Ad imageAd image

How to Decide if DTF is Right For You

Nine questions you should ask yourself and your current customers.

Find the courage to give up.

Your first instinct is probably correct. This doesn’t make any sense! Why would you want to do this? But, trust me, this is different. 

When I started my marketing career 15 years ago (after working in sales), things were far from how they are today.  

  • Creating a Facebook business page and group was a new and brilliant move. 
  • Running ads on Facebook was a pretty sure bet on success. 
  • Making YouTube videos set you apart from the crowd. (This is still the case, but now the crowd is much larger.) 
  • Google Search ads were straightforward. They were tough and a bit technical, but they were definitely a way to get good ROI on your ad dollars.
  • Big changes were happening with podcast advertising. (I started the CAS Podcast, which was a big win.)

Then, everything changed, and now those changes are constant. One of the hardest things to do (in marketing and in business) is to give up on something that used to work, but now doesn’t.  It takes a particular form of courage to change gears, let it go, move on, and dive into something completely different.  

Why It’s Hard 

For many businesses, how you show is who you are. It’s how you’re known and how you got to where you are today, where you were last year, or the year before. 

You’re known as the business that provides all the T-shirts for the school and buys the banner space for the big games. Or maybe you’re known for your low prices. Or you built your image on serving a specific niche like promo products for real estate. 

Or (and this is even harder to shake) you identify as a “screen printer” or an “embroiderer” and you built your business on your skillset and it’s become even more of who you are.  

So, of course, it’s hard to take a cold, objective look at where you are, where your business is, and what you might have to do to stay afloat, grow, or expand.  

It takes courage to be a screen printer that completely switches to DTF Printing.  

It takes courage to go from a retail space to 100-percent online. 

It takes courage to abandon the marketing or the pricing strategy that was once successful. 

It takes courage to move your business away from your target market – your current customers who made you money in the first place – but you might need to.   

How to Tell if You Should Give up (and Try Something New)

You have to do homework. 

You HAVE to do homework.  

YOU have to do homework.  

You have to do HOMEWORK.  

You can’t give up on anything until you have. 

Look at Your Numbers 

There must be something that’s inspired you to read this far, and that’s probably a downward trend in sales or profits. The first thing you have to do is take a close look at your numbers. This means digging into your monthly sales for the past two or three years, as well as your monthly profits. You’ll also want to get the number of products you sold and the average order size. 

By gathering this data, you’re looking at what’s been successful in the past and identifying trends in the order size, the type of orders, the general profitability, and very importantly, if your margins are compressing over time. 

Now do this same exercise for business expenses. How have your expenses changed? 

One of the reasons why you have to use actual numbers instead of what’s in your checking account or how you feel about your business is so you can identify these “aha moments.”  

You may find your expenses have trended up in a way that makes you no longer profitable, which means you need to reexamine how you’re spending your money.  

The numbers might tell you to give up on retail space, reduce your staff, or mothball a piece of equipment instead of repairing it… again. 

Or, it may mean you have to give up on your old pricing strategy in a favor of a new one that reflects the rise in expenses. 

Very few small business owners, particularly in the custom apparel business, do regular price increases. Often this is some combination of fear of losing customers and feeling like they don’t “need” or deserve to raise prices. 

Look at your Market 

The next thing you need to do is create a competitive analysis. Do this with fresh research, not by looking at the competitors you remember, or have noticed, but ones that come up on search or you’ve actually lost business to. When you do your online search, don’t ignore the national competitors or the ads that pop up because guess what? People buy from them, too.  

Ask Yourself:

  1. Do you have more competitors now than you have in the past? You can learn this by searching for generic terms like “wholesale transfers for sale” or more specific ones like “[your city] custom T-shirts” and “[your niche] custom T-shirts.”  
  2. Has the pricing changed in your market/niche? Call a few competitors or look at their online prices and see how you compare.  
  3. How does the competition’s online or in-person presence compare to yours? Most of the time you’ll find ways to improve! Pay special attention to their Google Business/Maps profile.  
  4. Do an advertising survey. When you search – online or driving around town – do you see your competition advertising in places, or in ways, you are not?  
  5. Do you lack Google Reviews where your competition has many? [Read my article on how to get and use Google Reviews here.]

Ask Your Customers:

  1. How do our products and services compare to those of our competitors? 
  2. What made you choose us over other suppliers? 
  3. Have you also bought from another vendor? How was that experience? 
  4. Do you feel our products are priced fairly for the quality you receive?  

When you do this market research, the hardest lesson you may learn is your niche isn’t working anymore. Either it’s shrunk or the competition has become so intense you can no longer operate profitably. This means you may need to give up on the niche that made you.  

Bio: Mark Stephenson is a digital marketing strategist, partner, and educator. He is the driving force behind Clients First Marketing, a boutique marketing firm dedicated to empowering small business owners through comprehensive marketing solutions, educational resources, and tailored CRM systems. With decades of experience in digital marketing, sales, and management in the customization space and beyond, Mark brings a unique, holistic perspective to the ever-evolving world of online marketing. Find him on LinkedIn.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *