It doesn’t matter how great your designs are or what’s in your catalog, you can’t sell anything if no one knows you exist.
Without a proactive marketing strategy, your print-on-demand store will get lost in cyberspace.
You’ll need compelling product descriptions, a killer content strategy, and a deep understanding of your audience. You’ll need clear pathways to purchase, spanning multiple channels. And, if you really want to stand out in a sea of competitors, you’ll need to layer up your promotion tactics.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to promote your print-on-demand products in three distinct phases. We’ll start with preparing your POD store for visitors, then move on to developing a content strategy, and wrap things up with some amplification tactics.
1. Get your website ready for visitors
The first phase of your POD plan is preparing your website–and any external profiles–for visitors before you start actively driving traffic.
Here are a few key things you’ll need to do to get started:
Set up your main navigation pages
First, you’ll want to make sure your main navigation pages are in good shape.
What’s great about print-on-demand is, you’re selling unique products that customers can’t find anywhere else.
Even if you’re selling something as simple as mugs or T-shirts, customers are still purchasing products that feature an original design or some type of personalized element.
Be sure to make this clear on your home page, “about” section, and other key pages to drive home that value to visitors.
Note that it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Here’s an example of a homepage from a vegan POD site, Vegan Savage:
Upon arrival, it’s clear what this site is all about, how to get in touch, and where to find the product catalog.
Here’s one from WeRateDogs, a social media phenomenon that made its mark, well, rating dogs. Its creators launched a website that sells merch supporting dogs in need.
The homepage explains the mission and makes it easy to learn more via the about page or check out its products:
Finally, here’s an example from a POD shop called Iconspeak, which follows a more traditional e-commerce approach. Since their core focus is on selling products, the homepage features links to bestsellers, sale items, and men’s & women’s collections.
Setting up your product pages
A great product page gives customers all the information they need to make a purchase.
- A descriptive title
- Sales-focused product copy
- Multiple product shots
- Customization options–sizing, design choices, personalization instructions, etc.
- A clear, compelling call-to-action
- Shipping costs
SEMRush put together a great guide if you’d like to dig into this topic a bit more. Otherwise, I’ve included a few examples that do a nice job showcasing their wares:
Here’s WeRateDogs again:
I particularly liked how they’ve used the product description to tell a story/highlight a cause that they care about. From a more practical standpoint, this page does a nice job showcasing different color choices and makes pricing and payment info clear and immediately visible.
This example does a nice job of using white space to make product shots and product info stand out. They’ve also included product reviews shoppers can check out to learn more about this item from actual customers.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to use a tool like Placeit for product pages and promotional materials. The platform allows you to create mockups for product designs that can be applied across all available options.
Set up shop on all the right channels
Finally, it’s important to look beyond your website and set up shop on the platforms your audience uses most. This is an important step for increasing brand visibility, promoting your store, and even selling products directly from your feeds.
Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to be on every platform—instead, identify the channels that matter most to your audience and stand to have the greatest impact on the bottom line.
There’s no need to prioritize your LinkedIn presence if you’re selling custom streetwear to Gen Z fashionistas or merch to support your true-crime podcast. In those cases, you’ll want to consider where you engage with your audience most. Is it TikTok? Instagram? Facebook? YouTube?
Recommended reading: If you’d like to learn more about social selling, this post explains how to use Instagram to grow your online store.
2. Work out your content strategy
Once you’ve got your foundation in place, it’s time to put together a content strategy.
Content marketing is a powerful tool that enables e-commerce brands to connect with audiences by sharing their stories.
But, you’ll want to be careful about getting overly promotional. I’ve seen this a lot–especially with e-commerce and B2C brands–somehow all blogs and social posts center around products, company announcements, and fake social media holidays.
Yeah, company announcements can be valuable but only if those announcements highlight how the latest product or policy change benefits the customer. And, even if your company announcements do demonstrate your value to consumers, they shouldn’t make up the majority of your content.
You’ll be better off focusing on creating blogs, videos, downloads, etc. that entertain and inform. That might include anything from product reviews and stat roundups to interactive tools, tutorial videos, and live stream Q&As. In other words, it’s not about you, it’s about delivering value to your audience.
As you start developing a plan, here are some things you’ll want to include in your strategy:
Define your content categories
You’ll want to organize content into different buckets.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to define which topics/themes you’ll focus on:
- What is your brand all about?
- Are you a content creator, designer, e-commerce entrepreneur?
- What do you sell?
- Why does your business exist?
- What keywords are you targeting on your site’s product and navigation pages?
From there you can develop some themes–i.e., tutorials, trend pieces, interviews, and so on.
For example, Anthropologie’s blog features how-tos that link to home decor products and the designers behind the brands they sell.
There’s also the occasional behind-the-scenes post like the example below, which shares how the brand used recycled denim to build storybook landscapes in select (physical) storefronts.
There, you’ll find an article explaining the concept and how designers brought it to life, still images of their creations, and a video.
The brand also regularly features short interviews, like this Meet the Artist piece, which could easily translate to a print-on-demand site featuring products from multiple designers or collaborations.
Essentially, all you’ll need to do is come up with a series of questions and email them to the person you’re “interviewing.” (Proves you don’t need to spend a ton of time on every piece you publish).
Garmentory covers similar ground, as well as current trends and pop-cultural events like the Met Gala.
After you’ve defined your key categories, you’ll want to start brainstorming topics that relate to those themes.
There are plenty of tools out there that can help you ID the topics your audience cares about most. Here’s a look at some of the free (or free-ish) options you can use to start your search:
- Your social feeds
- Q&A sites like Reddit and Quora
- Answer the Public
- Keywords Everywhere
- Google Trends
- Exploding Topics
While it’s easy to identify trends and topics using any of these platforms, it can be tricky to land on the magic formula for what will perform well–or fall flat.
If you can afford it, I’d recommend using either SEMRush or BuzzSumo.
SEMRush has a topic generation tool that shows you the top-performing content for a particular topic or keyword.
You’ll need to subscribe to the middle-tier plan to access it–which will run you around $200 per month. But, you’ll also get a suite of tools that can help with things like PPC campaigns, backlinks, and other SEO tasks, so it might be worth the price tag.
BuzzSumo offers a similar topic generation tool but focuses more on top-performing social media content.
If you do opt for one of these paid tools–or something similar, you might use some of the tools mentioned above to gather inspiration before digging into more concrete data.
For example, you might notice that X or Y is trending with your Instagram followers and head over to SEMRush to find out if there’s a wider interest in that topic.
Create content to support multiple channels & goals
Different types of content support different goals.
Here, you’ll want to take stock of all of your platforms and topics, as well as the different paths to purchase.
- Informational blog post. General information that builds trust among new visitors. This group isn’t ready to buy, they’ve just become aware that they have a need/interest.
- YouTube tutorial. Helps customers learn more about how a product is used. Ideal for helping people evaluate different solutions and moving them closer to a decision.
- Live stream. Showcases products in-action/up-close. Ideal for convincing high-intent shoppers to ask questions, confirm it’s the right solution, and pull the trigger.
Making good content takes a lot of time, effort, and financial resources.
So, to maximize your returns, you’ll want to repurpose your material for different channels and audiences to drive more traffic to your site.
For example, a long-form blog post can be repurposed into an infographic that can be shared on Instagram or Pinterest and used to drive downloads/newsletter signups.
Or, you might chop up a longer YouTube video and share clips via TikTok or Instagram Stories to convince audiences to learn more about your brand.
Amplify your efforts
Phase three of promoting your print-on-demand products is all about amplification.
You’ve built a strong foundation by optimizing your site for SEO, fleshed it out with a solid content strategy–now, it’s time to focus on boosting traffic and making sales.
Here’s a look at some ways to attract qualified shoppers to your store.
Use customer reviews & comments as testimonials
Again, you’ll turn people off if you’re always talking up your products.
Instead, let your customers do the heavy lifting. Focus your efforts on generating reviews and positive feedback that you can leverage toward getting others to buy into your brand.
Now, keep in mind, your review generation strategy depends on your business model.
For example, if your core offering is content (i.e. you’re a streamer, blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, visual artist, etc.), it makes more sense to focus on generating positive reviews for your channel, rather than asking your audience to review your POD merch.
Here, it’s about reaching more people who are likely to become fans and eventually, pay for content, products, or convince others to do the same. Your audience doesn’t lose anything by watching a three-minute video or reading a blog post—and can make a judgment call on the quality of your content on the spot.
The majority of your strategy revolves around asking people to rate & review your content and/or subscribe.
- Make sure you always include a CTA. For podcasts, we’re talking the usual “rate & review,” YouTube – ”like & subscribe”, blogs–follow or “subscribe to the newsletter,” you get the idea.
- Set up an online community (think Reddit threads or Facebook Groups) where fans can discuss content.
- Engage on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, etc. — respond to fan comments, ask questions, etc.
In these cases, reviews and comments are used to increase visibility, generate traffic, and boost subscriber & follower counts. All of which allows you to attract an engaged audience you can then sell your merch to.
If your focus is on selling print-on-demand products in a traditional e-commerce setting, reviews still play an important role in reaching a wider audience.
However, prospective customers are looking for different information than they would in a podcast review or the comments on a YouTube video.
They want some assurance that if they place an order, they’ll get what was promised.
- Will it fit?
- What’s the quality like?
- Does it work? Is it easy to use?
- Does it solve a problem?
Here’s an example of how Outdoor Voices uses customer testimonials in its email strategy:
Use advertising & influencer marketing to support organic efforts
Okay, paid advertising and influencer marketing are technically different strategies.
But, there’s a reason I’ve lumped them together–both represent paid strategies you can pair with organic content and product pages to drive shoppers toward a very specific goal.
Match paid efforts like Google Ads, paid social, and influencer partnerships to content that moves potential customers closer to the finish line.
Again, consider how the ad reinforces the same goals as the content you’re promoting. (Facebook’s breakdown of ad types/objectives does a nice job explaining this concept in super simple terms).
For example, if you’re trying to generate catalog sales, dynamic ads that direct users to a specific product page might be your best bet.
If you’re trying to increase brand awareness/encourage discovery, you might team up with an influencer for a series of posts. Or, you might have them launch a hashtag challenge that focuses more on fun and interaction than actually selling the product.
Here’s an example of how fashion retailer ASOS partnered with TikTok creators to create a virtual runway experience.
Here, influencers get the ball rolling and essentially “model” the rules of the challenge to get “regular” users to join in.
Test new products and designs to gather more intel
This last tip is sort of unconventional as far as amplification tactics go. However, it can help you refine your targeting and promotion strategies.
Unlike ‘traditional’ business models, running a print-on-demand business gives sellers some room to experiment with new products and designs without taking on extra expenses or risks.
Some design platforms and Print on Demand suppliers include a mockup generator that allows you to upload a design and show customers what it will look like “IRL” before they place an order.
Now the obvious benefit is, you don’t need to spend money on inventory or photoshoots.
Nor do you need to spend hours creating separate product pages for every design.
But, you’ll also have a powerful tool for learning even more about your audience.
Dig into your website analytics and social insights to find out which products generated the most engagement, highest sales numbers, and best profit margins.
Run those numbers against your PPC data, influencer KPIs, social insights, and content engagement metrics. This will help you figure out what tactics, content, and campaigns had the greatest impact on your business.
From there, you can use those findings to refine your messaging and approach to deliver better results.
Ultimately, promoting a print-on-demand store–or any online business–is a multi-stage process, with many moving pieces working together across many different platforms.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of strategies, but hopefully, it gives you a sense of what it takes to make your print-on-demand store a success.