As a YouTuber, part-time or full-time, you should have merchandise (aka “merch”). Whether you’ve already gained a large viewership, or are still working up to your Silver Play Button, the investment of your time and effort is well worth it.
Online, you’ll find countless articles about merch related to your YouTube channel. You’ll read about using merch to promote your channel, how to make money with merch, or how to “do merch properly”, to name a few. I’ve read many of these articles, and I’m hear to say, there needs to be one more. A review article if you’d like, with concrete steps for success.
2 Things Before We Discuss Selling Channel Merch
#1) Is merch really worth your time when you’re already swamped with other, seemingly more important tasks? If you’re thinking no, that’s only because you have yet to discover the platforms that exist to help you. Gone are the days of ordering hundreds of t-shirts you spent hours designing, to then promote, sell, and ship yourself (I did this once, it’s awful, never do it).
Today, companies like Juniper, Teespring, or Spreadshirt, to name a few, can take care of everything, such as sourcing products using on-demand printing, hosting your store, creating branded designs, customer service, pricing strategies, and more. The best part? These resources are (usually) only paid when products are sold! So there is no cost to you, only monthly cheques in your name.
#2) Who am I, the writer of yet another merch article? Sadly, I’m not a YouTuber, although I work with many. For the last year, I’ve been managing e-commerce merchandise stores for YouTubers.
I started out running the customer service side-of-things, and transitioned after a couple of months to operations. Full disclosure, I currently work for Juniper, but my aim here is not to convince you to use our platform (although you should 100% check it out); it’s to explain the key features of success in selling merchandise and making money as a YouTuber.
Whether you have a store already, or are just starting out, here’s a couple of important points to keep in mind:
The Big Picture When Selling Merch For Your Channel
So, what is the goal with merchandise? Really, there’s two big goals:
#1) To connect with your top fans. They are happy because they get to own/wear/use merch that brings a smile to their face. You are happy because of the joy you bring to others, and you now have fans creating recognition for your YouTube channel worldwide.
#2) Creating a second, consistent revenue stream that capitalizes on the hard work you’ve done in growing your YouTube channel!
Up and coming YouTubers may start with goal #1 as their primary objective, since the income from merch might not yet be enough to cover rent; YouTubers that’ve already built a large, engaged audience will be able to emphasize goal #2, and potentially sell thousands of dollars of merchandise (if done right, we’ll cover that soon enough).
Essentially, everyone wants to execute both goals, if they aren’t already there. Yet, looking at the first goal of connecting with your fans, you’ll realize that making video content for your YouTube channel already accomplishes the goal much better.
However, the one thing merch has over video content is that it can be automated. As such, the steps you take now to set up merch for your YouTube channel will pay their investment back many times over, in good time. The key is automation through revenue sharing business models!
Setting up Merch For Your YouTube Channel
Let’s agree right now, no one should run merch from their own home. You need to use either a print-on-demand service with shipping, or fulfillment centers. Companies in either market have access to vastly superior shipping prices, while removing you from the worst part of selling merch – fulfillment.
There are countless options here, as I mentioned above, so I’ll let you explore and once you’ve decided on a service, you may continue to read…
Ah, perfect. You’ve considered a potential eCommerce partner, now it’s time to bring that merch into your YouTube world. While you’re focusing on merch as a way to connect with fans, and grow your channel, there are many good, simple habits you can adopt to set yourself up for success:
Sell Merch That Looks Good
Ideally, even people who aren’t fans would enjoy wearing your merch! You want your fans to wake up in the morning and think, “Yup, I wanna wear this YouTuber’s shirt today, cause it looks awesome!”. Some suggestions to make this happen:
- keep it simple
- focus designs on something universal (animals, food, an activity, etc.) while within your brand
- hire a professional designer to bring your brand/ideas to life
Only Sell Good Quality Merch
This one is obvious, similar idea to the first point. How can you tell if it’s good quality? Order a sample, (many companies will give you one for free if they’re confident in their product) and you’ll be able to tell if it’s good quality. If this means switching suppliers, then so be it! Don’t disappoint fans with crappy gear.
Bring Merch Into Your Content Naturally
Wear it, display it, play with it, brand content on your YouTube channel with it (have your gaming avatar wearing the merch, build a sandcastle branded with your designs, make food resembling your designs, etc.); but never be a salesperson, shoving merch onto your fans. If you make them aware of its existence, they will purchase it when they are ready.
Create a Merch Intro!
This is essentially free advertisements for your merch, and if done well, it’ll become apart of your channel’s content. If done poorly, it’ll feel like merch is being over-marketed to viewers. Tips to avoid this:
- keep it simple and short to a few seconds
- hire a professional
- don’t have it start every video (keep your fans on their toes at the beginning of every video)
Once these systems are set up, don’t expect to be making thousands of dollars immediately. It takes time for your fans to associate your merch with your content, but as your fans engage more with your channel, they’ll naturally make the choice to purchase merchandise if the above points have been implemented.
Also: Make your fans aware of where to purchase the merch. This is simple enough to accomplish with a link in every description and endcard links.
Increasing Your Profit Potential After Gaining Traction
As you grow your YouTube following and have proven merch sales, you’ll likely notice that you’re not reaching your full potential in making money as a YouTuber by limiting yourself to generic merch (t-shirts, sweaters, mugs, etc.).
This is because the big money in merchandise is with specialty products: backpacks, plush toys, fidget spinners, random products featured on your channel frequently, etc. Here are some key points to launching successful specialty products, once you’re able to get to this point:
Identify What Your Fans LOVE
These are the things that can be made into specialty products: a special character can be turned into a plush toy, a recurring theme can be used to brand a backpack, or the very essence of your channel’s content could even be turned into a board game!
Involve Your fans With Product Creation
Use their feedback to improve on the prototypes, and show them the prototype as it’s being made! Generating excitement around the product well before its release will only help with sales. However, make sure any product you’re showing fans is one you’re happy with. There is no sense in showing fans something that doesn’t look good!
Expand Your YouTube Channel’s Merch
If sales of the specialty product go well, consider creating a second specialty product add-on for even more specialty product sales! This isn’t being a sell out, this is simply identifying a good business opportunity – and supplying your fans what they want!
Build Some Buzz
Identify a launch date for the specialty product, and make sure you’re hyping up your fans the week prior! Showcasing the product(s), informing them of the launch date, etc. This helps with your first week of sales, which helps recoup any initial investment quickly.
Consider Outsourcing As Much As Possible
There are companies who have done this before and won’t charge you a dime. Shameless plug, check Juniper out! Revenue sharing is king in this business. You do not want to investigate the various sourcing options worldwide, or learn how to ship, again worldwide, product to thousands of fans, and handle the mess that follows – customer service for these things sucks, trust me. You make less money, but will save yourself hundreds of hours of work.
In conclusion, running a successful merch store for your YouTube channel really is worth your time, and doesn’t have to be a sales grab. If done right, it’s an awesome way to connect with fans, and bring a smile to those who are helping you realize your dreams. Super cheesy ending right?
This post was a guest contribution by Will Cartar on behalf of Juniper – a loyalty platform that produces custom merchandise and rewards for YouTube creators and their audiences
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