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What is a Sample Kit and Why You Need One

By Jimmy Lamb

Sales are the backbone of a successful sublimation business and a killer sample kit is the key to turning opportunities into real profits.

First: what is a sample kit? Simply put, it’s a collection of sublimated products you’ve made that get the attention of your clients and inspire them to do business with you.

The right samples can have more impact on the sales process than anything you might say or do.

A good quality sample kit will:

  1. Make a positive impression about your business.
  2. Show-off your decoration capabilities.
  3. Tell a visual story that fulfills a need and creates a demand.
  4. Increase profits through cross-selling.

Create a Positive First Impression

Like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover. They will make assumptions based on how you dress, what you say, and certainly on your samples. Your kit needs to be carefully thought out and created vs random samples tossed into a bag.

Don’t try to impress a client by showing a sample of every possible thing you can do. Instead, carefully choose items that should be of interest to that customer.



Think of what makes sense to “pitch” to them and then create a presentation around those points. Each sample product should play a role in that presentation.

Physical Products Sell More Than Pictures and Ideas

You know what your capabilities are, but your customer does not. The best way to inform them is to show them and that is where your samples can make a difference.

First of all, a physical sample allows the client to touch and feel the product. They should be able to feel the quality and see the accuracy of the decoration. Challenge them to try to scratch the ink off, because this will give you a talking point about the durability of sublimation and how it never fades, chips or cracks.

Good samples need to do more than just show your capabilities, they also need to have a certain “wow” factor that is visually stimulating.

Think about creative characteristics that can set you apart from your clients. The ultimate goal is to get the client EXCITED about the really cool things you can offer them, because this will drive the emotional aspect of the sale and increase your chances of closing the deal.

Bottom line – show off your capabilities by producing samples that are exciting and visual, yet functional as well.

Create Samples That Fulfill a Customer’s Needs

Your products should tell a story that creates demand by fulfilling needs. But the reality is that no one sample kit works for every situation, so you will ultimately end up with multiple kits that target different markets and different needs.

What you show to the corporate market will be different than what you show to the sports market. And even within a given market you might have different products for different sub-markets. For example, what appeals to swimmers probably won’t work for golfers.

With any given client, ask the question – what do they need and why? That will help you define not only the products but also the graphics. Let’s look at a small business - why do they need decorated products? Make a list:

  1. Advertising to bring in business.
  2. Promotional products to establish their brand.
  3. Apparel for employee uniforms.
  4. Recognition products to reward their best employees.
  5. Holiday gift items to thank their top customers.

Chances are the business thought about items 1 and 2, but maybe not 3-5, so this gives you a chance to tell a story that grows beyond their basic needs. Keep in mind that in reality, if done right, items 3-5 will also fulfill the top needs – advertising and promotions, which is usually the most significant need for any small business or corporation.

What do you see in this picture? A sublimated mouse-pad? WRONG – it’s a promotional product that is designed to advertise a business and/or service in a positive and creative way:

  1. It is a usable product, which means it has longevity and visibility in the hands of the user.
  2. The logo has a prominent location which allows the brand to be emphasized.
  3. There is a picture of the company’s top-selling product, which clearly defines what their primary business is.
  4. That same picture should trigger the user to feel hungry when stared at for long periods of time.
  5. Once the user feels hungry, he can see the printed list of top selling food items.
  6. He can then order online or by phone, both of which are printed on the menu.

Now think about it a different way. What if you only put their logo (very common) and nothing else? The impact would be far different, as a logo really says nothing about who they are and what they can do for you.

Therefore, your samples need to tell stories to your clients about how you can help them fulfill their needs, whatever those needs may be. Sometimes this is done via individual items, but more likely the story is told by packaging together multiple items, a process referred to as cross-selling.

Using a Sample Kit to Cross-Sell

Often, a client will and ask about a single product – t-shirt, sweatshirt, coffee mug, water bottle, hat, tote bag, etc. But you should respond with at least five products that are complementary to the original item.

This can stimulate the customer to expand their order, which of course increases your profits. Again, the key is not to be random, but rather have a group of products that have been setup with a common theme.

For example, a small boutique hotel is interested in polo shirts for their housekeeping staff. Are there other opportunities? The front desk staff wears more formal clothing, so that knocks them out – or does it? Neckties can be imprinted with the hotel logo, as can scarves and sweaters.

And then there are all the other items that can be decorated with that same logo – towels, linens, pillowcases, etc. And if you can have the capabilities to print on non-apparel products using processes like sublimation, it opens the doors even further.

Do you need to create a kit for each business that you want to sell to? Absolutely not. That would be too time-consuming and quite expensive. Instead, put together packages that are generic enough to show to different clients within the given vertical, but specific enough to fulfill the needs that are unique to that market.

In many cases this will mean creating a kit that is based around a fictitious business or organization. This ensures that you don’t step on any toes by showing products created for one business to a competing business. Or in the case of sports or schools, you don’t want to show any favoritism which could hurt the sales process.

From a practical standpoint, you should first create a marketing plan for your business which spells out the different vertical markets you wish to pursue. Then research those markets to learn more about their needs. Use this information to formulate sample kits that will fulfill those needs in a creative, visual and practical way.

Samples are one of the most important sales tools you have. Take the time to develop it the right way. Make sure it appeals to the given market that you will be presenting to. And though it may be costly to create, not getting regular sales will cost you even more.



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