How to Market Your T-Shirt Business Online
Marketing your t-shirt business online is a must. If you have a t-shirt business and want to grow, you need to learn how to market your t-shirt business online.
“If you build it, [they] will come.”
That may have worked for building a baseball field and ghostly baseball players appearing, but it’s not a recommendation for building your business.
In fact, anyone who has started a business can tell you that just because you start your business, customers aren’t lining up at the door waiting to buy.
Marketing your t-shirt business takes work and effort.
And part of the effort is marketing your business online.
The internet provides so many business opportunities.
You customers are looking online. Don’t you want to be where they’re at?
If your online presence is lacking, you are missing out on potential business.
Marketing your business online can be quite foreign to some and even can be a little scary.
We’ll break down some of the essentials for marketing your t-shirt business online that can help you shake off that fear and get you started on the right foot.
Identify your audience
The first step to marketing your t-shirt business online is to identify your audience, or your target market.
Before you sign up for a single social media platform, or create an account, you need to decide who you are selling to.
This will lay the ground work for your success.
Yes, everyone may wear t-shirts, but what market are you going to focus on and serve?
For example, most people drive a car. But everyone shops for the right car for them. If I’m looking for a pick-up truck, I’m not going to the Lexus dealer. And Lexus isn’t trying to sell me a truck. That’s not their market.
So are you selling retail style shirts, selling one at a time? What will your designs focus on? What are the apparel choices?
Or will you be selling custom shirts for groups? Will you be focusing on a segment, like restaurants?
What is your niche?
Part of identifying your audience is to decide on a niche. A niche is a market segment, or a specific, targeted group.
This is how you focus on selling what you’re good at.
A niche of people will all share similar needs, wants, desires.
Fanatics, a big seller of sports jerseys, is not trying to sell the graphic tees with funny sayings on them.
Picking a niche allows you to focus on your customers and what they specifically want.
What problems do people in your niche face and how can you solve them?
A printed t-shirt is not just a piece of clothing. They contain designs that represent who they are, their identity, a sense of belonging.
People like to wear things they are a part of, that show their interests.
If you’re selling custom shirts, like team uniforms, your customers will have certain needs. A volleyball team will need printed jerseys, usually made of spandex. Can you provide these and decorate them correctly?
A customer who needs a promo tee to give away at a 1 day event is not going to be looking for high end performance wear shirts, in most cases.
Your brand needs to speak to your customers. What about your brand resonates with them?
What language and imagery speaks to them?
People shop with emotion. We like to think that we’re making decisions based on logic and reason, but our emotion plays a large role in it, whether we think it or not.
This is where having words and photos that your customers can relate to can play a big part in emotion and relating to your brand.
Are you positioning yourself as part of your niche? Are you an expert in your field?
For example, if you sell golf apparel, if you label the towel that golfers use as a dish towel, that’s not what it’s called. They’ll know that and probably want to shop with someone who knows them and what they need.
So in your shop, you’re the expert. Help your customers. Give them recommendations. They’ll perceive you to know what you’re doing and come back to you as THE source for their specific needs.
Which leads us right into the next point in building your t-shirt business.
Grow Your Brand
Again, before you even get online, you need to lay the ground work. Focus on your niche and own it.
When you focus on a specific group, you’ll be able to own it.
Back to the Fanatics example – if you want to buy a replica NFL jersey, you know to go to Fanatics.
If you sell to cat lovers, they’re going to know to come back to you because you have all the cool cat t-shirts.
Don’t try to be all things to all people. You’ll spread yourself too thin and you won’t be an expert at anything.
You won’t be known for that one thing you’re good at.
So be good at one thing, and show your customers that’s what you can offer them.
What sets you apart? Focus on that.
That’s what’s going to allow you to connect with your customers on an emotional level.
[Related Content: A Quick Brand Guide for Lasting Results]
Your brand will grow within that niche and while you may not grow to be a household name across every home in America, you can become a household name in a particular niche, among people who love what you are selling.
These become your loyal fans and eventually brand ambassadors.
Your customers will be talking about you to others, to other people in the same niche.
So now that you have the foundation for a strong business, now we can focus on selling that online.
Build a Website
Now that you know who you are targeting, build a website that speaks to them and does the selling for you.
Your website is your salesman that doesn’t sleep. When you’re sleeping at 1 am and someone else is up because they can’t sleep and looking for suppliers for their baseball uniforms, your website is working at 1 am.
It’s talking to your potential customer for you.
In order for your website to work for you, you need to know what you want it to do. What are your goals?
Example: are you selling t-shirts directly to buyers online, like one-off sales? Or are you selling the idea that you can print custom shirts for x,y and z.
If you don’t yet have a website, don’t worry, there’s lots of options these days. They don’t have to cost thousands of dollars, either. You don’t have to pay a special tech firm to create a specialized site for you.
You can create your own website with options like WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, etc.
[Related Content: How to Create a Website for Your T-Shirt Business Using WordPress]
You’ll have to research each option to see which platform will work best for you and what you want to accomplish.
For example, lots of people are selling on Etsy. But an Etsy store may not be the best option for you if you just want to capture leads for custom shirts.
If you do face-to-face business with people in your city to create the perfect baseball uniforms for them, you might want a website that will allow people to contact you for inquiries.
Content and SEO
After you have chosen your website platform, you’ll want to add the correct content to your site that aligns with your goals.
This is where content comes in.
If you are selling to your area, you’ll want to include your city name or surrounding cities into the copy on your site, your titles, meta descriptions, etc.
Incorporate what people are searching for onto your site. These are called keywords.
There are many ways to find keywords, but one quick and easy way to see what Google suggests is to see what is shown in the suggestions when you start typing.
Google will try to predict what you want based on popular searches.
Use these related words and phrases on your site when relevant. The key here is relevancy. You don’t want to bring traffic to your site that isn’t relevant. Irrelevant traffic can actually hurt your site.
So search your keywords and actually see what sites Google gives in the search results. Click on all of the organic results and see what the pages actually say and consist of.
Take notes. Create similar content on your site, but make it even better. Don’t just regurgitate the info. But take note that that’s the content that Google is showing for those keywords.
[Related Content: 9 Reasons Content Marketing Can Help Your T-Shirt Business]
There are many more factors involved in why Google gives certain results, but having good content is important. Answer questions your customers have and are looking for the answers to.
If you are selling to a local market, then local SEO is super important.
One of the best things you can do is to make sure you have a Google My Business profile.
It’s a free tool from Google to promote your business in search results and maps.
How many times do you search for something on Google on your phone, and it asks you to allow your location?
This will help when people are looking for your products and services in your area.
It contains reviews (which social proof is important), photos, products, special offers, business hours, contact info, and more.
You can post things on there and customers and potential customers can interact with you.
If you have a location for customers to visit, you can even include your address.
Grow an Email List
Once you have your audience identified and your website built, you can now start to build an email list.
This email list is your specific fan base, if you would. It is your captured audience that wants to follow you.
When someone signs up to your email list, they want to continue the conversation.
These people are interested in your products and services to some degree or another, or the content you are providing.
To build an email list, you need to build opt in forms on your site. This can be done through plugins if you’re using a platform like WordPress or even Shopify, or other software providers.
Some examples would be Optin Monster, ThriveLeads, etc. There are a ton of them. Just Google it and you can find one for what you need and your budget. There are free options as well.
So add a form to your site in high traffic areas or pages that make sense to get people to opt in to your email list.
This can happen at a much higher rate if you offer something as an incentive, known as a lead magnet or a carrot, etc. There’s lots of names.
Most of us have given our email address for something in exchange, whether it’s a % off coupon, an ebook, a guide, etc.
When people come to your site, it’s important to capture their email, because they most likely will not buy the first time visiting your site.
If they come and leave without giving you their email, they could be gone forever. Maybe they would come back, but you would have no control over that.
With an email, you could nurture your leads to come back and potentially buy.
To actually send an email to your list, you’ll need an Email Service Provider. There are lots of these to choose from as well, including MailChimp, Constant Contact, Active Campaign, and GetResponse, just to name a few.
You need one of these though to ensure better deliverability, some automation when it comes to signing up to your list, and the ability for your subscribers to unsubscribe.
You’ll also be able to see who opens your emails, who clicks on them, and how much money they are generating.
Use Your Email List to Nurture
Once you start collecting email addresses, you can continue to communicate with them and draw them back to your site.
On average, it will take someone to interact with you or your content about 7 times before thinking about making a purchase from you.
That’s how important it is to get an email address. With it, you have a list of interested people that hopefully will eventually buy from you.
There will be a portion who will never buy.
But this is where knowing your audience, what’s important to them and what’s valuable to them, comes back into play. Through your email, you need to provide great resources and valuable content to them.
Education – what do they need help with.
Promotions, special offers, exclusive offers.
As you can see on the Transfer Express blog, we offer tips regularly to our email list to help grow your apparel business. That’s our whole mission, is to help you grow your apparel business. So we offer lots of resources and products to help you do just that.
Marketing on Social Media
Now that you have the ball rolling with your site and email list, it’s time to start getting traffic to your site.
One of the ways is using social media.
[Related Content: Which is Better: a Website or Facebook Page?]
First and foremost, be social on social media. Don’t just go on there throwing up promotional posts all the time. That’s not why people are on there.
Interact with customers and prospects. As we mentioned above, become part of your niche. Be part of the group.
When you do this, you’ll naturally draw and attract customers.
The next step is to get them into your sales funnel. The goal is to get them to your site and get them to sign up for your email list.
You don’t own your social media account or followers. As an analogy, social media is like rented property.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc, can “change the rules” at any time which can limit your ability to reach your followers and subscribers. Organically, it is much harder to get your content in front of your fans than it was several years ago.
Email, on the other hand, is your own property. You own your email list.
So eventually, you’ll want to try to get your social media following to your site and on your email list.
A good way to attract people is to provide quality content over quantity. Don’t worry about making so many posts a day, or a week. Instead, focus on making really good posts and doing it consistently.
Online Paid Ads
There are several types of paid ads you can try online and in several places.
If you have never used online ads before, you’ll need to do a little research and just start trying it out to see what works for you.
You can use paid search ads for Google, Bing, etc., or display ads, which are more visual with an image. There are also shopping ads, like what you see at the top of searches.
When buying ads, some are PPC (Pay Per Click) ads and some are PPM (Pay Per Impresssion) ads.
For PPC ads, you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it. This is one of the advantages of online ads. There is the ability to only pay for people who are engaged with your ad by clicking on it.
On the other hand, you can also pay for ads just to display them in front of people (PPM ads). This is the traditional ad model, such as billboards, tv commercials, etc.
When buying ads, you need to know what a lead is worth to you, so you know how much you can spend on your ads and each click.
To get started with paid ads on Google, you’ll need a Google Ads account.
There are lots of YouTube videos online to learn how to use Google Ads Manager, the platform where you will be managing your ads.
In our webinar, Dave covers paid ads in more detail at about the 48 minute mark.
You can also pay for ads on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Your organic posts only show to a percentage of your current followers, so ads are a great way to increase those impressions.
Like for paid search ads, there are different formats for social media ads, such as single image, carousel, videos, etc. and can pay per impression or per click.
The beauty of social media ads is that you can target based on peoples’ interests.
Targeted campaigns get you the best return on your investment.
Ads for social media are managed through each individual social media platform.
Dave also covers more about advertising on social media in the webinar at about the 1 hour and 19 minute mark.
When all is said and done, marketing your t-shirt business online takes effort but is worth it. You can grow your t-shirt business by leaps and bounds with online marketing.
It may take some time to get everything set up and to learn, but all you need to do is one step at a time.
Don’t worry about getting it all done at once. Focus on one thing, such as setting up your website, and then move on to the next step.
There is no set way in stone on how to market your t-shirt business online. But once you get started, you’ll be able to see what works best for you. There are ways that will bring you success when you put each of the topics above together, such as having your own website, building an email list, using social media, and paid ads.