In this post I talk a little bit about how you can invest in being involved with social medial and your customers. The return on involvement can be a tremendous one with word of mouth being the catalyst of that return.Â
These are just 5 tips that I thought to list, based on things that I have read and based on past successes. There are potentially tons of ways that you can become involved with your customer base. Attack every one of those opportunities.Â
If you have additional tips on how, as a brand, you can be more involved then please list it in the comments. I will be sure to use it in a future update post!
1. Bloggers Are Your Friend. As a brand in 2008 you need to know how to maximize your presence throughout InternetLAND. One of the best ways to do this is to build relationships with bloggers within your niche. Build a list of all the blogs that you can find, within your niche, and get to know the blog, the writer(s) at that blog and that blog community. As a blogger I love it when people within my niche contact me regarding feedback/suggestions, product announcements, or requests. More times than not, I will oblige to the request and if that request means mentioning a new product that that means free advertising for the person that took the time to contact me. Now imagine if that person contacted 10, 20 or even 50 other bloggers – and at least half of those bloggers made a blog post with the request. Bloggers = free advertising.
Real World Example: This one happens all the time with me, brands send me promotional items and I am more than happy to make a quick post about the product or their sale. I sometimes even do a quick Twitter post. In fact, it usually goes a step further and I end up doing a much larger feature on that brand.Â
2. People Like Free Swag. If you’ve got extra stock lying around, why not give some away. The return on that investment will be well worth it. Instead of having that old tee sit around, unpurhased and unadored, ship it off to a t-shirt blogger, hand it off to a friend or even a random person. You may even want to try and send it to a famous person that you know wears styles similar to your brand. It’s about creating buzz and involvement so when you give your free stuff away remember to mention a little about your brand, where they can get more (i.e. your online store or website), and any “new” products that you have available. People like free stuff and so when they get free stuff they tend to talk about said free stuff with family, friends, and co-workers. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and giving away free stuff will get that word of mouth ball rolling.
Real World Example: Please Dress Me is doing this now by giving away free tees daily as way to promote their new T-shirt search engine. Â Â
3. Build Mystique. Flyers are great but they often get tossed – I’m guilty of doing that. One thing that people, especially in the 18-25 year old demographic, would be less likely to toss would be stickers. Many indie tee companies have stickers printed with their logo, brand name and address of their website. Instead of plastering your site address on the sticker, i.e. www.lintyfresh.com, why not just have your logo and brand name on the sticker. The psychology behind this tip is that people can be complacent at certain times, when you give them too much information they take it for granted and will tend to forget it. Give them a piece of the puzzle and build mystique. Provide just the brand name or even just the logo and, if interested, they will definitely (I know I would) be more inclined to do a Google search on the brand or ask around about the logo. Same can be said for other promotion materials like buttons. Make them work a little. Mystique builds interest and that interest will pay off. Â
Real World Example: Never In Wonderland (NIWL), recently featured in the Indie Tee Spotlight, plaster stickers wherever they go. The stickers just say NIWL on them. All it takes is one kid to see that NIWL sticker and then Google them and then a potential sale is born.
4. Be Accessible. If you’re an indie tee brand then try your best to be as accessible to your customers as possible. You’re not a multi-million dollar company (yet) so you can’t afford to have a dozen assistants answering emails and phone calls. You need to do this on your own. You need to be committed to doing this. Creating and building a good rapport with your customers is very important for 1. word of mouth and 2. trust. Consumers, myself included, trust independent sellers that much more when they know they can get their questions answered. Imagine a potential buyer, unsure about sizing, who emails you and asks whether or not he would fit a medium or larger based on his measurements. If you don’t answer this potential buyers email that might lead to a lost sale. Answer that email and 1. the chances of that potential sale increases and 2. word of mouth (yes, again) – he goes off and tells friends that “the owner is accessible”,”I’ve talked to him”, “you don’t need to worry.” One email can impact multiple sales, remember that the next time you think about skipping or auto-deleting an email.Â
Real World Example: Gary Vaynerchuk, host of the very popular Wine Library TV, is noted as answering every email he receives. If he can answer emails in the hundreds and thousands, there’s no reason that you can’t.Â
5. Non-Issue Replacements. InternetLAND is a very loud and vocal arena. Make ONE customer angry and that might lead to negative publicity and the loss of multiple sales. Imagine a customer that contacts you regarding a “missing” t-shirt in his order. You can deal with this customer in two ways: 1. call bullshit and assume he is lying, or 2. take the risk on the bullshit and assume he is telling the truth. Option 1, assuming you did not offer a refund or replacement, might lead to an angry customer that expresses his anger on multiple blogs and forums with a negative review of your brand/company. You save $20 on a replacement tee but potentially lose hundreds or thousand of dollars of lost sales based on one customers angry review. Option 2, assuming you sent a full refund or replacement item, might lead to that now happy customer (whether or not he lied is a moot point) to post on multiple blogs and forums about how great the customer service at your site was. You lose $20 but potentially gain hundreds or even thousands of dollars in sales because of one happy customer (remember word of mouth?). Upset one customer and they might lead to an enormous amount of lost sales. Make one customer happy and you’ll see a return on your investment.
Real World Example:Â “Best Buy didn’t want to honor the sale price of the 2GB flash drive Matt ordered through their website, so when Matt arrived to pick-up his purchase, the store’s assistant manager called customer service and, pretending to be Matt, asked to cancel the order.” Needless to say, the story ended up on the Consumerist and on Digg and was seen by millions of potential buyers.Â
Here’s a great video that I found on the Emptees forum board (posted by Cole). The YouTube video, titled “How An Engineer Folds A T-Shirt” shows, step-by-step how you can construct your own fancy T-Shirt folder using a ruler, a razor blade, cardboard and some tape.Â
Turns out, based on the replies in the video, this is how many of retailers get that perfect fold on the tees that they stock on their shelves.Â So if you’re interested in making a fancy tee folder then watch on!
And now for those of you who are too lazy (myself included) to make one of those cardboard concoctions then check out the famous “How To Fold A T-Shirt in Two Seconds Japanese Style!” video.
And for the intellectual types, check out this video explaining the “technicals” of the two second fold (who knew?!).
Featured Indie Tee Spotlight artist, Jimiyo, finished 4th place in the big $10,000 Design By Humans contest. Not the finish he wanted, but nonetheless, he finished in the top end amongst a handful of very talented artists. Here’s what he had to say on his blog:
“At least it’s a hot looking shirt. One color too.. and they are selling it for $24?Â They are going to be making some good margin on this shirt, as well as, for the $1000 payout to me, I did some massive promotions.Â Was all the work worth it? Not sure. The $1000 is definitely not worth the time investment, but then is having participated and reached the top tier level of the contest worth the time investment? Because theoretically, many new eyes have been exposed to my name and work.Â Still feel Defeated, but elated it’s finally over. Now I can start workin!” – Jimiyo
Only thing left to do now is to go and buy his T-shirt!Â
A few weeks ago I decided to test out Spreadshirt by having a couple of shirts printed with the Glorious Nonsensities logo. Mr. Elephant on a brain wanted his own tee and so I gave Spreadshirt a shot. I was skeptical at first since I had previously tried CafePress and was unimpressed with the results. The CafePress shirt I had printed a year or two ago seemed very cheap and the print resembled an iron-on. Needless to say, I didn’t expect much from the Spreadshirt print but out of curiosity was still interested to see what the final product looked like compared to my CafePress print.Â
The Spreadshirt experience begins with the interactive and easy to use T-shirt Designer. Using the T-shirt Designer is essentially a three step process: 1. choose your product (i.e. type of t-shirt), 2. upload and placement of your design and/or text, 3. checkout. It really is as easy as that three step process. Spreadshirt comes with a couple of preloaded designs for you to add to your T-shirt, if none of those are to your liking then you are free to upload your own designs. You can easily increases and decrease the size of the design in the T-shirt Designer as needed and there are tools that allow you to easily align your design.Â
Once your custom tee is designed you can easily select the size and quantity of shirts that you would like to order. The only problem here is that if you wanted to different sizes, you would need to go through the design process for each size. It would be much more convenient if you could design once and then select different sizes (for a specific product) and quantities. The way that it is now, you can only select one size per design and then adjust the amount of that particular size you would like to order.Â
Prices vary depending on the product you decide to print on. Prices for mens tees start off at around 10 bucks for lightweight tees, while American Apparel tees start at a more pricey 19 bucks. And of course you get charged for each design you upload or text you decide to print.Â I paid $12.40 for each of the three shirts that I ordered (two guy tees and one ladies tee). I received my product within a week, which is pretty speedy considering I live in Hawaii and that it is a custom product. Shipping costs cary depending on how you much spend (shipping for me cost $4.99 for the three tees I ordered).Â
I was very happy with the tees that I received. They were much better, quality wise, compared to my past experience with CafePress. If you plan to print hundreds of tees then Spreadshirt is probably too pricey of an option. However, if you need a custom, one off tee, then I highly recommend Spreadshirt!
Finally, here’s a promotional video from Spreadshirt (which is pretty neat to watch I have to say).Â
This is week three of the Indie Tee Spotlight and I have to admit that I have been happy with the success of this particular segment on my blog. I’ve received a bunch of emails from tee brands/designers wanting to be featured here. I appreciate all of the interest and if you sent me an email then you should have gotten a response on how you can be featured here! And if you’re interested please feel free to contact me!
Having said that, I am happy to announce Jimiyo as our featured Indie Designer for this week! Jimiyo is well known within the Indie Tee community and has had much success with his designs. His designs has been featured on Tee Fury, Shirt.Woot, Uneetee, and Design by Humans. More recently, one of Jimiyo’s designs, Fight The Good Fight, was announced as a top 5 finalist in the $10,000 Design by Humans contest.
I was fortunate enough to talk with Jimiyo about his passion, designing tees.Â
Coty: It’s no secret that you’re participating in the Design By Humans ongoing T-Shirt contest. You’ve been making strides within the tee community to up your vote count for the DBH contest (submitted 10 designs to DBH, sent out newsletters to family and friends, posted on social networks like MySpace and have spoken to classes to gain DBH votes). You recently announced your biggest move yet by offering 10 people $100Â each if you win the $10,000 DBH prize. All they have to do is vote and leave a comment on your DBH design. Why does this contest mean so much to you?
Jimiyo: I suppose my main motivation is what the money will buy. It’s not material possessions that I want, its Freedom.Â It would buy me approximately 3 months of guilt free time that I could use to to work on projects I have put on the back burner since there is always some anxiety now about finances since I am freelancing.Â Obviously there are other advantages, like exposure for my freelance career, a nice line to add to the CV, prestige, etc, but all those are secondary.
Coty: One could argue that you are artificially creating votes for yourself or that you are “buying” your votes. What would your response to this be?
Jimiyo: I won’t be offended if people think I have bought votes, because I provided DBH with my best effort art that is obviously indicative of some skill. It would be different if I had submitted a shoddy piece of work and then bought votes.
What is the difference between buying votes with money, and buying the votes with time and effort that I have invested in creating a piece of art that I hope that people like?
In contrast, I have focused at least a decade of my life to refining my craft with great effort and dedication.
$1000 of $10,000 is nothing in comparison, especially when there’s absolutely no risk to me whatsoever. I do not have to expend $1000 if I do not win. I have already expended many hours, many days, daresay many months, creating art, which if you could quantify the experience and skillset I have fostered over the years, is it repulsive to say, I am essentially buying votes with a horrendously large amount of philosophical cash?
1. DBH created this monster prize contest to drive traffic as well as drive a higher quantity and quality of art to their site.
2. By offering money as an incentive, artists promoted themselves and most likely drove a significant amount of users to join the community. Since the artists probably contacted their fan base for votes, fans will be more inclined to purchasing a product to whom they associate.
Essentially, I did just the same. I offered an incentive, for which there is only potential gain, in which the final result is a symbiotic return on each party’s efforts.
As far as “artificial” votes, that wording would imply fraudulent behavior similar to creating fake accounts. That is not the case. With my tactic, Im bringing DBH real people who actually have to sign up to vote and comment. With that, DBH is one major step closer to having a new customer.
Coty: Your shirts have been accepted for print at both shirt.woot and at teefury (have your designs been accepted at Threadless?). Which of these ongoing contest sites do you like the best and why?
Jimiyo: I have not been accepted at Threadless. My best efforts were moderately ignored there. My style doesnt not fit with their market.
I love shirt.woot. They payout $1000+. Joel is fantastic, no, Terrific, to deal with and I truly enjoy the mentality of Wooter consumer base. Their approval is difficult to earn, and thankfully, somehow, I have been able to win a small portion of their acceptance.
TeeFury does not have as big a market as Woot, so although the payout is not as great, there is nothing greater than being able to submit a design I created without catering to a specific market and have it be accepted. With Woot, I do have to take into consideration their market.
Also the advantage of no copyright restrictions at TeeFury has allowed me get the most financially out of my designs.
I can’t say that there’s one I like the best. They are like friends. There are things about each my friends that I hate and love.
Coty: These online tee design contests are very competitive, yet you’ve done pretty well in them. Do you have any suggestions or tips for people considering entering these contests or for those who have entered but have been unsuccessful?
Jimiyo: Beyond making sure you output your best artistic effort, it’s a numbers game. The only reason I am seemingly successful is because I have submitted a significant number of entries to several different contests.
Also, just keep trying to win. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Just do it. Gotta be in it to win it.
I am thoroughly impressed with WanderingBert from Threadless.com. If you look at his profile, I think he was up to about 100 submissions until he won his first Threadless contest. It was through shear tenacity, as well as great art, that he won. Soon after his first printing, they printed several more.
You have to be willing to sacrifice for longterm accomplishments, and be willing to lose, over and over again.
I plan on writing a year end results of my experience in January 09, until then here is a small blog I wrote with tips and information about my experiences with contests so far.
Coty: You’re recent print, The Upgradead, sold 2499 prints and eventually sold out on shirt.woot. Why do you think this print was so successful? What do you think is up with the t-shirt communities obsession with zombies, skulls and guts?
Jimiyo: I studied a bit before creating this design. Shirt.woot.com has a running stock of about 30 designs, which they eliminate 7 of every week with replacements. Some of the longest running designs I noticed were zombie related designs.
Beyond that, as far as the success of the tees, I don’t attribute it to anything more than the sheer traffic that shirt.woot.com is able to harness.Â You offer a moderately entertaining design on a soft, quality American Apparel tee for $10 to 75,000-150,000 views, a 2% close rate isn’t all that impressive.
As far as t-shirt communities being inclined towards a specific topic, I have no idea. I love LOLCatz, some people don’t.
Coty: OK, there are 5 designs left in the running ofr the big DBH $10,000 grand prize. IF you had to choose a design, other than yours to win, which design would it be and why?
Jimiyo: Collision Theory. He is my internet friend. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to really become friends with the other artists.Â Besides, AJ is a stand up guy. It seems people are prone to being more truthful in their identities on the internet, and AJ has always exhibited a kind and amicable persona.
Also, this will sound crazy, but if I am correct, the monetary conversion rate for the Phillipines is incredible. I imagine there would be a greater benefit for AJ to receive the prize money than it would benefit me. I am a single man with only myself to take care of. I believe AJ is a family man.
*Thanks to Jimiyo for taking the time out to have a word with me, it’s very much appreciated! Now, be sure to go to Design by Humans and vote for Jimiyo!
The good folks over at Wandering Whale sent me an email announcing their Autumn Sale. You can now get 25% off (enter code AUTUMN at checkout) their entire Wandering Whale line from now until September 22. Be sure to check them out!
I kicked off the Indie Tee Spotlight last week by highlighting Eric Terry’s brand, Linty Fresh. Now in my quest to find the next great indie tee maker to spotlight I thought I’d go straight to my mailbox and highlight a company from which I received a freshly purchased tee from.Â
This week Glorious Nonsensities spotlights Indie Tee designers Andrew Marshall and Stephen Thompson ofÂ Pyknic Clothing. Marshall and his business partner, Stephen Thompson, have turned the indie tee design scene upside down since first opening up shop nearly 2 years ago.Â
The Pyknic brand mantra is “Life’s a Pyknic so eat it up!” and it’s fair enough to say that their clothing line more than fits the slogan. With funky and loud t-shirt designs that sport typical things you’d find at picnic, Marshall has found a sweet spot that is as appealing to junior high kids as it is to college students.Â
We were fortunate enough to chat it up with Pyknic duder Stephen Thompson.
Coty: How did you come up with the idea of using typical picnic stuff as the centerpiece of your designs and ultimately your brand?
Pyknic: Well for two years we were geared at the surf-skate-snow market. It is very hard to compete against big brands with great brand recognition on international scales (ie. Billabong, Quicksilver, etc.) with huge budgets. When we took a step back and looked at the overall picture: why would consumers or stores buy our shirt versus one by Billlabong, for instance, with similar designs? It would not matter if ours was better, they had a name to go with theirs.
So one night we went to Red Lobster and that’s when we turned our [picnic] tables. We thought of a new direction we could take the brand that was logical to our name and could create its own niche. Weird or not, people enjoy food as much as they do clothing. The two together would be dessert.
Coty:Â I’ve read that you use “contracted artists.” What percentage of the designs that actually make it to print are your own work as compared to those that are outsourced?Â
Pyknic:Â A lot (if not all) of the shirts are actually concepts that we have created and thought out. We’re very fortunate to work with some great artists that can also see our vision and execute.Â
Coty:Â You’re known in the indie tee world for making it big by actually scoring a deal with Hot Topic. How did that come about? Do you plan on connecting with other retailers? Do you have any plans for international domination?!
Pyknic:Â It was a last minute decision but we decided to attend Bamboozle Left. Upon returning home, I received an email from a Hot Topic buyer who was actually out at the event and loved the shirts. After a few phone call meetings, we got things rolling and eventually started putting merchandise in the stores.
I actually just got back from Magic Tradeshow and Agenda Tradeshow. There were a good amount of stores interested and either placed orders or planned on emailing that over. Right now most of our accounts are international. We have taken Europe, Asia, and Australia by storm. Most recently we distributed our newest line to all of them.Â
Coty:Â Pyknic has turned into a nice venture for you. Do you plan on continuing the brand after college? Where do you see Pyknic in the next 3 to 5 years?Â
Pyknic:Â Next year the Chef and I plan on moving out to California where we will be close to different production sources. Most of our products are sent out there as well so it only makes sense.Â
In the next 3 to 5 years, I see us in more major US outlets with the possibility of our own.
Coty:Â Any words of inspiration for up and coming indie tee designers wanting to make it big?
Pyknic:Â I think the most important thing is to be unique. The last thing anyone wants to do is get lost in the shuffle. Very cliche but practice makes perfect, no one’s a hit overnight.Â
When we started this brand three years ago, we saw ourselves in this position eventually. We knew it took a lot of work to get to this point but we were willing to do whatever it took. “If you can dream it…”
*Special thanks to Stephen for chatting it up with us! Be on the look out for next weeks Indie Tee Spotlight! And if you’re an Indie Tee Designer and would like to be featured here then please feel free to contact me to find out how you can do just that.
I LOVE t-shirts, especially one-of-a-kind indie T-Shirts that are available online. A nice T-Shirt is like eye candy, it’ll make your eyes drool and mouth all wattery (ok, that hardly made any sense). So, in lieu of the Glorious Nonsensities podcast I thought that every week or so I would highlight a couple of indie tee designers whose work I admire and whose tees I wear!
For the inaugaral post I thought I would start off with a brand that I just learned about a month ago, and that brand is Linty Fresh. Linty Fresh was started by Eric Terry, who runs Linty Fresh out of his home in Marietta, Georgia. It all started for him when he began submitting tees into the never ending Threadless design competitions. His design, Once Upon A War, although was not selected to be printed, earned him positive reviews and more importantly, tee cred! And so Eric decided that he would do a limited print of Once Upon A War and offer it up for pre-sale. To his surprise, people were buying the shirt, and thus the Linty Fresh, or the beginnings of Linty Fresh, was born!Â
Now if you notice Eric’s designs, many of them contain characters that look quite similar, with the mouth being the defining characteristic (in my opinion, Eric might disagree). Nonetheless his branding efforts are obvious and effective. I even think that his characters have the potential to go mainstream, they’ve got delicious-I-want-to-squeeze-you feel like those adorable Sanrio characters.Â
The price points at Linty Fresh are in line with other indie tee brands. Tee’s are usually in the 20 buck range and hoodies in the 40 buck range. If those sound expensive don’t fret, I’ve bought Linty Fresh shirts for as little as 5 bucks, you just need to be on the look out for special discounts (In fact, he’s got a 5 bucks shirt on sale right now). The shirts themselves are made from American Apparel tees, so you know they are sweatshop free! And the actual product that you receive in the mail is quite professional. So if you like what you see here, be sure to check Linty Fresh out on the web! And let me know what you think of his designs and what companies you think I should check out for the next Indie Tee Spotlight.