As I speak with people in the decorated apparel industry from around the country, it is very interesting to hear everyone’s take on what we need to get reopened and moving again. I’m not touching the political debate, but there are three main questions at the top of everyone’s minds.
- What are you doing now to be able to reopen?
- What are you doing to get organized and pushing sales for the next few months?
- What is your long-term thinking about how markets are changing? Get prepared, especially with your marketing and lead gen.
We are in a once-in-a-generation crisis. Many small businesses will close, either immediately, or a few months from now when the financial strain is unbearable. These are your customers, friends, neighbors, and even colleagues in this industry.
Not everyone will survive.
But for those that do, and want to build a faster recovery process I’ve outlined a few key steps below to get you thinking about the three points outlined above. Every business is a little different, but there are some factors that are germane to everyone.
What Are You Doing Now To Reopen?
From the talks I’ve had with other business leaders, companies that are open are dependent on a few things. Geography, as some areas are still in shelter-in-place mode. Sales, as maybe you can work, but haven’t ramped up orders yet. Customers, many shops were caught in the problem of heavily relying on event-based or sports for their market.
How does your shop fit in with those three factors? Geography, Sales, and Customers?
Eventually, we may get to the finish line here and get shops completely functional, but I think there are a few key things that need to happen first.
First, Handle The Current Situation
However, don’t do it like everyone else. Watch this video.
Amazing isn’t it?
If you want more sales, you are going to have to market your company. But you need to do it in an authentic, and helpful way.
Where are you in the reopening? Full-tilt bozo and all hands on deck? Or, just a few folks in and about 25% of where you normally would be at this time of year?
What’s going on?
In the last few weeks I have been speaking with about 6-10 shops a day from all around the country. (Want to chat, click here and schedule a call!) What I’ve learned is that everyone is handling this differently, but the successes seem to be in these areas:
- Developing new ideas and taking them to customers. The phone isn’t ringing. You are going to have to go after it. Don’t sit there.
- Think up creative solutions to current challenges. For example, no high school graduation ceremony? That’s ok, we can produce several hundred coroplast yard signs to show support. Sell a new idea.
- Service industries or any local company that is hiring. The new crew needs a new look.
- Reopening businesses? Companies are wanting the “Welcome Back!” apparel for their staff. They need them now. You need to be networking to get these jobs.
- Hi-vis safety vests for the pandemic, food bank, or testing crews. One-color black impression on the back. Selling at quantities of 1000 a pop to local government or health organizations. A good number of shops seem to be doing these.
- Promotional item companies with “care” packages going out to their customers. Can you do the fulfillment? Huge waves of need right now.
But to reopen, you need your crew back and working safely. One of the things many shop owners are having to deal with are employees that don’t want to come back, as they are making more money on unemployment than what they were getting paid normally. I’ve heard this from too many shop owners from every corner of the country.
You need to state the facts. Your company is reopening and you need them working. If they refuse, then it is your legal obligation to report their refusal. The unemployment will then be cut off.
If they come back with a less than stellar attitude, make sure you do a good job of documenting how you are handling the reopening. Video the all-employee meetings where you outline the best practices and expected attitudes that you want to see. Include copies of all written notices in their files. Have employees sign that they understand the rules and your expectations, especially your daily procedures for facility hygiene.
Document your steps to create a safe work environment. Show what you are doing. Social distancing, hand-sanitizer stations, cleaning, and PPE.
This is important, as that malingerer employee needs to be terminated. I get to use my favorite quote of all time here.
From Jocko Willink, “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”
Your team is looking to you to not put up with nonsense. Professionals want to work with other professionals, not a bunch of whiney two-year-olds. TCB. Taking care of business.
Organized and Ready For the Next Few Months
Your business owner’s brain needs to be focused on what’s around the corner about six to eight weeks from now. Ideally at all times.
Sure, it is easy to get distracted and curious as to what’s in production this week. That’s natural. Please do that.
But, if you want sales. If you want to create a marketing plan to get sales. Your mental focus should be always ahead.
Because you need to be building bridges to those opportunities. Right now what are you lining up for sales in July and August? Are you networking, marketing, phoning, videoing, texting, and collaborating with customers to build that future?
Your customers are still dealing with the pandemic. They are stuck in the mud. Your job is to hitch your truck up to them and pull them out of their COVID-19 induced mental freeze.
This happens by asking the simple questions.
- “How are you?”
- “What are you struggling with?”
- “A few months from now, what will be your biggest problem?”
Your job is to listen. In your wheelhouse, what can you do to help with this?
If you talk to enough of your customers you can get a better sense of the big picture. What can you create that can help them? You can use one idea and promote it to several different customers if it is sticky enough.
This won’t happen if you are simply waiting for your “orders to come back”. Those days are over.
New ideas and strategies are what is going to win the day now. Get busy developing and organizing those now.
Long Term Thinking
Have you started thinking about this year’s holiday season yet? What about Q1 or Q2 of 2021?
You need to be.
As more information is developing, your company needs to understand the new order of things. Bob Dylan was right. “For the times they are a-changin’.”
Watch this interview that I had with Michelle Moxley, who is the R&D Director for the M&R Companies on “Selling and Producing the Unit of One”.
We need to be thinking creatively and look for the opportunity as it gets presented. What can you be doing differently that will make an impact that will drop some serious weight to your bottom line?
The coronavirus pandemic accelerated trends that were already in place. We have been talking about the “retail apocalypse” for some time now. Online stores have been gaining traction.
But now, at a time when nobody wants to touch anything? If you aren’t online you are stagnant. What online experience can you create that will resonate with your top customers?
Need some fast action takeaways about what to do to get started? Get your mind wrapped around these:
- Digital, digital, digital. How is your website? Are you selling from it? If there ever was a time where you need an online presence, this is it. Laggards beware.
- More social channels will be selling. Are you putting a store on Facebook? Start developing your strategy now.
- How are you going to engage with customers online? Before, I’ll bet you barely noticed anything that happened online. Now, you will need a team. Start putting some thought into this before you get too far behind.
- Your website experience is going to be tested. How is your site speed? Does it load in under 2.5 seconds? Visually appealing? Functional? Optimized for mobile?
- Ramp up technology with virtual meetings. What tech are you using? Can you do virtual trade-show demonstrations or meetings with customers? As more people become comfortable with Zoom-like experiences, this is going to be the norm. What are you using to set appointments? Follow-ups? Think this through so it is a great experience for your guests.
- How safe is your facility? Not just for your workers, but for the products you produce. Are you demonstrating the hygiene and showing what you do?
- As more stores and customers are going online, you are going to see a trend with our industry to offer fulfillment services. Are you ramping up for that? What will you need to not only succeed but be best in class? There is an opportunity here.
- Stay agile. Nobody knows the future, including all the talking heads on television. It’s anyone’s guess. This means that you may need to pivot as new information or data is released. As my old football coach used to say, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” More changes could happen. Stay on your toes.