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5 Takeaways from Shirt Lab Chicago

Industry experts shared their best sales and branding advice with an audience of your peers.




5 Takeaways from Shirt Lab Chicago

THE SALES AND marketing event for the decorated apparel industry took place July 21-22 in Chicago. Attendees were given a private tour of S&S Activewear in Lockport, IL, on day one [scroll to watch a behind-the-scenes video] and were presented with nine educational sessions on day two. Read below for five speaker tips on how to enhance your business.

To join Shirt Lab Tribe, visit

Jay Busselle, A Blueprint for Brand Relevance

Just like applying SPF to our bodies to protect us from the sun is important, so is applying SPF – style, promise, and feel – to your brand. You have to understand your brand before you can sell your product. Brand relevance is connecting with people’s emotions and becoming personally relevant to them. The best brand mixes magic and logic, the head and heart.

Four pillars of brand relevance:

  • Customer obsessed
  • Consistently innovative
  • Distinctively inspiring
  • Ruthlessly pragmatic

Kevin Baumgart, Building a Sales Machine

There’s a big difference between making a phone call and sending an email. Talking to someone on the phone is efficient, it allows relationship building, and it creates clarity. An email takes an average of 20 minutes to negotiate a sales strategy. What’s even better? In-person, which averages at six minutes to close that deal.

Whether this is in person or via a virtual meeting, set up quarterly partnership reviews with your top customers. Share data on the success your business has achieved, check in with them to see what’s new with their company, and prepare for the quarter ahead: How can we be the best to support you? If the meeting turns into a complain fest, that’s great. Now you know and you can fix it.

To read Kevin’s five-step plan for building predictable revenue, click here.

Dawn Sinkule, Turn Your Website into a Money-Making Machine

  • Eighty percent of e-commerce happens on mobile sites. Use Google’s free tool to see if your site is mobile friendly.
  • Always do A/B testing on your site, but only change one or two things. If you change a million things, you won’t be able to track what led a customer to click purchase vs. leave your site.
  • The preferred website load time is two seconds. The screen printing industry’s average is nine. This load time will lead to a 90 percent bounce rate, which is a bad sign for your online business.

Renee Hribar, Close the Sale in 10 Minutes or Less

The mile markers to sales success are:

  • Proximity
  • A reason to reach out
  • Education
  • Indoctrination

Have a signature production or sales system, like Alison Banholzer’s “Flight Tracker” at Wear Your Spirit Warehouse, to motivate your staff, brand your processes, and engage customers.

Remember, the phone call is not an educational session on the screen printing industry. Don’t paraphrase, don’t use industry terms, just repeat what they say.

Tom Rauen, Success with Events

Host an event at your shop where customers can print their own shirt. Not only will they get a behind-the-scenes look into how their merch is made, they forge a more personal relationship with your business. Pro Tip: Hire a local videographer to capture client testimonials to be used on your site and social media platforms.

Quotes to Remember

  • “Screen printers are buying more equipment because they’re letting their business overshadow efficiency. Instead of purchasing another machine, add a second shift.” — Peter Walsh, The M&R Companies
  • “Physical efficiency helps lead to a clean and lean shop.” — Matt Marcotte, Printavo
  • “The reason screen printing is such an open and honest industry is because there’s business for everyone.” — Jay Busselle, Equipment Zone
  • “We’re at the ‘You’ve Got Mail’ status of NFTs. Be an early adopter of this growing trend.” — Marshall Atkinson, Atkinson Consulting [Stay tuned for Marshall’s column on NFTs in the September/October digital edition.]
  • “Figure out what you do and what you stand for (your purpose) instead of simply selling your product.” — Rum Walia, Supacolor

S&S Activewear gave Shirt Lab Chicago attendees a private tour of the 700,053-square-foot Lockport, Illinois, facility. The distribution center focuses on an error rate of just 0.9 percent. The latest employee of the month packaged 44,000 pieces with only three errors. The biggest reason a screen printer should use a distributor for purchasing blanks is customer service and MOQ.

Watch the video below to get an inside look.




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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