Industry Tip: How to educate your customer in embroidered apparel

Employee first day

Dumb Mistake #4: Letting customers make all the decisions about what you should sell them.

What some argue is a downside is, to my way of thinking, just the opposite. “What?! I shouldn’t take out the wholesaler’s pretty catalog, not put it in my customers hands, and not let his fingers do the walking?,” they say. That’s exactly what I mean. Instead, show instead YOUR OWN mini-catalog for the key volume items. It’s easily constructed from your vendors’ websites and printed out on your computer, on heavy stock, or put in clear plastic sleeves in a 3-ring binder.

Taking the time to organize these key items as such means virtually every time you show only the limited selection to a walk-in customer or one you’re calling on means that order is done more quickly and you maintain better control of the price, the quality, and the outcome. The time you save then can be put to better use in upselling imprint colors or additional locations for printing or embroidery, upselling graphics or specialty inks, showing complementary items, or educating your customer about additional products and services you offer. Everybody wins — especially YOU!

The same limited selections on key items can be done on your website in conjunction with your vendor’s entire gamut of offerings. You simply present your own recommended selections in the key categories via an “express section” for quick ordering. In time, your customers will understand why it’s easier for them to source from this section instead of wasting their own time looking at a plethora of redundant choices. By the way, the subtleties of colors printed on paper, which are difficult enough to discern, are even more indistinct to customers seeing your products online. In Chapter 16 I’ll help you construct your own express catalog.

Many of the clients I work with no longer even show the vendors’ catalogs or links to their websites — except when, once again, the customer is an experienced pro. In this case, the nice, pretty catalogs are made available and the full-line website version is controlled by a password given to the customer. The result? As most of these clients report, “Our customers, even the big players, generally don’t want to waste their time either and are quite happy with how we’ve made it easier and more convenient for them.” Quod erat demonstratum!

The big lesson you should understand about of this chapter is that showing garment selections to your customers and prospects should be part of a process that includes a whole lot more than simply letting someone choose what he wants — or thinks he wants. The selections he’s offered should be determined in conjunction with a buying strategy that enables the seller to sell efficiently AND to buy intelligently.

To illustrate the principle here seen through the eyes of a promotional products distributor, the firm’s sales rep offers a prospect a low-end ball-point pen solution — say, one selling for $.25 to $1.00 each. She could furnish her customer with 10 or 20 catalogs with very similar selections in each. But how many buyers really want to look through a stack of catalogs for every possible nuance among the essentially redundant item groups — or have the time to do so? The sales rep does herself and her customer a favor by limiting the choices to one catalog, and in so doing gains her company more leverage with that manufacturer over time by building up sales volume. Read: loyalty and credentials to earn end-quantity pricing and/or other benefits and advantages. You get the idea, now. Right? Good.

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Antonio Massey

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Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



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Steve Deland

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Taylar Hanson


Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Nika Lao


Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.


Bradley Wright


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Dominic Nguyen

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Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.


Sothea Tann

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Brian Beardsley

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Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


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Embroidery Machine Operator

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Embroidery Machine Operator

SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.


Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.