Most print shops don’t make it past the 5 year mark.
Because staying in business requires two things. One is simple, and the other is harder:
- Paying customers.
- Obvious, right? You need cash coming in.
- A system for managing your sales.
- Less obvious. You can’t just send Quotes to customers and hope they’ll bite!
And we know that shops grow faster when they have a good Quote Pipeline.
Every print shop has a unique opportunity. That’s the magic of the entrepreneurial screen printing industry. Ultimately, it’s up to your shop to figure out exactly what makes it special – and capitalize on that.
Since partnering with a few thousand print shop owners through Printavo – and interviewing dozens of shops on the PrintHustlers Podcast – we’ve learned that there are a few simple and realistic ways for anyone to drive more sales to their screen printing shop.
Dive deeper: read the 7 best sales techniques Printavo has learned from 3,000+ print shops.
Hire Sales Representatives First
Even if you’re a masterful salesperson, you’ll eventually need help with sales.
But what if one of your very first hires was a salesperson?
It’s amazing what print shops can accomplish without a dedicated salesperson. The common story we’ve seen many times is that a hard-working entrepreneur grows their business quickly – then they hire salespeople and see their business truly blossom.
The most effective way to drive more sales to your print shop is simple: give the job to an expert who can focus entirely on making sales.
How to find and hire great sales representatives
Hiring sales representatives for print shops is no cakewalk.
We suggest considering the type of person you want to hire. Are they going to work outside sales? Then you want someone that is:
- Willing to be rejected
- Able to take initiative
- Comfortable making lots of phone calls
- Always looking on the bright side
Some of the best salespeople come from backgrounds that are unconventional.
“Search for people that are self-starters,” says sales expert Kevin Baumgart. “The people that do well in a corporate environment might not do well in a print shop.”
To get a sense of how local companies hire and pay sales staff, you should look at Payscale, Glassdoor and Indeed.
Have a great experience at a local shop with their sales team? Give them your info and tell them you’re hiring.
How to use sales representatives
The best way to use sales reps is to put them in places you can’t go.
Remote sales reps can be just as effective (or more) as a rep that’s based in your shop.
Consider these great opportunities for sales reps to reach a broader audience:
- Nearby cities
- Different states
- Embedded on college campuses
- Local events and venues
The goal with a sales rep is to place someone in areas and around people that you can’t reach while you’re running your business.
Your print shop can stay local, but use that sales rep to harness previously unreachable markets.
Sponsor Events Your Customers Love
Marketing makes sales much easier, and sponsoring events is the simplest way to reach your community.
If you’re not convinced that sponsorships matter, you should know that there’s science behind it.
The simple fact is that if someone is familiar with your business, they’re more likely to purchase something from it, because the more they see it the more they like it.
It’s called the familiarity effect, and it’s grounded in experimental psychology.
If your brand isn’t highly visible, you’re going to work much harder to introduce your brand to potential customers. The ideal customer is already familiar with your brand!
How to find effective sponsorships
Evaluate where your favorite customer comes from.
Do you lean on a local sport, a big race, or a particular type of person? Maybe you print for motorcyclists. Maybe you really love printing for bands. Or maybe you’re deep into the athletic uniform game.
The point is simple, but so few shops actually do this in a focused way: drill down and find out where your customers go to have fun.
The easiest way to get an overview of local events is simply to check Facebook’s Events section and see if anything interests you. Talk to your customers about what they’re doing and why they’re ordering custom printed items from you – there’s always a story there.
Some examples of sponsorships that can yield tremendous visibility are:
- Street festivals in your city during the summer
- Sporting events like local 5K races, marathons, and triathlons
- Local sports teams
- Recreational sports leagues
- Youth sporting events like Little League
- Summer camps
- Charity events like food drives
- Pet adoption events
- Concerts and music festivals
- High school and collegiate events
Should you spend a lot on sponsorships?
You don’t need to shell out big bucks and be the primary sponsor for an event to get value from sponsorships. Even spending a few hundred dollars to sponsor the right event can yield a great return on investment.
Just getting your logo and your image out to where your people are is a high-value activity (and a lot of fun). Start small (for instance, simply getting listed with your local Chamber of Commerce or sponsoring a local sports team).
You can even track the effectiveness of your sponsorships by offering a small discount code or referral coupon on any ads you run.
You do have to pay to play, but the familiarity you’ll introduce to your target market is worth every penny.
Another avenue we’ve seen print shops take: start the event yourself. Want to sell to marathoners, but don’t have a marathon in your town? Get to work and build it.
Write a Newsletter (No, Seriously, This Works!)
Creating and retaining a customer base for a print shop is the major long-term challenge.
People just don’t need to buy custom printed products over and over unless they have a great reason to.
If you’re not staying in contact with your customers, then who is?
Newsletters have two major advantages to any other type of marketing:
- They’re free.
- You can send email for free
- They’re not controlled by some big tech company’s algorithm.
- Unlike Instagram, Facebook, or other social platforms, email is not controlled by some third-party
A newsletter is a simple and affordable way to maintain your customer relationships and keep yourself in your customers’ mind. They’re pressure-free, aren’t focused on sales, and keep customers up to date about the latest happenings with your company.
How to write a great newsletter
Printavo sends a weekly newsletter. You don’t have to start with every week – every month is fine – but the best way to start is to make a big list of things you can write a newsletter about and subsections to include in your newsletter.
- Events you’ve attended
- Awesome jobs you’ve completed recently
- Great artwork from your shop
- Profiles of great customers and what they do
- Interviews with staff
- Discussions about your newest equipment purchases
- Pictures of your shop’s pets
- Garments or processes you’re excited about
- Goofy things happening around the shop
You can use your newsletter to show exactly what your brand focuses on.
Is your shop’s brand silly and fun-loving, or more serious and dedicated?
Do you have a sharp and simple design scheme – or one that’s complicated and artistic?
To build your newsletter list, you can use a service like Sumo or Unbounce to create a popup on your website. You customize the popup’s settings so it’s unobtrusive and doesn’t appear to customers more than once a month.
From there, you can leverage a service like MailChimp or intercom to carefully curate how often you email your customers, determine whether they open and click on your emails, and even A/B test different subject lines and content to find out what’s most successful with your audience.
Building a newsletter and mailing list is one of the simplest and highest-value recurring activities any business can do.
It keeps customers coming back, keeps the conversation rolling, and gives you a chance to show off your unique branded voice.
Start a Rewards Program (Even If It’s Small)
Rewards programs are one of the most powerful tools that large corporations use to keep their customers coming back.
Think about it:
- Pharmacies and grocery stores offer discounts when you use a loyalty card
- Credit card companies offer cash back
- Restaurants offer repeat diner discounts
- Airlines have frequent flyer miles
- Hotels give free nights
Large businesses of all types love rewards programs! But small businesses have yet to jump on this bandwagon.
There are plenty of reasons not to offer discounts and rewards, but it’s obvious that this is a powerful tool for retention and loyalty.
Two simple ways to offer rewards
You can enroll customers in a rewards program that doesn’t need to be intricate or expensive. You don’t have to offer steep discounts or unreasonable price breaks. The simplest method is a simple punch card or even use software to help track customer interactions.
Offer complementary merchandise, a few extra garments, or waive reprint fees. Adding samples, the option to have things reprinted without paying a setup fee, or just including a few extra shirts in the order are all low-hanging fruit.
Give small gifts, like Amazon gift cards. Better yet, partner with a local shop to offer a discount. If you can, connect with local businesses to offer a discount for their services. For example, incentivize the local sandwich shop to offer a discount for people that wear a shirt your shop printed (you could give the sandwich shop a discount).
You don’t have to break the bank just to offer rewards.
The goal of a rewards program is actually simple: you demonstrate to the customer that they win in the long run by sticking with your print shop.
A great example of small rewards
One of our favorite tricks for rewarding customers comes from Terminus Tees’ Jon Ladd.
Rather than charge a screen fee, Jon rolls that fee into his overall prices.
Then, on Printavo invoices, he adds a note called SCREEN FEE. He makes a big deal of pointing out to customers that they’ve waived this (nonexistent) $20 fee.
Always Get Reviews and Referrals
The best advertising is word of mouth. We surveyed more than 100+ print shops and 40% rely on word of mouth for their marketing and advertising.
This means that referrals are the most valuable tool you have at your disposal.
Always make it easy for your customers to refer their friends, family, and co-workers to you.
The simple way to drive more referrals is to use branded stickers and swag with your orders. Hand out business cards and fliers whenever you interact with customers. It should be obvious that you’re always looking for new clients, that you appreciate their positive referrals, and that you’re thankful for their business.
A simple review and referral email template
First, remember that you should always send a follow-up email for any print job – big or small. You can easily automate this with Printavo.
Need a simple template for a referral email?
Thanks for being such a great customer!
Would you tell the world by leaving a review*?
We give every reviewer a free t-shirt – and pick one every month to win a $20 Amazon gift card.
If you didn’t have a positive experience, could you reply to this email? We’ll make it right. No questions asked. Really.
P.S. know friends or family that need great merchandise? Send them our way** and get 15% off your next order!
*insert a link to your Google My Business page here.
**use your shop’s homepage or create a referral landing page with this link.
The details of the incentives aren’t the point here. You can change them to your liking. Some ideas include:
- Incentives for good reviews (and a way to stop bad reviews before they happen).
- Branded gift cards.
- Credit at your shop.
- Sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways.
You take it to the next level and use a service like Podium, Swell, or TrustPilot to manage your reviews.
Bonus: Consistent Branding Makes Your Shop Seem Bigger
Professional branding is a challenging task. Luckily, most print shops are armed with design and communication skills.
There are some basic branding tips that we’ve learned over the years from consultations with experts (and from watching successful shops).
Find your shop’s core values
At Printavo, we create simple shop management software. It’s not just a phrase – it’s a statement of our values. Use your phrase everywhere, every time.
We even “named our tribe”: Print Hustlers.
These are simple (but effective) strategies for focusing in on what really matters to your team and your shop. Repetition is key.
Make the most professional website you can.
With services like Wix or SquareSpace and a plethora of affordable freelancers available on services like Fiverr or Upwork, there’s no excuse to have an outdated and ugly website.
Learn how to make a website for your print shop here.
Use social proof
You’ve seen websites that have the logos for other brands on them.
This is a simple trick to leverage an aspect of human psychology called social proof.
Essentially, people will lend you more credibility if you’re associated with other top brands in your community.
Always use this strategy, even if you’ve only worked with small or local businesses!
Use video marketing
Whether you’re making simple videos for social media or spending a little money for higher-quality production, video lends your shop an air of seriousness and professionalism.
You can use video marketing for your print shop in all kinds of ways: from sharing tips for other print shops to featuring your customers.
We really suggest trying a service like Bomb Bomb to make custom videos for every client, too. Show off your finished product and get them pumped for their merch!
Need some inspiration? Peek the best YouTube channels for screen printing.
Use your color theme and font every time
Whether you’re creating an advertisement or writing an email, use the same color theme and font every time.
This bolsters your brand’s voice and dramatically improves how customers view your professionalism.