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Nicole Pape

Don’t Waste Your Time Focusing on Competitors

Apparel decorators should instead concentrate on their Unique Selling Profile.




PERSONALLY SPEAKING, I’m pretty competitive in nature. Business wise, I’m super competitive with myself. Competition is subjective. You see rivalry differently than I do, and that’s what makes capitalism so great (and also so sharky.) Just when you think you know what someone in the industry is doing, they surprise you, or leave you wondering, “Whaaaat were they thinking?!” Either way, does it really matter? Do you really want to base your thinking off another business’s next move? Why waste your energy looking outward when you can shift, adapt, mold, and create your own “White Buffalo” from the inside?

What matters is your ability to compete with yourself. How do you make yourself untouchable? It’s simple: Focus on your “why.” With a seemingly unconventional approach, you may just as easily forget the notion of “competition” and organically create your company’s USP to push you forward.

Your Unique Selling Profile, or USP for short, is what makes you… you. It’s your umami. Your secret sauce. Your spice. Your brand. It’s the idea that out of anyone else your client could go to, they choose you, time and time again. It’s what builds trust and establishes expectations. It’s the reason customers take pride in utilizing your services and the edge that keeps them locked in. How do you dig deeper and pull out the hidden morsels from your business to express your dynamic differences? Span out and review the business in structured sections to discover paths that will lead to your overall “why” and leave you with your powerful USP.

Think of your Unique Selling Profile as a funnel. You’re selling more than just screen printing or embroidery. You’re selling the ease, the dream, the “right fit for us” that encompasses all areas of your buyer’s profile. Successful operations understand you can tap into the emotions of clients by being an expert in what they want/need through your USP.

The top of the funnel, and largest area, is likely where people place the most importance in a glance. The bottom of the funnel is where people typically place the least importance until it becomes the only focal point that matters. By looking at your business in my model, you can quickly get to the bottom of what keeps your pipeline stacked so you can focus on optimizing your business and forget about the idea of competition.

Look at your Unique Selling Profile as a funnel for your business model.

Look at your Unique Selling Profile as a funnel for your business model.


Location is very important to your pipeline, your service offerings, and your overall bottom line. The part of town you’re in could very well be your best friend in terms of physical visibility and even remote marketing. What is the vibe of your region? Is it a destination spot? Are there similar businesses in the area, and do they highlight location as a selling point for their services? If so, how would you choose to differentiate your company? Maybe you’re located in a metropolitan area, and your USP is making orders easily accessible through local couriering. Maybe you’re in a remote part of your state, but the area offers a favorable climate for a certain type of ink or service to promote your USP. Or maybe pride is a big thing where you’re located. Exuding your city’s essence could create the local, hometown feel your clients prefer. See where you can pull value from your community and how you could utilize it to establish part of your USP.


Some of us have created intriguing company names that leave people eager to learn more. Your identity as a company can help transform your USP. Being transparent with your company – who’s involved, your mission and core values, your future plans – can establish a strong connection between you and the end user.

If you have a multigenerational business, showing the company legacy can create an aura of respectability. What about a unique business name hinting there’s more to your story and inviting personal connection with your customers? Do you have multiple locations? Perhaps production and retail spaces are separate, doubling visibility. Are you the smallest, largest, most versatile, or most niche shop you know? If you said your company was No. 1 at something, what would it be? When you visualize the company identity within branding and advertising, what stands out? Find the “why” – not the “what” – in regard to your company identity, and you will add another key layer to your individual USP.


At my previous business, we had established somewhat of a “culture” through core values, expectations, events, etc., but focusing on consistency was key to allowing our culture to be a major USP for us moving forward. You don’t just implement a “company culture” and expect it to take off; you must feed it through consistent behaviors. Patagonia has built its entire brand on feeding the culture of adventure seekers. The business is made for the mountain climber or surfer, and this is reflected in branding, products, employees, leadership, and more. All of these aspects of the business embody the culture of the laid-back thrill-seeker who cares about the planet and wants sustainable gear for years to come. Consistently exuding this culture keeps clients coming back while also bringing more surfers and mountain climbers to their products. It’s a cultural closed loop of sorts.

How can consistent behaviors in your business help you lean into a culture USP? Why is your culture unique? How do you establish and display your company’s culture to clients? Our team wore uniforms that helped establish unity, create our identity, and deliver a clean presentation as a key point in our culture’s USP. Clients taking tours of our offices and production floor were in awe of the cleanliness, the company spirit throughout, and the positive energy of the employees. It was a subtle USP that aligned clients at their core with the unique culture we emitted as a team.



Composing your company of unique individuals fosters creativity, gives opportunity for teamwork, and provides a platform to further your USP. Creating a business where people of distinct attributes can feel valued helps drive a vibe and culture in itself.

When you have a uniquely talented team, how do you drive that force as a USP? Create experts in your company. Train them. Provide support and allow them room to grow. Show your clients you invest in knowledge, and market what you do differently to edge your team ahead. What does it mean to have an expert in each department? How does that liberate you to focus on other ways to optimize the business? What distinguishes your team members or how your team functions?

At one point, we operated 24/7/365 – not because others were doing this, but because it enabled continuing our growth trajectory. Functioning differently than most gave us a special marketing approach on turn-times and allowed our customers the security they needed to know we were open for them whenever they needed us. Why is your team different from other print shops’ teams, and how do those differences support your USP? How does having that former production manager from a major brand differentiate you? Identify how your team can contribute to the way your company is perceived and lean in to find a potential USP.


The right values have driven entire societies to prosper, while misguided values have driven them to collapse. The right set of values is possibly the single most important factor in developing the “why” behind people following people, whether in a society or an individual business.

Most companies have core values, a mission statement, or at minimum, a motto, that acts as a self-guiding rule of thumb. Some values are straightforward: professionalism, teamwork, excellence, and so on. These are all great pillars to operate by and ensure your team members can follow the basic principles that govern your business’s expectations. However, what would it look like to dive deeper into what your company values and why?

Certain companies have mastered exuding their values through their USP to the point that consumers “just know” what that company values and why. Back to our example of Patagonia, this company values the planet Earth and a sustainable future. I don’t need to look them up to innately know this. Why? Because those themes drive their entire existence, product line, and marketing. I don’t need to know what their website says about core values or what it says inside their warehouse walls. As an organization, what you truly value and why helps you stand out without having to lean on the traditional bullet-point list of values.


Operationally speaking, how you set up your facility is a matter of life and death in terms of efficiency and, by extension, profitability. In terms of your USP, your shop, aesthetic, and size can be critical to motivating someone to give you their business. Being in a loft in New York City with your automatic press and bringing shirts up and down a freight elevator can have its sense of charm, an endearing grit, and a vibe that shines bright for your branding. Having the only operation in your area with climate-controlled rooms for machines, or the only operation with a showroom, can attract a larger demographic of customers than you would have otherwise.

At one point, we had two separate facilities operating in two different states. This set us apart and provided customers with more options for shipping, pricing, and alternative capabilities. Our “why” was we wanted to offer customers a different price model from our other facility, and we wanted to offer employees a lower cost of living. This helped us to be agile with the market and give our employees better opportunities.

Why is your facility better than others? Why does your facility operate a certain way or look a certain way? What can you pull out of the building itself that displays value to your clients? Leaning on our facilities’ differences helped solidify our USP even further.



Some businesses have services that automatically set them apart, like on-demand digital printing or patch making. The more niche the service, the greater its potential for becoming a shining USP to grow your brand.

How would your services benefit a new client over the other shop down the street with the same screen printing and embroidery capabilities? You might use top-of-the-line automation, but why does that matter to your client, and how does that affect what the services include? Diversifying offerings allows for multiple streams of revenue, but what about your services truly sets you apart? How many embellishment services do you
offer to retail, schools, brokers? What other ancillary services make you special? Do you offer custom packaging or press vinyl for the music industry? You are delivering an experience to your clients, your employees, and your supporters. How does your service challenge the status quo, and why is that important to who you are as a company? What motto comes to mind when you think of the experience you provide?

Dive into each facet of your services. See if there is a diamond in the rough that should be highlighted as to why you are the better choice without having to say “we are the better choice.”


How you accept orders is a key part of retaining good clientele. Shops that make the ordering process easy, clear, and user-friendly not only have larger pipelines, but they also have it easier on the back end.

Customer portals are a major game changer in the world of “what we offer” and can very easily be the entire USP of your company. How easy is it to go onto your Amazon account, place an order, track it, and receive delivery without ever speaking to anyone? It’s what keeps us coming back to the juggernaut time and time again. Not all of us have Amazon-like budgets for seamless user-friendly experiences, but why is your ordering process so painless, so simple? Why would the client want to place their order with you over anyone else? Show your clients why your ordering process is more structured, easy to use, concise, etc., and impart the value of your user experience as a key factor of your USP.


When all else fails, you can always lean into incentives, pricing, policy, methods, contracts, and other company terms. Sometimes, your USP is your ability to be agile and create incentives and campaigns that drive a certain clientele toward your business, creating a USP out of your own buzz. Plenty of companies use pricing as their main USP. Consider Five Below, the retail chain where you can purchase almost anything for $5 or less. It’s clear its main USP is terms – not location, team, values, or facility, but simply the company’s method of doing business. Maybe you have a district policy on payment that makes ordering easier for schools, or you have exclusive contracts available to major licensors. If offering favorable terms is a main reason why people come to you, then highlight that as part of your USP.

Forget the competition. Focus on knowing your “why.” Change your thinking. Immerse yourself in what you have brewing in your USP funnel, work to develop, and act to deploy. Your Unique Selling Profile is your ticket to operating under a different perspective that most of your competitors don’t have time to look into. Don’t sleep on elevating your business.




Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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