Sales dragging and you need some customers? Marshall Atkinson explains how to grab their attention


The good news is that customers are out there – you just need to get them to notice you. And how do you do that: through the power of social media. But not just any old social media, though: we’re talking media that’s content-rich, powerful, and relevant to what you do in your shop every day. The goal is to directly connect your post with the needs of your audience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s talk about what social media is and isn’t. A lot of busy shops have tried to post things on Facebook or maybe even Twitter with little success: the posts just sit there like yesterday’s pizza; nobody wants to touch them. So to begin with, ask yourself which social media outlets your customers use. You need to get busy and start following your customers (or target customers) by asking questions, taking surveys and keeping careful notes. It’s the only way to know where they hang out. Once you have this figured out, you can start tailoring your message to them on the right platform and channels.

Next comes the hard part. Actually building your promotional content. Before you fire off a post, think about what you are trying to achieve. Then, decide how you will know if your post is a success. Let’s discuss this more in depth.

Marshall says: Make it visual

Awesome Merchandise has a highly visual Twitter feed that looks, well, awesome. The company often shares behind the scenes videos of its team doing everything from screen printing and embroidering to drinking coffee and playing table football. Most of Awesome’s tweets contain an image, which makes them attention-grabbing in a busy Twitter feed, and the company makes blog post titles stand out by layering text over an image. Plus, it retweets plenty of tweets from happy customers, which further encourages engagement.

Twitter: @AwesomeMerch

Brand awareness

Brand awareness is the idea that when someone thinks they need the type of product or service you offer, it is your shop that instantly comes to mind. In fact, there is another term for it: top of mind placement. Brand awareness is driven by frequency and meaningful engagement. It isn’t necessarily driven by having a sale or by discounting your services. You want people to remember you exist so when it comes time to get some shirts printed, they think of you.

Here are some tips to use for your posts to drive brand awareness:

Make it visual  People like action photos of things happening. Just delivered 1,500 hats to a client for a big event? Take a selfie and post it with the boxes. Get the customer to share pics of the event with everyone wearing the hats you produced. If you are using Instagram or Twitter, drive that home by getting them to use a special hashtag. #thenameofyourshop or #awesometees or #somethingthatisfunky.

Solve a problem  A customer just asked about putting foil on a shirt. Post a pic of how this looks to your feed. Every time a customer poses a question to you, that should be a prompt to answer it in general terms on your social media feed.

Schedule it in advance  I use Buffer for all my social media posts and generally have things scheduled a few weeks in advance. This is a great tool to use as you can push out your content on multiple social media streams and channels at once.

Post relevant content  Your posts shouldn’t always be about you. Share content that you feel others would enjoy or benefit from. Better yet, share your customers’ posts when you can, as that drives engagement with the people that matter most.

Develop your brand strategy  Are all your marketing efforts linked with your logo, information and identity? Do you look professional or just hacked together? Your brand aesthetic is your calling card, so if it looks tired customers may go elsewhere. Develop your standards and stick to them.

Marshall says: Instagram is great for shop floor pics

OB1’s Instagram feed offers a compelling mix of behind the scenes pictures, work examples and more personal images. When showcasing work it has done for a customer, OB1 will tag the customer in the description, which is a great way to get more likes and reposts. Meanwhile the pictures of the garments clearly show the OB1 logo, usually on a hangtag. Another tip to pick up from OB1 is to use plenty of relevant hashtags in a comment below your image – not in the description itself. Hashtags in comments work in the exact same way as they do when used in a description, and using them makes it much cleaner when sharing the image across other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Instagram: ob1brand

Drive your audience to your website

Online, your website is your identity. Websites are created for different functions. Some are just placeholders or an information delivery system. Other websites function as a store and should be driving business to you with orders.

Either platform should function easily and perfectly on multiple devices. If your website doesn’t work on a mobile phone or tablet you are in big trouble, and probably losing customers by the second. I click on industry shop websites all the time and a good many look out-dated, irrelevant and untrustworthy.

If you have a blog on your site, include hyperlinked references to other posts, pictures or videos. This drives more engagement. Make sure you choose the ‘open in another window’ option so they won’t leave your main site to go see what you have referenced.

If you are selling something on your site, make sure that the user can order easily and quickly and not get bogged down with too many steps. The number one reason why people abandon carts is that the process takes too long or is too complicated. Think about how you order online and what drives you nuts. Think like your customer.

Create content that links to the appropriate pages on your site. This content can be anything – funny, informative, educational – just don’t make it boring. Push your content constantly, and schedule creating it well in advance so you actually do it and it isn’t a last minute, half-assed effort. People that do social media well work at it all the time.

Marshall says: Your website is your identity

Monster Press has recently revamped its website – and it looks great. It’s highly visual, with lots of studio images and videos so customers can see how the team works. The website has plenty of tabs and pages, and they’re all useful and relevant to the business. There’s a different page for each of the services Monster Press offers with information on each one, a gallery of recent work, and a handy FAQ page. The site also clearly links to all of the company’s social media platforms in the footer, which is a great idea as it means that a potential customer can stay in touch with Monster Press even if they don’t currently need its services.


It’s all about selling something

There is a famous quote that goes, “Nothing ever happens in business until something gets sold.” All of your social media efforts have to be based on this fact. Your efforts must be linking you to the customer, and the customer to the sale.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you are discounting anything or giving something away either. A lot of shops just constantly chant the mantra of ‘Sale! Sale! Sale!’ with their social media efforts. All that does is either become so much white noise that your customers tune you out, or you train your customer base that if they wait around they’ll get whatever you are marketing today far more cheaply tomorrow. Remember, value is long term, price is always short term.

A better approach is to demonstrate your value in the selling proposition with your social media posts. Here’s how…

Sell your creative team’s strengths  Do you have a fabulous art staff that can create some awesome graphics? Interview them on video. Show the process from thumbnails to the final print. Include your customer going bananas over the finished art that’s on the T-shirt! Post this video on your social media on a regular basis. In fact, do a few of these and rotate them. Remember, the new people following you didn’t see that video you posted last November. Share it again!

Show how you solve your customer’s pain points  For example, let’s say you cater to local school systems. Who has time to come down to your shop to start the order, approve everything and then pick it up later? Demonstrate how your company makes it easy with the system you’ve developed.

Give examples of your stellar customer service  Won any awards? Got some testimonials in your pocket? Did your team solve a challenging issue for someone lately? Launch this out into the social media stream and reap the rewards of other customers! Customer service always resonates with people. Use that to your advantage in your selling proposition.

Make it personable  People don’t do business with their enemies, people do business with their friends. Create a video, podcast, blog or even a gallery of pictures that demonstrate your friendliness. Include your staff’s social media links and contact information. With one click underneath that smiling photo, they can be ordering from the customer service manager or salesperson.

In closing, remember the 90-9-1 rule. 90% of the people that use social media will view, read or watch your content. Only 9% of the people that view the content will actually like, share or repost the material. The people that create the content make up only about 1% of the online community.

It pays to be in that 1%. Create your content. Get noticed and drive more business your way. You can do it!

Marshall says: People don’t do business with their enemies, people do business with their friends

La Tee Shirts uses Facebook to connect with its customers on a more personal level: the company uses a friendly tone and shares funny and motivational images to engage with its followers. However, La Tee Shirts always keeps selling at the forefront by sharing plenty of images of work the team has done for customers and reminding followers about the benefits of working with the company. A tip to pick up from La Tee Shirts is to always keep an eye on your Facebook inbox and reply quickly! In the ‘About’ section on Facebook it details that La Tee Shirts usually replies within an hour. If you always make sure to reply to messages quickly, Facebook will notice this and will let your followers know.

Facebook: La Tee Shirts

Marshall Atkinson is the owner of Atkinson Consulting, LLC, a service firm focused on the decorated apparel industry delivering process improvement and efficiency, sustainability, employee training, social media marketing, and long term strategic planning. He has over 20 years in the decorated apparel industry, is a frequent trade show and webinar speaker, and publishes his own blog.