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Print on Demand Training

Selling Your Product

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Building Your Print On Demand Empire

Sales and Marketing

With any business you have to have a good idea of where you are heading before you set off. A common expression is ‘start with the end in mind’. It basically means that if you don't know where you want to end up you're not going to know which road to take. The fact that you don't have to invest heavily in this type of business doesn't mean you shouldn't take it as seriously as if you'd as if you put lots of money into it. If you want this to be a proper business you are going to have to spend some money on advertising and you are going to have to spend a lot of time thinking of your sales strategy, working out who your audience are and how to get your products in front of them to give yourself the best chance of selling something. Not to mention all the designing you're going to be doing or at least organizing with your outsourcers.

This is the sort of business that you can actually just play at because you can do just one design and post it around social media and hope to get some sales. That might just be a bit of fun for you and not a serious business and that might be all you want.

If this is a serious venture for you then you must think the whole thing through. Firstly, you are going to need to have decided on a Niche market. We also need to decide what types of products might fit their market and where these people can be found on the internet. I say on the internet because it's basically an online business.

To start without spending much money you should make sure you have your products listed in a marketplace. If you have some spare money to spend on advertising then proceed with minimal investment until you either start to get sales or have a better understanding of how to advertise effectively.

Step by Step

Let's take this step by step

  1. Look for a niche that has people with a passion for something. Think about what people get excited about and look for ways of servicing that excitement. People get excited about hobbies, pets, sports and possibly careers. Also, people that have something filling their minds, perhaps only temporarily, like getting married or losing weight. So, you can target people that are on a diet or people that are engaged to be married.
    Reminder: Use this free list of proven POD niches.
  2. Go and find these people on the internet. Find them on Facebook, find them on Reddit, find them in forums.
  3. Then work out which websites they visit, what magazines they read and who are the leading voices are in this crowd. This will give you the thought processes to find out what your products need to be and how to get them in front of the right people.
  4. You need to go and research the products that already exist in that niche and find the most popular ones and see if you can come up with something that is at least as good if not better than those. Here is a screenshot of a Google image search for Motorbike Mugs. You can see that other people certainly think that this is a good market as there are plenty of products already available. This is easy research and if you hover over each image you can see where each item is for sale. This research helps you with design ideas, gives you new options for places to sell your products and if you click through to the websites you can also study how these people are going about selling their products and you can get a feel for the selling prices of everything.

  1. The above picture is a screenshot of a Google Search which is very helpful. You can do something very similar with Pinterest which will give a different set of results. An added extra, what you can do with Pinterest is you sort them by popularity if you use a tool like Sorting Social.
  2. You need to find some creative juices to come up with designs or slogans to match the people in the niche. You probably need to find your humorous side as many products are based on humor.
  3. Now you have a chicken and egg situation. You have to decide how you want to sell your products but you don’t yet have a proven design. So what do you do? Do you set up a shop with a couple of designs on lots of different products? Set up with one product type and lots of designs or feel your way, design by design, making sure that all your products have some demand. My opinion is that you don’t have to do everything at once and I would put my effort into getting one design to work first and build a selection of good designs slowly from there. Test the designs and get yourself a design that works and then you have a base to work from. Unfortunately, more designs fail than work well so you need to be persistent until you find a winner. This is where a tools like Teespy and See What Sells come in handy because they will quickly show you popular print on demand designs that are selling right now.
  4. Once you have decided on your product you then have to decide how to advertise it. A very common way is to sell on Facebook. To sell on Facebook you would need to start a Facebook page and promote a post to people that have shown an interest in your niche subject. You will need to spend money on Advertising to do any meaningful business on Facebook. You can also offer your products on third party websites like Etsy, Amazon or Ebay at this stage.

Selling Options

The fear of losing money or the actual loss of money forces people to either give up or explore the other options.

The option that many people take up is to go through the same design process but sell in a marketplace that doesn’t require an ad spend. This involves listing your products on places like Etsy , Amazon and Ebay and working out a system of passing your order onto your Print On Demand Supplier.

This is slightly more complicated and may well involve more work on your part as the orders have to pass between the companies involved and you have to ensure your supplier is paid rather than receiving the money direct from your customer. Your rate of sale will be less than if you are advertising but you have the peace of mind that you can’t lose any significant amount of money. This makes it ideal if this is a side venture because any sale is a bonus if you already have a regular income.

Selling on Etsy

Etsy is a long-established marketplace with a reputation for hand-crafted items. The fact that it is basically a place for lesser known good quality products gives you a chance to charge more for your items than you might on Ebay or Amazon.

To give you an idea on how busy a website this is they got 175 million visits in April 2018 and 85% of that traffic was organic. The majority of visitors are from the United States with the United Kingdom coming in a distant second. The biggest referring site is Pinterest so one big tip would be to open a Pinterest account and get your products on there with a link back to Etsy as quickly as you can.

Etsy has a listing cost of $0.20 to list one item for 4 months or until it is sold. The other costs are not upfront costs. They come from the sale and can met from the funds provided by the buyer. There is a transaction fee and a payment processing fee. These together equate to about 8% of your selling price. Don’t forget to include that in your costs when you look at choosing your selling price.

There are currently ten choices of ways for your customer to pay so there should be no barrier there. You can choose how Etsy pays you and from what I can tell the most popular way is to set up a weekly payment of your balance direct to your bank account. You may need a little buffer of cash to deal with any gaps in cash flow if you need to pay your supplier and the Etsy funds haven’t quite arrived with you yet. It is always best to get the order placed with the supplier asap as it saves your customers getting impatient in the long run.

You also have the option of integrating your Etsy shop with a supplier so that the complications I have talked about previously are magically taken away. There may be a charge for this integration with some companies. One company that does it without charge is Printful. They have a huge range of products. There is a bit of work involved setting it up but you will find it totally worth it in the long run. Once you have made that integration your only real job is to come up with something that will sell and list it. Somebody else is making and shipping the product and Etsy are supplying the traffic.

PRO TIP: Use See What Sells to see the top selling print on demand products on Etsy.

You are able to open your own shop on Etsy so I would recommend you put a small range together to fill your shop out. Name your Shop something relevant that gives the buyer a chance of understanding what you do. Think about the theme of your shop and almost use it as a branding tool if you have thought that far ahead. Sometimes the clever name is too clever to actually be of any benefit in finding customers. You will need to link a credit card or a verified Paypal account to your Etsy account to complete your shop opening.

One thing I have noticed is that the companies that sell their integrations charge more for the Etsy integration than they do for either an Amazon or an Ebay integration. I believe this is because although the overall traffic to the website is a bit less the product is a bit more targeted to the audience. The other two sites sell everything and anything but Etsy is more niche and commands a better selling price.

One final idea on Etsy is that you can become an affiliate of the website. So if you have your own blog or a social media presence you can do some sort of product review perhaps including one of your products and comparing with other people’s products and even if they prefer somebody else’s item you can get a commission on that through your link.

Selling On Amazon

You have choices when it comes to Amazon. They actually have their own Print On Demand system called Amazon Merch. This is by invitation so you are asked to fill out an application form to be approved as an Amazon Merch seller. You can apply for an account here https://merch.amazon.com/landing

Merch by Amazon was originally set up for Developers to sell their Apps merchandise through in App purchases but Amazon did not restrict this and it is now available to everyone to apply.

Each t-shirt takes 1-3 hours to go live on site. When the customer purchases their shirt they can decide if they would like Men’s, Ladies or Youth based on a sizing guide provided on your listing page. Also, as it is an amazon product they offer swift delivery and free returns.
There are two types of shirts you can put your design on, these are Anvil & American Apparel.
You can set your own Royalty from Merch by Amazon as well. They take a listing fee (15% of sale price) and cost price ($9.31 for Anvil T-Shirts) for each T-shirt sold. Anything above the cost to Amazon is yours to keep. The average t-shirt on Amazon sells for between $15-$25.
You can incur additional costs on your t-shirts and this is if you have either of the below:
Additional fees if you print on the back – $4
Additional for American Apparel – $1.50.

There are Tier levels within Amazon to stop individuals from creating an unlimited amount of t-shirt designs from the start of their account. {these aren’t the names of the levels – in Amazon they just say level up until you hit pro}
Initial level – Offer 25 different t shirts listing
Level 2 – you must sell 25 t shirts to get here – you can sell 100 different variations
Level 3 – must make 100 shirts Sales, you can sell 500 shirt variations
Level 4 – must make 500 shirts sales, you can create 1000 variations – this is know as pro.
Level 5 – 1000
Level 6 – 2000
Level 7 – 4000
You can sell T-shirts $0.01 above cost price if you wish, you won’t make much money initially but it is a great way to quickly Tier up with Amazon if that is your aim.

Amazon Merch is on the one hand a very simple system because everything is in one place but on the other it is limited to just producing T shirts. If you fancy having a go with T shirts this is great as there are no logistical worries and they even use Amazon Prime to make the delivery so it is a fast service. Also it is a non-exclusive design agreement so if you have a winner through Merch you can also use the design elsewhere. You can test it on Merch then sell it on Etsy too.

Otherwise, it is a similar situation to Etsy. You can either manually pass over your orders to your Print On Demand supplier or you use a company that already has an integration system. Again, just be careful about cash flow because you will likely always be a few days again from being paid in the manual system.

Of course, you may have decided to set up your own independent website using one of the popular ecommerce companies. You can use shopping solutions like Shopify or Magento to list your products and have an integration between your store and Amazon. Again there is work involved initially but their is plenty of tutorial help around to get you over the hard bit.

Another innovation that you can utilize if you have Shopify is their Buyable Pins app which allows people to buy direct on Pinterest. That is huge. Pinterest is a top browsing site particularly for ladies and you can link to your own website for checkout but actually missing a step and buying on Pinterest is a real step forward.

If you get it right on Amazon you have the potential to sell an awful lot of t shirts. Do your research, look at the current best selling T shirts and see if you understand the appeal and can adapt it to something you are doing. Also look at the calendar see if there are any major events coming up in your country that you can cater to. Perhaps somebody else has already got something going on an upcoming event that will spark an idea for you. The main thing is to keep thinking. You will find the right idea if you stick with it.

If you try enough something will work. It could be that something you think is beautiful or very clever doesn’t work for you and that something you think is stupid or ugly does. It can be hard to gauge the public. We are all different.

Advertising On Facebook

To generate sales from Facebook you will need to open a Facebook advertising account and start a Facebook page in the niche of your chosen products. It is compulsory to use a Facebook page to make your advertising posts on Facebook. Open the business version of the advertising account ,not the personal one, as you'll find that you'll soon want to change it if you make a success of the business. The way Facebook advertising works is for the advertiser to ask Facebook to put their advert in front of people that have shown an interest in this niche by liking relevant pages or listing among their interests or basically showing some sort of interest in the subject.

Continuing with the motorcycle theme I have looked through Facebook and found dozens and dozens of motorbike groups as well as some pages with huge followings. Although I have never researched motorcycles before it is clear it's a huge market. In the picture below you can see that this Facebook page has a following of over 5 million people. This is the largest one that I found but it's just one of dozens and many of them have over 100000 followers. There are also many active groups to do with motorcycles which are quite specific in the topic, such as particular brands of motorcycle. Some are buy and sell groups that it could be helpful to join to help with selling your products. These would be particularly useful as you can post without any cost in these types of group.

This is not a Facebook advertising course so I'm just giving you some hints rather than talking about the specifics of setting up an advert. When you are setting up your advert you are able to target people that have followed a specific page and there is reason to believe that someone that's followed the page Legendary Motorcycles could well have an interest in your motorcycle products. You may well find pages that are even more relevant than this one if you do more in-depth research than I've done here.

The idea with Facebook ads is to be advertising to the most relevant people so that you're not wasting your money advertising to people with only a passing interest or no interest at all. You want to be advertising to the real fanatics. the people that have got the real passion for the niche. This means that when you are selecting your targeting you need to be really picky otherwise you'll find your been wasting money on your advertising. Another thing you will need to consider when choosing your Ads is whether you are going for the sale or just testing people's opinions on your Design. You could pay for Ads that grow your page following and get you some engagement on your page whilst learning whether your designs are saleable before paying for the ads actually that do more of a hard sell. All these things of course depend on your experience and your budget. Ideally you would like to grow a page following so that you can post to a limited audience without paying for the privilege every time.

It is also possible to add a shop section to your Facebook page. It is possible to set the shop up within Facebook so that people actually check out on Facebook or you can set the shop up to send people to your own website, gearbubble or shopify store to check out. To check out within Facebook you would need to link up your PayPal account or a Stripe account and to checkout off of Facebook you can use whichever check out system you prefer. Having a shop linked to your page obviously gives you a chance of taking orders passively as opposed to having to advertise.

Above is the Facebook Home Page of Teespring the Print On Demand supplier. They are a good example of what can be done with Facebook shops. You can see in the left-hand column a shop tab which takes you to a small selection of products on Facebook. Also right across the front of the top you have three pictures of products in a Shop element which when clicked just go to an individual product page for each one. On the top right you have the Shop Now button that takes you directly to their website and their full range of products. This is a page with 854,000 likes to they will be wanting to be monetising their following in the best way possible.

Creating A Business Manager Account in Facebook

Creating your business manager account is very simple. To create your business manager account go to business.facebook.com and there is a big blue button in the middle which says create account. Click the button and you go through to the next page where you have to name the account and a further page where you give your name and the email address you wish to use. That is it. It is so simple that it doesn’t really need explaining but I hope by explaining it you won’t reluctant to get started. Once inside you have opportunity to open ad accounts and create business pages even add people to help manage your account from the business manager dashboard.

Creating An Ad Account

In your business manager go to business settings then click Ad Accounts on the left hand menu , click the blue add button and then click create new ad account from the drop down menu. You will go through to a page where you have to confirm your time zone and the currency you are working in. At this point you get to actually create the account and get the opportunity to access to other people, perhaps staff if you have any, and then to add a payment method. Once you have added a credit card or Paypal account you are ready to go.

Creating Your Page

You can create your business page from several places. If you just open your ad account we might as well open it from the business manager. Choose Business Settings Then on the left hand side menu choose Pages and then Add then Create a New Page which gives you a drop down menu of Page types. For the type of thing we are trying to do here I would suggest that you choose Brand or Product then you choose a category which will be determined by what you are trying to sell and then name and press create page. The blank page is ready for you to access at this point.

You then just need to add two images. A square profile image and I larger rectangular image for the header. You are now ready to start posting.

If you already have pages you might want to open from here which comes from clicking the left option in the previous image.

Choosing Your First Ad

This may all seem a bit simplistic if you have some Facebook experience but over the past few months I have met a few business owners that were spending money on Facebook Ads but had never realised there were other options than boosting a post with their personal account.

On to the first ad. This is a debatable point. Some people say Like ads are a waste of time and money whilst others think that pages should have an initial audience. I tend to go with the second group and usually start with a Like campaign. This is a type of advertisement that invites people to Like your page. This type of ad is very easy to set up and you can usually buy likes cheaper than other forms of ads. If you're targeting is fairly broad you can usually pick up Likes for around a penny and therefore get around 1000 followers for $10. Some of these may be outside your geographical target market but it doesn’t really matter at this stage. You need to remember as your targeting gets more specific your ad costs are more likely to rise.

If you start a Facebook Page and you start posting with no likes then nobody is going to see it so I think those few bucks at the beginning make the page more credible. So make three or four interesting posts and then start a simple Like campaign before you launch your first sales campaign. You can always use these people as mini research by asking for their opinions on products in your posts rather than asking them to buy. It will get your page some engagement and something may come then passively.

Creating a Targeted Ad

Your Like campaign didn’t really need to be very targeted. The ad you create to actually sell your product needs to really hit people that love the niche. It is important when you set your ad up to get your targeting right. Parts of it are obvious and other parts might take some thinking about. If , for instance you are only selling in the US then you only target the US. Also think the geography within the US. In this case, are there more bikers in California than Illinois? The answer is I don’t know so I might try separate ads for different states. You might find that one is more receptive to your product or you might find you get cheaper clicks in different areas. There are a lot of variables. It is your job to interpret the data that comes back to you and tweak it so that it gets you the most sales for the least amount of spend.

If you have a slogan written in English then only target english speakers. You can separate into age groups. Again, you can run separate ads to work out which age group likes your product the most. Obviously if you find that 40- 50 year olds in California are twice as interested as 20 -30 year olds in Illinois then you would probably decide to put your ad money into that ad.

Interests are important. In our example we would obviously target Motorcycling and Motorbiking. Then we would need to look beyond that and find more specific targeting. My initial thoughts without doing research are perhaps people that like Sons Of Anarchy or Harley Davidson. The Harley Davidson Facebook page has over 7 million followers. Then I would do some research on Facebook. We would need to find big Motorbiking pages and target the people that have liked that page.

Another little trick I like is to use Facebook search and look for niche + the phrase ‘get yours here’ or ‘get one here’. Below is our example

This not only finds you other page names for you to target their followers but also gives you insight into other products being sold in the niche and their popularity. This type of search helps you both with the targeting and also when you are thinking about product design you might find an idea to work from. You can see that the first result seems very popular as it has 3500 likes 598 comments and 399 shares.

When you create your Facebook ad you will need to generate a good mock up so that your product looks more attractive. Most suppliers have something that will help you with this.

Here is the mock up I made to use in my ad. Hopefully you agree it looks better than the one on the sales page. You can also use mock ups with backgrounds for your ad. You will see a picture later in the report with this mug on a kitchen worktop.

Then it is just a question of using the right wording to encourage people to your click through to your sales page.

The Challenge With Facebook Ads

The hardest part of using Facebook advertising is not to get sales but to get sales from an ad spend that makes you profitable. In other words making sure that you don't spend more on advertising than the profit that you are making on your product. For instance if you sell a coffee mug at $19.95 you should easily be able to make a profit as there is $15 to play with before you start losing money. Now most would not want to pay that price for a mug. It is too expensive. However, if you decide to sell for the more reasonable price of $9.95 it's probably unlikely that you will see much profit you may even make a loss. There are too many variables on the small profit margin. Firstly you never really know your ad cost until you start running the ad. Secondly you don’t know for sure whether the product is as appealing as you think it is. You only get a feel for this as you run campaigns. You almost have to expect to lose money to start with while you're feeling your way getting an idea of which ads work, which products have the most appeal and how to stay in profit.

How can you tip the balance back in your favour a bit? The obvious solution is to pitch the selling in the middle at $14.95 and then you have an extra $5 to spend on ads before you start losing money. If you put your mind to it you can be even more creative than that though. You can set your product up so that when somebody buys it you offer them a second product at a reduced price but still at a profit so your chances of making a profit on the initial ad spend are increased.

Another thing you could do is offer 2 products in a pack price so the purchase price is higher. So you could have either 2 different designs or the same design on 2 different products. Then you a have bigger ad spend before crossing into a loss. It is very easy to fall into the trap of trying to be as cheap as possible all the time. Thinking that cheap is the way to get sales is a mistake. Sales without profit is a waste of time. Another simple way is just to concentrate on a higher priced product.

On Gearbubble particularly Necklaces are very popular and I think it is a lot to do with the mechanics of advertising rather than Necklaces are better sellers per say. The necklace has a higher perceived value than a coffee mug. To me a coffee mug at $19.95 seems expensive but a Necklace at $27.95 seems quite a reasonable price. The fact that the marketer has a bigger margin for error in their advertising budget makes it a more attractive choice of product to push in the first place. There is also a case to be made also that the message a necklace is more likely to have value that a message on the mug. I mean necklaces are more likely to have sentimental messages and coffee mugs perhaps a mixture of sentimental and humorous. It is just my opinion but I really think sentiment has more value than humor in many cases for these products.

The majority of people that try and make money this way will give up because their first campaigns failed or they lost money. There are too many things that need to be right for you get all your ducks in a row on your first attempt. You can only succeed with perseverance. You will need to be prepared to lose a little bit of money when you are learning. Even when you have had a few winners you won’t always get the next one right. One of my friends reckons that he only gets one in ten designs to work to any extent but luckily that success more than covers any losses on the others.

Facebook Post Offer

When you make a page post you are given the option to make several different types of post. You can make an offer that will have a limited reach but is free to make. You can, of course, share the post to other pages and extend the reach a bit but it won’t be as effective as a paid ad. Below is an example of an Offer Ad. I also offered a discount code in this example.

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