While it's often less expensive to manufacture products overseas, truth is, there are some compelling business reasons for making things in America. Small-business owners share five ways you can capitalize on the fact that you're supporting the red, white and blue.
1. Evangelize your USA-made status through marketing.
Be proud of your American roots by making sure that your website, advertising and other promotions highlight the fact that your products are made in the United States. The apparel company Seedling Kids, for example, puts the 'Made in the USA' message at the very top of its website. "We get business based on our commitment to producing here, and we showcase this in our catalog, in our trade show booths and in every magazine we advertise in," says Stephanie Webb, CEO of the Wilmington, N.C.-based company, which sells kids' T-shirts, rompers and dresses that are made of certified Texas cotton and produced in an Allentown, Pa., factory. "Many of the shops that sell our line stock only American-made products, and we find that our customers are committed to buying products that are made here."
2. Remind buyers that you're helping to keep jobs here.
With many jobs being outsourced abroad, let customers know that you're helping to keep people employed in America. "We carry around a pamphlet from Create Jobs for USA and talk to our stores about the impact that one American job has on the economy," says Roberto Torres, president of Black & Denim, a men's fashion company that employs seven people. The Tampa, Fla., company uses only U.S.-made materials and says it helps support more than 300 additional American jobs through the suppliers that make everything from zippers and rivets to leather patches. Torres encourages retailers to let customers know Black & Denim is helping keep jobs in America. "We market that fact in the hopes that they can become advocates for our cause," he says. "They're the best ones to explain why there's a higher markup on American-made goods."
3. Find creative ways to show you're all-American.
Use a little imagination and you can transform even your hang-tags into an America-proud marketing tool. For example, Seedling Kids garment tags contain organic flower and peapod seeds from Ohio. "We live on a farm, we have 20 chickens and our line reflects the life we really live," Webb says of the clothing that is sold at Nordstrom, Uncommon Goods and 700 boutiques nationwide. "The seeds are part of our logo, but the fact that we source these seeds from Ohio is yet another way we show customers that we're committed to producing domestically."
4. Show why 'Made in the USA' is better.
Promote the consumer benefits of buying an American-made product. In its marketing campaign, for example, Hamilton Shirts, a Houston-based maker of custom dress shirts, focuses on convenience and the advantages of its domestically produced apparel. "Our customers often need shirts in a hurry -- maybe they have an event that requires a tuxedo shirt but didn't plan ahead," says David Hamilton, co-owner. "Because we are in the U.S., we can make shirts in days as opposed to weeks or months. And if there are issues, we can address that faster than if our factory was in Asia."
5. Share personal stories about where your products are made and who makes them.
Use Facebook and Twitter to drive home the fact that your products are made in the U.S. and that it's a good thing. At Darn Tough Vermont, a family-owned performance sock company housed in a Northfield, Vt., mill, every social media interaction with customers tries to reference the Vermont lifestyle. "We deliberately show customers that we're a real Vermont company and share stories about life in Vermont, whether it's a factory worker retiring after 30 years or an anecdote about bouldering in Smugglers Notch in Northern Vermont," says Ken Liatsos, director of social media for the company, which opened in 1978. "We don't scream that we're made in the USA, but we want people to know it. Our use of social media helps customers understand that we're a real business and that we're committed to staying made in Vermont, USA."
Lambeth Hochwald is a freelance journalist, whose stories have appeared in magazines such as Coastal Living, O The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple and Redbook. She is also an adjunct professor at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.