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Who Are My Customers?

Postby Brian » Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:02 pm

Customers are the lifeblood of your business. Without the customer you don't have anyone to whom you can sell your screen printing services. So, if you are just starting up, who exactly are your customers?

If you really sit down and think about who your customers can be, you will be amazed. Just about everyone wears or needs T-shirts that have their logo printed on them! Everyone from schools, to businesses, to churches and even non-profit groups all purchase T-shirts at some point. The problem is not who needs them but how do you approach all of these customers to maximize your business?

Schools

We have found that one of the larger customers will probably be your local schools. High schools, Middle schools, elementary schools, pre-schools, etc all usually get shirts for something that they have going on. School plays, choirs, speech teams, and bands all usually get shirts to identify their groups and their specific event in which they are participating. You will also find that schools will often do fund-raisers for a specific event. These fund-raisers can mean hundreds of shirts or more for your shop each time they are tying to raise money for something - and that translates into money into your pocket.

Then there are all of the sports. Soccer, football, basketball, wrestling, volleyball, baseball, track, cross country, swimming. The list goes on and on. The great thing about schools is that 9 months out of the year you will have a constant stream of customers. Plus if you can get your foot in the door with one group and you do a really good job, they will more than likely spread the word about you to the other coaches and teachers. When you look at the sheer amount of money that school groups spend on printed wearables you will soon see the value of courting them.

Other Businesses
Your customers will also come from the business sector of your local community. Many of the "service oriented" businesses such as landscapers, cleaning services, nurseries, restaurants etc, all have some type of printed shirt, hat, jacket or other items that they use to distinguish their employees. You might be surprised to find out how much business there actually really is available even if there is another printer or two in your area.

Churches

Churches can be another good customer base that you should look into tapping. Sometimes churches will get shirts to help promote their own fellowship or some special event. Probably the biggest customers from the church base will be the youth groups. The youth groups will often get shirts just to advertise their group or an event that they are hosting such as a youth rally or retreat. Once you develop a good working relationship with the youth pastors or the person in charge of most of the purchases word spreads relatively quickly and you might find yourself doing more business than you thought!

Non-Profit Groups
Another group that can be a large customer for you are the local or regional non-profit groups. Non-profit groups are always looking for the least expensive price because most of the time they are cash strapped. However, you might find that by working with these groups a little bit will help you out in the long run. If you have a heart for a particular cause and that group needs shirts you might cut them a really good deal (while still making money - you do need to pay bills!) and find that in the long run that will give your business a little more credibility and public exposure. Most of the times they get sponsors to help pay for the shirts and then list those companies on the back of the garment. Guess what that can mean for you - you still make a little bit of money plus you get to have hundreds of other people wear your business name around town. In our business I usually give non-profits a reduced rate, possibly throwing in a couple additional colors on the front or the back for free so that it helps the shirt look more attractive. Then after we have the shirts printed with our logo on the back we will also tag the shirts with hang tags for additional advertising impact. Non-profit groups and events are usually relatively large ordeals. You could expect anywhere from a couple hundred shirts to a couple thousand shirts depending on the size of the event. You have to remember you need to make money on these shirts but the advertising and public perception that you are helping out the effort at hand is worth more many times than what you actually would profit monetarily.

YMCA's

If you have a YMCA near you they also represent a great opportunity where you can expand your business. All of the activities and sport programs that they run many times will have shirts for the kid's ( and adults ) that they either give to or allow them to purchase. You just need to find out who does either the purchasing for the entire facility or who would be in charge of the recreational department or sports programs. These are the people you will want to court to convince them to use your services rather than your competition. Sometimes it just takes one job to get your foot in the door and then it makes it a little easier the next time.

Road Races
One group that we have had tremendous success with is the local road races. There are groups out there that put on 5K road races and walks throughout the year. All of these events usually offer shirts to the first 50,100,250 or 500 participants. The shirts many times are printed with the event logo on the front and often a sponsor or list of sponsors on the back (hint, hint). Since these events take place year round you might find yourself busy doing one or two of these every other month or so. The more visible your business is the more people will be aware that you printed those shirts - the more likely they might visit you the next time they need something printed.

Local Governmental Offices
You might be surprised to find out how much money the local government spends on T-shirts. Groups such as Health Departments might purchase several hundred shirts for events like promoting the wearing of safety helmets while riding bikes or skateboarding. You have road crews, maintenance crews, etc. The list goes on and on. Your local and county government offices are a tremendous potential area for business.

Your Plan of Attack
You need to have a plan of attack if you really want to build your customer base. Figure out what groups you think would be a good to start targeting. Remember that you are not going to be the only screen printer out there trying to get their business. It might take you several times of visiting, making phone calls and just looking for an opportunity to service them. You must be consistently reminding them of who you are and that you do exist. A phone call or a postcard or brochure every 30 -60 days will help keep your name fresh in their minds. Find a routine that will allow you to maximize your time so that you can effectively contact the most people without being a pest to any of them. You might find that as you grow your customer base you will find it harder and harder to continually expand who you can contact. You are only one salesperson plus you have to have the time to print the jobs you are getting!

MARKETING TIPS AND TRICKS
A good habit to get into is to continually make new contacts. The ideal situation is where you will gain customers and never lose any of them through attrition. Attrition is where you lose customers for any reason. This may include your customer going out of business, they move or you lose them to your competition. Attrition is inevitable. The idea is to keep it as low as possible. So, in constantly "growing" your business you will hopefully overcome any attrition and continually add new customers.

Making new contacts can be as easy as grabbing the yellow pages and starting in the beginning and either sending out a brochure with a cover letter to prospective customers and then following up the mailing with a phone call. This is a much more effective way of doing business than either just a mailing or just cold calling customers to see if they need any printed items at the moment. If you find one that is interested the best thing to do is make an appointment to go visit them at their business. You can really sell yourself at that time because you can take in samples and start to develop a working relationship with the person who is spending the money.

A Sample List of Potential Customers

5K Road Races & Fun Walks
Advertising Agencies
Automotive shops/Dealership
Bar
Camp Grounds
Churches - Church camps, vacation bible schools, youth groups
College Fraternities and Sororities, clubs and groups
Construction Companies
Corporations in your local area - everything from employee wearables to company picnics
Day Care Centers ( for staff and kids )
Family Reunions
Gift Shops for local tourism
Golf Courses
Government - city, county and state departments
Gym and Health Clubs
Hospitals
Landscaping and Lawn Mowing Services
Little Leagues
Local Tourist Traps
Marinas
Motorcycle Shops
Non-profit groups - Red Cross, Right to Life, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers/Big sisters
Nursery and Greenhouses
Park and Recreation Areas
Resorts
Restaurants
Schools
Skateboard Shops
Sporting Good Shops
YMCA/YWCA

Ask Your Customers
Another great way to find new customers is to ask your current customers who they think might be able to use your services. Hopefully if you have treated your customers well and have done a great job with their shirts they will be more than happy to help you out. You could even offer an incentive to them such as a discount or a free shirt or no screen charges on their next order if someone they recommends comes to you and purchases shirts. Remember - customer service is the key. People do business with people they like. If your customers don't like you, don't expect them to come back. That is why a personal touch, friendly relationship and bending over backwards will help your business to grow. Treat your customers like you would want to be treated.

CUSTOMER SERVICE
We have taken it upon ourselves to be as friendly and courteous as possible with our clients. Get to know those who are doing business with you and work on developing a working relationship with these people. As we said above, people do business with people they like. If you take the time and invest in your customers they will enjoy coming to you for their printing needs.

We have found that it is the little things that count. Writing a thank you note and sending it to a customer after we have completed the order, taking those few extra minutes to show them on the computer exactly what their art is going to look like, taking their ideas and helping them discover what they really want to put on a shirt are the type of things that make a huge difference. Without strong customer service, quality, and on-time (or early) delivery you will be just like everyone else. You should take it upon yourself to set the standard and be the competition in your area - not competing with the other printers. In doing so you will find that you might attract more business than you can currently handle...... Remember - find customers you want to work with and cultivate that group or industry but make sure you diversify enough that if you lose a couple of customers you won't be hurt too much financially. As the old saying goes - don't put all your eggs into one basket. I would rather have 100 small quality customers than 10 big customers. If you lose half of your customer base you still have a good amount of business with 50 than you do with 5. Find a good mix of larger and smaller customers and you will be a busy little printer - possibly
Brian
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Postby colorondemand » Sat Dec 22, 2007 8:33 am

What wonderful blueprint for anyone who is thinking about going into business. You have it laid out plainly and straight-forward. This plan works for screen printers, offset printers, embroiders, graphic designers, you name it. Many cudos to you for this terrific post.
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