How can we make it easier to do business with us?

Sometimes you don’t ask questions because you really don’t want to know the answer. You know it’s bad, really bad. This is one of those questions:

How can we, as service providers such as pattern makers or contractors, make it easier for DEs to work with us?

I’ve had this sitting on my desktop for about a month. I have at least ten pages of notes in 10 pt font based on discussions I’ve had with other parties. My notes don’t paint a pretty picture.

It’s easy to use this exercise as an opportunity to vent your spleen but can we try to stick to the issues? We can do another one you if you like about suppliers, let’s limit this one to service providers like contractors and pattern makers for now.

It would be great if you could spend some time thinking about this. Thanks and I appreciate your suggestions.

Related:
How can we make it easier to do business pt.2

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24 comments

  1. Miracle says:

    I could write a whole book. But since you asked..

    I understand this whole thing about wanting to get to know why we’re sourcing and what we need and little bits about our business, but the truth is most of you don’t remember anyway. Sourcing can take so long and be so tedious, so please, have some kind of basic infosheet to send me. If you can’t do the website thing, just have a fax or email attachment that outlines the basics, so that I know if I can do business with you without having to spend time on the phone getting transferred to the right person, explaining myself 37 times and leaving a voice mail.

    You all know what questions you’re frequently asked. Let’s just get them out of the way.

  2. Brina says:

    I may not have anything to add, but I’d like to understand the question, since it’s not clear to me.
    So is the question:
    a) How can we, as service providers such as patternmakers or contractors, make it easier for DE’s to work with us. ?
    Or
    b) How can we, as DEs, make it easier for service providers such as patternmakers and contractors, to work with us?
    Or
    c) something else.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I mean:
    How can we, as service providers such as pattern makers or contractors, make it easier for DEs to work with us?

    I’ve amended accordingly. thanks!

  4. Karen says:

    I am having the darndest time trying to find a local sewing contractor. Not only are there NO listings on the internet in the Detroit area, there are no websites, no public information about associations, etc.

    I understand that not everyone has time to maintain an active website, but are the contractors around here so busy that they don’t want any new business at all?

  5. Sabine says:

    Karen, i just did a search for sewing contractors for Canada, not because I need one, just out of curiosity, And other then websites who list business directories, I could find only 1.
    The reason i did the search was so I can compare website layouts…Imagine my surprise not finding any, so you are not alone I betcha.

    My suggestion for the original question: make yourself findable! the yellow pages don’t cut it if people don’t know the town you are listed in.

  6. Tom Lo says:

    As a contractor, I always ask people how they find me. Why? It’s because when I do a search for contractors, I can’t seem to find them either. Granted, I am, along with many other contractors, listed in a contractors directory book. But, book = physical book that needs to be bought. To let you know, a lot of people find me via word of mouth, or through this site (thanks Kathleen!), or the directory. Sometimes they find me via google, but I can’t even find myself via google.

    Truth is, most of my competitors are busy with their few larger customers, or are so small and trying to survive that any marketing online means too much time. But, for what it’s worth, people can find my company, California Apparel Service, at http://www.californiaapparelservice.com.

    One suggestion: leverage social media marketing! But, I’m also curious: what search terms do people use when looking for contractors?

  7. Kathleen says:

    Tom, delighted to see you in these parts!

    All: okay, we have one central problem identified -namely, DEs being able to find contractors in a manner that is in accordance with their expectations. Emphasis is a big hint. Got it, inputed. Let’s move onto identifying other problems.

  8. I can’t answer this question for you… but I will wholeheartedly applaud you for asking a hard question like this. How can you really make yourself better, more available, more useful, more… whatever.

    Seems like a TON of businesses are burring their heads in the sand now-adays.

  9. How about getting contractors to RESPOND to calls or email in a timely manner? Once we find them, we want to have a conversation or at least some information. I agree with Miracle, there must be basic questions everyone asks. Tom’s website is great for laying these basics out. If they don’t want a minimal website, then the phone answering service could say, “If you want a fax with our basic services and prices outlined, please leave your fax number.”

  10. Dawn says:

    I don’t know about patternmakers, but for contractors, a basic overview or orientation sheet that has info like:
    –our standard seam allowance
    –our process (hard pattern, digital pattern, customer provides all inputs or not)
    –typical turnaround times
    –preferred fabrics / types of sewing / types of machines (or maybe the other way – specific things you don’t do)
    –services such as care/content labels, cpsia batch numbering tags
    –what you want provided for sampling (everything cut out, or the pattern and fabric yardage)

    This stuff is probably obvious to the experienced, but to newbies, this info is vital. A lot of it you only find out along the way, after you’ve made mistakes (such as supplying all patterns with a 1/4 in seam only to find out they need 3/8).

  11. Vesta says:

    As everyone is saying, I think these are THE two big issues, just to get in the door:
    1) We need to be able to find you. I think it’s very reasonable for a person new to the industry to look a) online and b) in the yellow pages. Most new DEs either don’t know about trade shows or can’t afford to attend. And I didn’t know about FashionDex until I attended a trade show. So expecting a new DE to buy a book that lists contractors is expecting way too much.
    2) We need some quick, basic information. Just a one-sheet or simple, static web page that throws the basics at us: minimums, typical turnaround time, specialties, machines, services offered, services NOT offered, requirements. Tom’s site is really good.

    If service providers could get these two things done, they could get plenty of DE work. IF that’s what they want. But I have to say, many contractors I’ve interacted with didn’t want a bunch of new DE work. They aren’t interested in being DE development firms. They want work, as quickly and efficiently as possible. One contractor I really respect (can’t even remember her name right now) took the time to look at my prototype (really early in my career), saw that it was too “raw” for her, and referred me to a patternmaker who is all about developing DEs. So even maintaining a list of service providers to punt to is huge (maybe on the one-sheet). That work will come back to the contractor when it’s ready for them.

  12. Kerryn says:

    Like Dawn for Patternmaking/Grading and Freelance Design I have an orientation sheet that clearly outlines what they can expect to receive from me, what I need to receive from them, costs and expected timelines from both parties. I also have a standard specification sheet so the Designer understands what information is necessary for me to complete their pattern. I’ve given up assuming anybody knows anything about patternmaking.

  13. Sabine says:

    Tom
    I searched:
    sewing contractors
    contract sewing services
    apparel manufacturers
    fashion manufacturers
    sewing services
    I searched on google and I searched in the yellow pages.
    As mentioned, the problem with the yellow pages is that you need to choose a city. So, if someone does not know that I am in Brooks, Alberta, they won’t consider searching in that city for me.
    But I believe they let you advertise so you will show up across country, I have to talk to yellow pages about that.

    And as far as industry listing books go, despite me having worked in this field since 8 years, I have yet to find someone who will tell me if Canada has such a book and where I can find it. As I have yet to advertise my somewhat limited services, it’s no big deal, But i am getting to the point where i feel confident i could produce an order from making the first sample to actual production of around 500pcs, depending on the product. Sure, don’t bring me winter jackets and brides maids dresses yet, but pants, t-shirts and specialty items like doggie diapers, absolutely.
    I am glad that Kathleen brought the topic up. It gives me lots of food for thought, even if my perspective is a bit different.

  14. leila shams says:

    i totally agree with everyone saying it is damn near impossible to find these people. and i live in new york city! when i first started my line i had a month long courtship with a pattern/sample maker i found on craigslist – he posted an ad every day! surely he knew what he was doing! it was a disaster. this site would have helped a lot but i hadn’t found that yet. i didn’t find the place i use now until i was physically under their sign in the garment district which of couse people in other places don’t have the luxury of doing. i would also say, and this may be controversial, that domestic vendors tend to have an attitude. and i’m experienced and my sketches are clear. i can only imagine what it’s like for someone new to the business. chances are anyone that has significant volume is not going to be making anything in the us or canada – i would assume that most of these small pattern/sample rooms and factories exist soley because of “newbies” because once you’re an oldie you’re not spending $900 on a pattern and sample. so maybe an appreciation and respect of the people that are, however annoyingly, keeping you afloat

  15. Marie-Christine says:

    I completely agree that it’s crucially important to be able to find the services you need. If it becomes too hard/time consuming to find help, you end up doing it yourself (often badly). These days, the yellow pages just don’t cut it, especially since your phone provider very much influences where you listing ends up. Google is where it’s at, people…

    Tom’s site is excellent. I’m not a DE, but anytime I find a site so clear and well-organized, so open in presenting information, I feel trust come over me that these people can handle their work load without losing their head. No matter what business we’re talking about. Congratulations Tom!

    If you feel queasy about putting out some information in public, think your competitors will benefit from knowing some stuff about you somehow, you can always get into putting some stuff into a part of the site that can only be accessed with a login that you send clients that send inquiries. But your competitors probably already know all they want to know, and your clients will be put off by the extra process, so think about that carefully before you implement such a scheme.

    Now there’s another problem, actually finding the site in google. When you put “California Apparel Service” into google, you get it right off. Believe me, that’s not so obvious :-). More kudos to Tom for following good design site practices (the title of the front page and the domain name both match the company name perfectly, for the most basic).

    Where things break down is when you do searches like the ones listed by Sabine. Now Sabine ought to add a geographical qualification to her searches if she meant to really find someone, and should probably always say ‘contractor’, that’s something else. But really, you have to think like a librarian – what are common keywords used to find businesses like yours? What are the semi-official terms, and the ones really used? Are you managing to mention most of those in your front page, if not your first paragraph? Google wants you to be successful, they give you lots of free but invaluable advice in http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/ You should read it and take it all to heart.. Test regularly the most common searches too, to make sure you can be found at least on the first page.

    None of this is either rocket science, or requiring of a computer degree..

  16. sarah says:

    @Sabine: Toronto, Ontario has a great Fashion Incubator, FashionIncubator.com. For a pretty small fee you can get a list of manufacturers in Canada. They offer a few different lists for sourcing, I believe. I believe I paid $27 4 years ago. They have great workshops and seminars, too.

    Apparel Search can be a place to look. One of my trim suppliers turned me on to a few contractors.

  17. Tom Lo says:

    @Marie-Christine, Thanks for the kind words. Right now I’m working out ways to actually provide more information online, so that when DE’s actually find me, they can have a lot of their questions answered before they even have to call me.

    @Sabine, thank you for the keywords that you use. I’m working on my side to make it easier to be found as well, so that’s really helpful!

  18. Tricia says:

    @Tom Lo, in addition to Marie-Christine’s web site advice, I’d suggest that if you aren’t already using Google analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) you should sign up for it. It’s free and pretty easy to set it up on your pages if you know a bit about the actual web coding. It’ll let you see what search terms people use to find you, which search engine, where in the world they come from, what pages on your site are most or least popular, etc.

  19. AJ says:

    just to add to the suggestion that you make yourself findable on the internet: A website is very easy to set up. Nowadays everyone can just use wordpress and use it as a website rather than a blog. To do that you use the option to set the front page to a static page/post. Then you create pages rather than posts so that you have PAGES and not blog postings. There are hundreds of templates available for free and you don’t even need any widgets. If you want DEs to find you, you need to have 3-5 pages of information on that site. Make sure you describe everything you do in plain text. You can use images but do not make images in photoshop which contain your text. Google can not read the words that are on pictures which means you will not be findable via Google. Also, find some other manufacturers to link trade with…this is helpful to the DEs also. Find ones who do something different than you but who you can recommend. If there are a few sites linking to your site, and if your website has a lot of good specific text, you will show up in Google searches. If ANYONE related to sewn products needs help with this please do not hesitate to contact me (via my link) and I will help you for FREE. I am very very good at SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

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