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.





Fill in the Blank

When you start with a blank canvas,  whether it literally is a blank canvas, or a blank screen or a blank garment or mug,  there is usually at least one moment of  “oh no, what do I do now?”  that occurs before you start.   People who are familiar with this phenomenon often try to combat it by keeping a stash of ideas on hand.   While that’s a great idea,  the trick then becomes building that stash of ideas so they’re ready and waiting when you need them.   Today I thought we could talk a little bit about where and how to find ideas and inspiration.

One way to find inspiration for your sublimation projects is to see what other people are doing.  Visit Sawgrass and check out their webinars.    Check out a forum like T-shirt Forums of the Apparel Decorators Forum.     Look for videos online that will teach you how to sublimate a new product or will show you a new technique.  While we would never recommend copying what someone else is doing exactly,  seeing what other people are doing is a great way to spark your own creativity.

Another way to find inspiration is to take a field trip.  Erich Campbell mentioned this option in a post he wrote for Stitches earlier this year.    He recommends going to the mall,  and it’s good advice.   You can spend time seeing what sorts of sublimated products are out there,  and you can also see what other decorators are doing with them.   As an added bonus,  going to a place with multiple stores allows you to get an overview of a variety of trends.   Keep in mind field trips can also be to places like museums or simply to a nearby lake or woods.  The aim of a field trip is to get some new images and textures to add to your library,  so take a field trip to whatever place you find most inspiring.

Perhaps the best way to figure out how to fill that blank is to experiment.  Find artwork you like and test it out on various blanks to see how it looks.    Buy some cheap polyester fabric and sublimate various designs before you put them on the more expensive blank items.  Find a sublimated item that you really like the look of,  and try to duplicate that effect or look on a blank piece of your own.   While it’s true there will probably be a bit of product waste,  and certainly spend some time on this endeavor,  the result will be an enlarging of your sublimation options and a bigger fund of ideas from which to draw next time a customer wants something spectacular but doesn’t know exactly what they want to do.