A couple of months ago I got to know a woman in her fifties. Between a chat and the other, she told me about how her son was having a hard time finding work as a tailor and how much he wanted to work in that market.
He had tried multiple paths and had several interviews, but no job had turned out to be the right one. No company had really understood how deep his passion and love for that profession was.
He had been so eager to become an excellent tailor — his mother told me — that he had insisted for months with a local craftsman until he convinced him to teach him some tricks of the trade, also willing to invest money to pay for it.
This dedication impressed me so much that I found myself, without even realizing it, thinking to myself: “What strategy would I study to position myself as a professional tailor if I were in his place?”
In a world where every market is more than overcrowded and technology is slowly replacing virtually all professions, even the creative ones, finding a way to stand out among all the other tailors would be my priority.
I have isolated three strategies that in my opinion would allow me to get noticed and build a successful business as a tailor, here are what they are:
Position as an artist, not as a worker
When starting from scratch, without a name or a portfolio of clients, it is very difficult to get noticed. Everyone who has embarked on a freelance life knows this.
I think it is even more true thinking about a sector like that of tailoring where, in my humble opinion, most of the tailors work more as workers than as craftsmen and even less work as artists.
A worker uses physical force to do his job.
A craftsman also uses his mind.
But an artist puts his heart into it.
— Stephen Lett
Many tailors find themselves hiding in a back shop, doing the “dirty work”, invisible to customers, sweating seven shirts (lol) to bring home a salary. I think there are very few who have made a name for themselves and, quite often, they are simple employees of some boutique.
I’m not talking about stylists or art directors for some big fashion brand, but about freelancers who depend entirely on their skills, reputation, and network of acquaintances.
To position in the market (whatever it may be) uniquely and decisively, I am convinced that it is essential to go against what is standard, set up a marketing strategy built ad hoc on our needs and circumstances, and create a personal brand that allows us to stand out.
How would I do it?
First, I would work directly with a super select package of clients, building a personal relationship with each of them. I wouldn’t open a shop and I certainly wouldn’t offer my services to the crowd.
Having a shop would make me easy prey to the price war and the timing and whims of customers.
In my idea, on the other hand, I would define a very small target audience, made up of people willing to pay several hundred if not thousands of Euros for tailored clothing. I would be the one to define the rules of my business and not the market.
I would probably turn to business executives, lawyers, bankers, show business personalities, and so on. In reality, the customer’s sector would not matter that much and their economic availability would be only one of the aspects I would take into account.
The key thing for me would be to hit a market segment that crosses several sectors, whose members base a large part of their personal brand on the personal aspect. People who have a certain reputation and whose look is a business weapon and not just a whim.
What benefits would I get?
Surely, as already said, I could get more than adequate compensation for my professionalism and well above average, but not only! I would also gain in notoriety, precisely because this type of person lives in a world where appearances are everything and, if I were the creator of their beautiful appearance, they would become my ambassadors, so to speak, and every public appearance, business meeting, and gala dinner would advertise me.
At this point, another question arises: “How could I contact these people and start working with them?”
Networking and Reciprocation
To start a working relationship with this type of public, I believe it is imperative to make direct contact in person. No screens between me and them, no emails or online sales funnels. At least not before meeting them in person.
Networking, therefore, becomes one of the main weapons of this strategy.
I would study their habits carefully and thus learn about their typical readings, what are the television broadcasts that normally interest them, what environments they frequent, and so on — which, then, is what underlies the definition of a user persona.
I would then try every possible way to be able to participate in the events in which my possible customers gather and observe how they dress, individually, listen carefully to their speeches and try to steal any information that could be useful for me to structure an offer (and experience) customized for each of them.
Finally, I would introduce myself, with ease, perhaps inserting myself into a conversation in which I can make some kind of contribution, which would be possible because I would have studied their interests in advance.
This type of approach would allow me to immediately establish a relationship of trust and respect, placing myself not as a supplier of a service or an “operative tailor”, but instead positioning myself as a consultant, at their same level, who can give added value to their position and career.
After the first phase of analysis, I would move on to the attack. In all likelihood, at these events, I will have collected names, email addresses, telephone numbers.
But not only. I will also have drawn up a detailed “technical sheet” of each of them: clothing style, colors, fabrics, type of accessories, and much more. All this information would no longer be a simple hypothesis of my user persona, but a fact.
You may be wondering what all this information would be for.
Simple! I would go and select a personalized gift for each of them.
Maybe a tie, hand-sewn in the favorite color and fabric of my prospects, or maybe I would partner with a jewelry store and give them a pair of cufflinks that go well with their way of dressing.
Or why not, if I had a great eye, I might even venture to tailor a suit for that person, ask for an appointment and gift it.
I know, it may seem like complete madness. But it is not.
Robert Cialdini, in his book “Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion”, highlights what we can call the “principle of reciprocation”.
In short (I highly recommend reading the book) what Cialdini says is that we have all been educated from an early age to show gratitude to those who give us a gift or a favor. If we didn’t reciprocate we would automatically be considered rude and ungrateful.
An action of this kind, therefore, would place the prospective client in a situation in which he would feel kind of obliged to reciprocate my gesture.
I would go from being a stranger until a few days or weeks before to become a new friend who listens to them, understands them, is interested in them, and has just given them a gift.
Not bad, isn’t it?
Create relationships and expand the offer
In the previous strategy, I talked about entering into a partnership with a jewelry store.
This is another very important aspect of my plan. In fact, as a tailor, I could only offer a limited set of services. And that’s okay.
My client, however, would need a lot more to look after his appearance: shoes, accessories, jewelry, watches, hair styling, and much, much more.
Why not enter into partnerships with artisans (or artists?) and companies from various sectors, possibly all of them, so that I can offer a complete and personalized experience?
I am deeply convinced that it can be a winning move.
Another thing that I would certainly take into consideration would be to use an expert in color analysis who can support me in the initial “setup” phase of my tailoring consultancy (or I would train to be an expert myself).
Color analysis is the science that studies the correlation between the chromatic characteristics of an individual and the colors that emphasize them.
Can you imagine a high-level sartorial service where the personalization of the product not only takes into account the tastes and body shape of the person but also the colors and fabrics that will make them stand out and make them more attractive?
At this point, my offer would be more than complete, and I could finally think about techniques to scale my business.
Scale the business and make it a recurring income
While I was structuring this marketing plan, I thought something like: “What if all this becomes a recurring subscription service?”
Try to think about it: one of my clients may need more clothing items during the year, both to renew their wardrobe but also to meet specific needs related to particular events or anniversaries.
Surely being the personal tailor of a person would give me the security of having a constant income, but distributed over time and without any control over them. This would mean that I could receive large amounts of money in a few moments of the year and then nothing for months.
So how could I overcome this fluctuating income and thus guarantee myself a constant flow of money? With a recurring payment model, more commonly called a subscription.
It might seem like a stretch, but I believe instead that, if well studied, even this solution can be successful.
The benefits would be multiple, but to highlight only a few:
- I would always have cash flow;
- I would be able to cover all the recurring costs of my professional activity;
- I could invest more confidently in acquiring new customers;
- I could continue to “cuddle” my customers over time with additional cadeaux which, let’s face it, would be anything but cheap.
Is it a perfect model? Probably not, but it is another option to think about and that I, personally, would not rule out a priori.
In this strategic analysis of mine, we have seen how it is possible to position oneself effectively even in a particular and niche sector such as tailoring. I have not recycled strategies from one business to another, but I had studied uncommon but high-potential ones.
I am also convinced that many of these strategies can also be applied to other markets, as long as the focus is on direct consultancy and we can offer an extremely personalized experience.
To briefly summarize, the strategies that I have identified are:
- Position as an artist, which means starting 1-to-1 consultations with clients, studying their interests and needs, without falling back into more dated and binding business models;
- Networking, getting into the business, making yourself known and, above all, exploiting the lever of reciprocation by making gifts to prospects to acquire them and, in all likelihood, convert them into customers;
- Create relationships with other complementary figures to offer an increasingly complete, personalized and unique experience;
- Evaluate a business model with recurring payments rather than simply offering a service, get paid, and wait patiently for the next transaction.