I Got This Great Idea For a T Shirt! Part One

Over the years I bet I’ve heard this over a thousand times. It almost always happens when I meet someone I don’t know and explain to them what I do. As soon as they hear “I print t shirts” out comes the idea. They’re always excited about it and they all think they’re going to make a million dollars with the idea. So, here are a few thoughts on the marketing of t shirt ideas.

Before the Internet, having a good idea for a t shirt was like having a good idea for a book. The chances of anything happening were almost impossible. At best they would invest a few hundred dollars in art, screens, and production of a dozen shirts or so. They would give some to their friends and try to sell the rest.

In the 36 years I’ve been doing this business, I’ve only seen a handful of success stories. Those were people who already knew a thing or two about marketing anyway. All the others got an expensive education in Marketing 101.

With the Internet things have changed. The technology has changed too. Today you can use any one of a number of digital Direct-to-Garment (DTG) companies like Cafe Press, Zazzle, or Printfection. These companies allow you to create great one off images and they’ll even help you market your ideas across the Internet.

Second, before you go to all the expense of printing up a bunch of expensive samples do some basic market research to see if other people are as excited about your design as you are. Start by doing a Google Search (Your Design Idea) + T Shirt. So for instance do a search for: Funny Cat + T Shirt and see how many other people are thinking the same thing you are.

Here’s an IMPORTANT TIP - you WANT competition. If you don’t find anybody who’s doing something similar, it usually means it’s a weak idea or you haven’t hit the key idea in a way others will recognize. If you find 50 Funny Cat T Shirts (and there will be a bunch,) you’ll know there are other people who have gone to the trouble of developing and marketing a similar idea. This is a really GOOD sign.

If you’re encouraged by what you find, it’s onto the production step. In the early stages of your business, it’s probably best to go with digital DTG. With DTG, you pretty much go to the company website and follow their instructions to upload your art. Many websites will now allow you to build your design online in their design lab. This is an OK approach, but you are much better off doing your design work offline and simply uploading it through their order page.

You’ll want to make sure you have the art in the proper format. Here’s a hint, DO NOT do your art work in Microsoft Word or Power Point. They’re unacceptable formats. DO NOT do a screen capture from a web page. You’ll get horrible quality. Ask for guidance on the file format and preparation.

If you really believe in what you’ve got, go the extra mile and get the art done correctly right from the beginning. Great art is what sells shirts. When you have a great idea, you get their attention, but it’s the art that closes the deal. If you need to, get a REAL graphic designer to do the art for you. Having your cousin, who has Photoshop, do the art for you is like doing brain surgery on the kitchen table. Results are not going to be good.

With a few shirts in hand, it’s off to the races to see how many you’ll sell and how fast. Remember, the more people you can get your shirt in front of, the more exposure you’ll have. YouTube and Flickr can be great for this. Be sure to link to your sales page url so everyone who sees it can buy it.


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply