How to Use Headwear to Prospect for New Business

By Ben Roberts on Sep 21, 2022 @ 1:16PM CDT

There's a secret that highly successful distributors know. Ready for it? Headwear is a gateway to new business. 

In this article you'll learn about the different types of headwear providers and how caps and knits enable promotional products distributors to drive new sales with those 'hard-to-close' or 'not-right-now' businesses. Best of all, you'll learn how it can cost you absolutely nothing. Ready for a nearly foolproof, zero dollar cost prospecting strategy? Listen up.

A little background on Headwear.

MicrosoftTeams-image (75)Hats make up around 5% of the $23 Billion dollar Promotional Products market. To create those 150 million or so caps sold in the US market each year, there are a few kinds of companies that supply headwear. Specifically,

  • Hat factories
  • Intermediate distributors
  • Pure play suppliers

Hat factories are the ones that reach out to you on Linkedin and have a name like Lin or Wan and act as an overseas factory representative. Some of these are okay. Most of them are quite difficult to deal with for several reasons. But the reality is that hat factories are rarely focused on the unique needs of the ad specialty and promotional products business. They can do fantastic work when assessed for social compliance, capabilities, and communication. These factories usually work with intermediate distributors and pure play suppliers to make great products. But dealing with them directly is NOT recommended. We'll save those customer stories for another day.

Intermediate distributors you likely know by name. Sanmar, AlphaBroder, S&S, and Delta Apparel just to name a few. These are the big product aggregators in the industry and sell across a wide range of apparel items and other promo categories. These companies typically sell you blanks and don't have a lot in the way of design or consultation services. Buying headwear from these companies is great for local decorators as they ship fast (and free) and offer a wide range of products as well as easy-to-use ecommerce and support portals. They also typically ship quickly with deep stock so if you need a creative quick-turn solution to ship to a local decorator, these work great for that use case.

Pure play headwear suppliers are exactly what they sound like. A U.S. based supplier that focuses on the design, development, sourcing, and selling of exceptional headwear. This is where Outdoor Cap and a small list of other companies reside. This type of company has headwear figured out. They do all the trend analysis, all the sourcing, and all the base product design to ensure distributors can safely buy headwear that is responsibly sourced with consistency, quality, and value. The extra value you get from a pure play headwear provider is the difference between hiring an electrician and installing a junction box yourself. You are going to get a much better product and experience with the professionals that do it every day.

Leveraging the value of pure play suppliers

MicrosoftTeams-image (74)These suppliers have more skin in the headwear game than just about anyone else. Their business model revolves around the product so they offer additional services that the other types of suppliers don't. Like what you ask? Well,

  • headwear specific marketing materials
  • virtual designs or 'conceptual artwork'
  • comprehensive design services
  • blank samples
  • FREE Spec Samples

That last one is is the kicker and allows your prospecting to be zero cost to you. 

Even inside the promotional industry there is one statement that stands the test of time for headwear above all other product categories. That statement is, "Caps sell themselves." A great cap, with your customer's brand, with an industry appropriate on-trend design, sells itself almost every time. And we give you those finished design samples... for free. 

Imagine a hard-to-reach prospect. They could be a big fish. Maybe you could build a program around them with dozens or hundreds of locations or businesses buying YOUR merchandise. But they won't answer the phone. They don't want to meet in person. They don't get the value of promotional merchandise. What is a distributor to do?

MicrosoftTeams-image (76)Here's what you do:

  1. Get their logo or brand guide
  2. Submit a design request to your pure play headwear supplier and ask for a finished sample
  3. Let The Headwear Experts design and build you a first-class branded cap for your customer
  4. Send that cap to Mr. or Mrs. big fish with a note. Use the template below or customize your own...

Dear {buyer, CEO, small business owner},

I love your company and want more people to know about your business and what you do. Enclosed is a custom cap I had built inspired by your business. Hats are a powerful way to generate brand awareness and growth for your business. When customers, clients, or employees wear your branded cap, it is a walking 5-star review from the wearer. Let me know a time to speak with you about more of the opportunities that headwear and other branded products can create for your business. 

{Your signature}

You could send out 1 or 10 of these a month just depending on how much time you have to followup. We highly recommend dropping these off in-person when possible. It allows for a real-time interaction and gets the relationship started on a high note!

Drop us a line and let us know about your successes with this type of headwear forward prospecting for new business. 


Topics: Headwear Trends, promotional products, Custom, prospecting, ideas

Ben Roberts

Ben Roberts

Ben is Outdoor Cap's Head of Marketing and is focused on creating a bigger, better experience for all Outdoor Cap customers. Ben loves reading, technology, and spending time with his family in Bentonville, Arkansas.