T-Shirt Marketing 101: Promotion

Promotional marketing mix

Promotion is one of the “4 P’s of the Marketing Mix” (Price, Product, Promotion, Placement). These are part of the controllable factors you have in creating your marketing strategy for your t-shirt business. In a previous post, we took a look at the product aspect. Now let’s take a look at promotion.

How do potential customers know you’re in business or what you have to offer? This is where promotion comes in. It is the communication to your customer about your product. It is how you raise awareness for your t-shirt business.

There are a variety of objectives you may wish to accomplish through promotion. This might include creating awareness for your brand or t-shirts, to stimulate or maintain sales, gathering prospects and leads, gain loyalty, or to stay ahead of competitors’ efforts.

Create demand for your brand using these promotional elements! Share on X

Marketing promotion can consist of a variety of methods. It is typically done through the use of personal selling, advertising, public relations, and sales promotions. Depending on your goals and budget, using a combination of these is likely your best bet. Let’s take a closer look at each of these and how you can use them for your t-shirt business.

Personal Selling
One of the toughest parts of owning your own business is that, unless you have a staff, you are probably wearing multiple hats of the business. This includes salesman. Unless you have a larger staff that includes a sales team, you are probably already doing this. If not, this is a good place to start. Depending on your market and geographical territory that you are trying to sell to, this can be done through phone calls, emails, social media connections, or in person.

Make a list of potential customers and stop in to see them. This could include local businesses, schools, sports leagues, churches, charitable organizations, etc. At one point or another, everyone wears a custom tee! Before you stop in, make sure to do your homework. This might include creating a short presentation. Through the use of Easy View, have a few designs created for them before you go. Remember, the people you are visiting are just as busy as you are, and trying to run their business or organization. The more work you do for them up front, the less they have to worry about.

Use Easy View for sales presentations

Design shirt ideas in seconds to show prospective customers some ideas.

Another way is to make connections on social media. Join conversations and add your own comments. The more people that get to know you and what you do, the more likely they are to buy from you.


[ Related Content: Watch how you can promote your t-shirt business using social media ]


Whenever you get a lead, don’t forget to follow up. This is a very important step. Get these potential customers into your “sales funnel”. Send a hand-written note in the mail. Do you have a subscriber list that you send regular emails to? This may be something you want to look into if you don’t already. Services such as Mailchimp are useful to help you with your email marketing. Mailchimp is free, up to 2,000 subscribers!

There are a few different forms of advertising: paid, word-of-mouth, buzz, and viral to name a few. The most common is paid advertising. When it comes to advertising, paid is probably the method you have the most control over. Through online mediums such as Facebook and Google ads, you can target a select group of people, by geographical area, gender, age range, industry, etc. There are so many ways you can determine who your ads are being shown to online and you can set a specific budget.

If you are selling your t-shirts and customization services to a specific geographical area, you may want to consider traditional channels such as radio, direct mail, and billboards, if your budget allows. Sometimes you might be able to trade your t-shirts and other promotional apparel for air time on the radio. Radio stations do a lot of give-a-ways. Offer to provide some of these for an ad.

Paid advertising is not the only form of advertising. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising. More than 65% of people rely on friends and family for buying advice. This number is growing, as can be seen with the importance of online product and business reviews. Google reviews are becoming more important. Has anyone left your business reviews on Google? If you have a satisfied customer, ask them to leave you a positive review online and share their experience.

The power of word-of-mouth advertising: more than 65% of people rely on friends and family for buying advice. Share on X

Buzz marketing relies heavily on word-of-mouth advertising to create a hype or trend. One way this can be done is by product placement. For example, try putting t-shirts on a select group of people and placing them in a specific area that people will see and start talking about.

Another form of buzz marketing is guerilla marketing. We wrote about using guerilla marketing in 10 Marketing Ideas on a Budget for Your T-Shirt Business. Guerilla marketing takes out-of-the-box thinking. It can have large results from a small budget. These types of promotions do something very different and unique that get a lot of attention and gets people talking.

Viral marketing is something we have all heard of, usually in the context of a viral YouTube video. This can be done, but it is rare. It is hard to predict what goes viral, but you can try to piggy-back off of viral content as it is popular. Leverage what is happening around us, and use it to your advantage. We wrote about How to Cash in on Viral Videos with T-Shirts in this post.

Some people put the use of sponsorships under the public relations umbrella, however I’m going to include it under advertising. This type of promotion is paid for. You are promoting your brand at an event that may have the same audience that you sell to. Sponsoring an event or organization may also include some form of advertisements as part of the sponsorship, but every sponsorship is run differently. As part of sponsoring an event, your logo is usually displayed and mentioned as a sponsor or partner in the event. It could be included under public relations, since you are aligning your brand with a particular idea that you want the public to associate your brand with, which leads us right into public relations.

Public Relations
On the other side of advertising is public relations, also known as PR. PR helps give an image to the public about your brand or product. Typically, this is done by submitting press releases to different media outlets. PR is free publicity, however, you have less control over it. It is up to the media whether they want to include your information or not, and they can pick and choose what parts they want to include.

PR is more informational and less sales-y. In order to get your content picked up by the media, you have to provide some value to your content. This may be how-to tutorials, a story about a customer, a story about your shirts or your brand, a cause you are contributing towards, etc. Think about the “news” you see and read. This is the type of content that the media picks up.

Sales Promotions
A sales promotion, not to be confused with the overall marketing mix of promotion, adds an incentive to try to increase demand and sales. For example, sales promotions could consist of coupons, contests, give-a-ways, games, samples, rebates, point-of-purchase displays, demonstrations, and promotional products. These can be a fun way to get people interested in your t-shirts and brand. For example, if someone orders 50 t-shirts or more, they get a free tote bag. You can use an extra transfer you have from the t-shirts and press the bag, too, which is minimal cost to you. Promotional products are easy to heat print, and we gave several ideas in our post Supplementing Sales with Promotional Products.

If you sell at events, personalizing on site could be a way you are “demonstrating” your customization services. People get excited about personalizing their shirt with a nickname, etc. Sometimes all it takes is to see the process and other people getting it done for others to want it also.

t-shirt customization station

Photo courtesy of Ted’s Blog –

If you have a seasonal line of t-shirts, this may be a time you want to use these types of marketing promotion. If there is a slow period during the year, this could be a way to try to generate more demand.

Be careful on how you use sales promotions. You don’t want to over use them. Make sure you are strategic about how you use them. Overtime, it could result in a negative fashion. People may only buy when they have a coupon. If you are unsure, you can always test it. Compare your results with a control group or from previous years.

Promotion, as part of the Marketing Mix, is how you create awareness and demand for your t-shirts. There are different elements to the promotional mix, including paid and non-paid methods. Using a combination of these ways will help create a well-rounded marketing strategy. Your combination will be determined by your overall goals that you wish to accomplish with your promotional efforts.