along with a date, event or other personalization method for each employee, if appropriate.

If your shop offers embroidery, you are perfectly positioned to produce one- or two-off orders for walk-in customers looking for personalization, as well as outfitting an entire local sports team. Embroidery gives you the leverage to offer individual pieces, as well as the speed to produce hundreds. If you think creatively, cater to what your customers like and are sensitive to what you can learn about them, you can produce items that are unique and unusual.

Word-of-mouth advertising often is the most powerful. And there’s nothing like becoming your customer’s BFF when it comes to the ABCs of monogramming, personalization and customizing garments, home décor and other items.

Alice Wolf is the marketing communications director for Madeira USA. She began doing 
marketing and public relations for the art industry in New York, then migrated north to Madeira’s
 New Hampshire headquarters. For more information or to comment on this article, email Alice
 at awolf@madeirausa.com.