Interviewing Adpro Imprints President Peter Demaree, Jr. at his unassuming office in Ocean, I found this self-described “t-shirt and jeans kind of guy” and “behind the scenes person” a far cry from the egotistical, bombastic business archetype of Hollywood, cable news, and the blogosphere. He’s no Donald Trump, and I mean that as a compliment.
Voted “Best Print Shop” in a recent Asbury Park Press readers’ poll, Adpro is a B-to-B marketing and promotional firm specializing in custom screen printing and embroidery.
I’ll be writing about Jim Collins’ Great by Choice in an upcoming post, but Demaree reminded me of the “Level 5” leaders who Collins described in Good to Great: he spoke of “we,” not “I”; had high praise for his staff; and came from within the company (he and partner Anthony Lugo purchased Adpro from Peter Demaree, Sr. in 2006). A graduate of the College of New Jersey, Demaree explains here how he and Lugo brought the business online while maintaining exceptional customer loyalty in its stores in Ocean and Farmingdale.
Question: What’s your best-selling product?
T-shirts have always been our staple; it’s 70 percent of sales. Anthony and I added embroidery–the second biggest thing we do. That’s the sound you hear in the back. A complicated logo on the back of a jacket can take six hours because there are so many stitches per inch needed.
We also do vinyl signs, graphic design and promotional products. We handle the design and resell through manufacturers. We’re unique because everything we do is customized to what the customer needs. One wants screen-printed shirts and another wants a business card holder with their name on it. Everyone who walks through the door wants something different. At least 70-80 percent are repeat customers. Fifty percent have been coming to us for 10 years or more.
Question: How do you generate such tremendous loyalty, especially in this economy when many people are just seeking bargains?
Actually, lots of online places are more expensive than us but people don’t really know that. You don’t know what our prices are until you talk to us – it’s all based on quantities, numbers of colors and so on. And people need to replace t-shirts so we get repeat business that way.
We happen to be in a business where you can always get things cheaper or faster. I think what sets us apart is that we care enough to do the job right. It’s the one-on-one personal interaction. You can walk into our retail location on 35 in Ocean, see and touch samples we have in our showroom, try things on. It’s low pressure. We will take as much time as it takes to steer you in the right direction. You’ll never find someone looking to make the sale and get you out the door like you find in other businesses.
Question: What’s your preferred type of marketing?
I’ve found that the best type of marketing is using your social contacts and connections to build a strong reputation.
I’d much rather have a strong, loyal customer base who returns year after year because they love the quality and service they get, than have new customer turnover because of strong marketing and no support.
That’s why marketing to current customers is as important–if not more important–than marketing to the outside world.
I rely heavily on our reputation and word of mouth to help us grow organically as much as possible.
Question: Were you quick to embrace web marketing and social media? How do you measure whether it’s working?
When we bought the business, the company didn’t even have a website, so we were forced to embrace those things pretty quickly. Marketing locally on the Internet has done more for our business than “paper advertising” ever could have done, and at a fraction of the cost, freeing up our marketing budget for other things. I don’t know anyone who uses the Yellow Pages anymore.
When I track activity on our website I can’t believe how many unique visitors there are. We put money into Google ads and Facebook ads. Also a lot of direct mailing, limited to other local businesses. Google gives you access to tools so you can see what is working and what’s not. I also recently started using a useful app called HitTail that simplifies and automates the process.
Question: Can you explain your social media strategy and how much time you devote to it?
I try to be active in our social media outlets at least once a week. Social media marketing has been great for us, but for a business, too much activity can be a bad thing.
The idea of social marketing is to stay in front of your customers, not pound them with alerts and updates several times a day.
We don’t want to get deleted! I try to keep our posts relevant. Sometimes it’s hard to get creative. Sometimes I’ll post a special or discount, and other times I’ll just post a picture of something extraordinary or special that week. It’s a pretty loose strategy, but it seems to work.
Visit Adpro Imprints online, or if you’re in New Jersey, stop by their retail location at 1206 Rt. 35 South, Ocean.