This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP). Being the quiet, introverted person that I am (HA! Those of you that know me personally are laughing pretty hard right now, I get that…), I’ve been thinking a lot about this industry, where we’ve been over the past 2 decades, and where I hope we are going.
Here’s the ONE THING that I keep coming back to – based on 20 years of working with and talking with embroidery & apparel decoration business owners – it is this:
We are unclear about what we are selling! And if we are unclear about that, it is not surprising that our customers struggle to do business with us!
We tell people we do embroidery. That is what I call a “stopper.” People do not know what that means. People are just as likely to envision Grandma sitting in a rocking chair making a sweet little pillow, or that you are doing something with cross stitch or something with colorful strings to make pretty flowers. Sad to say, but I think the word “embroidery” is one of our biggest handicaps as an industry!
We create and offer designs, logos, branding, personalization, customization, one of a kind gifts and keepsakes – there are SO many other ways to describe what we do beyond the word embroidery.
If you are not sure if this is a valid concern, try this little test. Over the next week, every time you meet someone new, specifically ask them what they do. It is a good, yet safe question to ask when you meet new people. People do usually like to talk about themselves, and you’ve given them an opportunity to do that with a simple question. Most people will then reciprocate, and ask you what you do. For the next week, I want you to reply that you do embroidery. Truly watch and listen to the other person at this point in the conversation. Do they look confused? Do they ask a follow-up question to better understand what that means? Do they look around for someone else to chat with? Do they walk away? Really pay attention to how long the conversation lasts after you tell them you do embroidery to see if the conversation keeps going, or seems to end rather quickly.
This is a two-part experiment, by the way. During the following week, I want you to ask all the people that you meet what they do – just like the first week. When you are asked what you do, I want you to change your answer. Tell them that you are a branding expert, or a logo specialist, you specialize in custom gifts – come up with an expression that you feel describes what you do without using the word embroidery. Again, watch and listen to the other person at this point in the conversation. Do they look confused? Do they ask a follow-up question to better understand what that means? Do they look around for someone else to chat with? Do they walk away? Really pay attention to how long the conversation lasts after you tell them what you do to see if the conversation keeps going, or seems to end about the same way the conversations did when you used the word embroidery.
If a week is too long of a commitment, try this for even just one or two days – connect with at least 6-10 new people and try the two different answers to see if there is a difference in their reactions, responses and how long the conversation continues.
What did you discover?
When I tried this experiment, I found that the word embroidery definitely worked against me. What a revelation, and not in a good way!
To find a better way to engage your customers with how you talk about your business, consider these 3 questions:
- Do I know what my customers want? (Remember, people are not walking are “nekkid,” they own clothing! They are NOT buying clothing, they are buying a result, a solution, something else entirely than clothing…. what are they really trying to get??? What problem are they trying to solve?)
- Do I offer that?
- Am I letting them know that I offer what they want in crystal clear terms?
I suspect all our businesses would be better served if we updated the conversation about what we sell and what we do to better reflect that full scope of how we serve our customers. When we say we do embroidery, we are limiting the way that customers see us and how they perceive they can use our services.
I would love to know the results of your experiment, and what you think you offer. Email me if you want to brainstorm about this or post your thoughts below.