2023 Contract Decorator’s Playbook

March 29, 2023

I know, I know. It’s March 2023 and we’re just now publishing an article about a Contract Decorator’s Playbook. This is truly indicative of what a unique start that this year has afforded us.

January and February saw a notable increase in the number of owners reaching out to our team for sharing, counsel, and strategic planning. This has not been the case over the last few years, so to say that the need was pent-up is an understatement. 2023 feels different, in a good way.

Today we will share some insights that have been brewing in the lead-up to this year. This is based around a variety of topics we have covered and can hopefully help some that might still need guidance.


Building a WebsiteMany of you might have stowed away your marketing efforts once the frenzy of activity in 2021 picked up. This is not surprising, or a bad thing, as many of us were trying to process more work than materials and people could manage. It felt like an upside down world for a while, picking which jobs or shared accounts you wanted to work with. Those imbalanced scales have softened a bit at the start of 2023, so now is the time to break out the tools and get back to letting the world know why you’re the best at what you do.

One of our favorite resources for dialing in your marketing efforts is our Marketing Checklist, a two-page PDF crafted from years of listening and learning about proven practices that have helped many contract decorators achieve greatness. It offers some modern common sense insights, like building or improving your website, and also some back-to-basics ideas like strategic spec sampling.

The checklist concept can also help you organize which ideas you want to explore and check them off as you go. Reach out to your regional Strategic Account Manager to get a copy of this PDF and even schedule a 1-on-1 meeting to talk through it.

A bonus idea for Marketing is to also sync up with your SAM on updating and reviewing your Decoration Profile. The data found within your profile is utilized with our Contract Decorator Finder process. Currently your website and marketing content might list generic offerings like “Screen Printing & Embroidery,” but drilling into more specific details, especially mirroring the exact language used on our Contract Decorator Finder form, can help separate your company from a crowd.

Contract Decorator Offers


If you did not come out of the pandemic with a powerful sense of where your company has inefficiencies, then you missed a critical opportunity for improvement. The good news is that there is no deadline for this and we’re here to help.

The labor crisis has ebbed, but is most likely never going away entirely. Investing in Automation in Lieu of Labor can provide a meaningful foundation for the future of your company. Automation can come in the form of new equipment to help remove human based errors and technology systems that overall improve your workflow.

Building ConnectionsEfficiency is at the central core of contract decoration, so taking some time to focus on this aspect of your company will pay dividends for years to come. If you are nearing the end of your ownership career, it also creates an appealing model that the next generation wants to buy into.


If we turn the clock back seven or eight years, you could watch a Dateline special about the “Threat of Automation” or condemnation of “outsourcing jobs overseas.” Fast forward to 2023 and thank goodness both of these options exist or else we would be in a lot bigger trouble.

That being said, this is not an either-or topic. Keep in mind that balance in utilization of these resources is key. Attending the major shows in January afforded me the opportunity to learn about GraphXSource’s solution for virtual art/admin staffing along with a newer company, 1 Source BPO. These services can help in roles that you are struggling most to find and retain teammates for.

This should not serve as a replacement for your beloved graphic artist who has loyally stayed with you through the last few years. Instead, you can empower your favorite GA to lead and manage a virtual teammate (or team) and enhance their output volume. Automation and outsourcing are no longer dirty words…so use them wisely!

This year is different. This year is better. This year will mark the beginning of a new chapter for our industry. Sure, there could be some rocky economic challenges ahead, but our industry has a proven track record of survival and recovery. Do not keep your head buried in the sand from fear or confusion. Now is the time to lift it up, engage with your SanMar team for motivation and inspiration, and move forward with us on this wonderful journey together.

Email decoratorrelations@sanmar.com or your SAM directly to connect and chat about any of these topics and more, and be sure to sign up for our Deco Talk newsletter and browse the archive for more industry insights. We’re always happy to help!