Working with Contract Embroiderers and Apparel Decoration Professionals
How To Get Exactly What Your Customer Wants from Your Embroidery/Apparel Decoration Professional
Embroidery and decorated apparel is the largest category in the promotional products industry. If you are a promotional products distributor, it is highly likely that you are talking with customers that need and want to buy apparel with logos on it. It is your job is to get exactly what your customers want, when they want it and how they want it. Mastering the process of working with your contract embroiderer or apparel decorator ensures that your customers are very happy with the final product, earning you the chance to sell that customer additional decorated (and profitable) apparel in the future.
Having only part of the information is problematic, as they (the embroidery and apparel decoration professionals) might make a decision that turns out to be incorrect, tossing all the profit on the job right out the window for both you and for the embroiderer/ contract decorator.
Here is a checklist of the information that is essential to provide to your decorator so that they can fulfill your order accurately, as well as WHY this information matters:
- Your contact information, including your cell phone and your email address. If your embroiderer is about to run your job next and needs to get some information from you at the last minute - if they cannot reach you, your job is likely to be moved back in the queue, or worse they will proceed with the order and make their best guess.
- Provide an itemized list of what is in the order. They need to know that the order has 12 small, 24 medium, 38 large, 42 extra large and 3 XXlarge (insert color, brand & item # shirts) in it. And it really helps if your information is on the box or in the box if you bring it in. If you are dropshipping it, they need to hear from you before it arrives, so that they know what job to assign it to when it arrives. Send them an email with the job specs, so they know the job is coming and what they are doing. This is helpful in fitting your work into the production schedule before it even arrives.
- If you are expecting them to do the inventory control on your goods, expect to pay them for that time to double-check that the correct goods in the correct sizes and colors arrived and that the goods are stain and damage-free.
- The design file or the original artwork. If you are providing a digitized file, it is helpful to provide the source of the file (digitizer’s name or company name) and the date this file was created. If the design is poorly digitized, it may make sense to re-digitize it rather than edit it. Knowing who created it, and how long ago, gives them a better sense of the potential quality of the design. They want to create quality embroidery, and that requires a quality design file suited for the product in this order. Jay Fishman of Wicked Stitch of the East explains, “While you might be thinking that you are being more economical by doing this (providing the design file), you might actually be compromising quality control that your professional is using. Is the digitizer that you used that had the incredibly low price for digitizing your design really providing the quality and production-friendly design that your embroiderer can use? When you send your embroiderer thirty garments with about 8 different fabric types, is that one file going to be able to handle being stitched out on all of those various substrates?”
- If they are creating the digitized file for you, it is really helpful to know how the customer may use the design in the future. It is NOT reasonable to expect a left chest design to become a full-size back design or cap design without being re-digitized. These design files should be created differently to generate quality embroidery.
- If they are generating the art for you, expect to pay them for the graphic design service as well as for the digitizing. They are two different processes. They have to get the design approved by you/your customer before they can even begin to digitize it! Better yet, provide usable art that is not copyright or trademark protected. If you provide a protected logo, bring the documentation which authorizes you to have the design produced.
- With many promotional products, the print area is limited by the available flat or printable surface. With apparel, there is a much larger space with which to work. Specify the size of the design, exactly. “Left chest” means they have to guess if you mean 2”x3” or 3.75”x4.5” or some other dimensions. There is a considerable difference in the resulting embroidery, in looks and potentially in your cost.
- Specific design placement information. Left chest is great, but what if there is a pocket? Do you mean on the pocket (which may make the pocket unusable, depending on the size of the pocket), above the pocket or did you really mean right chest on that order? “On the sleeve” could mean just above the hem or cuff, or it could be at the crest of the shoulder or it could even mean floating up off the hem or cuff by an inch or more. Full back is a good start, but if the product has a hood, do you want the design dropped a bit lower, so the hood covers less of the design?
- Provide specific color information. “The logo is in blue” is vastly different than “Match the logo to PMS 653.” If the logo is more than one color, provide all the specifics, not just the main color information, unless the additional colors are black and white (they know what those are). There are many more colors in the color spectrum and PMS deck than have ever been made in embroidery thread. They will provide the closest match that is available in embroidery thread.
And I saved the best two for last – when you say, “Just make it look good,” you have just set both of you up for a potential disaster! What does that mean? How big, where should it go, what color exactly? How can they meet your customer’s expectations successfully, if you do not provide them? If they guess unwisely, you may not get paid and they will not get paid. Worse, you may burn a bridge with that customer, cutting off your opportunity for future profitable orders.
And finally, consider listening to the advice of your embroidery professional. They’ve seen all kinds of bad embroidery out there in the world and hopefully, they refuse to contribute to it. As Kathleen Jones of Jones & Company says, “I have been doing embroidery for 23 years, and I feel part of what they are paying for is my experience and expertise. The worst is when they want something done a certain way and I tell them that I don't think it will look good. And then they see it done the way they wanted, and they don't like it. Yet they want me to redo it, at no charge or at a reduced rate – when this could have been avoided if they’d been willing to accept my professional input in the first place.”
Working with your embroidery professionals to create products that make your customers return order after order is good for you and good for your business. Your decoration professionals want to be a part of this process. Help them do that by providing all the information about an order at the beginning of the process so that they can make the quality products that will wow your customers in the timeframe allotted. When they make great looking products on time, they make you look awesome to your customers!
If you need help finding good contract embroidery professionals, contact Jennifer Cox at NNEP, Jennifer@nnep.com.
Connecting people looking for embroidery services with people that offer embroidery services, both as retail customers and as contract customers, is one of the many services we provide to members of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP). Some of our members of NNEP have very large production capabilities, and we connect them with contract opportunities on a regular basis. Join NNEP today so that we could begin sending you new business too!
We are off to exhibit at the New Products Showcase in Strongsville, Ohio tomorrow for exactly this reason. We are going to meet with promotional products distributors and answer their questions about working with contract embroiderers and apparel decorators, as well as help them connect with NNEP members they contact when they have orders for embroidered and decorated apparel.
NNEP Members and contract embroiderers and apparel decorators - add your suggestions on how to work with you the most effectively in the comments below.