What Are You Doing To Adapt and Compete?

You can read my latest article in Imprint Canada’s online issue (just click on the issue to expand and enlarge it) above or you can read it here. Imprint Canada is filled with ideas for garment decorators, even if you don’t live in Canada! My story begins on page 8.

What Are You Doing to Adapt in Today’s Competitive Marketplace?
As we go rushing headlong into the future, sometimes it pays to reflect back on the past. William Durant (1861–1947) was a leading U.S. automobile industry pioneer and creator of General Motors. Within 3 years he went from running the country’s largest carriage manufacturer to being the world’s largest automobile manufacturer. What’s that got to do with custom garments? Nothing specifically, it’s more of a big picture concept that can be applied to any business. For example, when Durant predicted there would come a time when they would manufacturer 500,000 automobiles a year, people thought he was nuts. But Durant understood that customers would want more than one style, color or brand of car. Durant had a vision, he understood the market and he made it happen. Quickly. He changed his business to adapt to the way customers wanted to do business. Is that a lesson you can learn from?
You’ve probably thought about unrealized potential in growing your garment decoration business. What are the markets you’re not going after? And more importantly, what are the limitations you are placing on yourself that are preventing you from new growth in new markets? Sometimes even successful businesses with high volume sales become consumed with what they’re currently doing and stop thinking about what’s left out there. Meanwhile, competitors are joining the fray. This is happening in the custom garment decoration business today. There are more and more new business start-ups getting into the industry than we’ve seen in recent decades. As we head into 2013, I don’t expect this trend to stop. The economy is demanding it and heat printing is one of the fastest, easiest ways to start a new custom printing business.
What Do Your Customers Really Want?
My point? You can’t be seduced by complacency. There might be new competitors in your market who are going after customers you have been serving a long time. Why are they succeeding in what should be your own “backyard?” Like Jeremy Gutsche says in his book, Exploiting Chaos, “One of the most difficult barriers to customer observation is the belief that you already understand your customer.” Today’s custom garment customers have more options than ever when it comes to ordering custom shirts. They want custom printing on demand, they want custom artwork and they want it now. In addition, they want to be able to see what their shirts will look like before they order them. There are hundreds of internet companies that can make this happen. Can you?
As time consuming as it might seem, before heading into the new year you may want to set aside some time to figure out where your business services and practices stand with your customers. One way to do this is to ask your customers. You could ask them to fill out a satisfaction survey or you could just make it a policy to ask them directly when they pick up their order. “Were you satisfied with the way we handled your order?” Or, “Is there anything we could have done differently to better meet your needs?” Getting feedback from customers is not an easy task. But the more often you attempt to get feedback, the more you will have. What you decide to do with that feedback is another story.
Make Buying from You Less Stressful
In addition to custom shops on the internet, another trend we’ve seen is garment manufacturers offering low volume personalization directly to their customers, essentially cutting out a layer of business for many. This means that everyone is looking for ways to make the buying experience easier and less stressful on the purchaser. What are YOU doing to make your buying experience less stressful?
Reflect and Think
Now we have to ask ourselves hard questions.
1) What can I change about my customers’ retail shopping experience?
2) How can I make it easier to order custom printed shirts?
3) What other complementary products can I offer the same customers? (signs, banners, bumper stickers, etc..)
4) How can I keep customers from going to newer, price-busting competitors?
You will need cutting edge art and cutting edge garment decoration ideas for your customers. You need to remain strong in providing the products your customers need, want and are willing to pay for.
Don’t Delay
Another thing about Billy Durant—he was always in a hurry. He went from being the largest, vertically integrated, carriage manufacturer to the largest automobile manufacturer in just 3 years. He got it. He saw the writing on the wall when it came to customer’s needs changing. And he did what he needed to do in order to be ready to serve them.
It’s time to take a hard look at your business and understand what it is that you’re NOT doing to increase market share. Because if you’re not increasing market share every month, your competitors are.
Opportunity is Where you Find It, Not Where it Finds You!

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