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In our last article we talked about using advertising to promote our Print On Demand store. and we discovered that it wasn’t very cost effective when first starting out. So now we want to see what kind of marketing we can do to get the word out there about our online shop without spending a lot of money on ads.

Most people assume that by building a website, Google will send traffic to your website if your page is “optimized.” For example, with my sample site, AdventuresInSkiing.com, it makes sense that I could do a Google search for “Adventures in Skiing” and that my site would come up. Sadly, as you can see, it doesn’t.

There are a number of reasons for this, including the age of the webiste (it’s new), the fact that I don’t have a physical address for this store, thus there isn’t an associate GMB (Google My Business) page. And about a hundred other reasons that only Google can explain. But the reality is, people searching for “Adventures in Skiing” aren’t looking for what I am selling anyways. What I’d really like to do is rank for “Skiing t-shirts,” so, when I do a Google search for this, I see:

This is hugely revealing. All of the top results are marketplaces that sell t-shirts! And it is possible for me to sell my designs on these marketplaces in addition to my own store. We’ll talk more about this later in the article. For now, we just need to be aware that Google probably isn’t going to be sending us our first (or even our 100th) sale. we need some alternatives.

One super-simple step that anyone can do, is the use of personal outreach to friends and family.  Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) companies have built their entire business model on this technique. Many entrepreneurs get their first few sales from their personal connections, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So share your store on your personal Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts to announce it to your entire network. Email them and ask them to share it—they don’t need to buy from you to show you their support. If you are going to do this, I recommend that you order some samples and grab some images of the product ‘in use.’ Now you’ve got some unique images that you can use for some of the other suggestions I talk about in this article.

There is another very good reason for ordering some samples: this gives you an idea of the experience that your customers will have. Print times and print quality vary from one supplier to another. When I first tried to order some samples, I noticed that I didn’t have any payment methods configured. When I finally got my products, I noticed the printing was not what I expected and I had to go back and adjust my artwork. so, order your own products before you start marketing them.

There are 3 different methods we can use to promote our online store without paying for ads. these include:

  • Social Media (including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube)
  • Email (including joint ventures)
  • Marketplaces (such as Merch by Amazon, Etsy, Redbubble and more)

Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Facebook

It is possible to promote your products on Facebook, and even target a specific audience, without using ads. The trick is to post in “Groups.” For example, if you belong to a Facebook Group about skiing, you can create a post about your latest design in that group. Some groups do not allow promotion, so you need to adhere to their rules. Here is an example:

Another  useful way to get in front of people on Facebook is to ask others to share it. a great way of doing this is with an app called “Social Boost.” With this plugin, you can set up all sorts of giveaways, sweepstakes, and other incentives for people when they share your content on Facebook (or Twitter). You can see it in action here: https://amze.me/IQSfb. What this example does is provide a 10% off coupon to anyone who shares the Adventures in Skiing website on their social media pages. You can get more serious and create viral campaigns where people earn points (entries) into a sweepstakes competition.

Instagram

While you can certainly post images and stories to Instagram, you will get a lot more traction when you use hashtags, and even more if you can get an influencer to promote your designs for you. Imagine if Mikela Shiffrin were to model my t-shirt and put up a post on her Instagram account about it. Here is a thought: Give her one. Create an Instagram post and hashtag her name like this: #mikaelashiffrin. Say something like: “If #mikaelashiffrin replies to this post, I will give her one of these t-shirts.” Instagram doesn’t allow links in posts, but I’d put it in anyways, like this:

Pinterest

Pinterest may be one of the best ways to share your designs without paying for advertising. Of course you CAN promote your posts if you want, but the fact is, lots of people go to Pinterest for ideas, and some end up shopping there. One thing that remains true for Pinterest is that if you create a tall graphic, adding in extra views or text, you can really make your Pins stand out.

YouTube

YouTube is the perfect place to review products. But who says you can’t review your own products? Order some samples and show them off with your own videos. Be sure to put a link in the description as to where someone can buy one. Note: to create a link in a YouTube video description, you must include the prefix: https://.

Email

Email continues to be the single best way to drive customers to your website and also the best way to get more sales. The problem is, how do you build a list from scratch when starting a brand new store? One way is to hold a contest and get people to give you their email addresses in exchange for being entered into a drawing. I talks earlier about Social Boost and this is a good way to start collecting emails. You can also offer some form of lead magnet, including a coupon.

What doesn’t work with email is to purchase or rent a list. However, if you can find someone who already has a list of your ideal customers, and they are willing to email their list on your behalf (often in exchange for a percentage of the sales they make for you), then this can work wonders. I have created an affiliate program for the AdventuresInSkiing.com website if you are interested promoting any of my products to your email list. You can sign up here: https://adventuresinskiing.com/affiliate-area/

Marketplaces

Back at the beginning of this article, I showed you a Google search for “skiing t-shirts.” Most of the results were from marketplaces including Amazon, Etsy, RedBubble, Zazzle, and SpreadShirt. These marketplaces are already driving visitors to their websites. In fact, that is where most people go when looking to buy the types of products you create with a POD store. Here’s the thing: you need to go to where the people are, rather than trying to get them to come to you. These marketplaces are already spending a lot of resources to get people to come to their shops, so do yourself a favor, and put your products up on these sites and let them drive the sales to you.

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You may not own the customer when they buy your designs on a marketplace site, but at least you will be getting sales.

The methods I’ve described in this article can be used for any ecommerce store, not just POD. Let’s see if we can now start driving some sales to our site without spending a ton of money. I’d love to hear how your own promotions turn out.

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