Alternative title: How to spend $500 in one month trying to find a profitable niche.
Just kidding, but if you really want to test the waters you’re going to have to really pump out some content. I’m a big fan of failing fast, and this is a great way to gain some data fast. There’s no point putting in twenty hours doing research to find one good design and try to improve on it, especially when you don’t know if it will sell or not.
Step One: Figure out your marketing plan
This is the easy part. You should already have an idea of how you’re going to get your shirts in front of people.
Think of your target market. How are you going to market to them? Are you going to try your hand at the organic route, hoping keywords will boost you to the top of the rankings? Are you going to do paid advertising? Are you going to create Facebook pages around your niche and boost posts?
I’m banking on a combination of keywords, Pinterest, and eventually doing boosted posts on Facebook for a paid route. I know a great method for getting incredibly inexpensive engagement and impressions. Like, $1 for 75 likes on a post inexpensive.
Step Two: Find five to 10 niches
Again, this is fairly easy if you have a tool like Merch Informer. Basically what it does is lets your search for keywords and it will bring up a boatload of results, their rankings, what they estimate they’re selling per month, etc.
If you can’t cancel your Netflix subscription for one month to pay for Informer, you can always go the old-fashioned way by doing a search for what’s popular. This can be done on really any medium. Of course, use Amazon primarily. Not only will it show what some of the top results are if you get the right plugins you can see their rankings from the search results.
Other potential hotspots:
- Instagram to see what people are wearing in real time, as they post them
- Pinterest in any niche you have an idea about
- Your own head. For real, just pick something you think would work and test the waters
Rank your 5 to ten niches from what you think will be most successful to the least successful.
In all actuality, steps one and two could be swapped. Maybe you want to find your niches before you figure out your marketing plan, especially if this is your first foray into digital marketing.
Step Three: Start designing or outsourcing and uploading
Once again, another easy step. Either hire out the process or boot up the old image editing software and get to work. For every niche you have, try to design five to 10 different shirts. The big thing is having a huge variety of designs to see which elements work for each niche. Do dog lovers prefer the big silhouette, the detailed dog, or the cartoon version?
I like to do a mix of both outsourcing and designing. Right now I can upload 10 designs per day on Merch and up to 500 total. My designer takes about three days to turnaround 10 designs. That leaves two days that I’m leaving on the table if I don’t design some shirts myself.
What works for me is giving my designer those 10 niches I thought of initially, then do more research in between his delivery and put out a few of my own designed shirts.
When uploading, experiment with the copy in the bulleted description. Now’s your chance to see exactly which combination of keywords works well in a given niche. Do you include the shirt name in the description? What about the quote on it?
Step Four: Wait
This is the hardest step. You’re going to have to wait a bit to get a tangible amount of data to sift through. Unless you have a breakout success, sales should trickle in slowly.
At the time of writing this, Amazon is allowing designs 90 days to go without the first sale before being purged from the program.
In theory, one or two out of every 10 designs should make the bulk of the sales for that given niche. Something about the Pareto principle.
You will want to have at least 30 days worth of sales to make note of any successes, and after 90 days you’ll know which shirts are still standing.
Step Five: Analyze data
After 30-90 days, you should have ample amount of data to figure out what shirts were working and what shirts weren’t. If you actually put out well-designed shirts, unlike Shuga, in theory, you should find yourself somewhere along the lines of
- 10 niches, each having 10 shirts a piece for a total of 100 designs
- 10-20 designs should be great sellers, at least recouping the cost of designs/paying for the time spent (10+ sales per month)
- 20-30 should be moderate success, making consistent sales but not the big earners (2-5 sales per month)
- 50-70 will probably flop, either not selling at all or making a few dollars (0-1 sales per month)
Let’s say you’re getting $4 revenue per shirt. 10 making 10 sales per month is $400, 20 making 2 sales per month is $160, and 35 making 1 sales a month (leaving 35 that don’t sell) come out to $140. IN THEORY, you should make about $700 after a month of doing this.
Additionally, one or two of the 10 niches should perform exceptionally better than the other ones, and those are the niches you want to do paid advertising for, assuming they aren’t seasonal or trending topics.
Step 6: Repeat success
Find out what combination of designs, bullet point keywords, descriptions, names, and company names works with your audience. Keep testing until you get comfortable with the copy and artwork.
Over time these numbers will improve once you’ve optimized your listings. From 100 designs you can find yourself making $800, $1,000 and $1,500 every month.
Go hire out another designer. Start uploading your designs on other PoD websites so you don’t give so much control to Amazon.
Of course, you can also mull over what designs you should aim for, how you don’t have the money to outsource, and you don’t have the skills to create a nice design.
Big dawgs gotta fail fast
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