How to Make and Sell Custom Merch in 2023
If you’re a content creator, a big priority of yours should be to create and sell merch. Products extend your brand voice. There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing your fans show you love by eating up your designs and products. Why? Because creating and selling your merch is a way of connecting with them. And in turn, buying your merch is their way to connect with you. They’re not just buying things, they’re buying you. So really search your soul for what you want to put out into the world. With that said, let’s get to it.
Where to start? How do you create merch and how do you sell it? The first step is your Spring store (it’ll be integral to your success). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with your audience.
Find out who your audience is and what they like
You need to learn how fans interact with you and your brand. What social platforms are they active on? For example, you can guess your fanbase is mainly Gen Z & Millennials if most of your engagement is on TikTok. So then you take that information, and based on their shopping habits, create and design merch for that audience. You can also interact with fans directly in polls on Facebook groups, email, Instagram Stories, etc. There’s another advantage to asking for feedback from your audience – it makes them feel like they helped create the merch that they are going to eventually buy.
Brainstorm merch ideas
Okay. Now you know your audience. Next step. Design the merch you know will appeal to their taste. How do you do that? Maybe there’s something you did (Ex: a running joke) that got the most engagement? The most comments? This is where your creative ability comes in. Identify what’s resonating and design around it, maybe a catchphrase or something you wore. Or try the reverse: pick a product your fans will like and then think what types of designs will stand out. Need inspiration? Here are some recent bestsellers that might get your creative juices flowing:
- Notebooks: Awesome for both professionals and creatives
- Die cut stickers: Fans can show their support everywhere
- Tank tops: Great for the warm seasons
- Coffee mugs: Your fans start the day with your brand in mind
- Phone cases: Everywhere their phone goes, your brand goes!
Start doing mock ups and designing!
This is the fun part! You just figured out what your fans will love. Now it’s time to execute. Check out websites for inspiration and ideas. If you’re having “designer’s block,” you can find a designer to create for you. For top-quality designs that are affordable, check out the professional design services being offered exclusively to Spring creators.[link]
Here are some tips when working with a designer:
- Explain what you want in a clear way and provide as many details as possible (such as your aesthetic, preferred font style, color scheme, etc).
- If you want designs that are relevant to your brand, share your user profiles and information on your audience so the design captures what you’re about.
- Create a mood board—this is a board filled with inspiration, examples, and references that will give a head start to your designer.
Once you have your design, you might even ask your fans for feedback. Again, this makes your fans feel they are helping you create the merch, when in fact…they are!
Use Spring as your print-on-demand partner
Once your designs are finalized, you’ll need to place them on products! You’ll need a print-on-demand service so that you only pay for the products that are being ordered. This is where Spring comes in. We are your go-to print-on-demand partner. Also, you’ll want to order samples on your dashboard (which is easy) because sometimes images and typography can look one way on a computer screen, and another way in real life. By ordering a sample, you can see the product the way your customers will and then you can use that sample to promote your merch to your fans.
Ok, now your merch is done, how do you sell it?
There are a few proven marketing strategies that can help your merch capture a fan’s interest:
- Launch targeted ads. Have a little bit of money to play with? This will immediately help get your merch in front of an audience. Pick which platforms your followers use regularly and which ones have the fans you interact with most. Many times you don’t need to continue targeted ads because word-of-mouth and ongoing audience engagement takes over. Which brings us to…
- Word of mouth. Now that you have a fanbase, even if you don’t have the money for targeted ads, your most effective tool for promoting is “word-of-mouth marketing.” One way is to encourage fans to showcase your merch in various ways – hold a contest on social media, for example, and ask fans to give feedback (and tag you) after trying your products. Return the favor by offering prizes that your fans would like, such as early access to products, free shipping, etc. They can even use your branded hashtag for their stories and images they upload with your merch. This makes it easier for you to track the results and involvement, helping you keep the activities in your contest in one place.
- Run a promotion using promo codes with incentives. Spring makes it easy to create promo codes, check out our post on how to run promo codes. Create urgency with the idea that supply and time is limited. This gives you an indicator of interest-level and immediate feedback.
- Free giveaways. A great way to build your audience and get sales. Everyone likes free merch. If they like your merch, they’ll buy more.
- Partner with other brands and creators – especially for product drops. This drastically increases the views on your brand.
- Make your products easy to find on your socials. Use Linktree integration (link) to display and sell your merch on your channels.
- Schedule posts on different platforms and be consistent. For example, promote for a “limited time” before launch to build anticipation, then again halfway through the run to keep up excitement, and lastly near the end to encourage last-second sales. Always thank your fans for purchasing merch.
- Use your existing channels by utilizing Spring Social Integrations. Word of mouth is great, but by leveraging the existing channels you already have, the chances of making sales greatly improves. You can easily sell your merch on socials by integrating your Spring store directly with your social channels. Here are some places you can explore:
- Instagram: Point your fans toward your IG Shop by tagging your merch in your Stories & posts.
- YouTube: Put a call-to-action at the end of your video and share links to your merch in the video description or cards.
- TikTok: Partner with other TIkTok creators to get them to create content with your merch.
- Buy button: You can embed your merch or collections if you have an outside website or blog, etc.
Merch marketplaces are a great way to gain access to bigger audiences. It’s basically an ecommerce site that organizes products from different creators. Examples are Represent, Hello Merch, and MerchNow. Showcase your products at these or other merch marketplaces. They all have different commissions and guidelines so do your research.
To sub-brand or not to sub-brand
As your business grows, you may want to have a sub-brand within your brand that doesn’t necessarily align with your main brand. It’s quite profitable for some creators. This approach could be advantageous if you’re trying to grow your audience beyond the reach of your current brand. Sales might be slow to begin with, but it’s a chance for your business in the long run to gain steam. Another nice by-product of sub-branding could be that your sub-brand is attractive to another creator who wants to partner on the sub-brand, but not your main brand. It opens more doors.
Creating and selling merch is the key to creator success and with Spring, these steps are easy. Give your fans something to remember you by. When your brand lives in their head, they support you. They buy. They spread the word. They come back. They generate revenue for you. And Spring is here to help you achieve all of the above!