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The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/24/11

24th June 2011

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/24/11

Every week, when I write this post,  I tell myself I won’t start with something from Erich Campbell and invariably,  week after week,  I do because his content is so good.  This week is no exception.   First we have his piece from the Black Duck Blog about visual style guides, which anyone who has anything to do with managing a brand should read.  Next there is his latest blog post for Stitches Magazine on focusing your creativity and overcoming the pause that comes when you’re confronted with too many choices.  Both are great posts and well worth reading.

Second on the docket this week is a post from Fashion Incubator which posits the idea that having no competitors isn’t always a good thing.   There are several good points in this article,  one being that there might be no competition because that product has tried and failed, and another being that most buyer behavior is governed by risk aversion, in other words,  most buyers like to buy products similar to products they already know because the expenditure of money feels safe.   If you’re starting out a business or adjusting your marketing plan,  this is a great post to read.

Third up today is a brand new machine embroidery blog,  and heaven knows we definitely need more of those.  Bonnie Landsberger from Moonlight Design has finally jumped into the blogging world with her new blog Just My Two Stitches.   I’m so glad she’s started writing,  and I hope everyone will go over to her blog and encourage her to keep writing.   This industry needs more good machine embroidery bloggers,  and Bonnie will have a lot to teach and share.

Fourth on the list are two posts about knowing what’s right for your life.  The first is Peter Shankman,  who is another blogger who seems to make the list almost every week.   This time,  he makes the list for a post about rebirth and how to know whether or not it is time for yours.   The second is from Redhead Writing and talks about listening to your gut and taking chances when it feels right, instead of waiting and debating.   Both are great posts.

Fifth up is a post from the Bloggess,  which I discovered thanks to a link from Robin Wilson.   I may have a weird sense of humor,  but as an insomniac myself on occasion I can identify with this post so much.   Plus the image of a poor, tired woman trying to balance a cat on a plastic bag just makes me giggle.    I know,  there’s probably something wrong with me.

Finally,  I wanted to point out that I, too, have a new post up on my Stitches blog.  This post is on the etiquette of the friend and the follow and I think it will be useful to anyone working with social media.

 

posted in Around the Blogosphere | 1 Comment

22nd June 2011

Tax I.D. Requirement

If you follow EnMart on Facebook or Twitter you may have seen mentions in the last few days of a loosening of our policies regarding purchasing and tax i.d. numbers.    The tax i.d. requirement has been in place since EnMart began, mostly because of agreements with the manufacturer of Iris Thread.    At first the tax i.d. requirement extended to any product that was purchased from EnMart but, over time,  the requirements have shifted.

If you wish to purchase Iris Thread from EnMart,  then you must have a tax i.d number and be able to produce documentation of that number if requested.  Our agreements with Hilos Iris,  the manufacturer of Iris Thread, prohibit us selling to any entity which does not have a tax i.d. number,  largely because this allows distribution markets to be kept separate.  EnMart is the exclusive commercial distributor in the United States,  and requiring a tax i.d. number from those who purchase thread helps us ensure we are not encroaching on the territory of distributors who are servicing other market segments.

For all other products we sell,  from backing to bobbinssublimation supplies to screen print transfers the tax i.d requirement has been dropped.   If you’ve been interested in purchasing anything other than thread from EnMart, and were barred because of a lack of a tax i.d. number,  that barrier has now been lifted.

 

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17th June 2011

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/17/11

First up today is a reminder from the NNEP that your thoughts count.  In this case,  they’re referring to the Stitches Power 50 list,  which the magazine is currently asking people to rate.   This is a great way to let the magazine know who you think the influential people in the embroidery industry are.   (As a side note, I’m on the list and I’d like to stay there,  so giving me a vote would be appreciated.)

Second on the list is a post from the Retail Minded Blog about controlling your inventory.  This is an issue that anyone who owns a business has to contend with,  and Nicole has some suggestions for dealing with slow selling items.  I particularly like her suggestion about looking at your top sellers and determining what other products might compliment them.

Third up today is a post from Brains on Fire about learning to listen to your customers.   This is a skill that everyone who works with customers in any capacity should have.    It is easy to get caught up in the new latest and greatest, to get high on the energy of a planning meeting and claim the customers will love your new whatever it is,  but the final vote and voice rests with the customer.  Those who listen, learn,  and most likely get it right.  Those who don’t listen may find themselves taking a very different path.

Fourth at bat is a post from Peter Shankman,  which asks a question I find interesting what is off the grid to you?  Some people vote for leaving all electronic devices behind,  going somewhere remote and having no contact with anyone other than the people right there with them.  Others think off the grid means answering e-mails while under a palm tree rather than from their home office or an airport.   What’s your definition of off the grid?  Surprisingly,  I find mine is closer to Peter’s than I would have thought.

Fifth on the list today is a post I love from Redhead Writing.  It’s about big people pants,  and I should warn you the language is a bit salty,  but the thought is right on the money.    I laughed out loud while I was reading and it and instantly thought of a few people who should shop at this store,  myself, on occasion, included.

posted in Around the Blogosphere, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

15th June 2011

Machine Embroidery Resources

Every once in a while I like to do a post that is a round-up of resources available on a certain topic.   I’ve done several posts about sublimation resources over on the Sublistuff blog,  but I realized it’s been a while since I did a resource post here on the EmbroideryTalk Blog.    I’ve managed to collect a pretty good list of resources that I like and think are useful and I thought I would share some of those with you today.

Forums

The forums I tend to visit most often are T-Shirt Forums and the Apparel Decorators Forum.   Both have sections about machine embroidery.   If you’re looking for general advice on how to run a small business,  I’d also recommend the Small Business Forum.  It’s not specifically embroidery related,  but has good advice on websites,  marketing and other business questions.

YouTube

EnMart has a YouTube channel where we’ve been gather videos about embroidery and sublimation.   I’d also recommend Geo. Knight ‘s channel for an overview on heat presses.   The magazine Designs in Machine Embroidery has a channel.   Melco Embroidery Machines has a channel,  and so does Hirsch International.

Blogs

Erich Campbell is one of my favorite machine embroidery bloggers, and  that’s not just because he’s also a colleague and co-writer for Stitches Magazine.  Check out his On Links and Needles and his blog for Black Duck Inc to get the benefit of his experience and wisdom.   I’m also a huge fan of Fashion Incubator,  which encompasses not only machine embroidery but designing clothing and creating a clothing line.   The blog for the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP) is also very helpful.   Those people that run a retail location may find that the Retail Minded blog is of great use.

Organizations

EnMart is a supplier member of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP),  and I cannot recommend this organization highly enough.   They offer three great trade shows a year,  and provide help and support to all their members.   You can also receive discounts from supplier members and have access to lots of educational resources if you join.

Machines

If you’re looking for an embroidery machine,  here are a couple of places you might want to look.   Barudan Refurbishing sells used machines and are very knowledgeable.   They’ve worked on our parent company’s embroidery machines before, so we know they do good work.   If you’re interested in a Melco Bravo machine,  contact Nancy Rasmussen at Encore Embroidery for more information.

This is a list of some of the organizations,  sites and people I’ve found to be helpful.  If you have anything to add to the list,  please do so in the comments.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | Comments Off

10th June 2011

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/10/11

Just as we did last week,  we start off this week’s Blog Round-Up with a post from Erich Campbell.   This week he’s writing about the Principle of Charity,  which loosely translated seems to mean that you should assume everyone is being rational and behaving with the best of intentions.   This is a good reminder for anyone who ever interacts with other human beings. It is easy,  especially when it comes to business, to become cynical and suspicious.  This post reminds us to be charitable and act on the assumption that other people are acting from their best motivations.

Second on deck this week is a post from Nicole at Retail Minded.  She’s discussing a concept I’ve seen, but never knew there was a name for,  the pop up shop.  Basically, this is a short term set-up that is used to sell merchandise or services in a vacant storefront.  Some pop up shops only last a few weeks while others may last a few months.   If you’re wondering if the pop up shop concept might be right for you,  Nicole’s post has some reasons one might create a pop up shop.  Stop by her blog and take a look.

Third on the list today is a post about yet another Facebook invasion of privacy and how to avoid it.  Facial recognition is the latest Facebook gadget and some people are unhappy about it, as it will automatically tag you in photos,  even if you would prefer not to have that happen.    If you would rather not have facial recognition enabled,  watch this video from Robin’s Edge for instructions on how to turn it off.

Fourth at bat today is a post from Seth Godin.  He offers an e-mail checklist that I wish more people would follow.   Unsolicited and unhelpful e-mail is one of my pet peeves,  so I like this post a lot.   I think, of all the items on the list, #20 and #30 are my favorites.   Hat tip to @danipetros to pointing out this post in the first place.

Fifth on the list today is a post from Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project.  Be warned,  this is a pretty blunt post,  but it says a lot of good stuff about how sometimes you need to give disaster the finger and move on toward better things.   This post resonates with me a bit right now,  and I thought it might with some other people as well.  I think we all, from time to time,  need a reminder that we can rise above our circumstances.  This post is one such reminder.

Finally,  I wanted to point out that I have a new post up at Stitches Magazine.   This post is about the value of selling on something other than price,  and includes some tips on ways to do that.   If you have a moment,  please stop by and read the post and leave me a comment.

posted in Around the Blogosphere | 1 Comment

7th June 2011

Loyalty Works Both Ways

In the course of my work day, because I spend a lot of time on forums and on Facebook and Twitter,  and because I also write a blog and column of Stitches Magazine,  I get to see a lot of posts about how people think a business should be run.  There are posts talking about social media,  comments about sales and special offers,  gripes about poor communication and slow shipping times,  pretty much every aspect of running a business gets covered, except one.  Loyalty.

When loyalty does get discussed it’s generally mentioned in the context of making customers more loyal to a company.   There are customer retention programs and customer discount clubs and all sorts of things designed to make the people who buy from a particular company more loyal to that company.   Everyone knows that recruiting a new customer always costs more than retaining a current customer, so the focus on customer loyalty makes sense.  In my opinion, however,  the focus is on the wrong part of the equation.   It shouldn’t be entirely about how loyal the customer is to the company,  it should also be about how loyal the company is to the customer.

If you’re a customer, you should, in my opinion anyway,  be asking a few questions about those with whom you do business,  questions beyond “do they have the lowest price?” or “can they ship things to me fast?”.   Price and speed of delivery are important,  no one denies that,  but lowest price isn’t always the best choice and speed of shipments doesn’t mean a lot if the company treats you poorly.   Every customer will, of course,  have slightly different criteria for what makes one company a keeper and another not worth buying from,  but I’d say, if the companies with whom you do business are showing these traits,  you’ve probably got a company that will be as loyal to you as you are to it.

5 Traits of Loyal Companies

  1. They talk to you – They have a blog, or a Twitter account or a Facebook page,  or send e-mail blasts,  but the content isn’t always about selling you more product.  They may try to educate, steer you toward good deals or help you get the most out of your current purchases,  but the goal is always to help you do more,  not get you to buy more.
  2. They’ll help you in an emergency – You need a cone of thread in a hurry.  You just ruined your last tile and the customer wants their order tomorrow.  When you’re really in need,  a loyal company will do whatever possible to help.
  3. There are real people on the other end of the phone – Maybe you have a rep you always work with, or maybe there’s a team of customer service people who can take your call,  but there’s always someone there to whom you can speak.  The company may have automation to make call handling more fast and efficient,  but they’ll also give you an easy way to speak to a real person.
  4. They’re a resource – No company, as much as most would hate to admit it,  can be all things to all people.  Loyal companies are the companies that will help you find someone who can do what you want,  or sell you what you need, if it isn’t them.
  5. If they screw up, they make it right – Companies are run by humans, and humans make mistakes.  A loyal company will do what they can to minimize the damage and to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again.

 

posted in Making Your Business Grow | Comments Off

3rd June 2011

The Friday Blog Round-Up 6/3/11

First up today is a lovely post from Erich Campbell about communication.  He’s titled it, aptly enough “Psychics are in Short Supply”  a title which makes me laugh every time I read it.   The post itself is about the need to communicate clearly and how to go about doing that very thing.   It’s a good reminder to all of us that we may not be communicating with our customers and our employees as well as we should be.

Second,  I want to point out an article that everyone has been linking to,  but which does really make you think, so I feel that’s its worth a link here as well.   The article is about the regrets people have on their deathbeds.  I identify most with the working too much one and the letting myself be happier one.  If nothing else this is a good reminder that no one gets out alive and you should make the most of the years you have.

Third on the list today is a post from Seth Godin about selling nuts to squirrels.  What he’s really saying is don’t try to convince people who aren’t natural buyers for your product that they want what you have to sell.  The exception to this rule is if you want to be a world spanning brand.  Then it’s worth your time to convince people they want what you have to offer.  For the rest of us, however,  it is enough to find the squirrels that crave the nuts we sell.

Fourth on the docket today is a post from Erika Napoletano who writes at a blog called Redhead Writing.   Content stealing is an epidemic on the Internet, and as someone who writes content that has been taken and used without my knowledge or consent,  I consider this a major problem.   Erika has written a great post about this very problem.  She’s right,  people need to stop trying to profit from work that isn’t theirs,  and giving someone the credit that is due them is not only easy,  it’s the right thing to do.

Fifth up today is a post from the Brains on Fire blog.  It’s a tale of two Facebook conversations, one managed by a company that used Facebook well and one managed by a company that was a little clueless about how social media is supposed to work.   At the end of the post are a few good lessons for anyone who does use Facebook for their business.  If you participate in social media for your business (and you should!) this post is worth a read.

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2nd June 2011

EnMart’s Recommendation: SMR Lead Retriever

Anyone who has ever done a trade show knows that you can quickly run up a lot of expenses.  There’s the booth space.  There’s furniture and electricity and carpet and a shipping and a host of other costs.   You also, of course, need some way to track the leads that you generate while you’re working the show and, while trade shows generally offer to rent you lead retrieval units,  they’re often expensive and if you do multiple shows,  the cost can quickly add up.

Since EnMart does somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 12 shows a year,  we quickly decided that spending a couple hundred dollars a show to rent a lead retrieval unit wasn’t very economical.    We tried one solution,  but found that it worked erratically and had problems frequently.    Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of relatively inexpensive solutions for lead retrieval out there,  so we thought we were out of luck,  until we discovered the perfect solution for us was right under our nose.

SMR Lead Retriever is offered by SMR Software,  which is owned by Scott Ritter,  the man who is the creator and host of the DAX shows.    The SMR Lead Retriever consists of the software and a barcode scanner.   The scanner and software can be installed on any computer.   For the extremely reasonable price of $599.95,  which can easily pay for itself in one or two shows,  you get everything you need to record leads,  except the computer.

This lead retrieval system works with most of the trade shows out there.   Unfortunately,  there are a few shows which have designed their badges so that only the lead retrieval software that they rent will work,  so no independent scanner will work for every show.   We do know,   after having used the scanner ourselves,  that it works for the DAX shows,  the NNEP shows and the ISS Shows.

We’ve also found the software very easy to install and use.   If you can send an e-mail or enter a contact into an online CRM, you can use this software.  We’ve now used the software at five shows and it’s worked very well every time.  Downloading the leads after the show is very easy too.   The software is intuitive and it’s easy to figure out how to make things work.

If you do a number of trade shows,  like we do,  you’re probably always looks for ways to make doing the shows more economical.  Eliminating the cost of renting a lead retrieval is definitely one way to do that.   If you’re looking for a lead retrieval system you can own,  EnMart would definitely recommend SMR Lead Retriever.   To learn more about the software,  take a virtual tour on the SMR website.

Update from Scott Ritter: I should mention that version 2.5 of the lead retriever is nearly ready to ship too. It has new features to make it more compatible with Windows 7, a completely re-designed “formats” database to make it compatible with more leads systems, (although the user will never see the difference) and also SHOULD have the ability to re-size the scanning screen  so that it can fill your screen when used on netbooks.  All users will get a free upgrade.

posted in Trade Shows | Comments Off

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