Ask anyone that has successfully built an indie brand, it is NOT easy. It’s time consuming, expensive, and downright stressful at times, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, the good times definitely outweigh the bad. You can save yourself a lot of time, money, and heartache by utilizing these five resources available to you.
1) Pre-Made, Supported, Customizable Store Codes
Face it , we live in a digital age and you need to have a web presence to most effectively spread the word. Which means you need to have an online store, but what you don’t have to do is pay someone a few thousand bucks to make you one from scratch. Take advantage of sites like Big Cartel and Storenvy, these sites allow you to easily create an aesthetic , user-friendly storefront for what I consider relatively cheap. You can get plans anywhere from FREE-$29.99 per month based on your needs. I personally use the Diamond $19.99 plan with Big Cartel, which fits Sugar Steak perfectly for the number of products I carry on a regular basis and has allowed me to heavily customize my online store.
The best part about going about creating and maintaining a store like this is you get an entire team of support and customer service members. So if something glitches with your site you have all the help you need instead of being stuck waiting for one guy to get back to you at their leisure. Anyone who has worked with an independent software or website designer knows what I’m talking about. There is one thing you need to keep in mind though when using store codes like Big Cartel or Storenvy: Just because they are cheap and affordable doesn’t mean they have to look that way. First impressions are everything, so make sure your store looks good. Take the time to customize your pages and design them to fit your brand. Oh, and don’t pull some shady crap and directly copy the look and feel of someone else’s storefront, slogans, designs, or descriptions. That’s just lame and people will call you out on it.
2) Social Networking
Again, like I said earlier we are living in a digital age, people. If you’re not fully-utilizing the power of social media sites you are making mistakes. Now I will admit, I was late getting into the social network game, mainly because I was never a huge fan of it in my personal life. I figured Twitter was only used for showing people what you were eating for lunch or telling people when you were planning to take a dump. Yes, I said it. Seriously though, social networking is a great way to connect with your fans. I enjoy responding to them and hearing what they have to say. I will admit I still rarely use my Tumblr or other pages though. I have enough to keep track of already so I devote most of my social media efforts to Twitter and Facebook since they are still BY FAR the most accepted and widely-used platforms. Sorry Google Plus. However, don’t treat these sites as a “business-only” kind of deal, people want to follow/stalk your pages because they want to socialize with a “person” not a business. Weird, imagine that, people wanting to talk to people. Think about it though, celebrities don’t have millions of followers because they tweet strictly about movies and upcoming rolls, they tweet about personal crap like the chef making their sandwich wrong and stuff like that. You know, real hard life struggles. Have fun with social media, connect with your fans, ask them questions, giveaway cool stuff or exclusive discounts. In other words, reward them for following and the good word will spread and in turn your brand exposure will grow.
3) Graphic/Apparel Designer Sites
Very few brand owners design every tee their brand releases, and quite honestly sometimes it’s good to get a fresh perspective and a new spin on things. But where do you go to find skilled designers that will fit your style and budget? Or maybe you have some good ideas, but lack the skills to execute them effectively? Several of you reading this probably already know about these two sites, but for those of you that don’t, sites like Mintees and most recently Foalio are a goldmine of indie talent. If you’re looking for artists and can’t find someone that suits your needs from either of these two sites well then, you’re SOL, because these two sites have designers that can do pretty much anything you desire.
4) Indie Blogs
Hopefully you already understand the power of these since you are reading this article on IATT, but for those of you that have yet to realize the marketing power behind indie blogs such as this, let me give you an example. Does Shirt Attack Ring a bell? It was the HUGE indie brand sale that went down in August in celebration of Discovery Channel that list was retweeted 166 times! How many people do you think saw that? How much do you think it would cost you to get that many potential customers looking at your brand? My guess would be a lot more than the FREE entry fee associated with getting your name and image put on that list. So do yourself a favor and take advantage of stuff like that, when you see indie t-shirt blogs such as this one publishing lists, GET ON THEM! Take the twenty minutes it takes to write up a description, create an image, or simply send an email with a link over to the blog owner.
5) Loyal Fans
I saved the best for last because nothing spreads the word about your brand quite like word-of-mouth. Loyal testimony from your fans and customers to their friends, family, co-workers, or internet stalkers has the ability to spread your brand like wildfire.
How many times have you purchased a product because of something you were told by a friend? Undoubtedly more times than you can count. So do your best to keep fans and repeat customers happy, hook them up from time to time, send out reward emails, include extra swag in orders when you recognize the customer has purchased from you before. And most importantly, when you mess up or something goes wrong in the mail with their order, take care of it. Resend the item if necessary, refund them if they’re not happy, just make it right. Doesn’t mean you have to totally kiss ass and do whatever they ask, but be reasonable and own up to mistakes if you made them and be willing to work with them if they made a mistake in ordering such as selecting the wrong size or forgetting to update PayPal with their current mailing address. In short, you take care of your fans and they will take care of you.