Sunday, September 6, 2009

Part 2: Dragons Den type investment for a t-shirt company? - yay or nae..

Hello all,

I'm back once again (like the renegade master) to try and finish off what I started in the first part of this 2 part mini blog series regarding a Dragons Den style investment for small and start up t-shirt companies...I'm of the opinion that getting the silver spoon and leg up would curb what you can learn by starting out at the bottom, square one, Google Page Rank Zero.

So, I'll launch into the final points that I want to touch on about what I've learned since I started LadyUmbrella with my girlfriend a touch over a year ago...

- Packaging
When you get to the packaging stage one might be inclined to give oneself a pat on the back and deem the job done...I strongly disagree...the packaging is key to your product, be it delivered from an online sale or hanging on a rack in a shop.. Its similar to the old adage, "you never get a second chance to make a first impression", words which have rung in my ears many times before a job interview, and it is also true for your t-shirts..Go the extra mile..see the packaging as another chance to strengthen your, how should you ship your t-shirts? My suggestion would be to get some good, water proof plastic type envelopes so that your t-shirt is guaranteed to stay dry (we don't know how they'll be handled in transit or what may happen to them, give them every chance of being pristine upon arrival). Then, package the t-shirt itself. It could be placed in a see through protective kinda plastic or perhaps a nice paper the package why not give the customer something extra? - a badge, a postcard, stickers...anything that that might make them smile as they weren't expecting it - some chocolate? and also a personalized "Thank you XYZ for purchasing.." - give it the human for the outside of the envelope again, this a canvas. How many hands might this envelope pass through before it gets to the destination - why not make it look good and have your web address on it, a nice looking package might get some more business but crucially it will make the customer happy from the moment they get it...and if the customers likes your envelope how happy are they going to be if they get extra "goodies" and a personalized note?? ..possibly happy enough to tell a friend or two and you don't get better marketing than that...

- Marketing
To be honest, I know marketing is important but I just don't know enough about it to really try give any heads up or advice on it (actually, the same could be said for more or less all of the "help" I've tried to give - I hereby disclaim any liabilities hehe). I guess with marketing you have to be consistent and clever...consistent in what you are saying and clever in how you are saying it..What is the overall message of your brand or company and how can you best say it? Any catchy slogans that can capture the companies spirit, values or ideas that people can remember easily?...Then, how are you going to market it, via what mediums? Online, papers, billboards, tv, radio, etc...for me and most other start up t-shirt business with no moo-lah online has to be the way to go...

- Online
Its a big world out there...but, the web is even bigger...The internet is a ferocious and fast paced place, one minute no one has heard of you and then one big blog post and you're servers are getting crushed with traffic (or we can all dream at least)..I have found the web to be vital in trying to get LadyUmbrella t-shirts up and start with you need a website..there are lots online t-shirt stores that you can create an account with like Cafepress or similar. Initially you have to decide whether to go the cafepress route or to get your own domain name..for me, there was only ever one option, we had to get (and were thankful that no one else had got it)..I think if you have your own domain rather than a cafepress type one it just seems like you've put in extra effort to get your company somewhere (and in no way am I saying Cafepress sites are no good or that the people who use them took the easy option) but I just think you're own domain is a bit more professional..another bonus is that they can be easier for people to remember..

So, we have our what..assuming that you have your online store up and running the next most important thing is to get people to it and get them, how do you get people to your site? Step 1 - SEO the crap out of it, make sure you have you're keywords set and that crawlers can "read" it easily (just google SEO tips and put the kettle on). Step 2 - get active in the t-shirt community, blogs, forums and the people who already do what you want to do, you'll learn a lot (thats where I got my "knowledge" anyway)..Step 3 - get familiar with how google rates pages and get pages to link to your page..I guess, step 3 is just the marriage of step 1 and 2...the more links you have to your page the better (within the Google rules though)..To be honest, I could ramble on about the online section for weeks, just google, read, prepared to put in serious hours online and cross your fingers that it will pay off..

- Branding
Well, this is similar to marketing for me..I've no background in marketing/branding at all (the rockin' IT man here)..all I have are my own thoughts from what I've seen, read, observed and understood..I think to build a brand you need to get some foundations laid down..the foundations being (as I see it anyway), getting a good web domain so people have a place to go to find out about your brand. Be consistent in your designs (to a degree) especially at the start..try get one thing that is unique to your company/brand and shout it from the hilltops.. Distinguish yourself from your competitors with your USP (fancy lingo I learned on Dragons Den, unique selling point) so that you stand out...once you have the good foundations you can then experiment...kinda like in the music world, the bands first album has got to be good and kick ass, the second (the dreaded second) should be similar to the first and expand on the bands sound..if its a good second album generally the band will have cemented their fan base and can then try and create a few jazz oddities on their 3rd album..

- Selling
The final part of the process...without sales the circle just isn't complete and will quickly fall in upon itself..I hope to report back to you soon with wonderful stories of LadyUmbrella sales soon and let you know what I've learned about how to we're awaiting our stock I'm still yet to sell...although, one thing I have learned is that you can take pre-orders (plug plug - you can pre order your LadyUmbrella t-shirts by leaving a comment ), so why not do that? try create a bit of a "buzz" about your product before D-Day..get your mock ups online and let people "rate" them..offer them a 10% discount on their first order if they rate a tee or something (plug plug - you can get a 10% discount on your first LadyUmbrella order by voting for us here and leaving a facebook comment on our fanpage here)...I guess, what I'm trying to say with regards to sales is make it your job - do not miss a chance to tell someone about what you are selling or what you are going to sell..Your product should be your passion and your life - so tell people about it...over...and over...and over...

Alright, so, another long, rambling blog but its done now...Part 1 and 2 in the can and this, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear, will not become a trilogy..I'll talk about something else next time...I don't know'll just have to wait and see...

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