Monday, February 25, 2013

Preparing Your Product Samples: Put Some Thought Into It!

The  fastest and best way to get your brand and company profile across is by providing prospective clients a glimpse of your products - a clear look at the anticipated end result of their investment.

What do companies want to know about what you're selling?

Is it of good quality? Clients will want to know that you are providing them the best options possible for their promotional products and decorated apparel. The items you sell will be used to promote their company and send out a message about their brand. The shirts you embroider may be the uniforms they wear every day.  The shirts you print may be resold their customers, putting their reputation on the line. If you provide them with low quality merchandise, this will reflect badly on their company and their investment in your products will have been wasted. 

Are you giving me options? Don’t forget that not every company will want the same jacket with a left chest logo. Make sure that you represent your company’s products in as comprehensive a way as possible. With that said, you also shouldn’t drown them in too many options. Not only will you have to pay an arm and a leg for shipping (if you don’t do courtesy calls) or break your arms and legs while trying to lug all your products around (if you do courtesy calls).

Even people in pharmaceutical sales limit their wares to the roller bag. If you want to see them in action peddling their quick medical fixes, do watch ‘Love, Sex and Other Drugs’, the movie also provides a glimpse into the dirty underworld of promotional products and corporate giveaways.

How will it benefit my company? Before you begin selling promotional products and decorated apparel – you need to do your research! People will always want to know the projected ROI for each product. You need to brush up on your corporate image pointers and brand building.
Why should they choose your product? Why should they choose your company? What can you bring to the table that your competitors can’t touch?

Tip # 1: Stick to the Basics

As appealing as the thought may be – you can’t feasibly bring out every design you've sewn and expect your client to go “oh wow!” if you want your client to see the range of work that you’ve done, then do what we have done in the past and put together a promotional catalogue – but keep the actual samples you bring around with you to a minimum. It’s probably a good idea to at least bring one design per size that you carry – size is one consideration that won’t translate well in printed form. 

If we’re talking about promotional products, just choose the best from your collection and do have photos and color samples for the other items that you don’t have actual samples for. If they are interested in any particular item, offer to do a trial print run with their chosen items so they can decide which one to choose for their company.

Sticking to the basics also means that you don’t confuse your client with too many choices. This could delay the process of selection and ultimately stand in the way of your transaction.

Tip # 2: Choose the fun samples

Just because you should stick to the basics doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while preparing your sample products. Don’t, for example, stick to just a plain embroidered polo when you have both the opportunity and equipment to do so much more! Try stepping out of your comfort zone and use this opportunity to showcase your company’s versatility.  If you have a new process or method that you want to promote, why not bring a sample of that along?

Your samples are supposed to give your clients an idea of what you can do. It won’t do if you limit yourself by only bringing the tried and tested products to the table. Chances are that they’ve already seen it and they will be hard-pressed to figure out why you’re different if you don’t introduce anything new. 

Also, since you’re already in the business of selling promotional products? Why not invest in your creating your own products and give out small tokens with your own company information and brand printed on it?

Tip # 3: Be sensitive. Be aware.

If you're marketing prospect is a faith-based company, for example, don’t go in there with products that make fun of their beliefs or verge on the blasphemous. Know your client and anticipate what they will expect from your company.  Be fun, but don’t get too crazy. You might end up alienating perfectly good customers along with anyone else in their community.

When preparing your sample products, make sure you have done research regarding market trends and potential customers. Also, don’t forget to cover your bases when it comes to using other people’s ideas or a variation thereof. If, for example, you think it’s a good idea to use Mickey Mouse’s image on a right chest and then your client’s fun logo on the left – you’ll need to check with both parties before pushing through with it. Intellectual property rights are no joke and you get in serious trouble if these companies find you capitalizing on images that aren’t yours.

Also, one of the best things to do when you’re introducing yourself to a new company is to really listen to them. Imagine being in their shoes and realizing that this company or individual paid attention to your reminiscing about a particular favorite tshirt that you lost and then having them take the time to recreate it for you. That’s good marketing!

Tip # 4: It’s not about how much you spend!

Don’t break the bank when you’re producing your sample products! You can make use of previous projects to showcase what you can do and bring blank sample sizes for that particular project. Don’t spend a lot on making sure that every sample you bring by is branded with a customer’s logo unless they specifically request this from your company. Remember – preparing orders takes manpower (labor cost), equipment, materials and other costs.

Not every customer is going to buy your products. Make it clear that producing custom samples means a corresponding cost that they will have to pay if they want to request it done. You can work out a deal that the cost of producing the sample can be deducted from the total order cost so they don’t feel like they are being overcharged. Don’t shortchange yourself or your company.

Tip # 5: Educate your customer

When you walk into a meeting with your client – they’re probably already going to have their own expectations regarding brands to be used and which printing or embroidery process they would like to commission your company for. Although it’s important that you listen carefully to your client, that doesn’t mean that you have to keep your industry knowledge and experience bottled up.

If you know that the brand they are suggesting does not manufacture apparel compatible with your equipment, give them a sample of pieces that will work. Don’t discredit their suggestion – just make your client aware that they have other options.

Tip # 6: Put your best foot forward

Always be professional in your client dealings – from your own outfit, appearance and attitude to how you present your sample products. Don’t take first impressions for granted. Clients want to deal with a serious businessperson and not a college student looking to make a quick buck only to leave them high and dry. You are the best advertisement your company has. Don’t blow it!

When it comes to samples, don’t arrive at a meeting with defective samples. It will reflect badly on your company and create an image in your client’s head of T-shirt orders filled with holes and rainbow Rorschach ink blot-type output.

If you’re bringing by embroidery samples, don’t choose to bring glaringly (and obviously not meant to be) off-center designs or 3D puff designs that have the foam sticking out through the thread. For promotional products, make sure that the pens write and the tumblers don’t have holes or cracks in them.


  1. Very nice post, I learned how to properly prepare my product samples, and lots of other things in this post. Thank you once again for another well written post.

  2. Great tips you have here. We are in the process of getting a logo done up for my husband's online business. Will have to make sure to keep this post in mind for when we get it completely done.