Income Report October 2018 

Welcome back everyone!

October was a decent month sales-wise and there’s been lots of experimenting in POD and change for me personally that I can’t wait to share with you. I hope that you’re starting to see your own POD stores kick up with some additional sales now that we’re in the middle of Q4.

I’m starting to get deeper into brand building, influencer marketing, and having to make some hard decisions about what path I follow next year. I’ll have to make a choice whether I want to double down on growing my main brand, or go more into the merchandising services side of POD, which I dig into later in this post.

For now, let’s get in to the lovely numbers, they never lie (but sometimes they are painful…), my October 2018 income report is below:

September 2018 Income Report

By Spencer Shewbridge | Merch Lifestyle

To sell, or not to sell?

Photo by Jimi Filipovski on Unsplash

Insights

What to do with my Merch by Amazon Account?

 

My Merch by Amazon account delivered another consistent month, topping off at about $1,500 in profit (considering UK + DE + US).  It’s the steady driver on my POD portfolio and has been picking up well so far in November (we might end up at $1700-$1800 in Nov). I’m not complaining by any means, as it’s the most passive income I could reasonably ask for, given that I don’t deal with customization, returns, production, or customer service. However, I feel like the good times won’t last forever on Merch and that I’m at a crossroads in my business.
 
Strategically, I’m concerned to invest (long-term) into building my POD business off Amazon’s platform & customers. Amazon is already building huge private-label brands to compete with fashion sellers on the platform, and as highlighted in our recent Money Magazine feature, Wharton Professor Partick Fitzgerald reminds us, “If you build on somebody else’s land, they always own that land. I don’t care how nice that house is you built. They can tear it down.”
 
I believe that I need to define my competitive advantage and set my business up to double down on those strengths while reducing the risk that a third party could disrupt my profits. To that effect, I see my business and premium brand (which I currently sell mostly on Etsy) having the following strengths:
 
  • Excellent customer feedback (only 5 star ratings)
  • Strong margins (over 50%)
  • Fairly difficult to copycat due to design quality
  • Access to customer data (emails + e-com analytics)
  • Relatively simple to produce, multiple suppliers available globally

I think it’s about time to get out of the Merch game (sell my business while it’s good), focus those profits on expanding my premium brand, and expand my “advanced” e-commerce skillset (paid advertising, multi-channel selling, email marketing, social media marketing, etc).

It might be time to shut off the merchandising service light…for now.

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

Rethinking Merchandising

This month my merchandising business took a big hit.

My flagship client decided to take merchandising into his own hands and left my influencer merchandising service. This one hurts because I invested quite a bit of time to get the service set up, and was actually paying out several hundred dollars a month in royalties (while earning several hundred as well). I thought that the “do nothing and get checks for it” selling point was going well, but when the barriers to entry in POD are relatively low, these things will happen.

It forced me to rethink whether Youtube-specific influencer merchandising is really the right path, given that I don’t really have a huge competitive advantage over the myriad of established players in that market. When YouTube starts cutting deals directly with POD companies like TeeSpring and integrating them into the platform, it might be time to switch gears.

I’m mulling over whether I want to expand into the business/corporate niche and offer a select portfolio of high quality embroidered products. I feel like there’s space to build a service around opening a “company store” for a business (both internal/external) and providing merchandising alongside drop-shipping items that can be given as gifts and welcome packages in the company. Landing corporate clients would be harder, but more consistent in terms of revenue from ongoing purchases. There would likely be some contractual obligations on both sides which would raise the table stakes regarding risk and profit. This path would take a re-vamping of my current site and offering, but I think there’s room to expand on the idea in 2019, and that it’s a more strategic and defensible approach to merchandising services.

 

Let’s see how far we can push the limits of Shopify!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Expanding into Shopify

I’m trying out Shopify for my premium brand e-commerce store.

Woocommerce has been good to me in the past, but there are a few solid reasons why I’m curious about switching over:

– Woocommerce restricts the ability of it’s platform and makes money via paid plugins. When you’re just testing out a store, it doesn’t make sense to spend $99+ to get premium features that should, frankly, just be features. I’d rather pay as I go and get the full suite instead of having a limited product.

– Shopify seems to have the first-mover advantage and critical mass of plugin developers, tutorials, and talent. It seems like everything POD starts with a Shopify integration, and expands from there….I want to be able to take advantage of the strong development community.

I’ve already launched my store and am in the process of loading it with hundreds of SKUs. In the future I’ll be working to pull customers that I find from sales channels and advertising directly to my website instead of to Etsy, Amazon, etc.

Tryin’ some funky new strategies to see what works!

Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash

Trying New Marketing Strategies

I’m determined to find a marketing strategy that works for my premium brand.  

I’m not interested in running Facebook ads or Google search ads for POD at the moment, I’m much more excited about trying an  influencer marketing + direct mail approach. Let’s break both of those down:

Influencer marketing is where you find a person or group (typically on Instagram or YouTube) and offer them some form of compensation (a free product, payment, or both) for them to advertise your product. Right now I’m using a website called MuseFind to connect with people that will advertise my product in exchange for getting it for free. So far I’ve found a great influencer with about 30k followers to accept a product in exchange for a post highlighting the product and linking to my Etsy store. I then linked this with a special coupon code so that if/when people visit my store and complete a purchase, I’ll know that it was due to my spend on advertising. If it’s profitable, we’ll scale this thing up!

Direct Mail Marketing is something that everyone has experienced (on the receiving end) but it isn’t something everyone loves. When you get a coupon/flyer in the mail for some local service, that’s direct mail marketing. I was surprised to see that Etsy had linked up with a new service called Mailfold to integrate US customer addresses with a simple way to ship out custom postcards. I decided to give it a shot, and designed/sent out 6″ x 11″ postcards with a 20% off, Cyber Monday offer to 100+ previous customers, urging them to buy my premium products as gifts for this holiday season. I spent about $95 on the campaign, and again, I’ll be able to track this strategy’s profit based on a special coupon code that I included on the flyer. Only time will tell whether this will make my customers mad that I’m sending them mail spam, or whether it works!

Until next time,

Spencer

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