Samples cause a lot of questions among decorators. Who should receive them? What impact does a sample have on bringing in new business? When should samples be offered? Where should samples be offered, online, only in brick and mortar shops, only if a customer is in front of you and asks? Why should samples even be offered at all? How should samples be used to increase business?
That’s a lot of questions, and there are probably just as many answers, depending on who is supplying them. Some companies elect to offer no samples at all. In some cases, instead of samples, a company will offer a sketch or a design mock-up. Other companies will offer a standard sample, but won’t do custom samples. Another option is to offer one custom sample for free, but charge for additional samples. In some shops the rule is, if you want a sample, you pay for it. The answers tend to depend somewhat on the philosophy of the shop being asked for a sample, somewhat on what the competition in the market in question is doing and, often, on the size and potential profitability of the proposed job.
So, given all the questions, and all the potential answers, how do you decided what your company policy should be regarding samples? The final decision will have to be based on the realities of your business, but here are some things to consider while making your decision.
How does your competition handle samples? Do a little research and see if you can determine how your competition replies when asked for a sample. If customers are conditioned to expect a “yes” when they ask for a sample, it makes business harder for your company if you’re the only “no”. Finding out if and what everyone else charges for samples is useful too. Knowing the norms for your market can help you decide what your company will do.
Can your shop do samples without sacrificing production? – Smaller shops that are one man bands, which have a single head machine or a manual press may not have the ability to produce samples the way a larger shop would. If making a sample is getting in the way of work that is producing income, it’s fairly easy to see what needs to be running.
Do you track the ratio of samples to actual jobs? The purpose of a sample is to convince the customer to give your company the job, so you want to know how many times that actually happens. Your tracking can be as simple as a spreadsheet, but there should be some way to see what samples are going out, and what percentage of those samples are resulting in jobs and money coming in. If you find you’re making a lot of samples, but not getting a lot of jobs, it may be time to reexamine your sample policy.
Standard samples vs. custom samples – Standard samples are samples of a product that are generic or were made simply to allow the customer to see and feel the product in question. Some companies will have a look book or a design wall that allows customers to see and touch the work so they can understand what their particular job might look like. For many customers this will be enough.
Custom samples, as the name implies, are samples created for a specific customer, generally using that customer’s artwork. A custom sample takes more time to produce and is generally only done for larger jobs. While customers may insist on custom samples at first, often their questions or concerns can be addressed using a standard sample. Creating custom samples also demands a high level of tracking, since you want a high ratio of custom samples turning into jobs. If you find you’re doing a lot of custom sample work and not getting a lot of orders in return, this is another sign that your sample policy may need some thought.
First up is a post from Eileen’s Machine Embroidery Blog about how to handle rush orders. A rush order can create stress in a shop, but it can also be profitable, and a great way to build credibility and gratitude with a business owner or event runner, if you can get their order to them quickly. The blog post makes good points, one being this, make sure to get all information in writing, not over the phone. When people are in a hurry, they make mistakes, so having things in writing protects both parties.
Second on the docket is a post from Retail Minded about the new overtime rule and how it may impact businesses. The focus of the article is retail stores, but the advice it gives would apply equally well to decoration businesses. I think the best advice in the piece is to start dealing with this now, so your business isn’t blindsided in December.
Third at bat, although I don’t usually promote my own writing in this series, is a post I wrote for our sister blog, SubliStuff, about how to sublimate a Cubbie. We’ve tried the process and know it isn’t that difficult to do. It also may add another profit center to your business. We are also in the process of having some decorators test rhinestones and vinyl on Cubbies. We’ll share the results of those tests when we have them.
Fourth on the list is a post from The Bling Blog by Sparkle Plenty which details 10 rules for working with your spouse. I know of a lot of decoration businesses that are run by families or spouses, and it is a special kind of balancing act. This post gives some good tips on how to keep work at work, and how to make sure the business doesn’t take over the entire relationship.
Finally, we have a post from the UnMarketing Blog about the fact that anything you put on social media, whether you say it is personal and not in any way connected to your company or not, reflects on your company. That certainly is true for anyone who owns a company, and often applies to employees as well. It’s lovely to think that a small disclaimer can make personal and business separate, but it can’t and it won’t. The best way to handle this is to assume everything you say reflects on the business you work for, and speak accordingly. If you don’t choose to do that, then be prepared for the consequences if you say something you shouldn’t, because there will be some.
Last but not least, another plug for EnMart, but it involves a really good sale, so you don’t want to miss it. We’re currently running a special on our sublimation systems for the month of June. We’re offering free ink, a sale on bypass trays and more. If you’re thinking of buying a sublimation system it’s definitely worth check out.