Print-on-demand t-shirt businesses are booming; it’s no surprise why. Upgrading dropshipping to pro level, print-on-demand eCommerce business models allow new and established online sellers to create white-label, original products without a massive investment in pre-ordering stock. Printing and paying for products only after a sale has been secured is a cost-effective way to test new designs or niche categories, or scale up your online store with minimal startup costs.
Newbie Tip: If you’re not an eCommerce entrepreneur just yet but are considering launching a new print-on-demand t-shirt business, then you will want to read this post first.
Whether you’re a new eCommerce store owner looking to improve traffic or a well-established print-on-demand t-shirt business wanting to take revenue to the next level, this post is for you!
In this post, we take you through everything you need to know to successfully manage the marketing of your print-on-demand t-shirt business on your journey to 7 figures.
Laying the Foundation for Print-On-Demand Marketing Success
Before we get into our top print-on-demand t-shirt business marketing strategies and must-haves, you want to be sure that you have laid the foundation for scaling success. Here are three questions to ask yourself to ensure your print-on-demand t-shirt business has a solid foundation.
1. Do You Know Your Target Audience Well Enough?
The first and most important thing to consider when laying the foundation for a print-on-demand store is your target audience. You need to know exactly who you are talking to and then split them further into segments so that you can dig deeper.
The key to the success of any print-on-demand business is ensuring that you have a good understanding of the niche and segments within you are trying to reach. For example, it’s not enough to just say, “I want to sell and market t-shirts to women”; you need to ask yourself:
- How old are they and where do they live?
- Are they parents or students?
- What do they care about, love or enjoy most?
And more! Understanding who you’re marketing to and drilling them down into smaller groups will help you personalize your products, messaging and brand. All of which will enable you to stand out from the crowd, create products that speak directly to your audience and ultimately boost sales opportunities. Here are five steps from Hootsuite to help you to get a deeper understanding of your target audience:
- Collect and compile customer profiles based on your current data
- Analyze your social and PPC platform analytics
- Take a sneak peek at your competitors
- Create a target market statement that clearly defines your potential shoppers
- Test your target market segments with social and Google ads
2. Have You Invested in Building a Solid Brand?
Here’s the thing: even if you’re running a lean print-on-demand t-shirt business, you won’t be able to grow it into a thriving, money-earning store if you haven’t separated yourself from the pack. To do that, you need to establish a strong brand – a brand that speaks to your potential shoppers and sets you apart from your closest competitors.
If you want to establish a strong brand, you will need to invest in developing a unique, trustworthy store image that shows your customers why they should pick your products. In short, your print-on-demand eCommerce brand is the reason your customers will choose you.
So, how do you work on building an eCommerce brand – even if you’re behind? Here are four critical elements to consider when building your brand.
1. Brand Voice
The first element to consider when building your print-on-demand t-shirt brand is your store’s voice. Brand voice the tone you set for your brand – think of it as its personality. Is your brand rebellious or playful? Assertive or caring? Whichever you choose, you want to make sure that your brand voice is used across all your channels, from your product descriptions on your website to your social posts. An excellent example of an online store that nails brand voice across all their platforms and products is Dollar Shave Club.
2. Brand Vision
The next thing you will need to build your brand is your business vision. Ask yourself why you started your print-on-demand t-shirt business, what problems you set out to solve with your products and what your vision is for your store’s future.
3. Brand Values
What is fundamentally important to you and your target audience? Establishing the core values of your brand will help you set what your brand stands for and tap into what your niche segments are passionate about. Here are two examples of brands with strong values:
- Conscious Step: A brand focusing on raising money for social issues and charity causes
- Blue Planet: A brand whose values focus on creating environmentally sustainable products
4. Brand Visual Representation
Lastly, your brand’s visual representation matters. This applies to everything from the lifestyle and product images you use for your print-on-demand store to the vibe of the images you use in your PPC campaigns. A business that understands the power of visual branding is the print-on-demand T-shirt eCommerce store Raccoon Brand.
Ultimately, you want to combine these four elements to build your brand positioning and highlight the unique value your print-on-demand t-shirt business represents.
Print-on-Demand T-Shirt Business Marketing Strategy Must-Haves
Now that you’ve reviewed your brand’s message and who you are hoping to reach with it, it’s time to assess and upgrade your print-on-demand t-shirt business marketing strategy.
Just because you’ve opted for a business model (print-on-demand) that cuts back significant investments in stock, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be investing in your marketing strategy – as you would with any eCommerce business type.
Here are the top 5 things your print-on-demand t-shirt business marketing strategy should include.
1. Well-Optimized Site With Lots of Relevant Information
You can spend all the money you want on optimized Facebook and Google ads, but if you’re sending potential shoppers to poorly designed URLs that aren’t optimized to build trust and covert – you’re practically throwing money away. Add that to a site that’s missing vital information like Terms and Conditions and FAQs or has a poor SEO strategy, and your print-on-demand t-shirt business will be dead in the water. Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself to help ensure your site is optimized for not only search engines but potential shoppers.
- Is my eCommerce store showing the right information (FAQs, shipping policy, contact information and return policy)?
- Have I optimized my site for search engines?
- Do I have trust indicators that instill confidence?
Pro Tip: Want to see how your store compares to other 7- and 8-figure stores in your niche in terms of shopping experience, trustworthiness, technical performance and marketing? Get results in minutes with the free Benchmark Hero tool.
Here are some further guides to help ensure your print-on-demand t-shirt store is well-optimized:
- Build Awesome Product Pages That Convert
- Top Reasons Why Shoppers Are Abandoning Their Online Carts [+ Solutions]
- 54 Top eCommerce KPIs to Monitor for Max Success
- 19 Shopify Store Examples Who are Killing It [And What We Can Learn From Them]
2. Product Reviews and UGC
Product reviews and UGC can go a long way toward building trust in your brand and products – especially for new targeted traffic you are generating. In one report, they found that as many as 95% of shoppers will read reviews before committing to a purchase. Reviews and other UGC are an integral part of your marketing, which is an important part of your word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) strategy. And the benefits? They build trust, loyalty and hype for your print-on-demand t-shirt business. All of which boost sales.
To effectively use product reviews and UGC, follow these 4 steps:
- Choose a tool to help you gather reviews and UGC and integrate them into your store. Here are 5 Tools to Increase UGC to get you started.
- Increase reviews and UGC through post-transaction emails and incentives.
- Use online reviews and other UGC in your PPC campaigns and social content.
- Engage directly with customers who review your brand/product to build more personal shopper relationships.
Visit our full Word-of-Mouth Marketing to Boost eCommerce Sales guide for review and UGC strategies for your print-on-demand business.
Just because you’re “only” selling t-shirts (now), doesn’t mean you can’t aim high with creating viral appeal – just ask Ben Aqua.
3. A Good PPC Marketing and Management Plan
Once your print-on-demand t-shirt business is set up for review mining and better conversion optimization, it’s time to concentrate on paid traffic. Not just any traffic, but highly-targeted, quality traffic that is more intent on buying what you’re selling. When it comes to PPC marketing, here are the top 7 eCommerce traffic generators for your print-on-demand t-shirt business.
1. Google Shopping Campaigns
When it comes to choosing PPC platforms that generate targeted potential shoppers with high buying intent, Google Shopping should be your top choice!
If you’re new to Google Shopping or want to improve your ROIs then visit these two popular posts: How to Dominate Google Ads With Google Shopping for eCommerce and The Best Google Shopping Campaign Structures for Max Success.
2. Google Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs)
The next must-have campaign type for your print-on-demand t-shirt business marketing strategy is DSAs. Dynamic Search Ads are Search campaigns that Google will automatically match to search queries, helping you bridge the gap of missing keywords.
Newbie Tip: If you haven’t tried DSAs before, visit our beginners’ Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) Guide for eCommerce.
Dynamic Search Ads are best suited for those eCommerce brands that don’t include a lot of rapid daily changes or unoptimized online stores and pages, and only works with https:// sites. Here’s an example from Google on how DSAs work:
3. Google Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)
Responsive Search Ads are one of Google’s newest campaign options and allow advertisers to automatically optimize ad elements like text, headlines and images. Responsive Ads help improve the performance of your ads and reach more shoppers while saving you optimization time and offering more flexibility.
Bonus Content: 6 Google Responsive Search Ads Hacks You Need to Know
4. Google Remarketing Campaigns
Once you’ve generated some good traffic to your online print-on-demand t-shirt store, it’s time to kick your remarketing into fourth gear. The leader of PPC remarketing platforms is Google, and should, therefore, be your first remarketing port of call. For everything you need to know about the remarketing campaign options Google offers and some expert strategies, visit our Full Google Ads Remarketing for eCommerce Guide.
5. Facebook Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs)
Dynamic Product Ads enable advertisers to reach potential shoppers with ads featuring specific products that said buyers are actively interested in. DPAs take automated marketing up a notch by enabling print-on-demand brands to serve highly targeted and personal ads to their potential shoppers on Facebook.
Newbie Tip: New to Facebook marketing? Here are three easy steps to setting up your Facebook Dynamic Product Ads like a pro.
6. Facebook Collection Ads for eCommerce
Once you have added (and mastered) Dynamic Product Ads to your print-on-demand store marketing strategy, it’s time to add Collection Ads. Taking Dynamic Ads to another level, Collection Ads are for mobile campaign placement only.
Here is everything you need to know about setting up and optimizing Facebook Collection Ads for your print-on-demand t-shirt business: Facebook Collection Ads for eCommerce.
7. Instagram Ads
Instagram ads are becoming more and more popular with eCommerce entrepreneurs. And it is no surprise why, when the platform gives you access to over 1 billion users. The top types of Instagram campaigns you want to test first for your print-on-demand store are Image and Video Post Ads, Story Ads, Carousel Ads and Shoppable Collection Ads. To up your Instagram marketing game, visit these top 7 Instagram PPC guides and strategy posts:
- How to Make Instagram Videos That Add Value to Your Brand
- Mastering Instagram Analytics to Boost Sales [Complete Guide]
- 7 Steps to Becoming an Instagram Selling Machine
- Instagram Tools: The Ultimate List For Business & Growth
- How to Leverage Facebook and Instagram to Scale a 7-Figure Business
- Beginners Guide to Instagram Influencer Marketing for Online Store Owners
- 6 Online Businesses Crushing it on Instagram
4. A Strong Social and Content Presence
Outside of your PPC campaigns, you want to ensure you have a strategy to add value for your customers and followers while bumping your social and SEO reach at the same time. This can be done through having an eCommerce blog with niche-related content, as well as tapping into your brand personality on social media. You want to stay on top of trends, news and accounts, while also telling your brand story to push engagement. Here’s a great example of winning at social from the print-on-demand t-shirt business Pop Lyfe.
5. Quality Email Marketing Strategy
The last must-have marketing tool every print-on-demand eCommerce store must-have is a well-thought-out email marketing strategy. This means choosing the right email platform and establishing a way to collect email addresses – in fact, having an email pop up alone can boost your list by 40%. Additionally, you should be segmenting your lists to personalize email content and have a robust, tested email campaign strategy. Here are some top email marketing posts from our blog to help you overhaul your email marketing strategy:
- 7 Ways to Win Over Customers Through a Welcome Email Series
- 9 Winning eCommerce Email Campaigns You Should Borrow Today!
- Monitor These 5 Email Marketing Metrics for Sales Success
- Top 4 Things That are Killing Your Email Marketing and How to Fix It
4 Secrets to Marketing and Growing Your Print-On-Demand Business Like a Pro
Now that you have your top marketing tools for your print-on-demand t-shirt business, it’s time to get deeper into the best print-on-demand marketing strategy secrets to push success. Like with any eCommerce business, you will need to be prepared to adapt and continuously reassess your business to scale it to a successful online brand. Here are our top 4 marketing secrets to help you grow your print-on-demand t-shirt business.
1. Always Segment, Segment, Segment
When it comes to all aspects of your marketing – PPC marketing, email campaigns or content marketing – you want to segment your target audience as much as possible. Why? Because this enables you to create personalized campaigns, sales and content that speak to your potential shoppers and customers on a personal level. In other words, the more segmented your approach, the more personalized your messaging will be; and we all know personalization can drive sales in a big way.
Let’s say you are selling fitness-related print-on-demand t-shirts; you could have better results by targeting potential shoppers based on their preferred fitness activities, sex, location and interests, than lumping all of them into one group. Here are the minimum segments you should aim for:
- Demographics such as gender, language and location
- Behavior such as purchasing and usage trends on your store
- Social data and interests such as relationship status, education and pages they follow
- Value segments based on the price of the products they have shown interest in or bought
- Customers’ and potential shoppers’ lifestyle
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Venture into Similar Niches
The thing is, sticking to one small segment to sell your t-shirts in will be limiting. Let’s say you’re selling print-on-demand t-shirts to younger male skaters; how often do you think they will buy a t-shirt from you?
By expanding to similar niches such as female skaters, you can boost sales. Even better if you then target other similar niche sports, like BMXing or boarding.
The idea would be to launch your print-on-demand t-shirt business targeting a small, specific niche, and then as your business grows, expand into similar niches to grow your reach and sales.
3. Expand Your Product Line With Your Expanding Business
It’s not just your niches you should consider expanding, but your print-on-demand product line. Once you have built a steady stream of t-shirt sales in various similar niches, it’s time to scale your print-on-demand t-shirt business. This means considering other print-on-demand products that are in line with your branding and target audience. Using the fitness print-on-demand t-shirt example from earlier, this could mean expanding to leggings, long-sleeve shirts, sports bras and bicycle shorts – to name a few.
In a nutshell, in order for your print-on-demand t-shirt business to not only survive but thrive, diversification is a key long-term goal. Look at Kettlebell Kings, they don’t just stock print-on-demand t-shirts but have become a one-stop-fitness-shop for kettlebell and gym enthusiasts.
4. Assess Whether You Have Offline Marketplace Potential
Once you have built a successful print-on-demand t-shirt business brand, expanded your niches and diversified your products to 8-figure level, it’s time to assess expanding further. This could be adding eCommerce marketplaces to your selling plan or considering offline possibilities like wholesale, popup markets or targeting events. Here are a few brands that are winning at this:
And now for the things you should not be doing if you want to build a successful print-on-demand store…
3 Things You Absolutely Shouldn’t Do If You Want to Succeed
1. Selling Generic Designs
If you want to grow a thriving print-on-demand t-shirt business, you need to stand out. This means your designs need to reflect a unique standpoint and shouldn’t be overly generic. Instead of just copying designs from trends in your niche, think of ways you can take design elements and make them your brand’s own.
A brand that was able to really make it their own is Classic Dad. Here’s their story on how they took common ‘dad-isms’ and made it their own.
2. Not Being Upfront
Whatever you do, always be upfront with customers and potential shoppers. Clickbait tactics and excluding info will only harm your business in the long run. Your goal is to not only sell one t-shirt to one customer but make sure that customer is satisfied (gets the product they were promised) and then buys again and spreads the word about your brand.
3. Going Variant Crazy
This is particularly important if you’re new to the eCommerce game. You don’t want to go variant crazy on your designs; instead, believe in your design and color options, start small and expand slowly as your business grows.
Bonus: Choosing the Right Print-on-Demand Service for Maximum Efficiency
Lastly, it’s essential to choose a print-on-demand provider that will help you run your print-on-demand t-shirt business in an efficient, streamlined way – both of which is an important piece of your marketing puzzle. Here are some top print-on-demand brands (and their key benefits/features) to consider:
Boasting ‘mass customization’, CustomCat has many years of experience, offering clients high-resolution direct-to-garment printing and modern embroidery, Digital polyester printing and dye sublimation technology. CustomCat offers a premium option, which includes lower product prices for higher margins, perfect for high-volume sellers.
- +550 products
- 15 years of print-on-demand experience
- Fast fulfillment turn-around
- Bulk upload/export
Printful is a leader in the print-on-demand niche. With their growing list of products that have a good quality track-record, they have been around since 2013. Now offering a wide range of services including print-on-demand dropshipping, fulfillment and other eCommerce services like product photography, they are a top choice for eCommerce entrepreneurs. Here are some of their best features:
- No order minimums
- Four fulfillment locations in the US and Europe
- Custom branding options
- Effectively and friendly customer support
Offering a wider variety of print-on-demand products, Printify is a popular print-on-demand service for Shopify that will match you to top custom manufacturers. Free for up to four stores in your account, Printify handles printing, fulfillment and manufacturing requests, so you can focus on what’s important, marketing. Here are some of their top features:
- 250+ custom products
- Printing partner network located in the US, UK and China
- Automatic syncing with your online store
- Easy-to-use Mockup Generator
Best suited for smaller eCommerce businesses looking for a print-on-demand service and an additional selling platform, Teespring lets you either submit your own designs or use their design database. In short, they will handle everything from storefront to supply chain. Some key features include:
- Dedicated support
- eCommerce tools & analytics
- Unlimited [products
- Global fulfillment to 180 countries
There you have it, everything you need for marketing your print-on-demand t-shirt business to 7- and 8-figure success. To alleviate some of the pressure of your print-on-demand marketing, consider a PPC management tool like Traffic Booster, which will leave you more time to work on the other parts of your print-on-demand marketing strategy outlined in this post.
Got questions? Post them in the comments below!
Nicole is a content writer at StoreYa with over sixteen years experience and flair for storytelling. She runs on a healthy dose of caffeine and enthusiasm. When she's not researching the next content trend or creating informative small business content, she's an avid beachgoer, coffee shop junkie and hangs out on LinkedIn.
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