focus on community, not profits
So, you’re thinking about creating some swag for your show— also known as podcast merch. Lots of creators do this, whether you’re a podcaster, Youtuber, gamer, or some other form of content creation. But is creating merch a smart move for you? What should you consider? And is it honestly worth the effort it takes to do it right? Today we’re talking about creating merch for your podcast.
Here’s what we’re going to discuss…
- Why do people buy podcast merchandise?
- When to create podcast merchandise
- Ways to create your own podcast merchandise
- General tips when creating podcast merchandise
which podcast artwork really stands out?
Your podcast needs to stand out in an endless sea of content. Here are some samples to help you see the difference.
So you’re thinking about creating some swag for your show, also known as podcast merch. Lots of creators do this, whether you’re a podcaster, YouTuber gamer, or some other form of content creation, but is creating merch a smart move for your show? What should you consider? And is it honestly worth the effort it takes to do it right. Today we’re talking about creating merch for your podcast. Take it away, Mr. radio man! Podcast Your Business.
Hey, hey, hey, everybody. Welcome back to another amazing episode of podcast your business. I’m Sunny Gault, and I am a podcast coach and mentor. And I’ve been doing this whole podcasting thing for about 17 years now. I was one of the early adopters. I’ve learned a lot during that time. And now I run a company. I am the founder and CEO of Independent Podcast Network. We’re not your typical podcast network, though. We release a ton of free content to help brand new podcasters. And people that just have general questions about podcasting. We want to help you get as far as you can in podcasting. And so we’ve got a lot of free content on our website at independent Podcast Network. If you are a little bit more advanced, and you want to monetize your shows will that’s where we work with podcasters directly. So if you’re interested in that, hit us up on our website, and we would love to chat with you. But today, I am here to help you create amazing podcasts. And a lot of our topics specifically focus on podcasts for your business, but anyone that’s creating podcasts in general can still benefit from the content. And how do we do this? How do we help you create amazing podcasts for your business? We do this by mastering the five P’s of podcasting ads. Right, so the five P’s of podcasting. This is something that I created when I launched my first podcasting course, which you could find on our website, it’s completely free. But when I was thinking about okay, what do podcasters need to know in order to be successful, I was able to break it down into five categories, which became the five P’s which are prep, plan, produce, promote, and profit. So anything you really need to know about podcasting falls within those five P’s. And on these episodes for Podcast Your Business, we explore one of those five P’s something that you need to know in the five P’s. So Mister radio man, in your amazing radio voice tell us which of the five P’s are we talking about today? Promote.
Yeah, I think this falls into the promote category, I realize it can fall into multiple categories, for example, profit. If you are trying to make money at merchandise. Well, you might have a little bit of an uphill battle in the beginning. Okay. It’s it’s kind of hard to do. I know we kind of have these grandiose feelings and ideas of this being a huge moneymaker for podcasts. But if you look at the stats, it’s not really Now that’s not to say that it can’t be an important component of your whole podcasting journey. But I wouldn’t necessarily put this in the profit category, I would put this in the promote category. Can you use it as a way to make money? Yes, you can. That’s easier said than done. But for most podcasters the benefit of having merchandise is to help spread the word about your show, and to further grow your audience. So here’s what we’re going to talk about today, we’re going to talk about why people buy podcast merchandise, because you have to get into the mindset of your audience in order to know what they need, right and what they might purchase. We’re also going to talk about when is a good time to offer podcast merchandise, if you decide to go down that path. We’re going to talk about ways to create it and some things to keep in mind. Because you may want to do this on your own, you may need some help and you have some options. It really depends on how involved you want to be in this whole process. And then I have some general tips and lessons that I’ve learned the hard way in creating merchandise for your podcast that I’m going to share with you towards the end. We’ll get started right after this quick break. So I want you to think about the podcasts you listen to is anyone selling merchandise on those shows. And fact we could expand this it doesn’t just have to be podcasts. Maybe they are YouTube channels that you subscribe to maybe they offer merchandise So, if you’ve ever purchased something, what led you to making that purchase? Because those are some of the things that should you decide to move forward with creating merchandise for your podcast, you may want to include, because it obviously worked for you. So what was it? And keep that in mind as we’re talking about this topic today, because you were an audience member, right? You made a decision. And it’s very likely that your audience may feel the same way. So it’s a really good lesson in figuring out what your audience may want.
So let’s talk about why people buy podcast merchandise, because we kind of have to get into the headspace, right? We have to think about people that would be purchasing this, and why do they make those kinds of decisions? Well, I can tell you this, they don’t usually buy podcast merchandise, because they need clothing, or they don’t have a pen. Or there’s no coffee mugs in their house, or no tumblers, or, you know, you know, whatever, no books or whatever it is that you are selling, it’s not that they have to have it, if they had to have it, they would go to a store right now or on Amazon or something like that, and just purchase something, hey, so let’s get that out of our mind, there is nothing that you can offer that they absolutely have to have, no matter what they may feel like that. And you know, that’s a really good thing, if you can kind of conjure up those emotions. But usually, they don’t need it, they want it right. So these are kind of impulse buys, it’s like when you’re going through, you know, you’re purchasing some stuff at the grocery store, it’s those last minute items, you’re like, Ah, I just, I just gotta have it, I just, you know, I’m just gonna throw it in my cart, it’s kind of the same thing. The real reason your audience will purchase merchandise is because they want to support you. Yes, you may have some really clever sayings or whatever. But again, they can probably find all of that somewhere else. If they are going to go through the process of purchasing your merchandise, it’s because they want to support you, right? And you need to have a real community in order to really make that work. So it’s kind of the first question you have to ask yourself is, Do I have a community to support this? And if the answer’s no, then it doesn’t mean, you know, you have to give up merch for your podcast, it may just mean that you need to grow this slowly, and not invest a lot of time and resources into it. And we’ll get to that in just a second. So that’s why people purchase merchandise they want to support you, they realize that you’re a podcaster you’re you’re not making Joe Rogan salary, right, they want to help out.
Now, when should you create podcast merchandise? Well, like we’ve already said, if you have an audience, and a community to support that, so let’s say this is connected to your business or something else you’re doing. And you’ve already proven that you can sell them things, well, then I would say yeah, you could probably start on day one of your podcast, and start selling merchandise. But what I would do if you don’t fall into that category, which most most of us probably don’t, I would say you need to take inventory of your own personal resources, which mainly are your time and your budget. To determine if this is something you should really put effort into at this point in your show. And when I say budget, that’s not just the budget to get things up and running. Because that might be a little bit more expensive. I am talking about your ongoing costs. Can you keep this up? And trust me, I speak from experience. Because I went through a situation with a podcast that I launched Can I had all these really cool ideas in my head of sayings and stuff like that, that could go along like cute little taglines and things like that, that could go along with this podcast, and I jumped the gun. And I basically created an account on a site and everything was made to order or whatever. And I set it up, but I had no community to support it. I guess I kind of thought that the community would just come. But what happened before it could get to that stage was those costs that was just referring to started to pile up. And I really couldn’t justify the cost. So I put the kibosh on the whole thing about Whoa, I I messed that one up, I’m gonna quit while I’m ahead. And if the podcast gets to a stage where we have an audience where we have a community that can really support this, I’ll just reopen everything. So it was a valuable lesson but take it from me if you can’t keep up with the ongoing costs of maintaining this for your online store. Again, you may want to hold off.
When it’s time to create merchandise, you have some options on how to make this happen. And it really doesn’t matter what merchandise we’re talking about. I know a lot of people go for like mugs and T shirts and things like that. But a lot of these sites where you can order merchandise from have unlimited items that you can select from, okay? Really, you have to determine how much effort you want to put into this, are you and your team capable and interested in doing a lot of this work yourself? Or is this something that you really want to hand off to a third party company. So here are your different options, you could make the products yourself and distribute them. Now obviously, if you really want to have a huge catalog, that is not going to work. But let’s say you decide you’re just going to start off with hats. You could create the hats yourself, and also distribute them. So when people order them, you could handle the fulfillment of those orders, you could handle shipping and all of that. Now this option is going to require you to buy probably some equipment, and other supplies, you also have to think about the shipping, the labels, all that kind of stuff. But you could start out by doing something like this on your own, okay, and you can maybe even make it to order, you’re just doing it yourself, right. So maybe you don’t have to get too far ahead in the orders, you don’t have to do a bunch of hats at once, you know, you just do a few or maybe one at a time when people order them, but you’re doing everything yourself. So that’s the first option.
The second option is to buy custom merchandise in bulk. And then you handle the distribution of those sad items. Okay, so you would go to like an online store that does custom orders for different types of things. You know, it could be shirts, it could be pens, you know, a lot of times like people put their business logo on different things, I don’t really recommend you do that with your podcast logo, we’ll talk about that in a second. But I’m talking about those kinds of sites, like if you were going to an expo or something like that, and you wanted some swag to pass out at your booth or something, that’s kind of what I’m talking about, you would go to those types of websites, you would order some custom merch, and then it would come to you wherever you’re located. And then you would sell it on some sort of storefront. And then you would handle the distribution of those items, the shipping and all of that. But there are some things to consider with that. Okay, you do have to have some storage, depending on how much you’re going to order, I certainly wouldn’t order a lot in the beginning. But you may have minimum orders that you have to consider. And you have to have places to keep these boxes. You also have to have some upfront money. So you have to have a little bit of a budget. And know, you know, how are you going to distribute this money? You know, I’m gonna put X amount towards these pens and X amount towards these hats, things like that. You also have to think about the other side of it, which is what if people don’t purchase this? Can I get stuck with all this merch? No, we had this situation, I worked for a company called Zencastr, which I’ve talked to, I’ve talked to you guys about in the past, they’re still around, you can find them at Zencastr.com. They allow podcasters to record using their platform remotely. So if you’ve got a guest that you need to interview for your podcast, you could do that through Zencastr, both audio and video. And then the very beginning I was like employee number four or five, okay, this is way back when. And in the beginning, I was handling a lot of the merch just for our employees. So I had boxes and boxes of like T shirts, and we did stickers and we did magnets and things like that. And I don’t have a very big house. I don’t have room just to keep these boxes, right. But that’s an example of merch that we bought in advance. And you know, we were going to distribute it over time. So someone had to get stuck with all the stuff, right. And then when it came to T shirts, we got t shirts that were just for certain groups of people, like within the company, like our engineers had specific T shirts, because it had like some coating stuff on it or whatever. I had different sizes, right? And so a new person would come to work for the company and I didn’t have an extra small, you know, but I had a small you know, you have all of these kind of, you know, when you get into sizes and stuff it can get kind of complicated. And then that particular company, I had colleagues all around the world. And it was crazy because I would make up these boxes kind of like these welcome boxes for them like hey, you know now you’re part of the team. Let me make up this box for you. And I would take it to the local shipping company to ship and oh my gosh, you guys, it took so long to get like across seas, oh my gosh took so long I most of the time, we ended up spending more than twice the amount of the contents in the box just for the shipping. And again, and it will take forever. And I remember so many times things got caught up in customs and the border and things like that. And I would have to like talk to the person and be like, did you get your box and they’re like, No, it’s stuck at customs, and they want me to pay 20 bucks to pick it up. So when you are dealing with other countries and stuff like that, it can get really, really messy. But technically, whether it’s for a single podcast or a company you’re working for whatever, you can buy custom merch in bulk, and then distribute it yourself.
Now another idea of what you can do, we you know, back to the Zencastr example, we not only had merch for our employees, but we also went to podcasting conventions. And many times we would give out free merchandise at our booth. And I think the same thing or something similar could work if you just had a podcast. Now if you have a booth, it’s a lot easier, because you just you know, put all your T shirts, you know behind the table, and then you just you know, pick them up as you go. If you don’t have a booth, you’re walking around carrying stuff. So it might be a little bit more difficult. But one thing you might want to consider if you really want to go down like a T shirt route or something like that, is buying some for free. So maybe maybe something that doesn’t have sizes might be the best way to start. But consider going to a convention or expo, whatever is related to the topic of your podcast, or perhaps it is a podcasting expo and try to give stuff out for free. Because people will take stuff for free, it is totally different to get someone to pay for your merchandise. But if it is truly for promotion, then why not give stuff out for free. I see it all the time at expos where usually they’re like stickers. So you’ve got some sort of like podcast sticker, a lot of times those are the logo for the podcast, but you’ll see them lying around on tables and things like that. And people will grab a sticker for, you know, their laptop, or their bike or you know, whatever, they’ve got their helmet or something like that. And so that can be a really great way to get the word out there about your show.
And the final option that you have is using a print on demand service. So this is not making it yourself, you’re not making any of these things yourself, you are not paying for a bunch of custom merchandise in advance, you are simply providing an option for your audience to purchase, you know, whatever is in your store, but the provider that handles all that for you is not printing anything in advance, everything is made to order. So they have the styles and designs you know, and that’s what goes in your store. And it’s only after someone purchase it through your store that it’s actually fulfilled. Now, the tricky part with that is that there’s usually no returns. So they don’t usually accept returns because they’re doing all this custom. So you just have to think about everything’s got pros and cons, right. And if you search online, there are various providers that offer this type of service. And they’re always changing or I would you know, provide a list for you. But trust me, if you just search for print on demand service or podcast, merchandise services, something like that, you’re going to get a whole laundry list of providers. And again, make sure you read the fine print, make sure you are looking at any additional fees because they’re not going to just create this stuff out of the goodness of their heart. Right. Either they’re going to tack on some sort of a fee. And you know, raise the overall cost or they’re going to charge you somehow on the back end. And you’ve got to obviously check the numbers and make sure that this makes sense. So those are your options, quick review, make it yourself distribute it yourself by customers in bulk, and then you distribute it still or use a print on demand service.
Now let’s review some general tips and things that I’ve learned in doing this because like I said, I do have some experience with printing March. In fact, I’ve got a project that’s going on right now. We’re we’re just starting to get into merchandise. So there’s another reason I’m doing this episode now because I feel like so much of this stuff I’m just dealing with right now. So my first big tip for you and I kind of mentioned this or earlier, but it just to remind you, as you’re making this decision, focus on creating community, that should be your goal. Don’t focus on profit. Yes, the numbers have to make sense. But don’t think you’re going to get rich over this, because I’m sorry, you’re not Taylor Swift, you’re not, you know, doing concerts around the world, and people want to buy, you know, the shirt that’s got all the tour dates on the, you know, on the back of shirt. That’s not you, right. And so, you know, getting to make a profit out of this stuff is a lot more challenging, just focus on the community element of it. Next, think beyond your podcast logo. I know you’ve got an amazing podcast logo. But most people don’t want something with just a logo on it. Unless you are, you know, for our jobs, sometimes we have to go out and we’ve got, you know, a shirt that we have to wear, maybe it’s a nice little buttoned up polo shirt, it’s got the logo of our company on it. Or maybe we drive around in a car that has a sticker or something with a logo of our company that works when you’re being paid to do it. And you have to do it. But if someone is just your walking billboard, yeah, it’s really not going to work. Most people do not just want to wear somebody’s logo. Because that’s boring. Okay, what does work? Well think about what you would buy at and you know, I asked this question earlier. But what was it to drive you if you did purchase some some, you know, someone’s merch in the past? What was it that drew you to that product? Usually, it’s because it’s something unique. All right. So it may be a creative saying, I have done that before, I can tell you there are different TV shows and things like that, that not only did I want to support that television show, but they had different cute little sayings that they say on the show, right? So they had shirts with those sayings on it, and maybe not the direct logo, but they had some elements that they use in the logo, and then they created a different design pattern with it. So add the colors from the show. So there’s different things that you can do like that to still stay on brand. Because I think that’s important too. Because again, you’re using this for promotional value. If no one can tell that this is associated with your podcast, you’re not really accomplishing what you’re setting out to do. Right. So think of different sayings and statements and taglines and things like that, that you can put on either a mug or a notebook or hat or a t shirt. Usually, those go over really well. And I will promote this resource I, I get a lot of this type of stuff done through fiverr.com. And at one point with that podcast that I was telling you about that I did a lot of stuff in advance. And then I was like, Oh, I really shouldn’t have done that. One of the things I did is I found a designer on fiverr.com. And I got a bunch of different designs for a really low price. So I basically would tell the designer, okay, this is the tagline, or this is what I want it to say. And they would come up with the design behind it. And I’m talking about 50 bucks or less, sometimes they’re way less, but make sure you find a good designer, so you know, vet their designs and make sure it’s in alignment with your brand. But what they’ll do is they’ll come up with some ideas, and then you’ll go back and forth. And then they will send you not the actual product, but they will send you the file, which is usually what you need. If you’re going to do a print on demand service. Or even if you’re going to order custom merch in advance, or print things out yourself, you still need to have the design, right. So if you want to get some really cool designs, again, check out fiverr.com You can do things really inexpensively over there.
My other tip is to not skip out on quality. And I know that this is tempting, because you’re trying to get the prices down. But people are not going to wear uncomfortable T shirts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a podcast event. And people are giving out T shirts and they feel horrible. You know this, like when they’re stiff, and they don’t really feel good on your skin. Like who wants to wear something like that? I don’t care how cute the design is. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Right? Also the printing on it. So it might be best to do embroidery. Yes, it’s going to cost more money, but you know, it’s going to last longer. And not only do you want it to look good when it arrives, okay, but you want it to look good after they watch it several times. So think about and I’m assuming it’s apparel that we’re talking about now, right? So make sure that you’re not skipping out on the quality. Back to those T shirts that we made for Zencastr. We had some at our booth again that we were giving away to people and we became known as the place to come to force Soft T shirts. I mean, these things I can’t. There were so many people that said, I want a t shirt because I heard they’re really great to sleep in. Now, granted, when you’re sleeping, are you really promoting the podcast? How many, you know? How many people are you promoting stuff to. But, you know, in defense of that, the next year, when I came back to that same event, there were people that did not work for our company that were wearing those T shirts, that’s when you know that you’ve done something, right? Okay, so don’t skip out on good quality.
And then finally, you just need to make sure the whole process for purchasing your merchandise is really easy. So you need to pick a platform where you can have a storefront. That makes it really easy. It’s very user friendly, right? You know where to click, you know how to purchase things. All of that’s really important, because you need to make it as simple as possible for someone to actually make that purchase again, picture them going through the checkout aisle, and they see something on the side right before they get to the register. They’re like, Yes, I have to have that. But if it was really difficult to grab that piece of gum or that pack of gum, they’re probably not going to do it. And the same holds true for your podcast merchandise. All right, we’ve got a great free handout for you guys right on the other side of this quick break.
Regardless of the merchandise that you decide to have, as part of your storefront, I do think that your podcast logo should be somewhere on there, right because it is promotion for your podcast. But before you do this, I want you to make sure that you really love your podcast logo, or your artwork, right, we call it artwork and podcasting. And I’ve got a great free handout for you guys today. That shows you amazing podcast artwork, and then also some artwork that let’s just say, needs a little bit of work. Which by the way, we have done an entire episode on what to consider when you put your artwork together. So that may be a really good episode to check out. If you want to download that free handout I was just telling you about the link is in the description below. And don’t forget we’ve got a ton of free resources on our website at Independent Podcast Network that includes new blog posts that are coming out every week. More great podcast episodes like this one, videos, free handouts and entire courses on how to podcast and how to incorporate advertisers into your podcast. All right, check it out. Until next week, remember… you should start a podcast!