Rare are the opportunities companies get to compare their product's quality to their competitor's. Even more rare, is when that comparison is truly "apples-to-apples."
One of our clients was approached by a screen printing provider who claimed he could do their shirts cheaper . . . he actually delivered on that claim! Not only were the shirts less expensive, but his quality was, well, cheap.
So, I thought I would take this opportunity to assist you in "sizing up the competition".
I want to make one thing clear, this is not an article where I will provide the answers, I want to help re-train your thinking about selecting the most qualified apparel embellishment providers. To do this, we need to establish what quality means.
5 Quality Standards in the Embellishment Industry.
- Product construction and durability. - Many mainstream, high-profile brands make high-tech fabrics that look great and feel even better. However, after a few washings, they're nothing more than a high-tech rag. A well-informed apparel provider will understand your needs and recommend products that will last and save money.
- Embellishment design engineering. - Apparel these days is made from so many materials and weaves it can make your head spin. In order to make sure the integrity of your design looks it's best on the apparel of your choice, talented designers must engineer your design to embellish properly on all materials.
- Embellishment application. - Thread puckering, ink cracking or peeling, are a few of the problems people worry about when ordering custom apparel. A company may have the latest, greatest, and biggest shop in town . . . but if their apparel puckers, cracks, or peels, then their machines are not being run by competent operators who know what they're doing . . . RUN!
- Well-trained, knowledgeable garment printing and embroidery machine operators. - Garment printing and embroidery machines are only as intelligent as their operators. It is next to impossible to interview all the operators, but if you know what to look for, actual embroidered and printed samples can reveal more than enough about the competence of the operators.
- Customer Service and On-Time Delivery. - If your current provider tells you your order will be delivered in 2-weeks, and 6-weeks later they deliver . . . ask for your money back. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for serious embellishment providers to be late on delivery.
Notice that "price" is NEVER mentioned in the list of quality standards. That is because, unfortunately, too many people in our industry simply cannot compete with quality, so they price their product so low that uneducated consumers blindly purchase from them.
What I want you to focus on here though, is not price, but what the companies offer, their quality, and their ability to deliver that quality in a timely manner.
As you research embellishment provider websites, and even call on some, ask the following questions:
- Does this company appear 'professional'? - Often, apparel embellishers put zero effort into their web presence. If, they don't care how you perceive them, why would they care about how you are perceived?
- What is their "expertise"? - Today, too many providers 'over-diversify.' Instead of being 'Excellent' at one thing, they are 'okay' at several. Do not get sucked in by a business that says they can "Do-It-All" . . . they can, but at your expense.
- How creative is their ability to provide exciting graphics compared to the others? - Look at their galleries (if they have any). If they use a lot of clipart, or the graphics look lame, yours will too!
- Are their galleries displaying pictures of actual embroidery and screen printed samples, or are they graphic renderings? - Artwork for embroidery and screen printing is unique to other types of artwork. It may look great as a 3-D rendering, but if improperly engineered, looks horrible on a garment. You should be looking at actual garments in their galleries.
- Are they informative, or just trying to pay for all the equipment they are showing in their shop? - They should sound like they've pushed a squeegee or threaded an embroidery head before. If they simply want to talk "over-your-head" with industry terminology that you don't care about, they're hiding their lack of quality behind their equipment manuals.
- Do they provide you with reasonable options, or simply selling you what you want? - I am a professional in the embroidery and screen printing industry, as you are in your industry. If I can help you save a few bucks by informing you of a better solution, then you just found an friend in the industry.
Okay, it is really important that you ask these and more questions while on your fact finding mission. If the provider cannot answer your question honestly, or professionally, and in a way you can understand, you may want to simply move on.
I feel that if one of the companies you contact answers all the questions I've listed above . . . and they deliver . . . then you win, the industry wins, and that means more people will have faith in apparel marketing . . . and I've done my job.