Thursday, September 8, 2016

Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Shine…in the Eyes of Your Customers! Master Embroidery Techniques for Increasing Visibility


Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Shine…in the Eyes of Your Customers!
Master Embroidery Techniques for Increasing Visibility

On Wednesday, September 28th, Madeira USA will be presenting a webinar at 2:30pm EST (11:30am PCT). Titled “Master Embroidery Techniques for Increasing Visibility: Safety & Special Effects,” this particular webinar promises to cover a lot of ground. Madeira looked through their product portfolio, pulling out anything that shines, sparkles, glitters, and reflects light in any way. They are intent on finding ways to make your customers find more and more reasons to walk in and be intrigued by all that embroidery can do.

With the topic in hand, they then went in search of an appropriate “co-host” who would be able to discuss this topic with experience, lots of knowledge…a fearless embroiderer who could come up with ideas, sell them, and then actually translate to fabric what they say in their imagination. After reading the following description of her work in Jane Swanzy’s bio, they knew they struck gold: “Taking stock embroidery designs, combining them, changing thread colors, and placing them in unusual spots to create unique items for her customers is what she loves to do.”

Calling upon their newest BFF, Madeira USA currently is preparing a webinar that should surely be a breath of (creative) fresh air at a perfect time of year.  The webinar will take a look at both extremes of sewing for safety and special effects: creating maximum visibility for situations that are dangerous and require as much visibility as possible; and special effects that will brighten, shine and otherwise call attention to an embroidered product or garment. On the safety side, 3M™ Scotchlite Silver Reflective Appliqué Fabric will be discussed and demonstrated. This is what you want to look at for the serious side of embroidery. Then there is the fun side, and for this the webinar will cover working with reflectra® Stitchfoil Appliqué Material, Luna glow-in-the-dark embroidery thread, Supertwist #30 Metallic embroidery thread and the polyester threads that glow under black light.

Going back to Jane Swanzy, she has graciously agreed to work with all of these materials, creating fresh, illustrative examples of how to work with these items to produce special effects that will blow away your customers – not all of them, only those who are looking to do something totally unique and never-before-seen! Jane is an award winning decorator who specializes in embroidery and is the owner of Swan Marketing, dba Swan Threads, located in Houston, Texas. She started the business in 2001 as a part time venture that became full time in 2004. She works from home with a single head embroidery machine, a heat press, a vinyl cutter and lots of software. She is assisted by three cats, Samantha, Abby and Sally Ann and occasionally by her husband, Tim Bautsch, who is good at picking thread colors. Her husband, not the cats. Jane also sits on the Advisory Board of Wearables magazine.

To register for the webinar and learn more about mastering visibility with Madeira USA and Jane Swanzy, please click here.To learn more of Jane Swanzy, please click here. And to read more about the industry in Wearables magazine, click here!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Increase Sales by Upselling Your Stitch Count through Customization

Increase Sales by Upselling Your Stitch Count through Customization

Upsell: To work creatively with a customer in order to suggest additional embroidery that adds customization to their design and a unique quality to their embroidered items – enough, perhaps, to evoke compliments and comments. And dare I say it: WOW!

And when it comes to embroidery, where stitch count is your price provider, the more stitches you can talk your customer into paying you for, the better. And so, you’ll want to pay a lot of attention to the person (customer) who stands before you. What kind of car did they drive? Any bumper stickers? Do they have a pet on a leash? Regardless of what they are looking for to be embellished, further customization is nearly always possible.

With your larger customers, who may be having shirts or caps embroidered with a logo, are they celebrating a special event? An anniversary? Do they support a particular charity or local organization? Are they aware that there are more than just left chest or cap fronts to brand? While you are not looking to make a simple job overly complex, it never hurts to suggest a little creative placement of slogans or dates.

And personalization is so “in” right now! To call it a trend may be too bold, but most folks love to see their name or initials permanently added to a favorite article of clothing. Think of suggesting it to the next person who comes in looking for branded items for their company picnic. By providing something unique and creative to their boss, you make them look like a hero, which almost guarantees their coming back to you the next time a project is on the table.

Personally, I think the promotion of personal branding is the most fun. You just have to find a happy medium between being thought of as A.) a helpful, inquisitive sales professional; B.) a clever individual who is looking for ways for the person standing before you to stand out from the crowd; and C.) a creepy stalker. You’ll want to avoid “C” at all costs. But by noticing personal aspects about the person, suggesting customization in a uniquely personal way can be done in good taste – with very clever results. I work with a fellow who loves golf. Suggesting he add a stock design of clubs or a green or a ball on a tee to shirts that he is having branded might be very appealing. Even winning you a, “hey, I didn’t know I could do that!”

Music to your ears: you have just educated your customer, upped your price and have encouraged the customer’s friends and relatives to remark, “oh, cool, where’d you get that done?!”

To read more on this subject, see Impressions magazine, August issue, page 48. Or click here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Know Your Caps and Keep A-Head of the Competition!

So, your customer comes into your shop and says, “I need about 150 caps to give out to customers.” And you say, “What kind of caps?” and you get a blank stare. Yikes! You need to give the customer a quick cap tutorial and then steer them in the right direction.

There are four basic types of caps:

FIVE PANEL CAPS:   The most distinctive feature of this cap, besides the very wide front panel, is the relationship of the front panel to the visor. View the cap from the side and you can see that there’s almost a 90-degree angle where the front panel and visor meet.

PRO STYLE SIX PANEL CAPS:   The unique features of these caps are the front middle seam (which makes it a little more challenging to embroider). Viewed from the side, the angle of the front panel to the visor is almost 90 degrees.

UNSTRUCTURED CAPS:  Sometimes called easy riders or skullcaps, they fit close to the head so the angle of the front panels to the visor slopes back towards the head and is greater than 90 degrees.

SLOPE CAPS:  These caps are six panels with a seam in the front and when viewed from the side the front panels, slant back towards the head, creating an angle to the visor greater than 90 degrees.

So now that they understand the 4 basic shapes of caps (of course, you are showing them embroidered examples), briefly explain to them (with your examples) how the caps are constructed.

CROWN this is the top of the cap that consists of 5 or 6 panels, which are sewn together and then the seams are taped over to prevent the material from unraveling. There is usually a “button” on top to finish and protect it.

VISOR is the piece that sticks out on the front of the cap and shades the eyes, unless the cap is worn backwards (which in my opinion looks adorable on children, cute on teenagers and stupid on adults; but that’s just MY OPINION).

Once the customer has made a choice about the type of cap they want, you will need to point them in the direction of the best quality cap for them to distribute (and into which you have sewn your label). Many customers will gravitate toward cheaper caps. This is where you need to (gently) inquire about their budget for this project. Here are some observations about caps (cheap and otherwise), which, if nothing else, will provide some interesting cocktail party chatter:

There are at least 100 million caps sold annually in the US. The population of the US is about 320 million, but not everyone wears caps. The total number of people in the US who wear caps could be about 40 to 50 million. That means for every person who would wear a cap there will be a couple of caps sold each year for every person who wears caps; and this is cumulative, meaning that they collect caps every year. So here is the money question: if each cap wearer has a choice of wearing any of 9 or 10 caps (whether given to them or purchased) WHY would they want to wear the cheapest cap that you or your customer can find?

Most cap wearers have a favorite cap. Suppose your customer buys a cheap give- away cap for $3.95 and has their company's name embroidered on the front and the person they give it to wears it just one time. Their advertising cost per exposure is $3.95. Now suppose they pay $15.00 for a better cap. The recipient likes its looks and when he puts it on, it does not dig into his forehead and rests comfortably and feels good. The recipient likes the cap and wears it maybe 100 times. He gets some compliments – Hey! Nice cap; where’d you get it? This isn’t unusual; if a person likes a cap they wear it non-stop. So the cost per advertising exposure is $.15. The conclusion your customer will come to is pretty apparent: it’s better to pay $.15 for advertising than $3.00. (Even if the numbers and arithmetic are a little shaky – you get the point).

Here’s an idea that may work for you if the budget just isn’t there. Get your customer to split their order between inexpensive (cheap) and higher priced caps. If they want 150 cheap caps you can suggest they get 120 cheap give-a-ways and then 30 custom caps for their best customers or personal friends. Make sure your name is in all the caps but especially in those special caps because they may end up in the hands of decision makers in other companies. By having your customer buy a few custom caps you have them showcase to other people that you can supply something other than a plain giveaway (throw away?) product. This is what can set you apart from the crowd.

Madeira USA and master/digitizer embroiderer Erich Campbell recently produced an hour-long webinar about embroidering on caps. You can see a recorded version here or download a printable version of the slide presentation

Friday, July 15, 2016

Achieving a Hand-Embroidered Look on a Commercial Machine, Or, How to Give the Impression You Spent Days on a Single Design

     Call me old fashioned, but when it comes to a special effect, that effect does not have to shine, sparkle, glow, beep or move in any way. In fact, for me, a special effect can be as simple as creating a hand-embroidered look on a commercial embroidery machine. In the July issue of Printwear magazine, on page 54 (, there is an article that describes and illustrates using many of Madeira’s thicker weight threads in order to achieve a hand embroidered look. One of the illustrations is of a design with three flowers, loopy petals, and you’d swear some doting grandma hand stitched it onto their darling’s overalls. The thread used is a heavy 12 weight wool blend thread that sews like a dream and looks like a million – hand stitches!

     Remember that the process of creating a hand embroidered look by machine begins at the digitizing stage. If you don’t do your own, make sure you mention the fact to your digitizer that you are going to use a 12 weight thread. Another thread that gives a very family-friendly look is a cotton blend called BurmilanaCo, which was used to create an angel fish that is just swimming with personality. For a more sophisticated application, there are floral designs and borders that can be sewn onto curtains, bed or table linens for a look that will impress even the {most exacting} pickiest family member.

     Now for the faint of heart, you are going to have to change your needle! These thicker, 12 weight threads require a larger eye #100/16 needle in order to perform properly. The stitches you choose should be based on their resemblance to hand stitches: satin, running, cross-hatching. A chain stitch, as illustrated in the Printwear article by the snowboard badge, is also a very good choice. Without looking at the neat appearance of the reverse side of these designs, I defy any expert to tell whether a very accomplished home seamstress – or a racing machine that can hit 1500 SPM – produced these designs. And as an added benefit, you’ll use far fewer stitches than with #40 weight thread.
So click on over to and see what I’m writing about. Master the use of thicker threads, and consider them one more arrow in your creative quiver of ideas.

Friday, July 1, 2016

How to Treat Your Major Customers

How to Treat Your Major Customers

All companies have major customers – they are the life blood of your business. Major customers represent 20% or less of the customer base, but about 80% of your revenue (*see below). Some companies haven’t formally identified these treasured customers and that’s a mistake, since the health of all businesses depends on them.

Major customers have a higher retention rate; they are more loyal, less price sensitive, and buy more products, more often. Once you know who they are, how should your marketing strategy deal with them? One school of thought says, “Market to them like mad. Get them to buy more.” That might work, but, in most cases, it is probably a mistake. Big mistake! The better option is to work to retain them.

How did these customers become major customers, anyway? They reached that point as a result of your getting most or all of their decorating spending. They are “maxed out” on your embroidery and/or screenprinting. A good example of what we mean is when a large bank found that they couldn’t profitably market to their major customers. Those depositors maintaining high savings balances would shift to CDs or other savings instruments, but the overall amount of their balances wouldn’t change. An analysis showed that five percent of their customers provided 80% of their profits. Getting these five percent to put more savings in their bank would have been useless; they already had it. So what should you do with major customers?  Work very hard to retain them.

Think up, invent and provide them with special services that you couldn’t afford to provide to all your other customers.

  • Airlines provide first class travel upgrades and bonus miles to their frequent business flyers.
  •  Some companies create a “Diamond Club” or “Platinum Posse” and send their major customers a suitably framed membership award (I like this idea -- very affordable!).
  • Banks provide them with a personal banker (Chase Bank's “Private Client”).
  •  UPS and FedEx park trucks at their loading docks.
  •   Nieman Marcus provides special gifts and benefits.
  •   Some companies send discontinued items free to major customers as a “thank you for your business.”

Whatever you can do, let them know that they are very important to you, and show it by special services and gifts. So if you haven’t developed a special program for your major customers, get busy. It may be the single most important customer relationship program in your company.

*The Pareto Principle (commonly known as the 80/20 rule) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (instead of naming it for me, and I was so close!). It’s a common rule of thumb in business. For example:

    80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers

    80% of a company's complaints come from 20% of its customers

    80% of a company's sales come from 20% of its products

    80% of a company's sales are made by 20% of its sales staff

Hence, many businesses have easy access to dramatic improvements in profitability by focusing on the most effective areas and eliminating, ignoring, automating, delegating or retraining the rest, as appropriate.

The bottom line is, take care to maintain your major customers and work to move some of the 80 percenters up into the 20 percent realm.