For the past number of weeks, we’ve been talking about Print on Demand and how it can benefit both existing online stores and how you can create an entirely new store using only POD products, such as my example, AdventuresinSkiing.com. This business model is perfect for anyone who:

  • Hates risk (you’ll never pay for products until they’re actually sold)
  • Doesn’t want to store inventory or ship packages (you won’t even see them!)
  • Wants to be able to sell hundred (or thousands) of products at a time
  • Loves the freedom of running a semi-automated business from anywhere

Lots of people try to start a print on demand business because they think it will be easy. But you have to actually commit a fair amount of time to it if you want to make sales. It isn’t an overnight get rich quick scheme, as I experienced during this week’s article about my journey into POD.

Setting up your storefront, uploading your designs and populating your store with products takes a matter of minutes – but that’s when the hard work really starts. You need to get those products in front of your audience and make some sales. This can be especially difficult if you don’t already have a thriving audience lapping up your content.

Whether you are adding POD products to an existing store, or building a store of all POD products, in order to actually start selling your designs, you are going to have to let people know about your offerings. Much of what we will discuss in this week’s article applies to any ecommerce store, so even if you aren’t ready for POD, you might pick up a few ideas.

Throughout the POD creation process we’ve talked about serving a specific niche, as I’ve done with those who love skiing. You need to really understand your ICA or Ideal Customer Avatar so that you can create designs that appeal to that person. Creating a design that just shows our logo isn’t going to sell as well as one that conveys a feeling. This is essential for marketing as well.  Consider this ad by Nike:

That message on a POD product is much more powerful than just a logo, even for a brand as large as Nike. You want to create a message that really resonates with those who you are trying to appeal to. POD products do not solve a problem like many products do. Instead, they are an emotional purchase. We aren’t selling a widget for carrying skis or sharpening edges, we are selling something that is purely an emotional response.

Some products that you sell might be both. Obviously a car can both solve a problem and be a status symbol that appeals to people’s emotions. But POD products (and most gift items in general) only appeal to people because they find it aligns with their interests and sense of humor. That is what we need to focus on with our marketing.

So, we’ve got an online store and it’s stocked with products that appeal to our ICA. How are we going to start getting people to visit our site and start buying our stuff? The simple answer is that we need to advertise. What I did was to create a Facebook ad, primarily because we can target the exact people who we want to see our ad. Here are the parameters I used:

I did the things you would typically expect: I focused on people who live in the mountain states and who were also interested in skiing. But here is the thing that you can do Facebook that is so powerful: I also targeted people who were interested in a particular page or individual who already had the following I was looking to reach, in this case Warren Miller. Warren Miller has already congregated my ideal audience, so why not target those people who like his page?

When we put together Facebook campaigns for our customers, we recommend that they run a minimum of 3 ads that compete with each other to see which one is going to perform the best. Whichever ad “wins” is the one they put the rest of their advertising budget towards. Practicing what I preach, i ran 5 distinct ads, each for a different product on my site.

Take a look at these results. the “Ski Like a Girl” ad has been shown 5,284 times to 3,953 people. That means it has a frequency of  each person seeing the ad an average of 1.34 times. That ad has been clicked on 805 times, including 127 clicks that take them to my website. The average Click-Through Rate (CTR) on Facebook Ads is 0.89% across all industries, so all of these ads performed better than normal. But the “Ski Like a Girl” ad has a phenomenal 15.23% click through rate. That is the reason for targeting to your ICA (especially going after pages that have already congregated your ideal audience).

Here is what that ad looked like:

Notice that the ad has also been getting reactions to it – people have “Liked” or “Loved” the ad, and it has even gotten a couple of folks to share it on their newsfeed. There is also a “Shop Now” button, which takes them to the exact page on my website where they can purchase this shirt. This is important – you don’t want an ad to take them to the home page of your website, you want to drive them to a very specific landing page. That is what those 127 link clicks take them to.


On our sales page, we can add in what is called a “re-targeting pixel.” Essentially, this is a small piece of code that tells you if someone has visited a particular page, by placing a tracking cookie on their browser. If someone has clicked on your ad, and ends up on your page, but doesn’t buy your product, you can now send them additional ads that follow them around the internet (re-targeting them for a set period of time).

Likes don’t equate to sales of course, so you need to look at your conversion rate. The average ecommerce conversion rate is 2.9%, so with 127 visits to our page, we are looking at about 3 to 4 sales. If the t-shirt above sells for $19, that is $76 gross, less the POD costs of about $48, or a profit of  $28. If the Facebook ad costs more than $28, we are losing money. And if it does cost $28, we are only breaking even, although we might get some residual followup.  When this happens, many people get discouraged and will tell you that Facebook ads don’t work and that they are a waste of money.

The truth is that any ad (Facebook or otherwise), might work and they might not. Success is not guaranteed. With a POD product we aren’t paying for inventory upfront, but the cost of advertising is very real. This is why most POD experts will tell you to create products with much higher margins than a t-shirt. You should be selling all-over-print sweat shirts, car mats, and coffee mugs, not t-shirts. We need to sell products that net us more than a couple of dollars per item to make this effective. Perhaps, but first we just need to make a sale.

So, do you have to advertise in order to drive traffic to your site? Can’t you just let Google work it’s magic and send you free traffic? That way we don’t have to worry as much about selling low-margin products.

There are a lot of ways to drive traffic to your website without spending advertising money. We’ll discuss some of these options in our next article.