Students, parents, grandparents and alumni are always looking for ways to show their school spirit and support, and the need for screen printed apparel reaches far beyond t-shirts and hoodies sporting the school logo. With some leg work and some research, you could be targeting the massive college market and growing your screen printing business in a big way.
For most people, screen printed college apparel brings to mind basic garments in school colors printed with the school’s basic logo. But there are so many more opportunities for marketing screen prints on college campuses. There’s certainly a large market for basic school spirit apparel, but there are many other ways you could find an “in” in the college market.
Student groups — from fraternities and sororities to academic and extracurricular clubs — are big purchasers of custom apparel. These groups will get apparel not only with their club name but also for special events, rush weeks and new members. If you can make inroads with student groups and organizations, you’re guaranteed to earn yourself repeat customers.
Colleges perpetually have events and fundraisers, and those events and fundraisers need their marketing apparel. As you look to make inroads on campus, find a list of major campus events and home in on their organizers.
Perhaps the holy grail of college-level screen printing is to become a supplier for the school itself. One of the best ways to do that is to make yourself a one-stop shop for all of the college’s screen printing needs. Colleges print t-shirts for incoming freshmen, for special events and for staff. They’ll also likely look for marketing items like coffee cups, travel mugs and pens. As you market yourself to college-level decision makers, make sure they know how you can simplify their jobs by meeting all of their screen printing needs.
School loyalty doesn’t end at graduation, and alumni are major purchasers of college-branded apparel. As you select garments to print, and look for groups to market to, don’t forget to look for items that will appeal to alumni and for alumni groups that might purchase for their members or events.
Before you can reach out to the groups, event organizers and people you’d like to market to, you still have some work to do. For college logos, and individual logos like those of Greek organizations, there are nearly always licensing considerations. Know which clearances you need before you can lay down a print with a college or college organization’s logo so you know what steps to take as soon as you land your target client.
Additionally, do some research into fashion trends and popular marketing items for each college subgroup. Sororities may be looking for garments tailored for women. Alumni might want more structured and higher quality garments. Trends, such as distressed logos, vintage styles and environmentally friendly apparel, are always changing, and you will want to make sure you’re approaching potential collegiate clients with the goods they want.
Once you’ve found a list of groups and events for your college market, and identified items they’re likely to be interested in, you have some leg work to do. Find the people in charge of making apparel decision for these groups and reach out to them. Find out how they’re not being served by their current suppliers, and let them know how you can do better, whether it’s by providing more on-trend apparel, offering a wider range of items or by serving as their one-stop shop for screen-printed branded items. And don’t be afraid to start small; making an in-road with just one of a university’s organization likely will lead to you making more contacts and to word-of-mouth advertising for your screen printing shop.