A 5-Minute Sales and Marketing Plan

There’s a world of “expert” advice out there, and for beginners, it can be tough to know where to start.

Whether you’re a small, one-man shop or a large printer running several automatics, most of you wouldn’t say no to an increase in sales. Working in marketing for the past 20 years, I know that it’s the most overlooked aspect of any business, regardless of its size. But, with only a limited amount of time and budget to spend, what should you prioritize?

You won’t build a T-shirt empire by marketing in your spare time but, just like in the printing process, if you can become more efficient and learn how to leverage your marketing efforts, you will position yourself to see more benefits with less time and money.

Look Inward Before Looking Outward
Before beginning any type of marketing campaign, you need to know and be completely honest about what your limits are. Having a clear definition of your services will help make it easier to identify your ideal client. Do you excel at printing variable-data, personalized athletic gear, or do you have a great vintage designer on staff? Perhaps your gear is mobile and you specialize in printing at onsite events. Whatever your forte, your unique skillset correlates with a unique audience.

Once you know who to target, look at online directories such as DexKnows or Yelp to find their contact information and input this into an Excel spreadsheet or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software such as Salesforce. You can do this yourself or hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) to do it for as little as $5 on sites like Fiverr or Upwork.

Find and Target Your Ideal Client
A good question to ask yourself if you want to expand your market is “Who else?” Start by categorizing your business sectors. For example, if you’re a B2B printing company, think of types of businesses such as construction companies, medical offices, fitness venues, and so on that need custom apparel. Once you have a list of business types, identify specific businesses in your area to contact regarding your services.

Your niche will dictate the best way to reach out to your potential clients. Not everyone uses the phone anymore. Some people may prefer email, text, or messaging through a social media platform as opposed to a phone call.

These businesses, like yours, receive dozens of solicitations a day. Stand out by offering the company something they can benefit from. Do research on each company before you contact them, paying special attention to their passions and interests. Many will proudly display the causes they support, such as sustainability or a local nonprofit. You could quickly establish a rapport with them by letting them know your business is dedicated to using eco-friendly products or mentioning a common interest in volunteering.

Which Social Media Are Right for You?
Besides contacting prospective clients directly, the best way for shop owners to reach their target audience is on social media. It’s not only free to use (though some platforms also have paid advertising options that can be very cost effective), but you can also reach out directly to the masses to find and connect with your target market.

The downside is there are several social media platforms, each with its own unique set of audiences and features, and unless you have a dedicated marketing person or company updating your social media, it’s virtually impossible to have a consistently strong presence on all of them. This is why knowing your target audience is critical to help you determine which social media platform is best to connect with potential clients.

Here is a brief breakdown of social media platforms and ideas of how you can utilize them:

Facebook
Facebook has almost 1.5 billion active users on its site worldwide. While it’s currently the king of social media platforms, Facebook users are focused on the past and present.

If you print and sell your own apparel or products, Facebook’s targeting metrics are the best you’ll find on any platform. You can create ads and boost your posts, targeting specific demographics, occupations, income levels, family statuses, and more.

Twitter
Twitter is a favorite amongst many news organizations, and for good reason. Research shows Twitter beats all other platforms for engaging audiences in live events and breaking news.

If you print for event companies, oftentimes they will promote their events well in advance. Find out what hashtags they’re utilizing and join in on the conversation. However, don’t just blatantly promote your company. Post content that event organizers and followers will want to engage in.

Instagram
Instagram is a mobile photo and video sharing site, which is great because it’s a chance to showcase your work to your audience. Be sure the lighting is good and take clear, high-resolution photos.

Instagram has a younger demographic and is a great platform to market to audiences like cheerleaders, gymnasts, and dancers. If you print glitter or rhinestones products, posting clear, vibrant photos on Instagram is definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

LinkedIn
If you’re in the B2B niche, then you should be focusing on LinkedIn. It’s a great place for connecting with decision makers and other business owners about their marketing and promotional product needs. As with any other platform, don’t just post news and updates about your organization. Write insightful articles about how custom apparel products will help their businesses grow. You should also join and participate in relevant LinkedIn groups.

Pinterest
Pinterest is the best platform for promoting future purchases. While all other social sites focus on the past and present, Pinterest has the market cornered when it comes to the future by letting users “pin” a hyperlinked graphic to a board they can view later (like pinning a Post-It note to a board in your office). While Pinterest is beginning to attract a number of male users, it is still predominantly a female network. The key to Pinterest is high-quality, portrait-oriented images.

For example, my Las Vegas-based shop, Naka Apparel, created a pin to advertise bachelorette party shirts. Pinterest users may not purchase now, but when it’s time to have their bachelorette party in Las Vegas, they’ll see our pin on their board and we’ll be ready to help.

Target the Influencers
This is the thing almost all companies miss in their sales and marketing plan, yet it can be the most effective (and lucrative) thing you can do. Influencer marketing is simply a strategy that targets true influencers within a certain industry or niche.

Look at any sales handbook and you’ll quickly learn the first thing a prospective client looks for in your company is trust. Can they trust you to do the job correctly, on time, and with great service? If you’re a big company with thousands of dollars to advertise everywhere, then you may have name recognition that helps build consumer trust. But, for smaller shops that don’t have massive budgets, why would a prospective client trust you and your business after speaking to you for only five minutes? Targeting and connecting with these key influencers will provide your company with the credibility buyers are looking for because they trust these influencers’ opinions.

So, how do you find these people?

First, find out who the decision makers of your target prospects interact with, follow, or listen to. A good place to start is looking at trade publications to see who your target market is identifying with. You can also search online on news websites, blogs, and forums to see who the authoritative figure is that people listen to.

If you print for small businesses or organizations, a good influencer to befriend is an accountant or bookkeeper. Accountants know all aspects of their clients’ businesses and may be able to direct you to someone in need of uniforms or custom-printed shirts for an upcoming event.

Capitalize on Existing Clients
Don’t let sales leads slip away. If you’ve done a good job and you have a happy client, they have the potential to be great spokespersons for your company – if you simply ask them.

Find out if they know of any other businesses or organizations that may need shirts printed. Or, ask them if they’ll leave a review of your company on the social platform of their choice.

To help motivate clients to leave reviews, we’ve found that gift certificates and coupons are great incentives. This especially works well with restaurants and retail shops, many of which include gift certificates and coupons as part of their marketing expense.

Don’t let the lack of time or marketing knowledge get in the way of increasing revenue. Streamline your marketing strategy and work on implementing these five steps to help increase your brand awareness and bottom line.

Read more from our April/May 2016 issue.

View more from this Screen Printing issue