A Memory You Can Touch

A week or two back I participated in PromoChat, a great discussion from PromoKitchen that happens every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST on Twitter.    One of the questions in that particular week’s chat was how you could sell your products as keepsakes that would stand the test of time and still keep your customers coming back again and again.    My answer to that question was as follows:

Focus on the fact that you’re creating a memory or preserving a special moment with something people can hold in their hands and cherish forever. There are always more special moments that deserve recording.

One of the things that people selling sublimation forget is that it’s not just a way to put a name on a mug or a picture on a mousepad.   It’s also a method by which memories can be captured and keepsakes created.    Yes,  some of these items might be one of a kind keepsakes,  only special to the particular person that commissions the work,  but one of a kind generally comes with a premium price.

Humans are,  I think,  in some respect hardwired to be collectors.   Maybe it’s shot glasses or spoons.    Could be dolls or dice.   People have collections of postcards,  playing cards and scorecards.   The one thing that holds a collection together is that the particular items are linked to a particular memory.   It could be a memory of place that was visited.   It could be a memory of a much loved person who is no longer around.  Often it’s a memory of a time,  a wedding,  a baby’s first Christmas,   a graduation or a retirement.   The items we collect and keep and cherish may have no significance or value to anyone other than us,  but it’s our relationship to the items and the memories they symbolize that makes them valuable.

People who sell sublimation can often spend a lot of time debating what to make and how to sell what they make.   One of the things they can fail to take into account when figuring out what they’ll offer is what it is they’re actually selling.   Yes,  they’re selling cutting boards,  or water bottles or necklaces,  but they’re also selling memories  that can be touched and held forever.

Photos fade.  Paper degrades.  Letters and pictures and postcards eventually will become nothing but dust.  The mind forgets,  or gets filled with new memories.   You think you’ll never forget that adorable, perky, ears up alertness when your childhood dog wanted a treat,  or the beautiful sunrises at the cottage where your family summered when you were a kid,  but those memories will get less clear over time.    A sublimated keepsake freezes that memory, and gives it a physical form.  It’s something your customers can hold and hug and keep forever.

So when you’re selling sublimation,  remember that you’re selling more than a belt buckle,  or a puzzle or a keepsake box.   What you’re really selling is a aide-memoire,   a help in remembering a place or time or person that is special to the customer purchasing the item.   Memories can be fleeting or fade,  but a sublimated version of that memory will last forever.  And the best thing of all is that there are always new memories to be captured.

 

Selling Sublimation with Social Media

One of the questions we get asked quite often is how to find a market for sublimated goods or simply how to sell sublimation.   Now,  of course,  there are many ways to sell a product,  and the ones that work for your particular business will certainly depend on your target market.   The first rule of sales is to always know your market,  how they communicate and where they get their information from,  and then to become part of those communication channels yourself,  which is what brings me to social media.

If you read much about modern marketing,  social media is certainly already on your radar.  While I won’t say social media is for every business or will work with every market,  it is a great weapon to have in your sales arsenal.   Selling sublimation with social media works pretty much like selling sublimation with any other sales tool, but there are a couple of differences.   If you want to try using social media to boost your sublimation sales,  here are a few things to consider.

1. Social media is about relationships,  not selling.  It’s easy to get so caught up in making the sale that you forget you’re talking to real people.  The average person doesn’t want to be sold,  they want to get to know your company and you,  and to trust that you’ll do good work.  Once that is accomplished,  a sale may well be made,  but the relationship has to be there first.   A constant stream of messages that scream nothing but “buy my product” will have your potential customers saying a “bye” of a different kind.

2.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Instagram is a great resource for people who make things.  Facebook and Twitter allow you to post pictures as well.  Creating albums of your work,  or spotlighting a new product with a post and a picture is great publicity.  Plus these sites allow you to create a display of your work that is available 24 hours a day,  7 days a week, 365 days a year.

3. Social media helps educate customers.  Make sure part of your social media strategy encompasses helping your customers learn about your business and the sublimation process.   Share pictures of your equipment or supplies.  Post a video that shows how a mug or a mousepad is made.   Don’t release trade secrets,  but allow your customers to understand how you do what you do and why sublimated products might be a viable option for their business.

Same Old Stuff, Different Use

One of the things we often get asked here at EnMart is where and how sublimated goods can be sold.   Usually I tell people who ask that the key to selling sublimated goods it to think beyond the standard uses for the sublimation blanks we sell.  Take, for instance,  one way that we’ve used our metal license plates.  Instead of going on the front of a car,  we sublimated them with appropriate graphics and used them as signs in our trade show booth.    Pieces of FRP sheet stock, drilled with the necessary holes,  were also sublimated and made into signs.   Instead of the usual signs or banners that one normally sees in a trade show booth, although we had those as well,  we had a bunch of unique signs that also showcased our products and our expertise.   Same old stuff, different use.

The same thing can be done for almost any sublimation product.    Sublimate an theme appropriate picture on a 15 oz. mug and fill the mug with candy,  soup mix or coffee or cocoa products.    Personalized frosted glass beer mugs could be coupled with a home beer brewing kit.   An aluminum water bottle could be paired with an exercise DVD,  or a pair of hiking boots and a map of local hiking trails.    A lot of these items could be sold to local businesses in your area,  if you help them think outside the box about how they could display and sell these items.  Personalization is always an added attraction,   and studies have shown that promo goods with logos tend to stay in a customer’s memory and keep them coming back.

You also shouldn’t forget that a product may be called one name,  but isn’t necessarily dedicated to that function until it’s put into use.   Pet bowls would be one example.  Until they actually get filled with that first scoop of kibble, they’re simply bowls.   Use them to create a personalized set of bowls for the family dinner table.   Sublimate the appropriate motto and sell them as change or key bowls.   The same kind of thinking can be used for pet tags.  They can be zipper or curtain pulls,  or made into jewelry.    The possibilities are far wider than we might think.

Imagination is definitely a key factor when it comes to selling sublimation.  Just because something is called a license plate or a pet bowl doesn’t mean that has to be it’s only use or function.   When it comes to selling,  thinking beyond the current limits is what will help you get new clients and help you make more money with your sublimation system.

How Do I Sell Sublimation?

Every time we do a trade show,  the question in the title of this post pops up at some point.    People are quick to see the potential of sublimation,  and to appreciate the wide array of things that can be sublimated,  the stumbling block seems to be knowing how to find people who will buy.  Finding customers for sublimated products is, in some respects like finding buyers for any product or service your business sells.  You have to network.  You have to provide good customer service.  You have to have good price and good products.   There are, however, a few details that can make selling sublimated products unique.

The first is the fact that not everyone is familiar with sublimation or understands what it is.   So, in order to sell sublimated items,  some education may be involved.   Most people probably see sublimated items every day,  but they may not know that the mug from which they drink their morning coffee or the key chain that holds their house keys was created with sublimation.   Given this fact,  when your company announces it now offers sublimated products,  it might be smart to go into a bit of detail about what you can do.   Tell people you can put their personal photos on a wide variety of objects.  Give them some idea of all the objects that can be sublimated.   It doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy,  just provide enough information to get someone in the door.

The second item may involve dispelling some of the myths about sublimation.   The biggest, of course,  is that sublimation only works on polyester garments,  which is fact,  but that those garments are like the polyester leisure suits of the 70s and will be very uncomfortable.    With the advent of manufacturers like Vapor Apparel,  polyester garments and performance apparel have becoming an appealing and comfortable clothing option.    Sublimation also offers a great alternative for decorating performance apparel,  which is often difficult to embroider as it is stretchy and hard to hoop.

The third step on the path to selling sublimation is realizing what can’t be sublimated.    If you are looking to put designs on dark fabrics,  sublimation is not your answer.   If you want to put images on items that are not 100% polyester or are not poly coated,  sublimation is not your answer.  Sublimated goods come in a wide variety,  and new items are appearing all the time,  but there are limitations.  Knowing those limits will help you offer the best service to your customers.

Finally, the last thing to remember is that selling sublimation is ultimately like selling anything else.  If you’ve been selling embroidery or screen printing or any other kind of product or service, you can sell sublimation.   The trick is to learn what sublimation can and can’t do,  so you can provide your customers with the information and education they need to make their buying decisions.