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.






The 5 Ws of Sublimation: Which Markets Will Buy

Note:  This post is the fourth in the series called the 5 Ws of Sublimation.  The traditional five Ws are who, what, when, where and why.    For the purposes of this series, however,  I’m changing the five Ws to who, what, why, which and when.   This post deals with which markets or businesses will purchase sublimated products. 

Selling sublimated goods is basically about thinking big and thinking outside the box.  There are so many blank options available that it really seems like there would be something that would work for almost any application.   Selling sublimation generally involves matching the right sublimation blank with the right need,  and then remembering to think about unique ways that sublimated goods can be used.   Selling mugs and mousepads has a place,  and can be quite lucrative,  but the thing to remember is that sublimation can be much more than that.

Interior decorators could use sublimation to create personalized fabrics for home decoration.   Many clients might be interested in personalized throw pillows for their sofa or a unique fabric for a chair or footstool.   Using sublimatable tiles,  appropriately coated for protection, you could create a decorative backsplash for a sink,  or a dramatically tiled shower stall.  Everyone wants their home to be unique and a reflection of the people who live there, and offering easily personalized sublimated options allows that to be done.

Schools are another great market for sublimated goods.   From unique trophies for school events,  to mugs and shirts for various school clubs to items for the school sports teams,  there are lots of opportunities in the school market.   In this market there may be restrictions on how logos can be used,  and perhaps a submission or bid process for new work that is available,  so make sure you check with the school administration to see what needs to be done to be considered as a decorated goods vendor.

Businesses are definitely a good market for sublimated goods, particularly if you’re already selling them garments.   Mugs and mousepads are two popular items,  but you could also sell license plates for company vehicles,  business card holders for employees or to give out as keepsakes to customers,  award plaques and much more.   With businesses, particularly those who are already bringing you their garment work,  the trick is to remember to upsell.   Most companies like consolidating their vendors,  so if you can be the place that offers garments and promotional items,  you might be more likely to make the sale.

Finally,  don’t forget that sublimation can be relatively portable.   Provided you have proper space and the venue can meet your electricity needs,  you could take a combination press and some blanks on the road and sublimate on demand.   Obviously, you would need to limit what products you will sublimate and you’ll have to pick your venues carefully,  but sublimating on demand at festivals and conventions can be done and can be profitable.