As most of your will know, I’ve had my own t-shirt brand now for roughly two years. But I’ve been blogging about and working for t-shirt companies since 2006. I know how hard, how gruelling, how thankless of a task it is to try and create a company in this niche, the most stuffed of all product niches. In short, the world really does not need another t-shirt company. Or thinks it doesn’t. Your job in trying to create one, is to convince it otherwise.
Recently an Etsy seller contacted me to ask for advice with his shop. I spent some time answering his questions and making suggestions for where he could improve. I thought it would make sense to share them here as well, in the hopes that other people might find them useful.
“I am a design graduate who just can’t seem to find a full time job. With a lot of times on my hands, I like to doodle random graphics, trying to make good use of these random graphics I decided to put them on a Tshirt, hoping to kill more time and making a little profit in the process. Its been over a year, almost 2 and I have been total fail, selling less than 10 Tees so far, page views of low 50s. I can’t even afford to maintain a website, spending a good amount of money on tshirt supplies. If I can just get any word of advice, one word, it would be greatly appreciated, thank you so much.”
Here was my response:
Firstly thanks for thinking of the teedirectory. I’m sorry to hear its been a slow start for your brand. I checked out your shop and I’d happily give you some feedback. Firstly, as a qualifier I have my own t-shirt business and know how hard it is to take the leap towards self-employment. It really is tough, its a long, long slog. For just trying it and getting out there you’re already braver than 99% of the population, it’s already an achievement, even if you don’t nail it this time you’ll learn tons during the process and greatly increase the odds for your next venture and the one after and so on and so on.
Feedback on your etsy – It’s okay. I’ll be honest, your designs don’t really excite me but that’s okay, the importance of designs is really over-rated. It’s about messaging and it’s about brands and about how you deliver the messaging of your brand, but most importantly the relationships you build with your customers. If I could give you feedback, it would be about the lack of harmony in your brand. There is no message, little similarity between design, no ideology, it’s just a nice little Etsy shop with some nice designs, 1000s of these already exist, more than potential customers could ever hope to actually find, never mind buy from. For those that do – you arrive, you look, you leave, that’s probably it for 99.9% of the people that visit. From my marketing experience, a good t-shirt brand:
1. Does one thing and does it well.
- If you like bicycles, start a bicycle t-shirt brand. Aim small, aim niche, pick something that you care about and make products that demonstration that passion, that will sell to people who share that passion.
2. Hits you on the head with that one thing repeatedly until you pass out.
- When people look at your brand, you’ve about 15 seconds to communicate something to them. For me its vital that if they just look for 15 seconds then leave, they leave with something. They should leave knowing at the absolute minimum, its a brand for bicycle enthusiasts in the earlier example, or in the case of the Hipstery, we’re a shop that sells mystery shirts. Simple. Maybe today you don’t need a mystery shirt, but maybe in six months, when you are stuck for a gift, or you see a banner somewhere or your friend tells you about this cool business he’s found then BING a lightbulb of recognition is going to flash, and they’ll already be 70% of the way to ordering.
3. Understands the world is not sitting and waiting for the release of your products, sadly.
- Spend at least 10x as long marketing (marketing can be as simple as communicating with existing customers, writing for your blog, posting on facebook etc, evangelising amongst your peers, commenting thoughtfully on blogs of peers in your niche etc etc) your products as making them. People are fickle, they’re bombarded by offers, products, recommendations, distractions and their own big bag of personal problems. They rarely just hear about something, get out their credit card and buy. They need to be incentivised to act. They need deadlines on those incentives. They need reminders. They need regular communication so that there’s still a small little nook for your brand in their busy lives. Do not let them forget you!