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or the last 18 years, Duds by Dudes’ bottom line has grown every single year, despite the fact that they don’t do a ton of marketing.“Selling premium has been our model since the beginning,” says president Brian Geffen. “We make our custom print experience a ‘want to,’ not a ‘have to,’ using a simple formula: premium products + premium service = a premium experience. Our customers keep coming back and referring us to others.”

“When you stop selling cheap shirts and start selling experiences, you’ll get happier customers who keep coming back. They’re less price focused and more willing to listen to your professional recommendations. And oh yeah, you’ll make more margin too, so everybody wins!”
Brian Geffen, President of Duds by Dudes

Moving your customers towards premium apparel gives them a great return on their marketing dollars and improves your profits as well. However, in the past, you might’ve been unsuccessful at converting customers to premium products. That’s especially true if you’re dealing with price shoppers or buyers who don’t understand that better apparel equals more brand impressions over the life of the garment.

“The more premium a piece we sell our customers, the more positive their experience is with our products and brands,” Geffen says. “When you stop selling cheap shirts and start selling experiences, you’ll get happier customers who keep coming back. They’re less price focused and more willing to listen to your professional recommendations. And oh yeah, you’ll make more margin too, so everybody wins!”

In Photo: The Columbia Ascender™ Softshell Jacket – 155653 & Women’s Kruser Ridge™ Jacket – 177191

The opportunity for selling premium apparel is three-fold for you:

  • You’ll make more money when you sell apparel items with a higher profit margin.
  • You’ll help your client achieve their marketing goals (and save money) because recipients keep the apparel longer and wear it more often – allowing more people to see the printed design. This, in turn, gives them many more positive impressions over the garment’s life than they’d get with a non-premium item.
  • Your clients will view your company as a solutions provider, rather than just an order taker.  

“Premium equals profit for a decorator and a higher rate of recall and brand recognition for the client,” says Josh Ellsworth, senior vice president of Dealer & Enterprise Sales at GroupeSTAHL. “It’s a win-win.”

“Premium equals profit for a decorator and a higher rate of recall and brand recognition for the client. It’s a win-win.”
   
Josh Ellsworth, Senior Vice President of Dealer & Enterprise Sales at STAHLS’

Your goal, then, is finding a way to convince your customers to order more premium apparel products. “Remember, a customer very rarely downgrades the quality of their apparel selections once they upgrade,” Geffen says.

Get Into a Premium Mindset

In Photo: The adidas Women’s Lightweight Hooded Sweatshirt – A451

Here are some different approaches you can take to help you sell higher-end apparel to your valued clients:

1. Appeal to their desire for expanding their brand reach.

Many businesses live and die based on their brand recognition, and that’s the message you should be appealing to. Let your clients know that a company logo or message will look better and make more of a long-lasting impression on a higher-quality shirt or accessory. Also, not only will a premium garment will hold up better after wear and repeated washings, the actual design will hold up better as well.

“Lots of customers will upgrade to a premium solution when you give them an all-in price that includes artwork setup and decoration.”
  
Josh Ellsworth, Senior Vice President of Dealer & Enterprise Sales at STAHLS’

By some estimates, as much as 80% of people own at least one branded piece of clothing like a promotional T-shirt or polo. There’s definitely competition for space in end-user’s closets. You can up the ante even more by presenting apparel from adidas, Calvin Klein, Puma or Tommy Hilfiger.

2. Appeal to their desire to use better products.

Point out to your buyer that a premium shirt or similar product will take ink or embroidery better, which means the logo will be bolder and better looking. Another benefit is that the shirts will last longer through repeated washings. If these shirts are for employees to wear, they won’t have to be replaced as quickly. Employees will wear “like-new” shirts for much longer.

Also, a lot of premium garments have performance features such as moisture wicking or antimicrobial protection, which is even better if your wearer is an athlete or someone who works in the heat.

3. Appeal to their desire to safeguard the Earth.

In photo: The Alternative Challenger – 9595 & Women’s Athletics – 9596 Eco-Fleece Sweatshirts

The average American throws out about 80 pounds of clothing a year. (That adds up to about 28 million pounds of clothing either dumped in landfills or burned each year.) Unfortunately, cheap promo tees end up being part of that trash, causing it to become the “brandfill” that we’d all like to avoid. Pitching this narrative to clients can help move them more towards buying premium brands, especially those with an eco-friendly story, like adidas.

4. Present multiple options.

“A well-known, effective strategy when presenting a sales offer is called good, better, best,” Ellsworth says. “This hinges on the concept of showing three product choices: a cheaper solution, one that meets your client’s budget and one that’s an upgrade. If you do this properly, your presentation will help guard against price pressure and discount requests.”

The real power of the good, better, best is when you can offer extreme value in the “best” slot. “Lots of customers will upgrade to a premium solution when you give them an all-in price that includes artwork setup and decoration,” Ellsworth says. “We all want the best, so you may be surprised at how much more you’ll make on every order and how satisfied your customer is with their branded goods. The next time, they might ask for premium outright.”

4. Don’t forget “premium” decoration.

Great! So, let’s say your client signed on to buy the “best” shirt you just presented. Now it’s time to be a little more discerning about our imprinting suggestions. “A water-based screen print or DTG print might be a premium decoration technique on a nice T-shirt,” Geffen says, “but wouldn’t be nearly as ‘premium’ as a well embroidered $150 DRI DUCK jacket.”

“What if you could be the shop that specializes in higher-end items? The reality is, you’d make much more while working less.”
  
Josh Ellsworth, Senior Vice President of Dealer & Enterprise Sales at STAHLS’

Higher-end decoration techniques elevate the overall end-user experience. “It could be as simple as just a woven label like the Herschel brand, or a super heavy, thick plastisol print like The Hundreds,” Geffen says.

When you focus your time and energy on trying to decorate higher-end products, with premium decorations, you’re also maximizing the time you spend on these orders. For example, it takes nearly the same amount of time to heat press a T-shirt as it does a jacket.

“If you look at profit-per-piece, a T-shirt can be around $5 depending on the market, whereas a jacket is most likely $20,” Ellsworth says. “It’s true that you probably can’t sell as many jackets as T-shirts, but it’s also true that you can make the same amount of profit in 25% of the time. What if you could be the shop that specializes in higher-end items? The reality is, you’d make much more while working less.”

5. Don’t forget “premium” customer service.

Geffen says that if you’re selling premium, you need to act premium. “Premium communication, presentation and service go a long way since so many in our industry don’t focus on that,” he says.

For example, deliver samples in a poly bag. “It costs you a nickel and makes the garment seem so much richer,” Geffen says. “It also shows your customer another level of service you can offer. That’s actually my favorite part of ‘selling premium’: all of the add-on services to add perceived value to the garment after decoration.”

When you elevate a customer’s product with simple things like custom neck labels, clip tags, folding, and fulfillment, they’ll appreciate you for suggesting it and most likely will opt for those services over and over again. “And of course, that’s more margin for you,” Geffen says.

Go Premium on the Presentation

So how do you present these higher-end apparel items to your customers?

1. First, figure out why your clients need the apparel. “By asking the right questions, you can make the right recommendations in your pitch,” Geffen says. “If you truly understand what your customer’s goals are, they won’t want the cheapest garment you can give them. Don’t be afraid to present premium.”

2. Help customers visualize the benefits. Create side-by-side charts that show the features and benefits of each garment at each price point.

3. Send free swag. If you have a long-term customer or one that orders in high volumes, send them free samples of the product to wear and use. “It’s important to get the product in people’s hands before the ask,” Geffen says.

4. Share case studies and reviews from other clients. Demonstrate how other brands have benefited from ordering better-quality apparel, and encourage your customers to share this information on their social media channels.

5. Turn away price shoppers. For example, when a prospect tells Geffen they’re looking for the lowest price, he tells them that he’s one of the most expensive decorated-apparel providers, but also one of the most reliable. “Sometimes they move right on,” he says. “Or they’ll ask more questions to learn more about what we offer and what goes into our competitive quote.”

If you can show your prospect that they’re getting a great price for great products, you’ll be able to convert them into a loyal customer, who will grow with your business. “I spend more time with more profitable customers who appreciate what we do for them,” Geffen says.

The key to boosting your bottom line isn’t just selling high-volume orders—it’s also about selling the right premium products, which will last a long time and give customers the best bang for their buck. Yes, premium is a more expensive option, but makes better sense in the long run, if your customers choose this option. And, you’ll enjoy much healthier profit margins in the process.

“If a new customer orders from us today, there’s more than a 90% chance they’ll order from us again,” Geffen says. “That’s not because we’re the cheapest in town. It’s because we gave them a premium experience they won’t forget.”

Posted 
Tue
Jun 1, 2021
 in the 
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