Competitive Cooperation

How Competitive Cooperation can maximize profits.

Conventional business wisdom is ruthless. It tells us to make no friends: that our competition is the enemy. Many traditional screen printers operated under this philosophy.

They attempted to corner the decorated apparel market, so anyone seeking services has no choice but to buy from them. However, for many of today’s screen printing shops, putting that outdated thinking into practice can be fatal.

You might wonder how operating a screen print shop would lend itself to a collaboration with your competition. The simple truth is that no one shop can do it all. While there are many reasons for this cost, space limitations, lack of expertise or technical knowledge it is key you realize your strengths and limitations. You will know what can be done in-house, and what orders you should take but then contract out. Developing relationships with your competition advantages you and your customers by being able to offer more services and choices.

examples that I recently heard screen printers struggling to handle:

  • A start up screen printer turned away a decent size order because the customer insisted on a ten color logo, and her equipment maxed out at six colors.
  • A screen print shop had to tell a good customer they could not do a short run of five pieces, even though they routinely delivered twelve dozen shirts a month for his day camp program.
  • A small sized screen printing shop turned down a customer wanting window decals because they only handle garments

In each of the above examples, a customer had to search for a different printer to fulfill the order. Anytime a customer must source a project you cannot handle, you risk losing that customer to your competition. The minute a customer walks through the door of another shop, they might decide it is easier to move all their business there. This is where a good relationship with your competition protects your own business.

Spend time developing lines of communication with other screen printing shops. Find others who can handle complicated art separations, different volume orders and specialty prints. Anything your own screen print shop cannot do. Make a personal contact from among your competitors staff who can answer your questions quickly and green light jobs, so your customer does not experience any delays. Being ready for the customer who needs something outside your own abilities gives you a greater chance of retaining that customer.

Find other shops you can trust.

By developing good working relationships that promise ongoing business, the temptation to steal clients is less attractive. The relationship works both ways.When you are willing to trust a competitor with a job, it says that you can be trusted also. Use your new relationships to build business for yourself. If you’re a small shop that sometimes needs to contract out large orders, offer your small run services to your contractor. If signs are your specialty, then sit down with your garment printer and develop an easy sales kit.

There may come a day when you buy a shiny new machine to handle everything. However, until you make that investment, don’t turn customers away simply put your competition to work for you.

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