A message from the President/CEO, Adam Walterscheid:
Since launching YourCo. as a sales tool for resale agents and promotional distributors, I’ve helped create thousands of business pitches. Each one looking to service their branding needs through my private label solution.
Prospective clients have about 15 minutes over the phone or face-to-face with me to pique my interest. I drill down with questions about their opportunity to see if they can convince me why I should invest YourCo.’s resources in their project.
I faced the same challenge when I was working to get Pony Xpress Printing and T-Shirt Tycoon off the ground as a young entrepreneur. I had to plead my case and prove the value of my services to win over opportunities, time and time again. Now, as a 3rd party supply chain partner, I get to be the one asking the questions.
After spending a decade listening to pitches, I’ve gotten pretty good at pattern recognition. Quickly recognizing which opportunities are viable and which are dead in the water saves time, money, and resources. So, how do you discern which opportunities will thrive and which will die on the vine?
It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t necessarily require any formal education. Most of the time it comes down to three things:
People, Process, & Product Strategy
1. The People
Great merchandise ideas are everywhere. Great merchandise ideas which are properly executed are rare. My assessment of an opportunity starts with gauging the brand’s target audience and the sales agent, or distributor, behind the effort. Evidence of great communication and meticulous attention to detail have proven to be paramount. Potential projects that warrant our resources are easily qualified if they can be defined in 5 simple questions.
The sales agent or distributor must answer each question with a precise response. These answers assure us that the project has a defined direction before we start creative. I have trained all YourCo. project managers to clearly understand all of the variables in order to execute the strategy from start to end, from design to ship.
The reality is that resale sales agents and promotional distributors face a monumental task: to create something out of nothing. Turning a thought into something tangible requires the primal act of creation. You need cult-like devotion to your cause in order to succeed. Weekdays and weekends make no difference. Same goes for job titles. An effective YourCo. project manager is willing to wear multiple hats— from strategist, to customer service rep, to merchandiser and even quality control specialist.
Above all, I look for the ability to get things done. Great project managers find a way to move the needle, fast. Rather than passing the buck to someone else, they race to track down a solution themselves— and don’t rest until they’ve found one. This is one reason why I feel that having a critical mass of “can-do” individuals is crucial to managing the process behind a highly custom lifestyle product.
2. The Process
The following scenario is one we come across all the time: a distributor presents a lifestyle apparel item, runs through an awesome design idea, and then concludes by saying: “… now all I need is to find someone to handle the printing”.
The embellishment can’t be an afterthought. Lifestyle apparel is a sticky factor for almost every consumer today and is by no means easy to get right. Behind every opportunity lies critical questions with very specific answers. Knowing the technical information of the brand guidelines, timelines, quantities, budget, and item number to a favorite branded tee are critical to managing a project. These factors determine our ability to deliver brand integrity while staying within the price point required. A project manager’s complete understanding of these factors is as important as the “business opportunity”.
For that reason, I prefer no more than one degree of separation from the buyer, marketing team, and brand police- or a variation that’s close to the final decision.
The alternative is an unorganized process with no real firm direction or strategy: securing ideas from only what we think the brand wants, and initiating all the costs up front in time and resources. This holds us back from having the resources and time to accept and deliver on more viable opportunities.
3. The Product Strategy
I often get approached by retail sales agents and promotional distributors developing a new business. They insist they’ll have a few-thousand-piece order in no time. Then the opportunity is open for bid. Every distributor in the vendor network races to get in line with one of those “me too” brands. Then they use generic design, rough un-fitted blanks, and their local printer’s cheapest plastic based prints to compete on price only. Do you think it’s going to be a cakewalk to battle through all that noise, get noticed, and carve the most profitable scenario?
Indeed, part of the traction is having a viable plan to “break the routine” of what the customer will be presented. In apparel especially, getting a lifestyle product to go viral isn’t easy, so make sure you’re pitching “return on exposure” (ROE) as your strategy. Delivering a touch and feel presentation of the “closet vs. the drawer” is the key to closing 7 out 10 projects proposed.
When T Tycoon was getting off the ground we’d give customers access to free creative and private label plates to prove these features would maximize the ROE for the respective brand. This encouraged word-of-mouth adoption and let us grow rapidly right out of the gate.
A dose of humility is needed here. This criteria isn’t foolproof. I’ve seen ideas that checked all the boxes to go on to flop. I’ve listened to pitches that didn’t satisfy this threshold that were ultimately met with runaway success. All in all, this mindset should steer you toward picking a viable supplier and properly qualifying the project to get to the right strategy. A million-dollar relationship is worth a lot more with the right supply chain partner, the right lifestyle product, and an effective project manager.