Sublimation is still growing in the garment decorating world and I really don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. As I mentioned in a recent Impressions article, the consumers and the retailers are demanding a faster turnaround time and smaller minimum order amounts. With the wider range of polyester fabrics available today, as compared to 30 years ago, the sublimation process has become the favorite process of many fashion labels, sports jersey manufacturers, and even your local softball team. I’m writing this wearing my favorite recreational volleyball team jersey that is a moisture-wicking polyester fabric with an all over sublimation design. Our team name was the Wallbangers, as we didn’t always hit it in the court but yet we demanded a comfortable polyester jersey with no hand (the feel of the ink on the garment) for our weekend fun.
The growth of sublimation in the marketplace has made it even more important to find and own a niche and create ways to increase the perceived value your customers see in the items you sell. If your goal is to be the lowest priced decorator in town, then this article is not for you. The race to the bottom is never a successful one for anyone and all it does is make the items you sell a commodity. There will always be someone willing to sell it for a nickel less than you. In this article, we are going to explore finding your niche and then discuss a couple of ideas for putting your sublimation equipment to work maximizing your profits.
Again, in today’s world, it is extremely important to find and own a niche. The wall of content and noise that each one of us has to deal with on a daily basis makes it difficult to reach the right customers. To cut through all of that noise it is imperative, that we find a niche and then own it at a level that makes it impossible for any potential competitors to your direct niche to get majority piece of the pie. While that might sound daunting, it is actually very easy so long as you hyper-focus your niche to one specific area that you can serve very well. To start finding this niche I suggest making a list of 10 to 20 topics and situations combined that you feel most comfortable talking about. Don’t give it a lot of thought, just start writing. Then take that list and see how those items might match up with your business capabilities. Once you find that possible match think of all the ways you might serve that space and how their needs are not being met. That will be the intersection of your message going forward along with your ability to provide them a product they will happily pay a premium to have. Within this process, set some specific goals for your new niche endeavor and measure it continuously. If after a period of time (one to three months is not a period of time, think more like a year) you are not meeting your goals, try to refocus your niche and your goals towards the things that are working.
To help you get those creative juices flowing, let me give you a couple of examples of niche markets and how people are maximizing their niche market profits.
One of the big draws for sublimation as a digital process is the fact that you can customize an individual product for someone, including offering images. Think something like allowing Grandma to have images of her grand kids on a towel or coffee mug. But the problem with those images is most of us are not professional photographers with proper lighting, and backgrounds. So, when we give our iPhone photo to a sublimation expert it doesn’t look so great because it is dull or the background colors don’t look right with the foreground image. In steps Faced.Shop. They saw a niche for people to put faces on sublimation items and they solved the image problem. Their customers get so excited about getting their face or a face of a loved one, including the furry variety, onto all sorts of unique products, there is never any discussion of the price. The question becomes how many and what relatives need a towel with my face on it.
The next example is someone who saw a popular product doing well and discovered not only a better channel but also a better way to let the customers be in charge of the final product. We have all see the fun holiday-themed garden flags in your local home and garden store. The problem was everyone had the same flags based on the sale that Lowes or Home Depot had for the season and they were generic. In this case, a number of people have stepped up to the plate and many of them have used a platform called Jane.com to reach the potential customers. The came up with great designs centered around the holiday or time of year and then allowed the customer to choose the design they wanted. On top of that, the customer can also personalize the flag with a name or initial or whatever the design was intended to have. Now each customer is able to have a completely unique flag and get a new one for every occasion.
Last but not least, I was fortunate enough to come across this brilliant set-up. The co-founder and CEO recently presented at a conference about digital decorating and making the products on demand for customers. His name is Tim Williams and his business is the YR Store Inc. (www.thisisyr.com). His niche was understanding technology and they saw a problem where retail brands were being left behind because malls were closing and no one had any reason to go to a department store. So they took their technology and used that to allow them to develop unique pop-up stores with major retail brands, like Polo and Levi’s. Now customers had a reason to go to the mall because this was their chance to get an original Levi’s product that was customized for them. Using the technology customers could choose the design they want and then customize it to fit their personality. Shirts sell for over a hundred dollars and people were happy to pay it. They line up for these limited edition products with a brand name label on it and the garment is decorated while they shop and they get a text when it is ready.
Those are just a few of the ways people leverage their specific niche and the power of sublimation and digital decorating to own a space. What are you going to do to own your space?