Where Do I Find Customers for My Sublimated Goods?

As some of you may already know,  EnMart has done several trade shows in the last five week.  We’ve been to the NNEP Trade Show and Garage Sale in Dublin, OH.    We’ve also had the pleasure of exhibiting at the DAX Shows in Kansas City and Minneapolis.  At each show,  we’ve sold several of our printer packages,  and seen a lot of customers get a start on sublimation.   We’ve also heard a comment that went something like this: “well, now I have the system, all I have to do is find some customers”.   Since that comment has been made a time or two,  I thought today would be a good day to talk about how to find customers for your new sublimation business.

The first thing to remember is that there are a lot of goods that can be sublimated.  There are, of course, garments.   There are also a wide amount of goods that can be sublimated,  everything from mugs to mousepads,  jewelery boxes to jigsaw puzzles.  Sublimation also gives you the freedom to imprint your items with everything from realistic photo images to fantastic original artwork.   The item you sublimate is your canvas,  and the only restraints are the size your printer can print and the size of the item on which the image will be placed.  Since there are such a wide variety of goods that can be sublimated,  there are also a wide variety of places to find customers for those goods.  Whether you’re selling individual items to individual customers,  or creating job lots of goods for local shops,  customers can be found almost anywhere.

The second thing to remember is that you can always find helpful hints and tips on how to find customers or establish yourself in a new market.  Sawgrass Ink offers an array of webinars that will help you figure out how to enter new markets, or how to make the most of a market in which you are already established.     The company also offers seminars at almost every, if not every, decoration trade show out there,  so if you’re attending a show,  make sure you take the time to stop by a seminar.

A third thing to keep in mind is that we are always here to help.   I often write posts about finding customers, target markets and publicizing your business on this blog, and its sister blog, EmbroideryTalk.    Our technicians and sublimation experts are also available to answer questions or provide guidance.  We have been creating sublimated goods since the early 1990s, so we are familiar with changes in the marketplace and with the range of options for sublimation.   If you need help figuring out how to grow your sublimation business,  we can provide advice that will help you move in the right direction.

Finally,  you should know that starting out in sublimation doesn’t require a huge investment.   If you purchase our QuickStartR package, and you already own a heat press,  you can start sublimating quite economically.   For those who want the option of printing larger graphics,  our Epson Workforce 1100 package may be a good choice.    The main thing to remember is that starting out in sublimation does not generally require an outlay of thousands of dollars,  and the learning curve for sublimation is not as steep as it is for some other decoration disciplines.

For more information on how to find customers,  please read these posts:

5 Tips for Finding Sublimation Customers

Gift Shop Goodies

Think Outside the Box with Sublimation Blanks

Group Identification through Sublimation

Target Markets for Sublimated Products

Get Started with Sublimation: Target Markets

5 Tips for Finding Sublimation Customers

So, you finally got your sublimation system.   Maybe you started out with a QuickStartR package.   Perhaps you decided you wanted to print bigger images,  and you opted for a Ricoh GX7000 or an Epson 4880 printer.  Whatever system you ultimately purchased,  you’ve gotten it home and set it up and now you’re all ready to print and sell your sublimated products.   You just need one more thing.  Customers.

Finding customers for sublimated products is really like finding customers for any product you might sell.  Here are some tips for finding customers in general and finding customers for sublimated products in particular.

Tip 1:   Business Cards –  Make sure you have business cards that are nicely printed and clearly list all the services you offer. Don’t be afraid to had your cards out at any opportunity.   Carry them with you everywhere and have them easily accessible at all times.    A sublimated business card holder is a great way to keep your cards handy while also providing a sample of your work.

Tip 2:  Mingle –  A lot of people,  me included,  would tell you they are not salespersons and they don’t like selling themselves.  If you own a business, you must be a salesperson and you must sell yourself.  If you sell to local customers,  join the Chamber of Commerce,  strike up conversations at your kid’s soccer game,  or while standing in line at the grocery.   If you want to sell online,  set up Twitter and Facebook accounts and look for places where your target customers congregate online.  You don’t have to be pushy or overbearing,  but you do have to get out there and talk about who you are and what you do.

Tip 3:  Attend a Sawgrass webinar.  In just the next few months,  Sawgrass is offering webinars on how to make money with digital decoration and setting up a home based business.   Sawgrass has been involved with sublimation from the beginning and has helped a lot of companies become successful.  They know how to set up a sublimation business and they’re willing to share what they know with you.  Take advantage of that knowledge.

Tip 4:  Form partnerships – If you only do sublimation,  find an embroidery business in your area with whom you can team up to offer a complete package.  Photographers are also good potential customers,  as they are often looking for additional ways to display the photos they take.   Look for local businesses that do events and offer to produce their sublimated giveaways for a mention in the program.  If you sell in an area where there are a lot of little shops, partner up to create events and share advertising costs.    Always be alert to the possibility of finding a new partner.

Tip 5:  Ask for referrals – Word of mouth is a great way for small businesses to become bigger businesses.  Make sure you ask every current customer for a testimonial or to spread the word among their friends and colleagues.  You should also be sure to provide referrals for people with whom you’ve done business.   The referral street should always be two way.

Target Markets for Sublimated Products

One of the questions that we frequently get asked is this:  once you’ve purchased your supplies and are set up to sublimate,  where can you sell what you make?  Say,  for the sake of argument,  that you’ve purchased your Epson Workforce 1100 package, or your Ricoh 7000 printer,   and you’ve gotten some ink and some paper and some assorted blanks.    You’re all set to create some wonderful custom sublimated merchandise,  now you just figure out who might want to buy what you have to sell.   So how, exactly, do you do that?

One way would be to target a market for which you have a passion.  Create products you can sell to skateboarders or sailors,   mommies or mountaineers,  whatever your particular passion may be.  Chances are that if you already have a passion for this particular activity or group,  you’ll already have found places where you can connect with people who will want to purchase your products.

Another way to find your market is to look at what you already do and see how sublimation can fit in.   If you’re a photographer, sublimation offers yet more ways to display your work.   If you already run an embroidery business,  sublimation can increase the range of garments you can offer,  and also give you additional products you can use to augment your sales.     If you run a gift or souvenir shop,  sublimation gives you a great way to create your own custom products  that could be unique to your shop.

Schools are another great market for sublimated goods.  Most kids and a lot of parents will wear or use something that shows allegiance to their school.   Just keep in mind that creating items for the college or fraternity/sorority markets will most likely require licensing from the organization for which you want to create items.  Anytime you are going to use an organization’s logo on items you plan to sell,  you would be wise to check in advance regarding licensing.  If you are interested in the school market,  you should attend this webinar from Sawgrass Ink on June 15.

If you or anyone you know plays organized sports or has a child who does so,  you already know that sports teams are a great market for sublimated goods.   First of all there are team shirts,  hats,  wristbands, towels and other items of apparel.  Second there are trophies,  plaques and other commemorative items.  There is a also a market for clothing and other items with logos from national sports teams.   Again,  as in the case of schools, if this is market you want to pursue you would be wise to investigate licensing rules and regulations.

Finally,  an obvious market for sublimated products would be corporations.  Businesses both large and small hand out corporate swag on a daily basis.   Whether it’s a coffee mug,  a polo with a company logo,  a lanyard at a trade show,  or a frizbee at a customer appreciation day,   a great many businesses are constantly in need of items embellished with the corporate logo.   If you have a storefront,  you can offer your services to local businesses.  Local television and radio stations are often particularly in need of corporate swag.   If you prefer to operate online,  you could differentiate yourself by specializing in swag for a particular business grouping,  like doctors or accountants.

Finding a market for sublimated products isn’t really hard,  since the products are so varied and can be useful in so many different situations.   If you do a little research and also look at the things you’re already doing,  it is likely you can find easily find several markets for your sublimated goods.