5 Tips for Selling Sublimation with Pinterest

For those who may not have heard one of my rants regarding how valuable a tool Pinterest can be for decorators,  I thought I’d recap.   Because Pinterest is about aspiration and ideas,  it’s a great place to sell the work decorators do.   It’s especially great for sublimation because a lot of people don’t know what dye sublimation is or what can be done with it.   Creating boards on Pinterest allows you to essentially create a lookbook or a gallery where your customers can browse,  learn about sublimation,  and get ideas for products they may want to buy for themselves.   If you’re a sublimation business and don’t have Pinterest boards,  you should set some up immediately.   Here are some tips to get the most out of your Pinterest account.

#1Set up a business account –  A Pinterest business account will offer anyalytics and other tools that a regular account won’t offer.  It’s also something you need if you want to offer buyable pins.    Business accounts also allow for advertising,  something a basic account does not do.

#2 – Follow strategically – You’re setting up the accounts to draw in new business and to educate your customers,  so you want to be sure you’re information is getting to the right people.   Figure out who your target market is and where they are on Pinterest and then make sure your information is in those places.    You can have the best boards in the world,  but if they’re not seen by the right people,  it won’t matter.

#3 – A picture is worth a thousand words – Pinterest is all about the visuals,  so make sure you have the best pictures you can possibly take.   While captions and informative descriptions are helpful,  it’s the picture that’s the first introduction to the product.  Make sure that introduction is a good one.

#4 – Educate your customers – A lot of people don’t understand what sublimation is,  so make sure your boards do more than just showcase the products you can create.   Give glimpses of the process and behind the scenes.   Help potential customers understand what dye sublimation is and what it can do.   The more your customers understand what can be done,  the more likely they are to ask you to do it.

#5 – Create boards around a specific theme – If there’s a particular product you like to make,  or a particular market to which you’d like to sell,  create boards that target that theme.   One of the things people do on Pinterest is try to get ideas,  for a party,  for a gift,  for an event and so on.   If you want to do items for family reunions create a family reunion board where you show pictures of families using and wearing your work,  showcase new ideas you have for family reunion themed merchandise,  and maybe even include tips about planning a reunion.   Same for schools or clubs or whatever you might want to target.  Specific boards tend to sell better than general boards,  as you’re narrowing in on a target and providing the info your potential customers need all in one place.

Finding New Markets for Sublimation

It’s a new year,  and since pretty much every business owner wants every year to top the previous year’s sales,  you’re probably thinking about ways to increase your sales in 2019.   One way to increase revenue,  as has been discussed previously in this blog,  is to add sublimation to the decoration disciplines you offer.   Once you’ve added sublimation,  however,  you have to find places to sell the new products you can make.   That’s where this blog post comes in.

First off,  let’s assume that you did your research before you added sublimation,  so you already have some idea of what markets you might approach.   Maybe you’ve visited someone who already had a system to see how it worked,  or you joined a dye sublimation group on Facebook,  or talked to a company that sold sublimation supplies at a trade show.  So you understand what the discipline has to offer and what products might have potential in certain markets.   As with any piece of equipment or software you buy,  it’s always wise to figure out how you’re going to use it,  and how it can be made to pay for itself before you make the investment.

Once you’ve figured out what markets you want to approach,  the next thing to do is figure out how that approach should be made.   If you’re contacting current customers to let them know about new products you can now offer,  it may be as simple as sending out an e-mail.   All that e-mail would have to do is describe the new products that sublimation will allow your shop to offer,  maybe delve briefly into pricing and turn times,  and include a call to action (possible a percentage off their first order) that gets customers to call you to learn more.

If you are approaching a new market,  the approach might go better if it happened in person.    Say,  for instance,  you wanted to approach a local high school to try and get some of their team or club business.   One way to do this would be to find out who the buyer is for a particular organization you want to approach,  or if there is a buyer who handles all this sort of business.   Once you know who to approach with your pitch,  set up an appointment.  Do not show up unannounced.  Nothing can be more off-putting to people than someone trying to sell something who obviously does not respect anyone else’s time.

Once you have your appointment,  make up samples you can take with you.   Obviously, samples should be made that reflect the kind of merchandise you think the club will want,  as well as showcasing the best work that you can do.  Include a simple one sheet that details pricing,  turn times and art requirements.   Be prepared to leave your samples as well,  so they can be shown to other decision makers in the organization.

After the appointment,  send a follow up e-mail saying thank you for the time that was given to you,  and restate how you can be contacted if there are further questions.   If you were given any kind of information about when the organization might be making a decision,  let them know you’ll contact them on that date.   And then make sure to contact them when you said you would.   Don’t expect them to follow up with you.

The main thing to remember is that you’ve added a new decoration discipline to your shop because you’re excited about the possibilities for new products.  Make sure you share your passion and excitement about what can be done with sublimation with your potential customers.  The more excited about the prospects that you are,  the more excited your customers are likely to be come,  and customers that are intrigued and excited about possibilities are more likely to buy.

5 Tips For Finding Your Sublimation Market

Sometimes it seems that buying a sublimation system is, for a given value of easy,  the easy part of the process of selling sublimated goods.    Granted there are things to learn so you can create the best sublimated goods possible,  and there will be some trial and error,  but it’s what happens after you’ve made the goods that can sometimes be the hard part.   Once you have the system, and you know how to make fabulous sublimated products,  you have to find a market for those products.   That can be the part which causes some confusion and frustration,  but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The great thing about sublimation is that there are a wide variety of goods,  hard goods like mugs and business card holders to soft goods like t-shirts and tote bags that can be decorated to suit a vast array of tastes and markets.   The trick is to find and engage the markets in your sales area,  whether that area is the town you live in or the world wide web.     Here are five tips to help you find the market which suits you best.

Tip 1:  Mine your contacts – Chances are you already know a lot of people who would want sublimated goods.   Those people might be coaching the team your child plays on,  leading the yoga class you attend every week,  or part of the online Star Wars fansite you visit every night.   Make sure you always have business cards with you for face to face meetings and have a short explanation of what you do prepared so you can help people quickly understand what you can offer them.   Always be alert.  Opportunities to make a sale can pop up at any time.

Tip 2:  Showcase what you love – Hobbies and avocations can be a great source of sublimation sales.   If you’re a photographer or artist,  start putting your work on coffee mugs or mousepads.    If you belong to a group that participates in a particular activity,  start coming up with products that can be used during that activity, or can showcase the results,  and use or showcase those products while a part of the group.   Make sure you’ve taken into account your time, labor and supply pricing,  so if someone asks,  you can easily tell them what you’ll charge to make them the cool thing that you are using.

Tip 3:  Figure out what you don’t want to do – If you’re going to do plaques for little league teams or tiles for a wedding party,  do you want to take the pictures yourself, or do you simply want to receive the art and make the sublimated product?  For some people,  controlling the whole process will be more comfortable.   For others,  having to go through the whole process would be torture.  Is sublimation the main part of your business,  or simply something you’ve added to capture a few more dollars by upselling customers?  Know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do, and how much time you want to spend on doing it,  and charge accordingly.

Tip 4: Find new uses for common products – A business card holder could also be sold as a portable medication container.  Tiles can be used for murals,  but they can also be trivets.  Coffee mugs can be paired with candy and streamers to make a cute accompaniment for a bouquet of flowers.    Showing a customer a new way to use something is a great way to sell them a sublimated product and a terrific way to build profit for both your businesses.

Tip 5:  Talk to other sublimation businesses – Some people are reluctant to talk to others who are in the same business for fear that business secrets or customers will be stolen.   It’s true there may be a slight risk of that,  but that risk is far outweighed by the benefits of sharing ideas and tricks of the trade with others who are doing the same thing.   Sublimation groups on Facebook or in forums are great places to connect with other people who are doing what you do.   Never be afraid to ask questions.   What you learn could lead you to a whole new market.

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Selling Sublimation

ST_Ch1_Pt3_Selling_and_Small_BusinessAs any decorator knows,  selling a decorated product takes a unique set of skills.   You have to understand the product,  including what can and can’t be done with the decoration technique in question.   You have to understand your market and the needs of your target customers.  Most of all,  you need to understand how the needs of your customers and the unique characteristics of your problem can come together,  and you have to show your customer how that can happen.

When it comes to sublimation, the first thing a decorator needs to understand is the strengths and limitations of sublimation as a decoration option. One large strength, of course, is that sublimation can be done on more items than garments or things made of cloth. Sublimation can be done on mugs, mousepads, clipboards, plaques and many more items. When selling sublimation, make sure you have plenty of examples or a look book of the hard good options available, so customers can see that sublimation is about more than just garments. Keep in mind this is also a great opportunity for upselling. Customers who buy garments may also want a coffee cup or a travel mug or a keepsake box emblazoned with their logo. Any additional item a customer buys is more money in your pocket, so make sure to seize every opportunity to super size an order.

One large weakness of sublimation, at least in some people’s eyes, is that it works best on polyester. A lot of people tend to equate polyester with the scratchy leisure suits of the 70’s or the old pantsuit that Grandma wore. The current polyester fabrics are nothing like the poly fabrics of old. In order to combat polyester prejudice, it’s always wise to have samples of the current poly fabrics on hand. Allowing customers to experience the new fabrics will go a long way toward combating any dislike of polyester they may have. Keep in mind that polyester prejudice can also be combated by offering hard goods instead of shirts.

Selling sublimation is like selling any other decoration technique, you need to emphasize the strengths and downplay the weaknesses. The biggest thing to remember is that selling sublimation will be most successful when you understand the needs of your client. Taking a few extra moments to talk about what’s needed and expected can go a long way toward making a sale.