In this week’s episode, we speak with Suzanne Mitchell, who is the owner of Zamar Screenprinting, along with her husband. Suzanne started her business in her garage 27 years ago and has since helped numerous individuals and companies find their perfect promotional match. Suzanne is an award-winning networker and has grown her business immensely over the last 25 years. As a successful business owner, she shares tips and tricks on how to get better sales through networking. She also shares her experience with the ‘Postcard Campaign’, which is a campaign to learn more about your clients on a personal level and how it has helped her grow.
Suzanne’s website: https://zamarinc.com/
Katie Brinkley 0:02
Hey there. This is Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Welcome back to the podcast. My guest today is Suzanne Mitchell. Suzanne and her husband Harold started this ZMR screen printing in their garage in 1993 and now have an office in Hudson. She is an award winning networker, which has helped her grow her business for more than 25 years, Suzanne has been using her gifts and talents to serve her loyal repeat clients. Suzanne is a compassionate encourager and friend. She intuitively listens to discern needs and provides new awareness and possibilities to her clients, colleagues and friends. And her business. Suzanne loves helping businesses find just the right promotional item to make them stand out from the crowd. She is creative and thoughtful. And I am so excited that she is on our show today. Suzanne, thank you for coming.
Suzanne Mitchell 1:04
Thank you so much for having me today.
Katie Brinkley 1:06
So Suzanne, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about yourself where you grew up and what life was like growing up.
Suzanne Mitchell 1:11
I actually grew up right here in Colorado. I’m a Colorado native. I was born in eastern Colorado. My family moved to Brighton when I was three and I grew up there and even got married in that town. So I’ve been in the area a long time. I have one brother, and I had a great childhood. My parents were married the whole time. I didn’t go through what so many people did. I was super involved in four h and school and church. So I had a great upbringing here in Colorado.
Katie Brinkley 1:42
So well, how do you think your upbringing impacted your eventual career and professional journey?
Suzanne Mitchell 1:47
Rich was a huge part of my life. I started out, it was mostly economics. But I got involved at a pretty deeper level. I was on my local club, I became the president. And then I moved into county level which gave me leadership opportunity. And then my very last year in Bridge, I actually was on a state level Senate for each which was in downtown Denver. And we had once a month meetings. So I really learned a lot about leadership and being in front of a crowd and speaking and I think that definitely affected my career path and how I was able to adapt. Yeah,
Katie Brinkley 2:23
awesome. And that leads me right to my next question. Take us through your career journey, where you started out and the different professional stops that you’ve made along the way to where you are at today.
Suzanne Mitchell 2:32
Well, I knew early on in high school that I was not going to be a college person. That wasn’t my thing. I didn’t want to do that. I knew I wanted to start working. I was always older than my years, as people used to tell me, I was just kind of an old soul. So I was ready to get to work. And so I came out and I found a receptionist position, because I had done really well in business classes in high school. And I very, very quickly became an insurance agent. So by the time I was 19, I was an agent, I was working in Boulder selling high risk auto. And I was really exceptionally did well at my occupation. It didn’t really fit my passion, I could just tell it wasn’t my thing. I was good at it. I liked the sales, I love the people. But there was just something missing. And so I got married really young, I got married at 20. And I had decided I was just gonna stay home and have kids for a while and do daycare. That was my path. I had stopped, we bought a house and my husband was working for a screen printing shop and they actually burned to the ground. It was a huge fire in Tivoli, literally a real fire. And because of that my husband was suddenly unemployed, and the man decided not to go forward. So all of these sales people look to him, he was the production manager and said, You got to do something. So I quickly literally jumped out of daycare, we started our own business in our garage. And that was 27 years ago. So there’s been a lot of journey in this business. But I’ve done the same thing for a really
Katie Brinkley 4:07
long time now. Awesome. And if someone is listening right now, who is an aspiring or new business owner, what is the single biggest piece of advice that you want to give him or her as they start out?
Suzanne Mitchell 4:17
There’s really two. One is you have to have a network of people. There’s usually one person within the company that kind of bears that how are we going to get there? And what are we going to do and we’re gonna do for marketing and that overall view. And if you don’t have outside help, I think you get really lost in your own business. It’s hard to see your own company and you need mentors and peer groups and really suggest people go out and find those things. And the second thing is sales. Your focus has to be sales, no matter how good you are at making whatever it is you do. If you don’t have sales, it doesn’t really matter but has to be priority.
Katie Brinkley 4:58
Now. Do you that you take on a lot of that sales and networking side of the business that you and your husband have.
Suzanne Mitchell 5:06
It seems through the years, I definitely focused primarily on that in the beginning, I was really just in sales and getting to know people. And over the years as we’ve been able to bring people on and have more sales, I definitely have more than a visionary. Where are we going to go? How are we going to get there? Who are we going to align with that really is probably more of my daily work now. But I still certainly do a lot of client work. And I’m still in networking, and I still am in mentor groups. So a lot of the same things are still happening.
Katie Brinkley 5:35
And I think you just brought up a really good point on Who are we going to align with. And it’s such an important strategy to have as part of your business, because having those type of relationships where this is how I’m being presented, and this is how I want that company to present me talk to us a little bit about trying to find those right partnerships to align yourself with,
Suzanne Mitchell 5:55
you have to find the right group, I think every group, if you’re going to go the networking group route, say, you have to find a group that fits your group, I’ve been to a lot of different ones. And sometimes they really work and they flow with you. And other times, you just don’t quite fit that niche. And that’s okay, you have to find a group where you find your people. And then eventually, I’ve as I have found through the years, all of my people began to be a group as themselves, because I think you find similar minded people who are what you work well with them, you’re probably power partners, I think it’s super important to find power burners. So like, for me, a paper printer assigned printer, people that sell to similar businesses are huge power partners, for me, and we see things the same way we’re working with the same kind of people we can align with, well, how do you handle this, and if you’re good relationships, you all can share a lot of business amongst each other. But it takes a while to develop those.
Katie Brinkley 6:51
Exactly. And with any business, it’s kind of a little scary to try and align yourself with like minded businesses, because I don’t want to give away my sales, I want to make sure that I’m getting the business. But it’s so important to have that network of people that are in the same field and know what some of the struggles are. And you guys can share best practice tips and different ideas. And when the time comes for you that you get too busy, and you can hand the work off. It’s so rewarding for both of you. Absolutely. Yes. What do you think the biggest mistake business owners make when they’re trying to grow and sustain a successful businesses?
Suzanne Mitchell 7:27
I think cashflow is one of the biggest issues small businesses come up with. And I think they wait too long to deal with it. I think it’s real hard when you’re in that beginning stage, and everybody’s kind of starving, you just kind of tried to figure it out. But if you wait too long, you then have no resources to continue to move forward. So you know, really suggest people align themselves early with financial people who really understand what are you looking at? And where are you going and what’s kind of a bottom line you got to be at and then you avoid some pitfalls when they’re already too late. And now there’s really nothing you can do to get over that.
Katie Brinkley 8:04
What is your model look like for finding and engaging and selling to your ideal clients and customers these days?
Suzanne Mitchell 8:09
I do a lot online. There’s definitely a lot of social media, some just due to the current situation. But I think that in referrals, I’m really big on working with people. And so we have began to be probably a 95% referral based company after this many years. That’s really where the chunk of our business comes from. But I’m big on touching people. And so if that’s through the newsletter monthly, and through social media, and then we also do a postcard campaign, which has been probably the most successful thing I’ve ever done in 27 years. Every other month, we print literally 500 to 1000 postcards, and I pay somebody to hand address them and put postage on them and then the individual salespeople, jot a little note and these are not salesy. They say nothing about do you need shirts? Do you need pens? That’s not what this is about. This is if I know Sarah went to Hawaii, Hey, how was your Hawaii trip? So it’s getting to know people paying attention to what they’re doing. And then, you know, really creating relationships, best marketing I’ve ever done.
Katie Brinkley 9:14
Awesome. Yeah. And I think that a lot of people might overlook that. There’s so much emphasis on SEO and making sure that you have good keyword ranking. But the power of just having that handwritten note is huge. And I think that having something like that incorporated into your marketing strategy is very valuable. Doing a monthly newsletter, like it sounds like you do to hit people’s inboxes staying in front of them via social medias just so that they’re, you’re still in their mind and building that community for your clients and customers and employees. Then, like you said, that handwritten note to go the extra mile is very valuable and people will think of you the next time that they need to have something screenprinted
Suzanne Mitchell 9:57
Absolutely. I think people that Don’t give that personal touch enough credit. And that can even be a phone call. People are so used to firing off newsletters and bulk emails and doing everything in bulk that one on one regardless, it’s a call a drop by a postcard, a handwritten, thank you, whatever, anything that’s that personal makes you stand out, you will automatically float to the top because people aren’t doing it. They’re not doing it in whatever industry you’re in. So you will stand out.
Katie Brinkley 10:28
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I wanted you to touch a little bit on some of your strategies behind your your monthly newsletter, and just some of the content that you put inside of there. Because a lot of people might think, what do I even say in these? What do I watch? Like having a monthly newsletter to my email list? There’s only 60 people in it, what do they care about?
Suzanne Mitchell 10:48
My newsletter started three or four years ago, and it’s never been focused on me. So I asked my clients to write a quick 200 word. Some things I’m pre planned a year out. So like this month, it was a person that sells telecom communications, and it was an actual quick article on how can businesses save money in battery. And so that was the bulk of the newsletter on the site, it mentions that we love referrals and who we are. And sometimes at the bottom, there’s a special, sometimes there’s not sometimes there’s a hey, check out this unique model you’ve never seen before. But the bulk of it is, hey, here’s some business to help your business. And that can be home people. If you’re a realtor every month, a lawn care guy and a window washer and give them information. It doesn’t have to be salesy. It’s all about being top of mind. And if you’re all salesy, you kind of start falling to the bottom. They don’t want to hear from you just for sales. But if you’re helpful, they listen.
Katie Brinkley 11:47
That’s so important. And I think it’s the same same can be said, for social media. Like you said, if you’re a realtor, and people aren’t just going to only want to see the houses that you have for sale, they might have just bought a house from you, why should they still follow your Facebook page, because they just did business with you providing additional content on home decorating ideas or latest lawn care provider that you’ve done business with. Giving them that extra value is what’s going to have them have a higher regard of you and your company.
Suzanne Mitchell 12:15
Absolutely, you have to create value, and goodwill, and just be kind of a shining light, not just a salesy because people see through that they see through that no matter what you’re doing, you have to be genuine, you have to really be wanting to give them things that matter to them.
Katie Brinkley 12:32
One passion that so many business owners and entrepreneurs have is to build a business around their lifestyle, how has that played out in your approach and to running your business?
Suzanne Mitchell 12:42
Actually, it’s a huge part of our business. When I started, my intention was to be able to stay home at least part time with my kids. So when we started the business, it was obvious I was going to work literally 60 7080 hours a week, and I wasn’t going to have kids and just leave them with somebody else. That wasn’t my plan. So we waited 10 years to have kids because of that. So I have kids, my 30s, which I definitely recommend, I was a much better mother in my 30s than I wasn’t probably in my 20s. But and so it’s afforded me that all the way through, I’ve always worked part time, from an in the office half the day, and then I’m home half the day. So I’ve been able to homeschool my kids, which was a choice we made. And it’s an every year decision. But I have one that’s graduated from high school and one that’s going to be a freshman definitely has given me the flexibility with them, I could be there for them, I could be there for my parents, I take care of part of the time. And so it has definitely supported my lifestyle and I make the business work with me, doesn’t mean I still don’t work.
Katie Brinkley 13:41
Well. And I think that most entrepreneurs, like you said you put in those 60 to 70 hours at the beginning. And you have to be willing to put in the time, a lot of the time to really make your company hit the ground running and take off and now you’re afforded the luxury of choosing the hours you work you have a team built around you and you’re able to have that perfect good work life balance of being at home and at the office. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? And how has it impacted your business or your life?
Suzanne Mitchell 14:11
I would say the best piece of advice was from the second landlord we had, he was an amazing business guy. He was very successful. He was super giving. And I was in his office one day chatting and just saying oh sales are rough. You know, it’s kind of a tough month. And he said what we’ve been focusing on was I started to talk to him. I was worried about the press how back that wasn’t working. And I was worried about somebody that needed vacation and this and this and this and this and he says okay, all that’s important, but if you’re not working on sales, none of the rest that matters. So he said every day you have to start with your day thinking what am I going to do to bring sales in today? And then all that other stuff is important, but the first thing has to be sales None of the rest of it matters. No longer matters. You don’t have anything if you don’t have sales.
Katie Brinkley 15:06
Absolutely. And you mentioned a bit about how you’ve built a lot of strong networking partnerships. Talk to us a little bit about some of these different groups that you’re a part of, and how it’s really benefited you and your company.
Suzanne Mitchell 15:19
I’ve been in a lot of different networking through the years I was in a Colorado business leads, which I don’t even think is around anymore. But that’s actually where I got the network or the Year award. And I think I learned in that group, how important it was to give. When you go, you’re giving, you’re constantly thinking, What can I do for these other people, and that will come back to you big time. But every group has such a different feel like there’s you know, BNI, which is much more structured. So if you’re a structured person, you need to know I have to bring this many and I have to be here. And that’s a great place for you. Currently, I’m in a group called she leads, which is all women and I actually helped the lady found it about four years ago and its premises busy moms have to get their kids dropped off at school, and then go to elite meeting. So it’s set up to be 915 930, which is a time where most moms can get that done. And so she stands first porting hard and enterprise and that is what that group is we support each other with our families, we’re definitely passing a lot of leads and getting, but it’s just a network that is invaluable. I can reach out and say I’m struggling with X, who’s got resources, and it’s amazing what you get back. So it’s definitely a given
Katie Brinkley 16:36
group, you know, and I think that a lot of people when they are coming from the corporate world, they think, Oh, my goodness, networking, why would I want to go to a networking event after work? That sounds terrible to go talk to strangers about work after work? Are you kidding me. But when you’re a small business owner, or an entrepreneur, or just starting out or looking to take that next step, these groups are invaluable. And the people there are always willing to, as I found, are always willing to share just a little bit of advice that you can then take and apply and help see your business. take that next step. And like you said, they don’t need to be in the same industry, if they are in the same industry, it’s great, because then you have the ideas you can bounce someone off of. So you should never be afraid of really one crossing the boundaries of like becoming an another group to be with lawyers and accountants everything because they have invaluable knowledge. And then you shouldn’t be afraid of there already is another screen printer in your networking group. Because that’s just an ally that you can go and bounce ideas off of and talk about the same industry with,
Suzanne Mitchell 17:39
absolutely. But the other thing I think people make a mistake when they go to networking groups is assuming you’re there to sell to those 20 people. Well, that really isn’t your goal. When you go there and you’re looking to meet 10 Good people that you develop a relationship with, because they’re looking for people, they can refer good businesses need a whole list of people when their client mentions, Okay, I gotta get shirts for this, you know, run this summer, they know somebody, so they might not be my client, but to get them in my system and start sending them newsletters and getting to know them and sending them postcards. That’s what networking is because it’s fat down the rate and you don’t know where your leads gonna come from. If you don’t have enough bodies who know who you are and what no like and trust you. It’s hard to get referrals.
Katie Brinkley 18:27
Now, before we finish up. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you about during today’s discussion that you think is important to share?
Suzanne Mitchell 18:33
When you think there’s anything? I do think people need to be thinking about their marketing, I think it’s super easy to let marketing go to the wayside. Marketing is different than sales. And people sometimes have a hard time separating that. Because you have to be thinking of the big picture, how am I going to keep in contact? Am I going to drop off things that make them remember me and keep my name in front of them? Am I going to go after a certain sector of people who do I know that knows something about that sector and people that I can pick their brain if you can do that, that’s marketing, and then how you actually talk to the people becomes your sales, but you definitely can’t skip that marketing piece. And that’s something I work with my clients on. I brainstorm with people always available for half an hour brainstorm to just say, well, who are you going after? This is what I know that industry this is what I know they might like this is what I see their business owners kind of being like and and that’s valuable knowledge I love to share and that’s the mentoring side of this business. That is my passion. That’s really my passion is the mentoring side of it, but turns into products and orders but my passion is mentoring.
Katie Brinkley 19:45
And like you said having that marketing tool is essential for sales in you’re finding different ways to like you said they might not need something right now. But keeping your company in front of them so that they will think of you that Next time that they do need to make that purchase, and whether it is through having a consistent social media presence, getting into their email inboxes or just arriving via postcard into their actual inbox is huge.
Suzanne Mitchell 20:13
You have to stay top of mind.
Katie Brinkley 20:16
Well, Suzanne, this has been such a great conversation, where can we find out more about you and your business online,
Suzanne Mitchell 20:21
I do have a website you can go to which is a Marzieh, a Mar i nc.com. It’s got a good resources on there where you can look up things within the screen printing and Wordery field, you can always reach out to me via phone call, which the numbers on the screen and I love to chat with people that have any questions. I’m only a phone call away and definitely willing to give some free consultation.
Katie Brinkley 20:45
Awesome. Well, thank you again so much for coming on the show today.
Suzanne Mitchell 20:49
Thank you for having me.
Katie Brinkley 20:51
And if you’re ready to take your social media to the next level for your small business, head over to my website and check out my free video training the three biggest mistakes small businesses make with social media and how to avoid them. Discover how to make your social media marketing stand out from the crowd online. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at www.nextstepsocialcommunications.com or connect with me on LinkedIn. Just look for Katie Brinkley. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.