Secrets to selling more tshirts – Episode 1 : Gettin’ affiliated
March 22, 2010 in selling tshirts
Imagine this…..10, actually 100, heck let’s say 500 complete strangers decide to give up their day jobs (or maybe their full-time PlayStation 3 addictions) and instead, start actively selling your tshirts, on your behalf! Even better, these strangers don’t ask for a salary, all they want is an eensy weensy cut of the sale of each shirt they sell (and let’s face it, you’re still making a tasty profit, because the fact of the matter is that you haven’t had to lift a finger to make the sale yourself!). They’re essentially free salespeople for your tshirt company.
Okay, now snap back to reality. Because any ‘normal’ company would actually be sued for not paying their salespeople a salary. Except…. if you pounce upon the opportunity to join an Affiliate Network.
Affiliate Networks are one of the most powerful sales tools available on the internet, and have helped out thousands of companies to significantly increase their sales with very little outlay. In other words, joining an affiliate network is as close to ‘free money’ as you will probably ever get!
Rather than try and re-invent the wheel, here is a great definition of an Affiliate Network from The Nation Traffic website:
An affiliate network is composed of a group of merchants and affiliates. Merchants join the network in order to have affiliates promote their products. Because of the structure of this network, merchants are able to promote their products throughout a broad spectrum, lowering their advertising costs. The affiliate is paid on a commission basis from the merchant….
If the above paragraph was a bit too dry and technical for you, let me para-phrase in simple language. An affiliate network is a formal agreement between a bunch of companies, like yours, who are known as the merchants, and a gigantic bunch of online advertisers who are otherwise known as the affiliates. The affiliates are your sales force, your allies, and your key to unlocking a whole world of tshirt sales that you never dreamed possible.
The affiliates are generally owners of websites related niche topics (for example, websites like Tshirt Alert). However, there also some affiliates who make a living by creating individual websites whose sole purpose is to on-sell specific products or merchants. Either way, it is the affiliates who make all the effort to sell your products, while you sit back and reap the rewards. The affiliates are your virtual sales-people, however without any of the normal overheads that real employees would incur, such as a salary, holidays, sick days and geographic limitations.
There are two key characteristics of Affiliate Networks that make them a hugely beneficial long-term arrangement for all parties involved.
- Firstly, by joining an affiliate network you can significantly lower your advertising costs. Instead of wasting money purchasing advertising space that is often poorly placed and thus grossly ineffective, save your hard earned pennies and concentrate on recruiting a few good affiliates within an affiliate network instead. These affiliates will become your primary advertising channel, spreading the word about your awesome tshirts even while you are asleep, and ultimately removing your need to spend money trying to get noticed through conventional and boring online advertising channels. The cost to sign up to an affiliate network is far less than you would spend on one measly little banner advertisement, and if utilized correctly, will pay itself back hundreds of times over! The end result, is plenty more cash landing in your back pocket, and staying there!
- Secondly, the reason that this proposition is attractive for affiliates, is that affiliates receive a small commission for each sale they generate. As the merchant, you have complete control over the levels of commission that you deem appropriate. The ultimate thing to keep in mind, is that any sale you make through an affiliate, is a sale that you would not have made otherwise. To encourage even better performance from your affiliates, you can also offer volume bonuses as an additional incentive (for example, if an affiliate sells over 50 tshirts in one month they might receive and additional 5% commission). Don’t be too concerned about tracking individual sales and crunching the data though, any Affiliate Network worth its salt will track all of the information for you and provide you with simple monthly reports.
The benefit of joining an Affiliate Network for anyone selling tshirts is clear – spend less and gain more! I have seen many tshirt companies, and for that matter all sorts of other businesses, who have transformed their backyard businesses into serious money making machines by tactfully incorporating Affiliate Networks into their marketing plans.
But please don’t just take my word for it. I’m not an established t-shirt label owner, I’m just a regular dude who is lucky enough to be involved with a couple of major companies and figures in the tshirt industry (you can read about my tshirt industry experience here).
So rather than just hearing my opinions, why not turn to someone who is marching at the front-line of a major tshirt company, like Hugo from one of the world’s largest online tshirt companies, Spreadshirt.com.
Affiliate networks can bring in good results. However, just like with any form of marketing your success really depends on your cost structure and price points. CJ (Commission Junction) requires sizable startup costs to open a merchant account. Depending on how much you’d like to invest upfront you might want to consider joining Shareasale (which has a significantly lower start up cost).
It takes a little while to get some sales. Most affiliates decide to try an affiliate based on either brand, cost of goods sold, or history of sales from any given merchant. Because we are in t-shirt business, our price points are relatively low so many affiliates look on how well this given affiliate has done in the past – if you’re new, you don’t have much history so it takes a little while to build up your affiliate base.
…. sometimes it can be hard to get new affiliates. It either takes takes to get them, or you often have to pay to advertise to get new affiliates. Of course the better deal you offer, the more affiliates you get.
In conclusion. Is it worth it? Yes, most definitely, that’s why we have it.
Of course, Spreadshirt are certainly not the only folks using affiliate programs to boost their tshirt sales. Thomas from the Chop Shop offers his views on Affiliate Networks:
I belong only to shareasale.com and it works over time.
You don’t have many ways to promote your affiliate program other than sending affiliate newsletters to your affiliates. The best way is to notice who signs up, contact them direct and establish a relationship. Maybe offer free samples or some free copies for a giveaway/contest they can promote on the site.
Scott from EndangeredWear also provides this advice:
I think the affiliate sales program has been worth doing…..the only problem is that some people who sign up to push traffic to your site are not legit sites like yours (referring to Tshirt Alert), sometimes they are weird link farm pages.
So…worth doing, but don’t get your hopes too high straight up. That’s my humble opinion.
Your Next Steps
You now understand what an affiliate network is, and how it works. You’ve heard first-hand how an affiliate network can significantly boost your tshirt sales. You understand the little traps and how they can be overcome. Now it’s time for you to take the plunge and Register for an affiliate network, so that you can start increasing your tshirt sales before the rest of the world finds out about this simple yet highly effective sales booster!
The only decision you have left to make, is which Affiliate Network you should Register with. There are lots of affiliate networks out there, but it’s best to stick to the major ones, Linkshare, Linkconnector, Shareasale, Commission Junction, or the new Google Advertiser Network , because these networks have the most affiliates, and more affiliates generally means more potential sales leads. I encourage you to conduct your own comparisons of affiliate programs, as every has their own individual requirements and preferences. Each of these affiliate networks have their advantages and disadvantages, though to date the best feedback I hear from tshirt company owners has been related to Shareasale and Linkshare.
Register for shareasale.com