Taking a money making tactic and turning it into a full-time business is difficult. Expanding that business beyond yourself is even more difficult. During my 12 years in the custom apparel industry, I have found 5 clear characteristics among the most successful brands born from one-man operations. This is by no means the definitive guide to building your business, but I hope that you can draw inspiration from a few of these suggestions to spur your business to the next level.
Clear Customer Acquisition Strategy
A clear and concise marketing strategy can quickly separate your brand from the rest of the pack. The advertising tools available to small businesses are more powerful than ever. Regardless of budget limitations, I suggest looking into advertising on these platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest. Your advertisements should clearly call out a product that is linked directly to the ad. Do not link to your homepage as you will see a drop off in your ROI.
Thankfully, all of these platforms allow users to also build out a boundless following organically. Organic growth can be a tricky task. For our own business we focus on high quality staged photographs and regular conversation with followers. If you find yourself needing a bit more help, Crowdfire allows you to directly target Instagram and Twitter users based on their hashtag use.
Move from working in your business to working ON your business
All businesses regardless of size ought to have departments clearly organized. Even if you are your entire team, divide your time and attentions among the following: Customer Service, Marketing, Accounting, Fulfillment, Design. In the beginning this may be as simple as allotting time to each department. As your business evolves this structure will more clearly define your strengths and weaknesses. With this clear outline of the various daily tasks you must complete you will be able to hire with purpose and your employees will have a clear path.
With these departments built out remember to leave time weekly to be the CEO. All successful companies feature a position responsible for planning and guiding the team into the future. It is essential that companies in the early stages make the time to work on the structure of the business.
Hire Smart and Fire Very Fast
Thanks to the internet it is easier than ever to hire top talent without the commitment of a salaried position. When starting your company, utilize websites like Fiverr and Onlinejobs.ph whenever possible. When you do find yourself needing staff for any variety of positions, I suggest you create a test. At our business Shirt Agency, job applicants are offered the opportunity to do a one week paid trial with us following the interview process. We make it clear that they have not yet been hired. These clear expectations have worked well for us. Our team gets the opportunity interact with the new hire and give us feedback before a proper proposal is offered. While this may not be possible for highly skilled positions, it truly is amazing when applied to most common tasks.
Because we are a printing and fulfillment business, companies that we interact with all have some form of online shop. The difference I see in the successful businesses all stem from a true commitment to quality. Currently, the market is so saturated with startup apparel brands. It takes a huge deal of effort to stand out in the crowd. You can very easily purchase a high quality theme thru Shopify, and that will help. But the real difference is in the photos. Beautiful professional photographs will showcase your product in a way that a photoshopped mockup, or worse yet, your cell phone will never do. If you believe your product is at the stage that there is an eager audience awaiting, pay a professional.
Old School Networking
It may sound a bit crass, but I have made more contacts in the bars after a trade show than I ever have during the day. It is free to walk several of the largest shows in the industry (MAGIC, ISS, AGENDA). Head out to your nearest trade show for the weekend and meet everyone you possibly can. The goal in mind should not be to sell people, but to instead expand your circle of influence. A simple connection within your industry can have enormous effects on your business. One of our primary customers is actually the boyfriend of woman I had met 5 years prior and stayed in touch with on Facebook. Today he is our 5th largest client. I have never sold her a thing but at the right moment she made the right introduction, and that is the power of networking.
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