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4 Sources of Inspiration

23rd June 2009

4 Sources of Inspiration

inspirationI would guess that almost every business owner, at one time or another, has suffered from a lack of inspiration.  Maybe the question to be answered was where the business would go next.  Perhaps it involved adding a new product or service.  Maybe the lack of inspiration was impacting the Marketing or Advertising plans.   Whatever the issue,  I would bet that almost everyone has faced this problem at some point or another.   If lack of inspiration is a current problem for you, here are some ways to jump start your problem solving engine.

1. Look at what others are doing – Notice I don’t say “copy” what others are doing.  Looking to others to see how they deal with problems or how they present their products is a great way to gather options for how your company should handle the same issues.  While you’re looking, however, remember that every solution should fit your business and have your flair.  Becoming a “me too” for another company in your industry won’t benefit you at all.

2. Ask your customers – If you have a company blog, or a company account on a social media site, ask your customers what they would do or for feedback on a proposed solution to a problem.  Customers can be an invaluable source of information, and can also help you determine if a solution is right or wrong before you implement it.  Listen to what your customers have to say.  After all, your business wouldn’t exist without them.

3. Ask the experts – If you’re facing a sales problem, you might want to visit Jeffrey Gitomer.  If you have questions about running an embroidery business, you might visit T-Shirt Forums or the Small Business Administration.  Many cities and towns also have Chambers of Commerce which offer help and advice as well as a way to make connections within your community.

4. Do a web search – The web is a repository for an amazing amount of information.   Type your question intothe search engine of your choice and see what comes up.   The solution for which you are searching may only be a few mouse clicks away.

posted in Making Your Business Grow | Comments Off

18th June 2009

Website Workshop: Names and Domains

domain-nameIn my time with Ensign Emblem (EnMart’s parent company) I’ve named three or four companies and a wide variety of products.  Picking a name is never a simple or easy process.  You want a name that fits the product.  The name should be something that resonates with your target customer base.  It also has to be a name that no one else has trademarked, and it shouldn’t be too close to a well known name that another company already uses.  Naming a company or a product requires a lot of time and thought.

When you add creating a website into the mix, things get a bit more complicated.  Now, in addition to making sure your prospective name isn’t being used elsewhere, you also have to make sure the domain that incorporates that particular name isn’t taken.   This requires going to a domain registrar, like GoDaddy, and finding out which names are available.   If you’re just starting your search for a domain name, here are some tips to keep in mind.

1. Your domain name should be close to your company name – It is true that not every company does this, but you stand a better chance of people being able to find you if your domain name is close to your company name.   Say your company name is “Joe’s Designs”.  People who want to find you online would be more likely to type in “JoesDesigns.com” than they would “Myperfectembroidery”.

2. Brevity is the soul of domain names – Keep your domain name short.  It is also preferable that it not be hyphenated if you can avoid it.  You want to create a domain name that people can easily remember, and easily type into a menu bar.  Unless you have a ton of advertising dollars to spend on publicizing your domain name, shorter is generally better and easier to remember.

3. Always try for .com – Whether we like it or not , www.mywebsite.com is what people will default to when typing in a URL.  If you can, get the .com version of your domain name.  .Net or .org can work in certain situations, as can country specific domain names, but most people will default to .com.

4. Plan for growth – If you think you might want to offer more products in the future then make sure your domain and company names can accomodate that.   “Susie’s Designs” has a larger range of options than “Susie’s Embroidery”.   Make sure your company name and your domain allow you to change direction or expand your horizons if you’re inclined to do so.

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17th June 2009

Machine Embroidery Projects

bride-machine-embroideryI spend a lot of time on the Internet.  I also, since I work for a machine embroidery supplies company, spend a lot of time researching various issues related to machine embroidery.  Lately I’ve spent a lot of time looking at available design sets and seeing what else is out there in the way of machine embroidery projects.  Today I thought I would share a bit of what I’ve found with our readers.

Perfect Little Stitches has a great array of free machine embroidery projects.   Any or all of these projects would look great when embroidered with Iris thread.  I especially like the embroidered umbrella and the embroidered bug hat (so useful in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this time of year).

Embroidery Treasures, which is a great blog by the way, has some terrific free projects available.   The baked potato bag is cute, as are the dishwasher hangers.

Secrets of Embroidery has an extensive list of machine embroidery projects.  Just going through them all could take hours.   You could wear out a lot of needles if you tried to create all these projects in one go.

You can also find some great free embroidery designs at Embroidery Designs.com.   They have some cute stuff.

If you’re looking for machine embroidery designs for a new baby,  Needle Passion Embroidery has a great set of baby themed designs.   These would look great when embroidered with EnMart’s Baby Gift thread palette.

Whatever the project or design that you decide to embroider, I wanted to remind everyone that EnMart has always the supplies you need to make your stitch outs shine.   We also love to see what our customers create with our products, so if you’ve done something you especially like, please share a photo with us.

posted in Garment Decoration | 1 Comment

16th June 2009

EnMart and Embroidery Mart

nnep08logosmThis July, EnMart will be exhibiting at the NNEP Embroidery Mart.  As an NNEP member, EnMart is proud to attend the NNEP shows and greatly enjoys the opportunity to talk with other NNEP members.  The membership of the NNEP has been of tremendous support to EnMart, and we always like to give back when we can.

Part of that giving back will be happening at the Embroidery Mart this July.  EnMart is giving a seminar on creating new profit centers for your business.  This seminar will be led by EnMart’s own Tom Paquette, and will show attendees how to use EnMart products to create additional profit centers. This seminar will also include time and labor saving techniques learned by EnMart’s parent company over the 30 years it has been embroidering for the industrial laundry community.

EnMart will also be exhibiting at Embroidery Mart.   We will be in booth 515.  If you are planning to attend the show, please do stop by and see us.  We also have coupon codes available which will waive fees for online registration.  If you have not yet registered for the show, and want to save a few bucks, contact us and ask for Diane and we’ll be glad to give you the code.

EnMart is a proud member of the NNEP and we appreciate all the support the organization and its members have given us.  We look forward to seeing all of you at the show in Nashville in July.

posted in Trade Shows | Comments Off

12th June 2009

Website Workshop: If You Want to Sell, Make it Easy to Buy

moneyI’ve had it happen to me more than once.  I’ll see a product I like in a Twitter feed or mentioned on someone’s blog and I follow the link to make a purchase.  The only problem is that when I get to where the link leads it is impossible to figure out how to buy or in some cases even what I’m buying.  Prices aren’t easily available.  Descriptions are lacking.  There aren’t any pictures and no indication that pictures are coming.  The site doesn’t carry information that lets me know it is secure and safe to make a purchase.  I can’t even find the product.  It doesn’t take long before I decide I don’t really want the product that much after all.  In that split second, another online merchant loses a sale.

When you sell online, your main goal is to get money for the products you list.  Anything that stands in the way of that goal needs to be eliminated or repaired.  Here is a checklist of some items you should make sure are in good working order before you try to sell through your website.

1.  Have good product pictures – They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the case of selling online, they’re right.  Get the best pictures you can get and use them liberally.  This can be particularly important if you’re selling colorful goods.  A picture can show those colors in a way that words cannot.

2. Write good descriptions – Make sure you include all the details.  How big the item is, what it is made of, what it can be used for and so on.  You want your descriptions to be concise, but you also want to include all the information the average customer would need to decide if they wanted to buy.

3. Don’t make customers hunt for products – Flash pages can be cool.  I’m a big fan of About Us pages and allowing customers to learn more about the company.  Additional content can be good and helpful, but it should never get in the way of the main function of your site, which is to sell.  Don’t make customers hunt for your products or wade through tons of content before they get to the part of the site that sells.  Most customers won’t be willing to spend the time, and if they won’t spend time they definitely won’t spend money.

4. Pricing should be easy to find – Pricing should never be hidden.  Customers want to know up front what they’re going to have to pay for the product, as well as information about shipping and any additional fees.  Don’t make them hunt for pricing.  Make it easily accessible and easy to understand.

5. A secure site is a site that sells – If you’re sellling online you need to make it very obvious that your site is secure.  At minimum, you should have an SSL certificate.  You should also have a small disclaimer on your shopping cart page that tells customers how you keep their information secure.   People won’t input their credit card information if they’re worried it might be stolen.

Selling online can be a great way to expand beyond your local market, and can be very profitable.  Just keep in mind that a web site that sells is always a work in progress, and that monitoring sales and conversion rates is part of the job.

posted in Website Workshop | Comments Off

9th June 2009

How Do Your Customers Purchase?

online-shoppingOne of the main rules for those people who sell things is this:  you have to make it easy for people to buy.  That used to be pretty simple, since there really were only two ways that people could buy.  They could come to your store, or they could order through the mail.   If you had a retail space, you needed to display your items attractively and have knowledgeable sales staff.  If you sold via mail, you needed to have a catalog in which to display your products and some sort of mechanism in place to take and fill orders.  Most people who sold merchandise could predict their customers shopping habits and behavior fairly easily.

In today’s world, it isn’t so easy to predict how, or even when, your customers will want to shop.  Take me for instance.  I’m a dedicated Internet shopper.  I could live quite happily without ever having to go into a brick and mortar store.  Shopping on the Internet allows me to compare prices and to shop when I want, even if when I want to shop is 3 a.m.  I don’t generally feel a need to hold something or to see it (beyond a picture) before I buy so, for me, the Internet is the ideal shopping experience.

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that there are some people who don’t want to shop the way I do.   Some people feel the need to handle the merchandise before they buy it.  Other people need to talk to an expert.  There are those who don’t like making purchases over the Internet, and will use it for research, but not for buying.  The best way to make sales and a profit is to be able to accommodate as many buying styles as possible.   The more people you can contact and engage, the more likely it is that you will have sales.

Let’s use EnMart as an example.   Obviously, our primary mode of sales is our online store.   That is not, however, the only way you can shop with us.  We do take orders by phone or by fax.  If you need to handle the merchandise before you buy, we’d be happy to send you a small sample of whatever it is you’re interested in purchasing.   We’ll also allow for in store (or in our case office building) pick-up for those customers who live near one of our distribution centers.  Whatever your preferred shopping method, EnMart will do its best to accommodate you.

If you are planning on selling something, you need to make it your business to know how people will want to buy.  Once you know that, you can figure out how best to meet the needs of your customers.   The more needs you can meet, the more customers you can please and, ultimately, the more sales you can make.

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8th June 2009

Design Sets from EnMart

p1010102Every once in a while we here at EnMart sit down and take a look at what is currently on our site, and then make some decisions about what we’d like to add.   We always examine our list of the products that customers have been asking for and generally add items or create categories of items based on that list.  We also take a look at the capabilities that EnMart and our parent company Ensign Emblem possess, and decide if and how any of those capabilities can be used to create products for the EnMart store.  That is how the idea for our latest potential new product category came about.

Ensign Emblem supplies emblems and garments and garment decoration for industrial laundries.  They have been doing so for over thirty years, and in that time the company has become quite expert at creating machine embroidery designs.  It only seems logical for EnMart to take advantage of this expertise.

Right now we are in the process of determining what our design sets will be and in what format they will be offered.  That’s where all of you come in.  We are definitely open to any and all suggestions from our customers.  We do, after all, want these design sets to be useful and an attractive option for those who purchase from EnMart.  The best way to make that happen is to create design sets and packages that appeal to our customer base.

If you have a suggestion for a design set, or a request for a particular design format, please leave a comment here,  contact us through the EnMart Twitter feed, or through our web site.   We are open to any and all suggestions, and we’d love to hear from you.

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3rd June 2009

EnMart June Specials

saleI just wanted to take a moment today to let everyone know that the June specials are up in the EnMart store.  Our specials this month center around our RunRite magnetic bobbins.  You can get a box of 144  for $26.95.  We also offer bulk discounts, so the more you buy, the more you save.

Our RunRite magnetic bobbins offer uniform tension control and better stitch consistency.   These bobbins also allow for more efficient use of all the thread on the bobbin and prevent backlash and overspin.   RunRite bobbins also come 144 to a box,  which is 44 more than are offered by other magnetic bobbin manufacturers.  If you’ve wondered about our magnetic bobbins, now is the time to give them a try.

In June we are also continuing our series of Starter Kits.  This month, Starter Kit #2 offers a 5500 yd cone each of black and white thread and a box of the RunRite magnetic bobbins.   This is a great way to try Iris thread and the RunRite bobbins for one low price.

Finally, EnMart is offering free shipping on two of our most popular heat presses.   The DK20SP and the DK20S are both available with free shipping in June.  If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a heat press, but wanted to avoid shipping charges, now is the time to buy.

You can see all our specials by visiting the homepage of the EnMart store.

posted in Machine Embroidery Supplies | Comments Off

2nd June 2009

Website Workshop: The First Decision

CB022158When you begin building your web site you will be faced with a lot of decisions.  You’ll have to decide what your site will look like, what sort of information it will impart and under what URL it will be listed.  There will be a thousand decisions that will have to be made,  but the most important decision is the one that must be made first, and it’s very simple.  Do you want to sell things on your web site, or do you want it to be strictly informational?

The answer to that decision will strongly influence the rest of what you do.  Strictly informational sites will generally have a different design flow, different navigation and vastly different goals than an e-c0mmerce site.  If you goal is to sell, your site must be built so that there are no obstacles for those who want to buy.  An e-commerce site must still inform and must still convince visitors that your business is one from which they want to make a purchase, but the ultimate goal is getting money from your customer’s pockets into yours.  The site must be planned from day one to meet that goal.

I can give you a good illustration by using the current EnMart site.   The front end of the site is strictly information.  It is designed to educate people about EnMart and the products we offer.  This is where the MSDS sheets are, where we list our locations, and where we talk about our products in general terms.  The aim here is to help people learn more about EnMart and why they might want to do business with us.  You’ll notice there are no prices here and only general product shots.

By contrast, the actual storefront is all about selling.   Prices are clearly displayed.  Product pictures and descriptions and included for every product.   There’s a big “Add to Cart” button right next to every product.   Clearly, this is the place where we want to encourage people to spend their money.  In order to do that, we attempt to make it as easy as possible for customers to make a purchase.  Anything that might be an obstacle to us achieving that goal has to be eliminated.

If you’re in the process of building a web site, or if you, like us, are upgrading your web site, the first thing you need to consider is whether or not you’ll be selling things.  The answer to that question will have an impact on all the other decisions you make down the road.

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