5 Words to Kickstart New Business Ideas

5 Words - Marshall Atkinson


I have five words for you to consider developing new ideas or strategies for your shop. 

Just five.

These five words are in front of your face right now in a lot of articles and by the talking heads on TV.  But you may have missed them. 

I know, I know… you have orders to ship. 

Hey, that’s what I’m here for…to point out some interesting ideas!

Take a look:

Number One – Trust


Let’s face it, we live in the world of “fake news”. Do I sound like an old geezer when I remember when “news was news”, or does that make me simply too naive?

Ok, don’t answer that.

In 2018 you are going to see a massive shift in marketing and advertising that is going to focus on one word…


While the world is a gigantic place, you can bring this idea down to earth and into your decorated apparel shop. All you need to do is to tell confident stories.

Stories of how a customer entrusted you to handle the merchandise for an important event and you delivered. In fact, it was early.

Maybe a tale about how some other printer bungled their order on some stretchy yoga pants. The ink cracked, was misregistered and the garments were unsellable. But not your shop. The craftsmanship, even on hard to decorate yoga waistbands, was impeccable. Printing on polyester? A piece of cake. Your shop rocks production when the difficulty level is pegged to the max.

What about that order for the hospital? They had a new logo, so everyone had to have a new set of uniforms, scrubs, lab coats and other workwear. All produced and shipped to the employee’s homes by a specific date. Not only did you kick-butt in that order, but you set up a special online store to make reordering easier. Now, it is reorder central, baby!

I know you are tired of sending your print staff home early because it is January. But don’t drop your pants on another zero-confidence pricing strategy to lure business into your shop. 

Instead, think about telling stories about how you deliver the one thing that many people purchasing decorated garment covet, Trust.

Trust is something that people want and need.

Trust that the order will deliver on time.

Trust that it will be printed with the correct PMS color.

Trust that 100% of the shirts will be there because every single garment was ordered for a real person.

Do this with pictures, videos or blog articles. Better is to get your fantastically thrilled customers to do it for you.

What awesome stories could you tell with Trust as the theme? Better yet, what stories about Trust would your potential customers fall over backward to hear?


Number Two – Facetime


Your customers need to see you. 

Pretend you are your own customer. Are you pushing the “people button”?

When the only customer interaction you have is driven solely by an email, webpage order or text message you might not be cementing that relationship like you think.

As humans, we crave personal interactions that are meaningful and fun. 

People don’t do business with their enemies. They do business with friends.

That starts with getting your smiling face in front of your customers. (That includes your staff as well!)

So how are you getting that Facetime? 

Is the only way to do that with an in-person visit? Not so fast.

More sales are being handled with video conferencing than ever before. I’ve personally done this with a few of my coaching clients and it’s fun. Someone can give me a shop tour just by walking around with their cell phone. 

Have you tried this?

Do you want to? Let’s hook up on Skype. My username is, you guessed it, atkinsontshirt. Tell me about your shop. What are your challenges? Use me as a test run.

Then, figure out how you can deploy that same awesomeness with your own sales efforts.

Also, a lot of companies are into this with apps like Zoom, GoToMeeting, ClickMeeting, or even Amazon Chime. The idea is that a sales call can be like a mini-webinar. 

This is another tool for your sales toolbox.

Depending on the tech, the call could just replace an ordinary phone call, or you could share a presentation.

Imagine how much faster your art team could make the change if they are showing their screen to the customer who wants to “make the logo bigger”, but can’t tell you how much. They could watch your creative team like they were in the room.

Get your face in front of your customer more. Bonus round: you track the difference between Facetime sales calls and non-Facetime sales calls.

Which has a higher success rate? Share those results!


Number Three – Experience


As in, your customer’s “experience”. 

Just what are they thinking when they interact with your company? At any point, and on every level.

Have you ever asked?

What are you doing right now to decrease the friction points for your customers? Do you make every interaction easy? Do you solve problems before they are asked?

Also, think about your customer demographic. Are they skewing younger and into a different generation? 

What if the buyer for your customer changes to someone that thinks differently than the last person that held that job? When Nancy retires next year and they hire a millennial to replace her, are you prepared for that?

Plenty of business books have been written that spin on the mantra, “Adapt or die”. 

So, stand in your driveway so to speak and look at your company from the outsider’s point of view. 

What rubs you the wrong way?

Is it that form you have to fill out that doesn’t quite work? Maybe one of your staff that deals with customers that may have an attitude problem? After the sale, what’s your follow-up process?

There are so many tools on the market these days to help with this challenge. Maybe it is time to rethink how you do things in your shop.


Number Four – Subscription


Personally, I like subscriptions. I have a bunch of them. From how I listen to music (Spotify), to how I order all kinds of stuff online (Amazon Prime).

Recently, I’ve moved my coaching services to a subscription plan too. 

Here’s why. 

It makes things easier for both my clients and me. The transaction is handled once. That’s it.  No billing or messing around with invoices, due dates or receivables.

I wanted to stop “busy being busy”, and focus more on servicing my customers. Invoicing and tracking time don’t add value, as they are work to-do tasks.

More companies than ever before are offering subscription plans too. 

One article I read recently stated that businesses that offer subscription business models are growing nine times faster than traditional ways. Nine times.

So for your shop, how could you use this idea to generate business? It seems that more people like the subscription model for business. You just need to scheme how to make it work for your shop. 

For starters, what if you locked your customers in with a plan? They get 300 shirts a month for their store. Or they get fifteen orders a year. 

Maybe you’ll produce, inventory and ship 750 sets of employee uniforms a year. 

Or maybe you’ll print a new t-shirt design once a month, and ship it free.

Whatever you do, a subscription plan makes it easier as it’s predictable. Plus you are only marketing one idea. 

The trick is to make sure our idea resonates with your market.


Numero Cinco – Simplify


This is the fifth idea. It might best one too.

In both your customer-facing efforts and how you run your shop, think about how you can simplify the process.

You want easy peasy.

For customers, they want convenience. Any friction and they are out of here. Can you redefine your “Experience” as mentioned above? 

You still aren’t using paper forms to fill out, are you?

Can you create a simpler experience where the customer orders and the info auto drops into your system?

Wouldn’t it be great if that same order has the goods auto ordered from your vendor and the job scheduled to the correct machine? (Hey, I’m working on that part for InkSoft)

But for your shop, do you have too many processes? 

What’s making you your money? Instead of trying to be all things to all customers, what if you simplified your shop’s strategy to what is the most profitable? When was the last time you took a deep dive into your metrics for your processes based on profit margin?

Off the top of your head, can you name the most profitable job for your shop for 2017? Not the largest, but the one with the biggest profit margin percentage. 

Conversely, what was the worst?

You want more of one and less of the other. Simplify in what you are going after this year.


Bonus – The Sixth Word – “Lagniappe”


Lagniappe (noun la·gniappe \ ?lan-?yap , lan-?yap \)


This is a Cajun word that means something given as a bonus or extra gift when you buy something. If you have ever been to New Orleans you know what I’m talking about. 

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

This is the unexpected thing that delights. It’s a secret until it shows up.

For example, what if on orders you threw in fifty coozies with your customers logo on them? 

Maybe you could donate to a local philanthropy on their behalf? 

How much excitement would be generated to get a dozen trucker caps with their design too?

What could you do to build a better relationship and feeling of goodwill with your customers? Can you think of something that would align with both your customer’s needs and your brand’s marketing voice?

Try it!


“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” – Willie Nelson

“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” – Richard Branson


Want to Talk Strategy?


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