Screen Printing - April/May 2017 - 20
HOW TO ADJUST YOUR
BUSINESS MODEL FOR DTG
igital printing should be a familiar concept for garment
decorators. The jury is still out on whether direct-to-garment
(DTG) and other digital methods will one day replace screen
printing, but what's certain is that DTG offers certain benefits
that aren't achievable or practical in the analog world.
As a screen printer, you'll have lots of jobs come to you
that just don't make sense to even quote without a digital
technology. As Terry Combs, an experienced friend of mine,
often says, "You cannot charge enough money for a six-color
print where the customer wants less than 12 shirts." DTG can
be perfect for screen printers who have to do a lot of proofing
for their clients. DTG is also perfect for printers with storefronts so they can offer on-demand prints or even personalization of a preprinted line of shirts.
Whether you're adding DTG to complement your analog
production or you're going fully digital, it's important to approach some aspects of your business differently. I'll outline
some of those possible challenges here.
UNIQUE MARKETING STRATEGIES
DTG will give you new decorating abilities, so it's important
to start fresh with your marketing strategies to get the most
out of your new technology. Let's start with two ways you
may have marketed yourself as a screen printer that will not
work, and what you can do instead as a digital decorator.
The first thing to stop doing is publishing a price list. It's time
to throw out that nice little grid showing the number of colors
across the top and number of shirts down the left. Also eliminate
your excessive list of additional charges - artwork charges,
screen charges, color charges, screen recall charges, and so on.
You should give your customer a turnkey package focused on
fulfilling their needs, with no additional fees. Give them a price
for a unique, personalized experience, like attending Disney
World as a family in neon pink shirts with each person's name on
them. How about starting a program with a local BMW dealership that provides every new satisfied owner with a personalized
shirt? To be a successful digital decorator, take yourself and all
that goes into making the shirt out of the selling proposition, and
put yourself in your customer's shoes to imagine their needs.
The second thing to avoid is the "Cheap Shirt Sale," "3 for
3 Special," or any other variation of that plan. At their core,
these promotions are just a way to get the easiest jobs into a
screen printing shop. On the digital side of your business, you
want to avoid those one-color, black-on-white jobs that often
scream "generic and thoughtless." Your cost to produce that
shirt is the same as producing a 16 million-color masterpiece
on a white shirt, but you cannot charge the same price be20
Aaron Montgomery has been involved with the garment decorating
and personalization industry since
2000 and the digital printing industry
since 1997. He has been actively involved in industry tradeshows for the
last 17 years. He also writes on topics
that include marketing, social media,
the personalization market, and garment decorating techniques. You can
find Aaron co-hosting the podcast 2
Regular Guys (2regularguys.com).
You can also find blogs about a wide
range of topics on his own website at
cause of perceived value. Instead, leverage the parts of DTG
printing that add value, like the magic of watching a shirt get
printed before your eyes or taking your personalized shirt
with you five minutes after ordering it.
ADDING VALUE TO MAXIMIZE PROFIT
How can you add value to your product so you can justify a
higher price? Value is a perceived number; honestly, people
have no idea what it costs to make most of the things we buy.
Does a Mercedes-Benz really cost that much more to make
than a comparable Volkswagen? Probably not, but people are
willing to pay more for the Mercedes because of its perceived
value. The same is true of a T-shirt.
For the digital decorator, coming up with creative ways to
add value is essential. One great way to do it is by selling the
personalization capabilities of DTG. Instead of getting 1000
identical shirts with a single-color logo and carrying a large
inventory, the customer can spend a little more for full-color
shirts, bought in smaller quantities and with each one personalized. Maybe each of their top customers gets their own
dark, collared shirt with their name on it. Or, each owner at
a car show gets a white shirt with a picture of their car, plus
their name and car make and model as a left-chest design.
Big, boring orders don't work to the strengths of DTG. Your
goal should be to get lots of individual ones.
Another way to add perceived value is to simply describe
your product differently. Big orders often mean slinging out
cheap shirts for nickels in profit, but you can work with a much
higher quality base garment with DTG, so use that to your
advantage. Instead of offering "Cotton shirts, cheapest prices,"
pitch "100-percent ring-spun combed cotton crew necks." Research how the garment manufacturers describe these high-end
garments and use those terms in your own marketing.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR TRUE COSTS
Getting a handle on the cost to produce a garment with DTG
can be tricky, especially for those trying to make their screen
print cost spreadsheets bend to the new digital technology. My
suggestion is to reinvent the way you look at your costs and, in
turn, the way you price your products. Forget things like screen