Tag: selling sublimation

Cracking the Hospitality and Tourism Market

In the last post I gave 5 tips for finding your sublimation markets.    Today I want to talk about how to crack a specific market,  because I think it’s one that’s available in most areas,  but one that many people don’t think about.   When considering tourist attraction or souvenir work,  most small businesses probably think there’s a big business somewhere that’s making the t-shirts and mugs and mousepads and other personalized souvenirs that the attractions are selling.   In some cases, you may be right.   When it comes to big organizations,  like Disneyland,  their souvenir production is often built right in to running the park and is just another profit center.   For small and medium size attractions, however,  the business might just go to whomever asks for it.   Why shouldn’t that be you?

If you counted all the tourist attractions in the United States,   from the small, roadside ball of string or mystery spot kind of tourist trap all the way up to San Diego Zoo or Six Flags,  you’d probably discover there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands,  in existence.  Just looking at the area where EnMart is located,  I can point to Sleeping Bear Dunes,  Old Mission Lighthouse,  The Music House, and  countless wineries and craft breweries .  There are also events like music festivals,  the National Cherry Festival,  and wine and food tastings that could definitely use souvenir items.   The possibilities are almost endless.

There are many ways to go about approaching an attraction or festival and asking who’s doing their work and if you could make a bid,  but here are a few tips that might help you get started.

  • Attend the event in question before you contact anyone to make a pitch.   Get a feel for the event, the crowd and what sort of items work there.   A gourmet wine and food tasting,  for instance,  might love etched wine glasses or decorated plates,  but wouldn’t be wild about beer mugs or coozies.   A craft beer and music festival might have the opposite reactions.   Knowing the event will help you figure out what will sell and will also help when you make your pitch.  No one likes to be sold stuff they don’t need or which doesn’t suit the character of their event.
  • Once you’ve been to the event,  brainstorm ideas for products you could make.   Take into account the character of the event and how existing souvenir products are sold.  Also,  try to get some sense of budget.  A smaller event will,  most likely,  have a smaller budget,  but not always.  Ticket or admission prices are one clue to a possible budget.   The number of people attending may be another.   Obviously,  you won’t know the budget for sure until you actually talk to the event management,  but working within a supposed budget will help you bring ideas to the table that will fit the character and the depth of the pockets the event may have.
  • Schedule a meeting with event management.  Check out the event website to find out with whom you should speak.  Don’t send a to whom it may concern e-mail or call someone randomly.   Also avoid sending any unsolicited items to show off what you can do.   The goal at this point is to get a meeting.   Sending items that weren’t requested most likely will be a waste of work for you and a waste of time for those you’re trying to impress.
  • Once you have a meeting,  make up some samples of the sort of items you’d like to make.  Do a couple that are your version of things you saw when you visited the event.  Make a few tweaks to make your version a little more attractive,  but keep the item essentially the same.  Events carry what they know will sell,  so there’s no harm in showing you paid attention to what they were already selling.
  • The other half of your product samples should be new and different items you think would do well at the festival.   For these items,  make sure you can explain why you chose the item and why you think it would sell well at that particular venue.   Before you ask “It just looks so cool!” is not a good selling proposition.  This is another chance to let the event management know that you’ve researched their event and paid attention to what you learned.






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.





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.

Don’t Sell on Price, Sell on Value

We all know that sublimation isn’t always the cheapest way to decorate an item.  There are costs associated with purchasing blanks and purchasing inks and paper and printers and all the rest,  so sublimated items can’t be sold as cheaply as items decorated by other methods.   The other side of that coin, however, is that sublimated items are dishwasher and microwave safe in a lot of cases,  and the decorations that are added to the garments or the hard goods may often outlast the goods themselves.   Still, despite the fact that sublimation may offer brighter, more vibrant color and more durability,  your customers may ask you why the guy who does inkjet transfers down the street can imprint 12 mugs for less than you charge,  or why shirts from the kiosk guy in the mall are priced more cheaply than the shirts you offer.

Let’s face it,  there’s always going to be someone who will offer to create goods for a cheaper price.  It’s easy to get caught up in a sort of bidding war,  but that’s not the way to approach this problem.   The best way to get a fair price for what you sell is to educate your customers.    Explain what sublimation is and the value of a sublimated good.   Show them that while they may be paying a little more for the items they’re buying,  they’re also getting more value too.   Make the following points:

  • Sublimation ink dyes poly fabric – so there will be no transfer film or rough feel to designs on garments
  • Sublimated hard goods can be both microwaved and washed in a dishwasher
  • Sublimated designs start out vibrant and are more resistant to fading if not consistently exposed to direct sun
  • Sublimated designs will often outlast the garment or item to which they were applied
  • Sublimation offers a wider range of decoration possibilities

I’m sure there are more reasons than these.  What explanation or education do you offer your customer to help them see the value of the sublimated goods you sell?  If you’d care to share your answer,  please leave it in the comments.

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.

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