Nothing is more gratifying for a creator or business owner than witnessing a horde of fans showing up to back your brand. These supporters are a true blessing, and if you want to reinforce the bond you've formed with them, creating and selling merchandise should be a top priority.
Merchandise, often shortened to “merch,” allows your fans to connect with you and display their loyalty to the world. From t-shirts, backpacks, and posters to coffee mugs, merchandise allows your brand to become a part of people's lives while generating a new revenue stream through product sales.
So, where should you begin, and how can you ensure that your merchandise is visible to various audiences?
Comparing the Sales of Merch Under a Sub-Brand versus Your Own Brand
When devising your merchandise strategy, you'll decide whether to sell your products under a sub-brand or your existing brand.
With a sub-brand, you can attract an audience beyond your current products and content. While sales may be slow initially, you'll establish the groundwork for a unique brand that complements the growth of your core business. Logan Paul, a famous YouTuber turned professional boxer, employs this tactic by selling clothing under a sub-brand called Maverick Clothing.
On the other hand, you can leverage your existing brand by seamlessly integrating your merchandise into your content. For example, you can incorporate products into your posts on Instagram, tagging the items to make them shoppable.
A Guide to Crafting Personalized Merch for Your Brand
While putting your brand's logo on a t-shirt is a straightforward way of creating merchandise, there is a systematic approach you can adopt to produce inventory that not only entices your existing audience but also reaches out to potential customers you have yet to engage with.
1. Gaining Insight into Your Audience: A Guide to Understanding Your Customers
First, evaluating how your fans typically interact with your brand is essential. Do they most engage with you on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok? If you usually receive the most engagement on TikTok, it's safe to assume that most of your fan base comprises millennials and Gen Z.
From there, you can tailor your merchandise to this specific audience, considering their unique characteristics and shopping behaviors. Why not directly ask them about what they would be interested in purchasing? You can create polls using Instagram Stories, Facebook groups, or email if they are already subscribed to your mailing list.
Requesting feedback from your audience makes them feel like they are part of the creative process and that their opinions matter in shaping the merchandise you produce.
2. A Guide to Brainstorming Unique Products for Your Brand
Now that you understand your audience's preferences, it's time to move on to designing merchandise that will cater to their tastes. At this stage, your creativity will be crucial in producing merchandise your fans adore.
Although selling hoodies and t-shirts may be sufficient to garner attention, creating and selling distinctive merchandise is an excellent way to inject new life into your brand and differentiate yourself from competitors in your industry.
Some merch ideas:
- Tote bags: Functional and convenient alternative to plastic bags.
- Notebooks: Ideal for creative or professional followers.
- Blankets and throws: Perfect for cozy relaxation at home.
- Patches and stickers: Allow fans to show their support wherever they go.
- Keychains: Inexpensive and practical merchandise for your followers.
- Tank tops: An excellent option for warm weather attire.
- Coffee mugs: A fun way for followers to start their day with your brand.
- Phone cases: Protects devices while promoting your brand.
3. Design and Create Mock-ups for Your Merchandise: A Step-by-Step Guide
Excitement builds as you move into the design phase of your merchandise creation. This is an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and craft something that resonates with your audience. Seek inspiration from websites like 99Designs and Dribble to help get your creative juices flowing.
To design your graphics, you can utilize software like Adobe Photoshop, which enables you to incorporate vectors into your designs – a requirement for screen printing and embroidery. However, these tools may have a steep learning curve and may be better for those with limited time.
If you need more time, you can outsource the design work by hiring a merch designer from Upwork or Fiverr. Remember, when taking this route, choosing a designer capable of bringing your vision to life is essential.
- Create a mood board: Curate inspiration, examples, and references to give your designer a head start on your merch.
- Explain what you want: Communicate your vision clearly and use subsequent revisions to improve the final product.
- Offer context: Share user-profiles and brand guidelines to help the designer understand your brand and target customers.
After you have created your designs, you can use a print-on-demand app such as Printful to generate mockups of your products. Share these mockups with your followers and request their input. This will help you test your merchandise concepts while involving your fans.
4. Locate a manufacturer or print-on-demand collaborator
Once you have finalized your designs, it's time to consider how you will produce your merchandise. Some popular options include:
- Print on demand: This approach allows you to automate production, shipping, and fulfillment with minimal risk and cost. However, depending on your chosen provider, it may limit your products and customization options.
- Make from scratch: If you want to create the exact item you envision, you can find a manufacturer for your merchandise, share the design, and make the product. This option offers more flexibility but is capital-intensive and requires more effort.
Shopify integrates with several well-known print-on-demand services if you choose the print-on-demand option. Though their catalogs may differ, these services usually offer phone cases, sweatpants, and other popular merchandise. One advantage is that most providers work on the dropshipping model, meaning they only charge for the products when a customer orders.
However, it's always wise to check the quality of the merchandise before you start selling. The images and typography may look different in person than on your computer screen. To evaluate quality, you can order samples of the merchandise you're interested in and assess their appearance before promoting them to your audience.
Tips for selling your merch
After creating your merchandise, the next step is to promote it to your existing audience and potential customers. Here are some marketing tactics you can use to generate interest in your merch:
Note: It's recommended to try one or two of these strategies at a time and compare the results to determine the most effective promotional method for your merchandise.
1. Generate word of mouth
If you already have a fanbase, word-of-mouth marketing can be your most powerful promotional tool. To generate word of mouth, encourage your audience to promote your brand by sharing their experiences using your products.
One effective way to do this is to run a social media contest that asks people to try your products and tag you in their feedback. In exchange, you can offer a prize that your audience would find valuable, such as free shipping or early access to new products.
Consider creating a branded hashtag that your followers can use for the stories and images they upload with your merch. This will help you collect all the activities around your content in one place, making it easy to track engagement and results.
2. Utilize Your Current Platforms to Promote Your Merch
Although word of mouth can effectively create buzz around your merchandise, there are other options. You can also increase your chances of making sales by utilizing the existing channels to reach customers.
If you have a Shopify merch store, you can quickly sell your products by integrating your store wherever your followers are. Here are some of the channels you can consider exploring:
- YouTube: Share links to your merch in your cards or video description, with a call-to-action at the end of your video.
- Instagram: Tag your merch in your Stories and posts and point your followers toward your Instagram Shop if you have one set up.
- Buy button: Embed your collections or merch on your blog or website outside your merch store.
3. Utilize Online Marketplaces to Sell Your Products
Consider listing your products on a merchandise marketplace to access a larger audience. These e-commerce sites curate products from various creators and may charge a listing fee or work on a commission basis, taking a fee on every sale. Marketplaces like Represent, Hello Merch and MerchNow are some options where you can showcase your products alongside other creators.
Before creating a listing, reviewing the rules and regulations of the marketplace you wish to sell with is essential. Most merchandise sites have their terms and conditions for the types of products that can be sold. By reviewing this information, you can also understand how commissions work and what percentage of the total sale price is paid out to the seller.
4. Re-engage Your Current Audience
By retargeting, you can advertise your merchandise to your existing audience based on specific criteria, such as whether they have made a purchase or followed your Facebook page. Many digital platforms, such as Google, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook, offer the option to create retargeting ads.
To get started with retargeting, you need to install the advertising pixel of your chosen platform on your website (here’s how to do it for Facebook). Some platforms also accept customer emails to build an audience of fans to retarget. Once a custom audience is available, you can use retargeting ads to showcase your merchandise and generate engagement and sales.
The merchandise comes in various forms and can serve a functional purpose or be visually appealing. Regardless of the type of merchandise you choose to connect with your audience, it's important to consider who they are, what they appreciate about your brand, and which items they might be most inclined to purchase.
Selecting the appropriate merchandise gives your fans a memorable way to support your brand, increases brand awareness, and continuously generates revenue.
In short, everyone benefits.
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