Learn how to take advantage of one of the most lucrative opportunities available to screen printers: schools!
Getting such a contract, or even an initial project, with schools can prove a challenge, however. Boosters, PTAs, athletic directors and coaches are creatures of habit: They may just continually resign with the same company because it’s easy and convenient. By using the right marketing tactics, you can find your way into the school apparel market and find a regular source of business.
1. Find the right contact
When approaching a school about providing screen printing services, you have to find the decision makers. Talking to coaches does you no good if it’s the athletic director who orders jerseys, and trying to contact the principal can be pointless if the PTA handles school spirit wear sales. If you know some people in the school system — teachers, parents, coaches or administrators — they might be able to help you locate the people who are in charge of apparel decisions. You also can reach out to the school secretary or a district administrative assistant, as they generally know who handles what within the school system.
Also, keep in mind that there might be multiple points of contact. The band boosters might order t-shirts for the band; the athletic director might be in charge of team gear; the Spanish teacher might order for the Spanish club. Again, network your way through the school system to find out which different groups have screen printing needs and who to talk to about fulfilling those needs.
2. Hone in on what you have to offer
As you approach your school contacts about your screen printing services, know up front what you can offer that sets you apart from other screen printing shops. Ask your contact about their current apparel needs, and ask about what they’re not getting from their current supplier. Can you print names on shirts more easily? Do you print on the best and most current athletic fabrics? Do you offer four-color process where their current supplier doesn’t? Do you print on a wider range of goods? Can you offer a more competitive price? Decision makers won’t be apt to change from a long-time supplier if you can’t identify and address a problem. Your goal as you market to school purchasers is to make them see the benefit in using your screen printing shop over others.
3. Make selling a cinch
More often than not, the people who handle screen printing orders have a very long to-do list. If you can make taking orders easier, that can be a major selling point when you are trying to drum up new business. Set up an online store specific to a school or school organization so students, parents and boosters can put in their own orders and forms of payment. If you’ve never set up an online store before, taking the time to do so can have a major payoff in attracting new business. If you’re not up for setting things up digitally, take charge of designing providing order forms.
4. Go for the upsell
If you’re only looking to take over a school’s current apparel needs, you’re not thinking big enough. As you work with your school contact, think about what else you have to offer. The PTA may have offered only t-shirts and sweatshirts to students, parents and teachers in the past. What about hats? Sports teams may have always ordered uniforms and warm-up gear, but can you provide logoed water bottles? The upsell can be particularly easy if you set up an online store for a school, as students, parents and teachers browsing the store can see a range of products you offer.
5. Think outside the box
Approaching your local public schools seems like common sense marketing, but don’t stop there. Private schools also have apparel needs (and their apparel needs might be greater due to dress codes), and so do preschools and daycares. Don’t forget to approach those schools, as well. As we mentioned above, every school likely has multiple groups that order screen printing apparel; make sure you’re doing the leg work to find as many potential customers within a school as you can. As you provide excellent products and service to one group or school, word will spread through the school community.
6. Don’t stop marketing
Once you land a school client or two, your work isn’t over. You can’t stop marketing your goods. Keep a thorough record for each of your school groups. Know when they usually place orders so that you reach out to them next year and make them regular customers. Try to anticipate the school or organization’s other needs; if you provided apparel to the football team, cheerleading squad or the band in the fall, be ready to talk to the decision makers about basketball and volleyball teams in the winter and track and baseball teams in the spring. When it comes to keeping your business steady and growing, you have to keep up on your marketing and outreach — whether that’s to school groups, church groups, sports teams or any other potential screen printing customers.