5 questions every designer must answer revisited

In the midst of writing another post, it occurs to me that I may not have written clear guidelines on how to describe your project to a service provider in order to attract their interest. This entry is probably what I should have written instead of the 5 Questions every designer must answer -the latter being more of a rant- so I find myself amending at this late date.

Recapping from the earlier entry are these five points:

  1. A brief description of your product.
  2. Your customer profile
  3. Your anticipated price points
  4. The types of stores you would like to sell to
  5. Who you aspire to hang with.

Before I describe the points separately, first a brief word on what you shouldn’t tell a provider. And that would be all things marketing. By that I mean, don’t try to sell us your product, we’re not a buyer nor the end consumer. To us, the branding message is just so much talk talk talk and most of us don’t care about that end of your business.  It also bears reminding that you need to be able to provide these five bits of information before requiring a signed confidentiality agreement –if at all. I think it would be helpful to write all of this out before you start calling around otherwise no one will return your calls and you’ll wonder why you’re getting the run around.

1. A brief description of your product.
An earlier entry I wrote on How to write garment descriptions is a good introduction. Explain the product attributes according to product type (skirt, jacket, bag), material composition and fabric type (not all contractors can handle knits, matching stripes, velvet, kevlar, leather or what have you) and anything else that may be applicable. Such as, the garment is lined, requires a bit (or extensive) embroidery, screen printing, nailhead application etc.

2. Your customer profile.
Who is the product for? Men, women, kids? Are they busy soccer moms, executives, athletes? Be specific because this explains performance expectations for the product.  The form on page 40 of my book will help. Be explicit but don’t be tempted to throw in marketing attributes such as “discriminating and quality minded who appreciates the finer things in life”. Say upper income office workers or executives or something like that.

3. Your anticipated price points
This question is really asking several things; we have been around and know the going retail price for given items so we want to be sure you’ve planned well and have taken stock of the marketplace. We also need to know so we can determine if we make this class of goods. If items are inordinately expensive and possibly require some finessing, we may not be the best option for you. The reverse is also true; if one is set up for high end goods, we probably can’t be competitive if your project is value knit sportswear or even tees. It is best if you use accepted price point categories used in the trade.

4. The types of stores you would like to sell to
I realize not everyone anticipates selling at retail but this can be critical if you are. If you would like to sell to more established brick and mortar stores, it is ideal if you can find a provider who already makes goods for given stores. If you want the cognitive short cut, a JC Penney’s certified contractor is a big plus. I realize that doesn’t impress many start ups but Penney’s is highly respected in the trade for their adherence to quality processes. If one sells to Penney’s, any store or buyer will give you a second look.

5. Who you aspire to hang with.
You have to know where you fit in the marketplace. If you don’t, no one will know where to put you either.  This being a matter of comparatives; if you say you’d like to get into Lululemon’s space and we are familiar with those product attributes, we have a shared cognitive shortcut of the various themes common to this part of the business.  There are three entries on this site on this subject, the first two were written by a buyer so it would be advantageous to read them. See Who do you hang with pt.1, pt.2 and pt.3.

One last thing you never want to say? Don’t say your product doesn’t exist or has no competition because our first reaction -however unfair- is that you haven’t done enough leg work before coming to us. Either you haven’t shopped around to take stock of the market or no one is doing it because it isn’t profitable (we’re looking for long term relationships). We won’t think any less of you if you’re not 100% original because none of our other customers are either. Originality isn’t how we decide to work with you and not coincidentally, the subject of my next post is how we pick projects.

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  1. Xochil says:

    It makes things SO much easier when a prospective client has this information readily available, and offers it in the initial conversation or email. When we (a contractor/pattern service, etc.) have to do a lot of prodding to get this information, it turns us off from taking on the client’s work. Basically if you can’t be forthcoming in the beginning of the relationship, I can tell right away you’re going to be a difficult client to work with, and might not be worth my time and trouble. Even if you have good ideas and your products would otherwise be of interest to me, or within my realm of expertise. So we both miss out on the potential business relationship.

  2. Stephanie K says:

    Ah, you read my mind again. The whole relationship is so much more satisfactory when all the terms are clear at the beginning. I’m not averse to those answers changing down the road, or perhaps filling in some of them if the other ones are clear. If you didn’t care enough to think about them, you really should consider another line of work. One in the real world.

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