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How to Prescribe Apparel Programs to Healthcare Clients

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How to Prescribe Apparel Programs to Healthcare Clients

hospital contacted Logo Unlimited for custom scrubs for its nursing staff, with specific requirements, that included antimicrobial fabric, color-coded uniforms, and an embroidered logo, along with a personalized staff name on every piece.

“We sourced top-notch scrubs within the hospital’s budget, sorted out a color-coded system and customized each garment with their branding and individual staffers’ names. We delivered exactly what they needed on schedule, by maintaining clear, constant communication with them throughout the process to understand and meet their specific needs.”
Artem Ionitsa, president of Logo Unlimited

Healthcare is a booming niche for decorated apparel and other promo items with lots of opportunity for printers to get a piece of this massive market. For scrubs alone, U.S. medical offices and personnel spend $10 billion annually. Part of succeeding in this niche is understanding what buyers want in uniform styles, colors, performance properties and decoration – along with other products like tote bags, lunch boxes, drinkware, hand sanitizers, pens and ID lanyards. We've got a curated group of apparel products that would really work well for the healthcare market at ssactivewear.com.

(Photos by Logo Unlimited) Premium brands, like Columbia, are extremely attractive to the healthcare clients because of their quality, style and name recognition.

Start With Your Target Market

Healthcare includes many sub-niches and practice areas, and it’s best to start by specializing in one or two of the following:

1.     Hospitals and outpatient surgery centers

2.    Doctors’ offices and specialists like OB-GYNs or dermatologists

3.    Urgent care centers

4.    Dental and orthodontic offices

5.    Rehab centers and nursing homes

6.    Home healthcare and hospice services

7.     Pharmacies

8.    Blood-draw centers and labs

You can also target physical therapy offices, chiropractors, and wellness practitioners, like acupuncture, massage or yoga. Healthcare conferences and events likely can use apparel and giveaway products, along with companies that sell supplements, drugs or medical equipment.

Each niche has its own requirements and preferences that you should be familiar with before reaching out to potential buyers. For example, depending on the environment, the facility may need daily work clothing, surgical clothing, special proactive gear, or all three.

“We work with several medical offices and most have their favorite brand or style of garment, so we ask them what they prefer and we go from there.”
LaTonna Roberson, owner of T-Shirt Shop Dallas and Lady Print Boss

Establish Connections with Decision Makers

Hospitals are complex organizations with multiple departments and various chains of command. It’s important to figure out who your key points of contact will be and who your decision-makers are to ensure you don’t waste your time working on things that ultimately won’t get final approval. Once you know who to work with, it’s important to establish a good working relationship and maintain ongoing communication to stay out in front of their needs.

“When we pitch to the decision-makers we make sure to highlight the problems we’ll help them solve, the time and resources we’ll help them save, and the systems we’ll put in place to allow them to stay focused on serving patients. We ask questions to help us determine their end goal or outcome and then work backward to find the right product with the right design that sends the right message.”
Kyle Robinson, co-founder and CEO of Print My Threads

Break It All Down

Healthcare clients have specific requirements or preferences – like garment types, fabrics, colors, logo placement or name drops, or decoration methods – when purchasing decorated apparel for their staff.

Style vibes:

“It’s different with each client. Over the past few years, it’s progressed from lab coats to a more casual dress code for some clients, while still looking professional.”
Tom Rauen, CEO of 1800Tshirts.com

Athletic styles and yoga-lifestyle looks, with sleek and simple cuts, pack staying power. “Athleisure-inspired styles, such as jogger scrub pants or fitted scrub tops, are becoming super popular,” Ionitsa says. “They offer a modern and stylish alternative to traditional scrubs while maintaining comfort and functionality.”

Ease of movement and stretch, plus range of sizes:

Medical pros want pieces that not only look professional and fit well, but also offer flexibility and ease of movement, without a boxy or unflattering appearance. “Garments with strategic seaming or adjustable features allow for a more customized and flattering silhouette for different body types when you’re outfitting a team,” Ionitsa says.

Print My Threads supplies decorated apparel to hospitals with thousands of employees. “It’s important to find comfortable styles that drape well and offer a complete size range like XS-6XL,” Robinson says.

Innovative features:

No matter what style they prefer, medical staff want lots of roomy pockets to carry tools, equipment, and larger tech items like smartphones and tablets. “Think pockets with tech-friendly designs for easy access to devices, hidden compartments for storing essential tools, or specialized closures for quick and easy changes can help make healthcare pros’ lives easier,” says Ionitsa.

Anetik, a new S&S exclusive high-end performance line, includes a hooded tee w/ a zippered pocket & a long sleeve tee, both w/ UPF & breathable technology

Comfort and breathability:

“Medical buyers usually lean toward garments that are comfy, durable and easy to take care of, like scrubs or performance wear. Breathable fabrics are a must to keep them cool and comfortable during long shifts.”
Artem Ionitsa, president of Logo Unlimited

While scrubs are the go-to, many medical facilities also want quarter-zip or full-zip jackets to keep staff warmer in cooler inside temperatures.  

Colors and patterns:

“They often want neutral colors or specific color schemes to differentiate roles or departments,” Ionitsa says. Choosing colors or patterns wisely can help you stand apart from other shops vying for business. Trends also include bold colors and novelty patterns, depending on the medical office’s vibe.

Performance fabrics:

Fabrics with moisture-wicking, waterproof, antimicrobial and easy-care properties like stain resistance are in high demand in the healthcare industry. “These fabrics help keep them cool, dry, and comfortable during long shifts and are easy to move in,” Ionitsa says.

Decoration options:

“They want their logos and names to stand out, so logo placement and high-quality decoration or embroidery methods are important,” Ionitsa says. If you’re printing, Roberson says it’ll be minimal on a pocket or sleeve. “People also want eco-friendly inks and organic materials where possible,” she says.

(Photo by Logo Unlimited) Sell your healthcare clients on premium decorations like embossing, and unique locations to help their logo stand out.

Get Ready to Make Your Pitch

In his experience, Lucas Guariglia, co-founder and CEO of Rowboat Creative, says busy healthcare clients can be very streamlined and easy to work with – since they trust you to handle everything related to their decorated products “If an admin staffer is placing the order, they want to get through their task with a high success rate,” he says. “A lot of the downtime comes in once your proofs need to move through the approval phase internally. Given that the hospitals or organizations are usually larger, there are more hoops to get through.”

Here are some areas to consider when pitching to a healthcare client:

Choose the right mix of styles for each prospect.

“There’s such a mix of uniform items, like scrubs and lab coats, to sport shirts and dress shirts,” Rauen says. “It really depends upon the various departments from the doctors to the office staff.” Compared to other industries, Ionista’s pitch highlights unique needs like antimicrobial fabrics and color-coded uniforms.

“When pitching to healthcare clients, we focus on comfort, functionality, and professionalism in apparel choices. Must-have pieces include scrubs, lab coats and performance wear – and we also suggest add-ons like badge reels and lanyards.”
Tom Rauen, CEO of 1800Tshirts.com

Keep colors and branding in mind.

“Catering to different preferences within healthcare organizations, like color schemes and branding guidelines can be challenging,” Ionitsa says. “To overcome this, we chat with our clients to understand their needs and customize our collections accordingly.”

Remember also that healthcare professionals identify as a group of individuals who care for others. “If you can conceptualize designs that effectively communicate that identity, they’ll resonate well with hospital employees, making them want to buy and wear the apparel,” Robinson says. “Plus, everyone wearing the same shirt to work helps build camaraderie.”

Feature higher-quality brands:

While working on a larger apparel program for a sports medicine group, Guariglia wanted to offer higher-level blanks from retail brands. “For an organization like this, the branding is very important, since it’s their calling card their entire team will wear,” Guariglia says.

Pay attention to quality and safety standards.

Providing goods that meet the necessary quality and safety standards for healthcare environments is crucial for decorators. That’s why Logo Unlimited works with suppliers known for top-notch garments and materials.

“We also choose decoration methods, like embroidery or heat transfers, because they can handle the wear and tear of healthcare settings. We keep an eye on industry regulations and do regular checks to make sure we’re on the right track.”
Artem Ionitsa, president of Logo Unlimited

Keep decoration quality high.

“We make sure our prints are properly cured because the apparel will get worn and washed a lot,” Robinson says.

Be aware of timing and production.

Handling large orders and tight deadlines can also be tricky, especially during busy times. “To stay on track, we keep our production processes efficient and communicate clearly every step of the way,” Ionitsa says.

Where Do Online Stores Fit In?

Many print shops provide web stores to medical clients, with some operating for a limited time while others remain open indefinitely. Rauen offers websites for doctors’ offices and other healthcare clients, where employees can use a code supplied by the doctor to get their uniform items.

“We often set up separate web stores for each area of the business, like for doctors and administrative staff, each offering items tailored to their needs.”
Tom Rauen, CEO of 1800Tshirts.com

Rauen also notes that medical offices use online stores for employee recognition and awards. For example, if there’s an internal competition or an employee hits a milestone, recipients receive gift cards to use in the online store to grab branded uniform items and other merch.

The majority of the work Print My Threads falls under these two categories:

- Hospital-wide marketing campaigns (things like Heart Month and Breast Cancer Awareness) that employees may purchase and wear as part of their daily uniform

- Evergreen designs and logo wear that sell through the employee gift shop

“Hospitals will typically run an internal online employee store where we print, fold, pack and ship the orders,” Robinson says. “We also print apparel that sells through the hospital employee gift shop.”

How About Special Events?

Creating a calendar of local and national healthcare and wellness events helps you to reach out to prospects and clients about fulfilling their apparel needs for these events. Many medical providers and healthcare companies also get involved in charitable events like 5k runs. Subscribe to their newsletters to look for opportunities to provide apparel items for participants.

When working with multiple healthcare clients on events, the work often comes in waves. For example, October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month for hospitals and nonprofits nationwide. To meet your clients' needs and fulfill orders promptly, it's crucial to stay ahead of annual campaigns, plan in advance, and keep your clients on track.

“Because a good portion of our work with hospitals includes folding, bagging and shipping, this can slow the process down due to the amount of handling involved,” Robinson says.

“We encourage our clients to stick to one print location to minimize the number of touches, decrease turn times, and maximize their profitability on the fundraising campaigns. We’ve also developed internal systems to stay organized, efficient, and accurate so we can turn these types of jobs around very quickly.”
LaTonna Roberson, owner of T-Shirt Shop Dallas and Lady Print Boss

One campaign Print My Threads worked on with a hospital was a design for a fall fundraising campaign, called “Boo Boo Crew,” featuring fun cartoon ghosts wearing nurse hats and carrying band-aids. The design was hugely popular among hospital employees because it:

- Communicated a shared sense of identity (what they do)

- Made people feel like a member of a team (belonging)

- It spoke to the employee’s social purpose (their “why”)

- It glowed in the dark (fun/emotional connection)!

“The shirts were so popular that they sold thousands the first day and 4,000 t-shirts total,” Robinson says. “The gift shop broke its daily sales records and proceeds from the shirt sale funded programming for the hospital’s foundation.”

Break Into the Healthcare Market Now

Start by figuring out what problems you can help your prospective client solve beyond decorating their apparel. “Suppose you can help a hospital save time, money, and human resources, by managing things like batch deliveries, individual order fulfillment, and inventory management,” Robinson says. “In that case, you’ll add more value than your competitors who can’t offer those services and quickly establish yourself as their go-to vendor.”

Mar 17, 2024